Domesticated rabbits have it much easier during the cold winter months when compared to rabbits in the wild. However, since other animals hibernate during winter, do rabbits hibernate too?
Rabbits don’t hibernate during winter. A rabbit’s body isn’t made to withstand a slow metabolism, a low breathing rate, or low body temperature. If a rabbit’s digestive system slows even a little, it could be fatal, and if a rabbit’s body temperature drops below 101℉, they suffer from hypothermia.
Since rabbits don’t meet the criteria for hibernation, they can’t endure the deep winter sleep.
So just how do wild rabbits survive in the winter? And what about your beloved Ms or Mr. Fluffles? How can you make the cold months more comfortable for them?
How Do Rabbits Survive in the Winter?
Since domestic and wild rabbits do not hibernate, what do they do to survive when the temperatures drop?
We’ll look at how you can help your pet rabbit during winter below, but for now, let’s briefly look at wild rabbits in winter. Unfortunately, the survival rate for wild rabbits isn’t high.
In the wild, rabbits frequent the areas where they stay during the warmer months. They grow a thick fur coat during fall that helps keep them warm when it gets cooler during winter.
Food supply is a bit of an issue during winter and their food sources change. In summer, wild rabbits eat grass and other foliage. But in winter, these have either died or may be covered by snow.
A wild rabbit eats a diet that consists of rough, woody plants, pine cones, twigs, and tree bark. They may also dig up roots to eat or find evergreen tree needles for food.
Wild rabbits stay in their underground burrows to keep warm in winter and only leave these tunnels when they need to go find food. This helps keep them safe from wild animals.
The only exception is the Cottontail rabbit (which is actually a hare) that doesn’t dig tunnels. Instead, Cottontails hide in swallow holes, dense bushes, or abandoned dens.
To help them conserve energy, rabbits don’t move around as much. Wild bunnies fluff up into little balls and rest when they aren’t looking for food or eating.
Things Your Rabbit Needs During Winter
Your pet rabbit will need a few things that are different in winter. They are:
Food and Water
Rabbits generally eat more during winter. You may find that outdoor rabbits have a larger appetite increase in comparison to indoor rabbits.
It is a survival instinct that rabbits – both wild and domesticated – eat more in winter. Eating more helps them build up a layer of fat which helps them stay warm and survive when there may not be as much to eat as during summer.
Therefore, feed your rabbit more during winter, and also remember to check on their water. If it gets really cold where you live, the water in your rabbit’s water bowl may freeze overnight, so ensure you go out more often in winter and give your rabbit fresh drinking water.
Rabbits grow a thicker coat to help them keep warm during winter. However, this coat isn’t sufficient, so don’t think you can just keep your bun outside and not worry.
You may want to place a blanket inside the hutch so your bunny has something to cuddle up against if it feels cold. You can also add more bedding as rabbits like to burrow to preserve the warmth.
You’ll commonly find that rabbits sleep and sit in the bunny loaf position during the colder months. In summer, rabbits sprawl out or flop to their side. The bunny loaf position minimizes how much surface area the rabbit’s skin is exposed to, thus rabbits retain more body heat.
Rabbits do better in cold weather and then generally have more energy too. So don’t be surprised if you see your bunny zooming about and doing binkies.
With this increase in energy, it is a good idea to let your rabbit play and exercise a bit more. If you have the run or playpen set up in your living room, ensure you’ve rabbit-proofed your house.
Rabbits also like to chew and dig more when it gets colder, so it’s a good idea they can’t chew on electric cables or dig into your expensive but oh-so-stylish Persian rug that’s an heirloom.
A Winter-Proof Hutch (for Outside Rabbits)
Winter-proofing the outside rabbit hutch is essential to ensure your rabbits don’t get too cold and stay comfortable during winter. Just because rabbits like the cold doesn’t mean we fur parents shouldn’t worry about our long-eared fluffballs.
One aspect of making sure the rabbit hutch is ready for your bunny and winter is to check that there’s no wind and drafts that can make their way inside. To wind-proof the hutch, staple cardboard or plastic sheeting to the hutch.
A wooden hutch is wind-proof and better if you keep rabbits outside for the long term.
- Raise the hutch off the ground.
- Insulate the walls.
- Place a thermal water bottle inside the hutch for your bunny if it needs to warm up.
- Make sure your rabbits stay dry.
- Place tarp around the hutch to ensure snow or water doesn’t get in.
How to Help Your Rabbit During Winter
Follow these tips to ensure your rabbit survives cold winters:
Step 1: Bring the Rabbit Inside
If your rabbits stay outside and it gets really cold, then it is better to keep your bunnies indoors. But transition them to inside temperatures during fall already.
Step 2: Bunny-Proof Your Home
If you are bringing your rabbits indoors, then bunny-proof your home to ensure it is a safe space for them. You don’t want them chewing on a toxic plant or electric cable, which could be fatal.
Step 3: Watch out for Health Problems
Whether you keep your rabbit indoors or outdoors, it is important to check on your bunny.
You wouldn’t want your rabbit to suffer from hypothermia, flystrike, snuffles, frostbite, or other complications. Call the vet or schedule an emergency appointment if you are unsure.
Rabbits like the cold, and even if you are feeling cold, chances are that your rabbit isn’t. However, just because rabbits do better in cooler temperatures doesn’t mean their fur parents need not worry.
You still need to make sure your rabbit is fed, warm, and looked after during the winter months.