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Old 09-15-2010, 10:29 AM   #1
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This will be our first winter with our outdoor rabbits. Everything I've read said rabbits can endure the cold better than the heat. My questions are, how cold can they handle and should we do anything to winterize the hutches? Another option, would be to put them in smaller cages and keep them in the shed (which is metal and uninsulated, though I could run a heater) or bring them into the basement. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!



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Old 09-15-2010, 12:49 PM   #2
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I would definately bring them into a garage/shed/porch at least at night when it's winter.

Lots of shredded newspaper and hay in their 'bedroom' is always a good idea. I just stuff mine to the top and they burrow a snug little hole into the middle.
Bottle covers are a very good idea. You might need to check the water every few hours in case of freezing, and thaw them out.
Obviously making sure the hutch is raised off the ground at any time is important, but in winter it is ultimately essential.

You can also buy hutch covers which protect the whole hutch from snow/rain etc. from entering, and also keeps it well insulated.

Hope this helps



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Old 09-15-2010, 05:01 PM   #3
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I've got my FG outside and this will be her first winter too. I plan on putting hay/straw in her "house" for warmth, but I also have her giant litter box in there too and she only uses that for pooping/peeing in. I put timothy hay on one end of the litter box for her. My question is - if I put straw all over her box and sort of "bury" the litter box, won't this ruin her little box training? She'll end up just going all over the box right?

I don't want to ruin the training because she is so great when we bring her in to exercise. She doesn't poop/pee at all on my carpet and goes into her dog kennel to do so (I have a litter box in the kennel as well).

But I do want her to be warm enough, as WI winters can be brutal.

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Old 09-15-2010, 11:40 PM   #4
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jcottonl02 wrote:
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I would definately bring them into a garage/shed/porch at least at night when it's winter.
This may not be the best idea because temperature fluctuations can cause illness. The rabbits need to either be permanently in and out. Going back and forth is not generally recommended.

Aside from that, the most important thing is to have a winter hutch. This means absolutely no all-wire cages. I know these are sometimes advertised as "hutch-kits", but they will not work.

During winter, your rabbit should be in a hutch that is at least 3 sides solid wood. The best all-year hutches will be half wood and half wire on the front side too, to "enclose" one end of the hutch into a little run-in box. If you do not have a shed that is exactly like that, I would suggest building your rabbit a wooden box that will fit in the hutch. Fill this box with lots of hay or straw. Clean it out often, but make sure it's always full.

I am in PA too and our winters are pretty mind for bunnies. As long as they have an enclosed hutch and a small, tight box with hay inside to keep warm, they should be fine.

A heavy canvas tarp can be nice to drape over the hutch at night to keep some heat in and bad wind out, or even on especially cold days as well. But on sunny days, you shouldn't need it.

MOST IMPORTANTLY
- The rabbit MUST stay dry. Rabbits can handle the cold well, but not if they are wet. They will chill and freeze easily if wet. So make sure the hutch is well insulated and high off the ground, away from any snow or other precipitation.

One thing to check frequently is the water. It is easiest in the winter to use a crock which you can switch in and out as it freezes and replace. While the water inside a bottle may not be frozen, the little metal nozzles can freeze shut. So you may think your rabbit has access to water when he really does not. A crock is best.

I would also up the protein in your feed. If you are someone who does the timothy pellet/timothy hay diet, I would recommend switching to an alfalfa pellet for the winter. A pellet with 16-18% protein is preferable, and it helps to sprinkle some oats on top of that too. Protein and fat levels are important in the winter for giving the rabbit's body energy to keep itself warm. Just make sure you make this change gradually, as a change in protein level can cause illness if done suddenly. Changes in protein can also cause a molt, so I'd suggest getting the rabbit on a higher protein food now, before winter hits, so that they have a coat of fur back on them by winter.

Hope this helps!
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Old 09-16-2010, 11:45 AM   #5
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OakRidgeRabbits wrote:
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jcottonl02 wrote:
Quote:
I would definately bring them into a garage/shed/porch at least at night when it's winter.
This may not be the best idea because temperature fluctuations can cause illness. The rabbits need to either be permanently in and out. Going back and forth is not generally recommended.

Aside from that, the most important thing is to have a winter hutch. This means absolutely no all-wire cages. I know these are sometimes advertised as "hutch-kits", but they will not work.

Unfortunately temperature fluctuations are a given during winter, and so other precautions must be taken, like I suggested. The reason I say at least moving them somewhere slightly warmer at night is because it is WAY colder at night in the winter. So leaving them outside all the time means possible major temperature fluctuations.

I do understand what you mean about going into the house (with it's carpets, central heating etc.) and then back in the garden- that is just so wrong-, but moving them into a garage or a porch or a shed would only protect them fully from the wind etc. and help slightly with insulation. There is no central heating in a shed.

Jen
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Old 09-16-2010, 04:19 PM   #6
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In PA, winters are pretty mild on the whole. It does get colder at night, but with the use of a tarp over the cage, it is possible to insulate a bit more without causing extra stress on the rabbit (and the owner) to move in and out every night and morning.

A 3-4 sided wooden hutch gives the same insulation to a rabbit that a smaller, wire cage inside a shed would.

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Old 09-16-2010, 05:11 PM   #7
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The hutches I use have enclosed houses with roughly 3 foot runners. Guessin I will pack the houses full of straw and hay and cover them with blankets and a tarp. They are positioned by my shed as a sun/wind break. Thanks for all the great replies!

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Old 09-16-2010, 05:32 PM   #8
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OakRidgeRabbits wrote:
Quote:
In PA, winters are pretty mild on the whole. It does get colder at night, but with the use of a tarp over the cage, it is possible to insulate a bit more without causing extra stress on the rabbit (and the owner) to move in and out every night and morning.

A 3-4 sided wooden hutch gives the same insulation to a rabbit that a smaller, wire cage inside a shed would.
I did imply that they should be moved permanently into a warmer more insulated place, but at the very least the nights are the most important, because that's when the temperature really drops.

I don't understand where the last sentence has come from? I didn't say anything about a wire cage or a shed etc.? Soz just a bit confused by that bit.

Jen
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Old 09-16-2010, 06:31 PM   #9
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jcottonl02 wrote:
Quote:
I don't understand where the last sentence has come from? I didn't say anything about a wire cage or a shed etc.? Soz just a bit confused by that bit.

Jen
You had mentioned that moving the rabbits inside the shed at night would be better. And I was assuming that by "smaller cage", the original poster was implying a normal wire cage as opposed to a wooden hutch. I was just saying that since the shed is uninsulated and metal, it would provide just as much (if not more) warmth and insulation for the rabbit to stay in the hutch, if it is a proper 3-sided wooden hutch. Wood holds heat better than a metal shed would.
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Old 09-16-2010, 09:22 PM   #10
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Ahhh I see what you mean now. I thought you were referring to something I had said.

Yes I have to agree with you there.

Jen



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