The weather is getting colder and whilst we humans may be fighting the urge to turn the central heating on, our outdoor rabbits and guinea pigs don’t have that option: it’s up to us to make sure they are cosy and comfortable during the cold weather. So let’s take a look at how to get your outdoor hutch set up for the winter.
It is best to do your overhaul on a warm, dry day as you will need to find somewhere else for your bunny to stay for a few hours or even overnight.
Check For Wear and Tear
Give your hutch a good check over. Check for any rough edges and sand until smooth. Tighten any loose screws or hinges. Check that the wire mesh is properly secured.
Look for any signs that the wood of your hutch is starting to rot, or that your huch is no longer watertight.
A well-made hutch, properly cared for will last for many years. But even the sturdiest will eventually need replacing.
If your hutch is starting to rot, or leak now things will only get worse as the cold weather sets in: which could mean a damp and chilly winter for your bunny.
Carrying our regular repairs and applying an annual coat of wood treatment will help prolong the life of your hutch, But if it’s already past the point of no return, please replace it before the winter weather sets in.
We know you clean your hutch regularly, but take the time to give it a really good going over with pet safe disinfectant now. Get everything out of the hutch, use a scraper to remove any ground-on dirt, and an old toothbrush to really get into those corners.
Apply a Pet-Safe Wood Treatment
Applying a pet-safe wood treatment to your hutch in spring and autumn will help to protect the wood and prolong its life.
Choose something like Timbac, which is not only safe for pets but also low-odour, so won’t irritate sensitive noses.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, especially on how long your pets should be kept out of the newly painted hutch.
Location, Location, Location
Hutches may well need to be moved for the winter months, Which way does the wind usually blow in your garden? Make sure your hutches are not facing directly into the wind and rain. It’s also a good idea to tilt hutches very slightly forward so that any rain that does get in can run out again.
Also, avoid placing your hutch under any gutters that tend to overflow.
A sheltered corner of the garden, out of the prevailing wind, is an ideal location for your hutch in winter.
Think about getting an insulated hutch cover if you don’t have one already. They really can make an outdoor hutch a much cosier place to live during the winter months.
A run shade not only keeps the sun off, but will also give your pet some shelter from the rain when they are out in their run, enjoying some exercise.
We all like an extra blanket in the winter, and your bunnies are no exception. Wherever type of bedding you choose for your bunnies be sure to add a extra during the colder months.
Also check regularly that bedding is dry. Wet bedding will not help to keep your rabbit warm.
Food Glorious Food
Humans may comfort-eat in the cold weather but small animals like rabbits really do need a little extra food to keep themselves warm and healthy in the winter months.
Wild rabbits struggle to find the food they need during the winter months, but luckily this isn’t the case for pet rabbits.
Even in the winter months, go easy on the pellets though. They taste good and are packed with calories, so many rabbits will eat all the pellets they can get their teeth into. Which can lead to excess weight if not kept under control.
Build up food gradually as the weather gets colder, to give your rabbits time to adjust to their winter diet.
Don’t Forget the Drink!
If the weather gets really cold, especially at night, water bottles may freeze. Avoid this by getting some insulated bottle covers. These will help to stop water in the bottles from freezing and ensure that your pets have access to a drink at all times.
Rabbits Still Need Exercise
Although we might just want to curl up on the sofa in a onesie during the winter months, rabbits need as much exercise as they do at other times of the year, Maybe even more in fact as exercise helps to keep them warm.
So make sure your rabbits have ready access to their run during the winter months, and that the run has areas that offer some shelter from the elements.
Is It Ever Too Cold For Your Rabbit To Live Outside?
Rabbits live outdoors naturally. As the weather gets colder they grow thicker coats, and if there is enough food around, put on a little weight. They also have warm, dry burrows to shelter in.
So, a healthy, adult rabbit, who is used to living outdoors and has a suitable hutch for shelter will be perfectly comfortable in temperatures down to -10c.
There are a few occasions when it might be dangerous for your rabbit to live outdoors in the winter.
- If the temperature drops suddenly rabbits will not have had time to grow their winter coats with the extra protection this offers. If a sudden fall in temperature is forecast, think about moving outdoor rabbits into a shed or garage until things get back to normal. Beware though, rabbits living in these warmer circumstances will start to shed any extra winter fur they do have after a couple of days,
- Don’t try moving an indoor rabbit outdoors in mid-winter.
- Take extra care with nursing mothers and babies.
- And if your outdoor rabbit gets sick, take your vet’s advice on where she should be living whilst she recovers.
So, with a bit of care and preparation, your rabbit can enjoy living outdoors all year long.