Adapting your rabbits’ housing for the changing seasons
You’ve got the perfect rabbit housing set up, but what do you do when the temperature drops? And what do you do when your rabbits need to keep cool in the summer?
In the wild, rabbit warrens will stay around a constant 10 degrees. However, the RSPCA recommends a temperature of between 10-20 degrees for our pet rabbits. There are some easy changes you can make to your rabbits' housing to help them adapt to the changing seasons. To help them keep warm, it’s all about the insulation. For those hot summer days, we need to help our rabbits stay cool with plenty of water, shade and some cooling activities.
How to keep rabbits cool in the summer
The summer sun can have an impact on our rabbits and their housing. Rabbits can stay outside in the summer, us owners just need to make some adjustments to help them cope with the hot weather.
Keep their rabbit hutch and housing cool in the summer
It’s important to remember to keep your bunnies cool in the warmer weather and protect them from the sun. Exposed skin, for example on the tips of your rabbits’ ears, can get sunburned if they're exposed to too many rays. For outdoor rabbits, make sure their housing is out of direct sunlight. Find a shaded area in your garden or pop up a free standing parasol to provide some cover. If their exercise area doesn’t have an opaque cover, put a blanket on top of one end to provide some shade. Make sure there’s also items like platforms and tunnels in their housing and exercise areas to provide more shade.
Keeping indoor rabbits cool in the summer
For indoor rabbits, the same rules apply. Keep their housing out of direct sunlight where possible. If they live in a certain room, like a utility room, consider closing the blinds when the sun would normally shine in to help keep the room cool.
You can also add a fan to their housing to help keep your rabbits cool. You’ll just need to make sure the wires are well out of the way of those curious bunny mouths, and it is on a stable surface that can’t be knocked. It’s best to have the air blowing into their general space, rather than directly at your rabbits.
Include some cooling items in their housing
You can purchase some great items to help keep your rabbits cool in the hot weather. Self cooling mats are available online or in pet stores. These mats can be put in your freezer, then onto their flooring. Your buns will love lying against it to keep cool. Alternatively, wrap an ice block in a thick towel to give your rabbits something to lean against.
Rabbits love to dig, it's a natural behaviour and something that should be encouraged! Providing them with a dig box filled with soil is another great way to help keep them cool. They’ll burrow down to the cooler material underneath.
For a DIY hack, if you have spare kitchen or bathroom tiles around, you can pop one or two of these in your rabbits’ run (indoors or outdoors). Make sure it's out of direct sunlight and this will provide a cool spot for them to lie against.
Don’t forget the water!
You should top up and refresh your rabbits’ water bottles or bowls at least once a day. In the summer months keep an eye on them a couple of times each day. It’s important to encourage your rabbits to drink to help them stay hydrated.
How to keep rabbits warm in the winter
Rabbits have warm coats and thick fur pads on the bottoms of their feet, so generally they’re quite well equipped for colder weather. Wild rabbits can survive in the winter weather by adapting their housing, their warren, so as owners we need to do the same for our pet rabbits.
How to insulate a rabbit hutch and housing for the winter
Before the cold weather starts to hit, give your rabbits’ housing a full MOT. Check for any damage, holes, leaks, damp - anything that can cause rain or the cold to get in. Pay particular attention to their roofing, check it’s completely watertight and there’s no sign of damage.
Add some extra insulation to your rabbits’ flooring with thick layers of newspaper, and replace this daily. Pile extra bedding hay or cosy paper bedding into their sleeping area that they can cuddle up in, and make sure they’ve always got plenty of high quality feeding hay in their housing too.
Get some extra cosy additions in your rabbits’ housing
There are some items you can buy or make at home that can help keep your rabbits extra warm in the winter months:
Pet safe heated pads:
These can be popped in the microwave to warm up for your rabbits to lie on.
Hidey holes and tunnels:
Rabbits love to have platforms, hiding holes and tunnels in their housing. In the colder months, put some feeding hay in these items to add some extra insulation and provide a warm space for your rabbits to retreat to.
Add more bedding hay or paper bedding into their sleeping areas during cold snaps. Bedding like Burgess Excel Nap & Nest is not only cosy but provides some extra warmth.
Don’t use things like blankets or fleece blankets. As rabbits like to chew, these could cause an intestinal blockage.
Encourage exercise to keep your rabbits warm
Exercise is great for rabbits any time of year. It helps them keep busy, and helps maintain a healthy weight. In winter, exercise can also help warm your bunnies up. For outdoor rabbits, continue to let them have a (supervised) run around in the garden, just make sure it’s not too wet or cold for them. Provide plenty of enrichment, for example, hay feeders or snuffle mats, to encourage your rabbits to move for their tasty feeding hay.
Most of all a fluffy companion will help keep your rabbits warm. Rabbits are social animals, so should always be kept in suitable pairs or small groups. A furry bunny friend is perfect for those cold winter nights to snuggle up to.
Keep an eye on their water
Unfortunately your rabbits’ water bottles or bowls can freeze over in the cold weather! Check any water sources a couple of times a day to ensure they are still drinkable. If you use water bottles, wrapping them in bubble wrap, or an old sock, can help keep the frost at bay.
What about stormy weather? How to protect your rabbits’ housing from the rain
No matter the season, we can’t escape from the rainy weather. For outdoor rabbits, we need to make sure they are protected from the wet weather.
Watertight: Do regular checks of your rabbits’ housing for any signs of leaks or damage to the floor, walls, and roof. For particularly bad storms, you can protect their housing with a waterproof cover.
Dampproof: While checking for any leaks, have a feel that damp isn’t beginning to seep through. Raising their floor off the ground a little using feet or a platform is a good idea to prevent groundwater coming in.
Sheltered location: To protect outdoor rabbits from the wind, rain, and direct sunlight, it’s usually best to put their housing in a sheltered location. For example under a tree, or in a protected area.
Plenty of platforms and tunnels: These handy enrichment items are great for protecting rabbits from all sorts of weather conditions. If they get caught outside in a storm, providing lots of covered hidey holes, like platforms and tunnels, gives them somewhere to keep dry.