Outdoor rabbits need extra care to stay cosy in hutches. Rain, draughts and cold temperatures threaten rabbit health, but positioning hutches well, waterproofing them and providing extra bedding helps bunnies cope, and a regular care routine means owners can spot potential problems early. Young, old or thin rabbits, or those yet to grow a thick winter coat, are especially vulnerable.
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Choosing a good site for your pet's home is one of the easiest ways to keep him warm and dry. Keeping rabbit hutches under cover outdoors, such as in unused garages, sheds or outhouses, is a good idea, but garages in use are unsafe. Greenhouses are also unsuitable as rabbits can't tolerate wide temperature changes. Where no cover is available, a sheltered position with access to an exercise area is best. Facing entrances away from prevailing winds provides open hutches protection from draughts and rain.
Rabbits become cold and ill in wet hutches, and moisture turns straw and hay mouldy and unhealthy to eat. Damp wood or water marks on rabbit hutches reveal lack of waterproofing. Hutches need painting on the outside with pet safe wood preservative regularly to keep out rain, and raising them at least 4 inches off the ground prevents water soaking in from wet earth or grass. Hutches with sloping roofs allow rain to run off quickly.
Hutch covers, either shop-bought or homemade from old carpet or blanket, keep out draughts and rain effectively. Covers can stay on permanently during cold weather, with small areas open at night and fronts entirely open during daytime for ventilation. Hutches with plenty of newspaper in the base, covered with lots of extra bedding, such as straw or dust-free hay, also help rabbits keep warm. Microwavable pads especially made for rabbits provide extra warmth, and cardboard boxes inside hutches, filled with bedding, make warm sleeping areas.
Visiting rabbit hutches regularly is essential to help keep rabbits warm outdoors. In low temperatures, food, water and wet bedding can freeze, causing rabbit illness. Water bottles need checking twice daily for frozen water and uneaten food that has frozen should be discarded. Even in very cold weather, rabbits also need daily exercise to stay healthy. Signs of rabbit ill health include producing fewer droppings and a change in eating or drinking habits.
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