Rabbits can live outdoors happily all year round in the UK, provided they have a suitable accommodation which is prepped for Winter. Rabbits are happier in colder climates than warm ones, however they need protected from the harsh elements.
If you have sick/frail rabbits or don’t have a suitable accommodation which will keep them protected through a harsh winter, moving them indoors should be done in October time and they should stay inside until Spring.
Prepare your accommodation:
Taking steps to prepare your rabbits housing for Winter should begin in the Autumn. You should also carry out annual repairs during Spring/Summer to ensure your set up will last through each year.
Invest in quality timber housing that will keep bunnies warm and dry
Add heavy duty covers and tarpaulins to shelter mesh areas from wind, rain and snow. Their house should be dry and draught free but with adequate ventilation to prevent mould.
Add heavy duty covers to meshed areas
Insulate your wooden housing, including the roof and floor which will keep the frost out and helps prevent water freezing.
Make adjustments to doors and locks as wood will swell with the cold and damp weather. This can make it harder to get the door to their accommodation open and closed, so you may have to shave the door down slightly or move where the locks are situated.
Prepare your rabbits
Your rabbits will need more fuel in temperatures below freezing, as keeping warm burns more calories.
Alter their feed and provide nutritious dried grasses and higher calorie snacks such as barley rings.
Cram hides and enclosures with straw bedding and provide nutritious hays, grasses and high calorie snacks
Monitor their weight closely and make sure it stays consistent. Long haired woolly rabbits shouldn’t be clipped short all over like during Summer but instead should be kept tidy and trimmed around the face and bottom.
Rabbits need companionship to keep warm
Winters can reach down to -15C in the UK and your rabbits can tolerate this well if you have prepared them and their accommodation accordingly.
Rabbits begin building a Winter coat through the Autumn months to prepare them for the plummeting temperatures.
Do not be tempted to move rabbits indoor in extreme cold if they are happy and healthy. This can cause shock and they can blow their undercoat which they need to keep warm when moved back out.
Swap from ceramic bowls to plastic/bamboo. Do not use glass bottles. Glass and ceramic can easily shatter or break in extreme cold.
Avoid using glass or ceramic in extreme cold as they can easily smash
Offer VetBed for rabbits to lie on - VetBed helps regulate their body temperature and wicks moisture away keeping them dry.
Use lots of straw for bedding – straw acts as an excellent insulator and is the best bedding to use in sub zero temperatures as it doesn't absorb moisture. Cram hideaways with straw to let them burrow. The straw traps air pockets which keep them warm.
Check on their water regularly and top up with warm water if the water is quickly turning icy. It helps to place the water bowl on top of a HeatPod and not place the bowl directly on a cold hard floor.
Allow them access to their runs - don’t restrict their space and allow them access to their runs if they want to run around and play. Running around will keep their body temperature up.
Don't remove snow on top of their enclosure - snow acts as an insulator and keeps the heat in so leave it on top for that igloo effect.
Allow run access and do not remove snow from the tops of enclosures.
click on the posters to view
It is not essential or possible for everyone to use heaters in their rabbit accommodation. It can be a good option to install one if you have elderly/sick rabbits and want them to stay in their accommodation all year round. This requires a power outlet, or use of a garage with sockets.
We recommend only using heaters to keep the temperature between 0-10C rather than trying to make the space any warmer. This keeps your rabbits used to the cooler climate and able to move freely between exposed outdoor areas and their inside space.
There are 4 different types of heater options you can choose from
Bar heater – increases the air temperature and is a low energy option if used on just one bar. These should be used with a guard and installed on a wall where cables cannot be accessed. £
Space/fan heater - increases the air temperature but is less energy efficient. Good for small spaces and those who have a shelf but no wall space. £££
Heat lamp – Infrared heat lamps provide heat directly to the animal instead of the air but require the animal to sit under them. They are great for elderly or infirm rabbits and are very energy efficient. They are also the safest option and less fire risk than some of the other heaters. £
Oil filled / smart radiator – a safe option and best for large spaces such as garages or outbuildings. ££