How to weatherproof your rabbits’ housing: the 5 steps to success
Just like we will bring out our thick jumpers in the winter, suncream in the summer, and raincoats for those April showers, our rabbits need to adapt for the changing seasons. The best way we can help them as the weather changes is by making sure their rabbit housing is weatherproofed. Weatherproofing rabbits hutches and runs is easy, just follow our 5 steps to success!
STEP ONE: Complete a rabbit housing MOT
Everytime you interact with your rabbits’ housing, you should give it a quick once over, looking for any signs of damage, damp or leaks. When you do your weekly deep clean of their housing give it a proper MOT and ask yourself:
- Is the roofing secure and undamaged?
- Are there any signs of a leak?
- Is there any damp?
- Are the walls and flooring dry?
- Are any doors or openings secure?
- Is the location still in a shaded area? Sheltered from any wind or rain?
- If their outdoor housing is on grass, is it raised off the floor? (This will help prevent ground water seeping in)
Whether the weather is turning warmer or colder, or you’re in for a storm, make sure you fix any issues as soon as you find them.
STEP TWO: Location, location, location – do you need to move?
For indoor and outdoor rabbits, the location of their housing is key. In general you want to pick somewhere that is:
- Out of direct sunlight
- Out of the wind and rain – in a sheltered spot
- At a fairly consistent temperature
- Safe and away from any hazards
In order to fulfil these criteria, you may need to move your rabbits’ housing with the changing seasons. For example, somewhere shaded in the hot summer months may prove too cold in the winter. Or if you’re set to experience a particularly cold snap, you might want to bring your outdoor rabbits indoors.
If you decide to bring outdoor rabbits inside, the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund warns that the temperature “must not be too high”. A sudden rise in temperature would cause rabbits to shed their thick winter coats, which would then have a negative impact when they do go back outside. A new, indoor environment can be stressful for rabbits used to the outdoors. So try to put them in a quiet area, away from cooking smells, and bring in some of their familiar enrichment activities and toys with them.
STEP THREE: Time for a temperature check
In warm weather us owners need to help our rabbits keep cool, and in the cold months, we need to help them keep warm.
What temperature is too hot for rabbits?
Generally a temperature of around 10-20 degrees is okay for our pet rabbits. Anything above that can be dangerous.
In the summer months, keep your rabbits cool outdoors by providing them with plenty of shade. Find a spot under a tree, or use a free standing parasol. If their exercise area extends past the shady area, consider popping a blanket, or tarpaulin over one end to keep it shaded.
For indoor rabbits, help keep their living space cool in hot weather by closing the blinds. You can also include a fan – although not blowing directly at your rabbits – to help with air circulation.
How cold can rabbits tolerate?
With thick fluffy coats, rabbits can cope well in colder weather, provided they have the right equipment to keep them warm. In the wild rabbit warrens are around a constant temperature of 10 degrees, so we should help our rabbits achieve that temperature.
In winter and during those cold snaps, insulation is key. To help keep your rabbits warm add:
- Thick layers of newspaper on their floor
- Extra bedding hay or cosy paper bedding into their sleeping area
- Plenty of high quality feeding hay around their housing
- Cover their housing with a waterproof material like tarpaulin. This will give shelter from the wind and the rain.
The aim is to help keep your rabbits as warm as possible. Another great source of warmth is each other! Every bunny needs somebunny, which is why it’s so important to keep rabbits in suitable pairs or small groups.
STEP FOUR: Have your rabbits got the tools to cope with the weather?
So you’ve made their housing perfect for the changing weather conditions, whether that’s the heat, the cold, the wind, or the rain. But what about inside their housing? Do your rabbits have everything they need to help them with the changing seasons?
Cold weather items:
- Pet safe heated pads: Like a hot water bottle for buns!
- Platforms and tunnels: Not only are these great for your rabbits’ enrichment, they also provide a cosy space to keep warm
- Extra bedding materials
- A rabbit friend! Rabbits should be kept in suitable pairs or small groups any time of the year. But in the colder months, a rabbit friend is great to snuggle up to
Warm weather must haves:
- Spare marble or slate tiles are great to put into the shade of your rabbits’ run or exercise area for your rabbits’ to lie on to keep cool
- Cooling mats: These can be placed in the freezer then wrapped in a towel for your rabbits to lean against to keep cool
- Cold leafy greens: Blue Cross suggests giving your rabbits their daily portion of leafy greens straight from the fridge, or soaking them in ice cold water first
- Platforms and tunnels: They’ll help your rabbits stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer by providing shade
STEP FIVE: Keep giving your rabbits a great diet
Looking after rabbits, regardless of the weather, requires giving them a great diet. No matter the weather conditions, this should remain the same, made up of:
- 85-90% high quality feeding hay or fresh grass
- 10% rabbit safe leafy greens
- 5% commercial nuggets (not muesli!)
- The occasional healthy treat to support enrichment
- Constant access to fresh, clean water
Us owners just need to make sure our rabbits can get this great diet all year round! Giving your rabbits hay in multiple locations in their housing is a great idea. It encourages them to forage and move around. In rainy weather, make sure it’s in sheltered locations where it won’t get wet. In the heat, pop it in shaded spots so your rabbits aren’t at risk of sitting out in direct sunlight all day.
Your rabbits’ water should be changed and refilled at least once a day. In hotter weather, they are likely to drink more, so their bowls or bottles might need refilling more often. In cold snaps, keep an eye to make sure their water doesn’t freeze. If you use bottles, pop an old sock over the top, or wrap them in bubble wrap to help protect them from the frost.
If you have any concerns about your rabbits or how to help them deal with changing weather, speak to your vet.