Outdoor rabbit safety in winter

Rabbits are domesticated animals and can thrive either as house pets or as outside pets. Life outside of the home for a rabbit can be sometimes lonely, so if you do choose to keep your bunny outside, care needs to be taken to socialize your rabbit and give it plenty of toys and out of cage exercise.

Most outside rabbits live in specialized cages called hutches. Rabbit hutches are usually elevated off of the ground, sides and bottom are enclosed by wire mesh, with a tar paper or shingled removable cover. Hutches come with an enclosed wooden box for the rabbit to hide in or get out of the elements.

Some owners build small sheds for their rabbits, with a small door leading into a fenced in yard for the rabbit to play in. Care must be taken so your rabbit does not dig out of this type of enclosure.

Winter months bring on different concerns for the owners of outdoor rabbits. Although rabbits are pretty hardy animals, the extreme winds and frozen water supply certainly needs to be addressed, as well as increasing risk of predators.

Many owners bring the entire hutch into a shed or garage during the winter months to keep their rabbit out of the elements, which is a great way to keep your rabbit safe from the freezing temperatures as well as predators.

If you cannot move your hutch, the first step in ‘winterizing’ your hutch should be; stuffing the rabbits wooded hide box with ample straw will help to keep your rabbit warm. Straw bedding needs to be changed at least weekly to keep your rabbit clean, dry and warm.

Many people throw a tarp over the entire hutch during the winter months, but this not only keeps your rabbit in the dark constantly, but more importantly, your bunny has no fresh air. Rabbits are pretty hardy animals, and can do well in colder temperatures, but the wind can be difficult for them to withstand. Wrapping a portion of the hutch with clear plastic will benefit your rabbit two-fold. First, by wrapping part of your hutch, it will allow fresh air to get in, but still block a good portion of the wind as well as help to insulate your hutch.

Probably the most overlooked, but certainly the most important thing in caring for your rabbit during the winter months, is access to water. Water bottles may not look frozen, but the silver ball in the drinking spout freezes quickly, blocking the flow of water. It may be best to offer water in heavy plastic bowls twice a day, so your rabbit always has access to water.

Predators are definitely a worry when housing your rabbit outside, but even more so during winter months. The snow-covered ground makes it hard for raccoons and foxes to find food. They may look to your hutch for a possible meal. Make sure your hutch is secure, off the ground and the lid cannot be opened by critters. Moving your hutch closer to your house can deter unwanted guests from harassing your rabbit.

Winter months bring concern when housing your rabbit outdoors, but with a few simple changes, your rabbit can weather the snow and cold.