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   Winter care - bunny it's cold outside!
 

 

Winter isn't a good time of year for many rabbits.  Sadly, some people don't want to go out in the cold and wet to spend time with them.  However, if you are reading this, then I know you don't fall into that category!  You would never neglect your rabbit just cos it's cold outside, would you?

This is when many of the 'Easter' bunnies end up in rescue centres and all over the UK, and rescue centres are now full to overflowing, with a list of rabbits waiting to come in.  Oh sure it seemed a good idea getting a bun at the time, spring was in the air, the promise of warmer weather, cute bunnies in the shops, etc.  However by the time winter comes around, rabbit hormones have kicked in, does are getting broody and territorial about their hutch, bucks start spraying, that's normal, that's rabbit behaviour, they can't help it, that's what rabbits do. 

But most of all, some people don't want to go out in the dark/cold/wet/wind to clean out the hutch, feed the rabbit, spend some time giving it a cuddle and a quick health check.  So they get neglected, water bottles get iced up making it impossible for the rabbit to get a vital drink, hutches end up stinking and soaking, and rabbit's fall ill and could even die.

Here's some important things to think about:

- Make sure you cover up your rabbit's hutch at night, make it draught and waterproof.  Rabbits can cope with the cold fairly well, but not damp and draughts.  If the hutch is attached to a run, buy a waterproof cover to keep the run area dry during the winter.  Have a look here http://www.scratchandnewtonshop.com/Products.aspx , if you can't afford them, use the idea and make some of your own.  Some bunny owners pin/staple polythene to the sides and roof of the runs to give their buns some shelter from the weather

- Change their bedding frequently, wet bedding can freeze solid, would you like to sleep on a bed of ice?

- Get a spare water bottle (they don't cost a fortune) so that when one gets frozen up, you can swap it over quickly without having to wait til the original bottle defrosts, it's a good idea to put a bowl of water in the run for backup too.  Water is vital for a rabbit, rabbit food needs to be hydrated in the gut so that it gets processed properly.  The water inside the metal nozzle of the bottle freezes quickly and often before the the water inside the actual bottle does.  There's a bottle snug available from here too http://www.scratchandnewtonshop.com/Products.aspx .  If you decide to make a bottle snug of your own, you can use bubblewrap to wrap around it (providing you resist the urge to pop all the bubbles first!!!) and stick an old sock over the lot with just the nozzle sticking out, but you MUST make sure that your rabbit can't chew the sock and bubblewrap.  You can do this by inserting a piece of thick card between the bottle and the mesh.  Of course you give your rabbit fresh water every day, so it's easy to keep and eye on it isn't it ;-)

- Older rabbits can suffer dreadfully from arthritis, make sure they are snug and warm

- Another idea to make a warm sleeping area - find a cardboard box a couple of inches smaller than the sleeping area, make a door in the cardboard box to match up with the door to the sleeping area, put newspaper on the floor of the hutch, put the box in (making sure the doors match up), pack the cavity around the outside of the box with newspaper or hay (remembering to do the top of the box), this acts as insulation.  If your rabbit wees in the sleeping area, get a litter tray which fits inside the cardboard box, this will help by making it easier for you to clean out and it'll make the box last longer

- Put a thick layer of newspaper on the base of the sleeping area, this helps to insulate, then loosely fill the bedding area with more hay and/or straw (but not packed in so tightly that the bun can't get in!), this helps to keep the rabbit warm.  A new product is available, it's called a SnuggleSafe Microwave Heatpad, read about it here   http://www.snugglesafe.co.uk/bedtime.htm , we use them here at CARROT, and they really work!  They are particularly good for older and thinner rabbits

- If you can, move the hutch indoors to a shed or unused garage.  Please DO NOT move your rabbit hutch into the garage if you use it to store your car in overnight, the fumes could easily kill your rabbit

- Keep an old towel handy to dry your rabbit just in case it unexpectedly gets caught in the rain/snow

- Some rabbits love to run about and dig in the snow!  Make sure you dry them off though when they're finished having their fun

Please don't ignore your rabbit in the winter time, they depend on you, to them you are God!

 

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