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Rabbits have evolved to withstand colder temperatures. In the wild they don't hibernate during the colder winter months because their thick coats as well as their active lifestyles keep them nice and toasty even when the weather is freezing outside. Ideally, bunny rabbits like temperatures of around 60 degrees Fahrenheit and although they can cope with much colder temperatures, there are certain things you can do as a rabbit owner, to make your pets more comfortable and warmer if they live outside in the winter.
You have to make sure your rabbit's hutch is well protected from the elements. This includes the wind and rain. Rabbits, as mentioned can cope with the cold but they don't do well in the wind and rain. Ideally, the hutch needs to be a well sheltered position out of the wind and in a place where water cannot get in. You will need to make sure the sides of the hutch are protected as well so that no rain or even snow can blow into it if it's very windy.
Straw is a fantastic insulator but only if it is clean and dry. The straw you place in the hutch will help your pet rabbits stay nice and warm when it is really cold outside. By packing the straw into the hutch, you are in effect, insulating it. One good idea, and it's one your rabbit will love, is to pack a wooden nesting box with straw for them to snuggle up in. Some rabbits adore nest boxes whereas others may not be so keen on using them. The thing to remember is to clean out the straw every two days otherwise it gets too soiled and will not be as warming as when it is clean and dry.
Although older rabbits cope very well with colder temperatures, baby rabbits are more susceptible to chilly conditions. When they are first born, baby rabbits do not have any fur and need to be kept nice and warm. Baby rabbits need a temperature of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first ten days of their lives. If they remain in their fur lined nest and the air temperature around them is a steady 50 degrees, baby rabbits will thrive and do well. If you have any babies in the nesting box, you need to check them regularly to make sure none of the little ones have fallen out of the nest because they will die of exposure pretty quickly. Should the weather turn really cold, then it is best to take mum and babies indoors where it is warmer.
There are a lot of heat pads for pets on the market these days. However, although there are a few out there that claim to be safe to use, you need to be very careful if you are considering using one for your pet rabbit. Unless your pet rabbit is really very sick do not use a heat pad because rabbits love to chew things and they might just electrocute themselves by chewing through the electric cable. Some pet supplies stores offer heat pads with spring-protected cords which they claim are safe to use even with rabbits. However, rabbits will chew through these so it is best to avoid using them and find a safer alternative.
When the hotter summer months arrive, you need to make sure your pet rabbits don't get too hot and overheat. Rabbits are well equipped to deal with freezing conditions, but they are less so when it comes to hotter weather. If the weather gets extremely hot in the summer with temperatures exceeding 85 degrees Fahrenheit, then you need to make sure you are well prepared to keep your rabbits cool. As with most disasters, prevention is the key to avoiding a situation where your rabbit may suffer from heat stroke, because it is very hard to help them once they do. Below are a few ways of preventing it from ever happening.
If you plan to keep your pet rabbits outside, then you have to make sure the hutch is placed in full shade. Remember, the sun beating down on a hutch will heat it up like a oven, so even if your rabbit is not in the sun, they will overheat if their hutches have the sun beating down on them during the day. The best thing to do is have a rabbit hutch you can move around from place to place so that when you do need to move it to a better position, you can. The other thing you have to ensure, is that there is plenty of fresh air circulating around the hutch – this is essential for your rabbit's welfare. If the weather is extremely hot, there are certain ways of helping to keep your rabbits cool. Placing frozen water bottles in their hutches works very well but make sure you place the bottles on tiles so that they don't ruin the wooden base of the hutch. The thing to remember is that rabbits lose 80% of their heat through their breathing. When a rabbit breathes it carries water held in the body to the rabbits nose. On reaching the nose, this water evaporates and as such takes all the heat with it. Rabbits ears don't have any fur on them for a reason, which is because they can cool down easier as the blood flows into them. These are the two main ways that rabbits naturally keep cool and if there is sufficient airflow around them – both work very efficiently which means your rabbit is keeping itself as cool as it can naturally.
Rabbits need a constant supply of fresh, clean water. It does not have to cold water, in fact it's better if it is at room temperature. If you give your pet rabbit a water bottle, then make sure you change the water every day and always check it to make sure it is not empty. If you give your rabbit a water bowl, then change the water a minimum of twice a day.
If you ever find your rabbit panting very hard and they have a wet nose, then your pet might be suffering from heat stroke. In more severe, advanced cases of heat stroke, your rabbit's nostrils and mouth will turn blue or bloody coloured. If your discover your rabbit showing any of the above signs, then you will have to handle them very gently. Rub some ice on their ears and wrap your rabbit in a wet towel. If they still seem in distress then gently place the rabbit in a shallow bowl of cool water – making sure it is not too cold. Once your pet appears to be a little better, then handle it with care and treat it for shock but just letting the rabbit rest in a cool, quiet place. Make sure your rabbit has plenty of water nearby. Ideally once your rabbit is a better, take them to your vet but make sure you avoid any extra stressful situation if possible.
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