Since we obviously cannot build elaborate networks of tunnels in our backyards, our pet rabbits are not going to have the option of burrowing underground in the wintertime. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep them warm, many of which still involve letting them stay in the hutch that they are already used to.
Here are nine ways of keeping your rabbit warm and cozy in the winter:
- Keep Your Indoor Rabbit Inside
- Bring Your Outdoor Rabbit Inside
- Use Straw or Hay in Your Rabbit’s Hutch
- Have a Nesting Box in Your Rabbit’s Hutch
- Purchase a Hutch Cover
- Give Your Rabbit a Blanket or Heating Pad
- Dress Your Rabbit for the Weather
- Change Up Your Rabbit’s Eating and Drinking Habits- A Bit
- Cuddle With Your Rabbit
It is very important to be mindful of your pet rabbit’s health and safety during the colder autumn and winter months. Read on to learn what you can do to keep your bunny warmmer in the winter.
1. Keep Your Indoor Rabbit Inside
Plenty of pet owners already keep their rabbit hutch inside the house somewhere. There is nothing wrong with this for most breeds of rabbits, particularly if they are your only pet. Rabbits, like humans, certainly do not mind the comforts of central heating (as well as central air conditioning in the summer).
Mammals, with their steady body temperature, typically go to great lengths to stay warm. Rabbits, at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, have a body temperature that runs roughly the same as humans. So, if you are comfortable, they are probably comfortable. You just want to make sure their tiny bodies are extra cozy.
When to Consider Moving an Indoor Rabbit Outside
There are a few reasons you may be considering moving your indoor rabbit outside:
- Winterized homes are sealed shut, so you would rather not have to deal with those rabbit “smells.”
- Your kids are now walking around, so you want to keep the bunny safe.
- You have moved to a smaller house.
Either way, the worst time to move a rabbit outside in the winter. The sudden extreme cold will be a shock to their system and easily cause hypothermia or worse. At a minimum, give your rabbit at least two months of Autumn to get used to the gradually lowering temperatures so it can adjust accordingly. Early October, if you can, is the best time to start that process.
Indoor Hazards Your Rabbit May Encounter During the Winter
Keeping your rabbit inside all winter long may be a lot safer than the cold and other dangers of the outside world. However, you still need to be careful; you cannot exactly let your rabbit roam free in your homes like a cat or a dog. Especially if you already own a cat or a dog. Indoor rabbits should always be kept in their hutch, or at least have it easily accessible.
Do not forget, cats and dogs are natural predators and could harm your rabbit. If you leave them all together to roam free in the house, you may receive a rather quick lesson in the circle of life. While it is possible for dogs, cats, and rabbits to get along, even the most docile kitties cannot turn down a good meal if not properly trained. So, if already have one of these other animals, remember:
- Always keep your rabbit in its hutch.
- If you would rather not do that, at least keep the animals in separate rooms, ideally in opposite corners of your house.
- Keep the hutch raised a few feet off the ground, on a table. Do not make things easier for your other pet.
- A clear, ventilated hutch cover can give your bunny some added protection while preserving its view.
Of course, a feline or canine foe is not the only safety hazards for rabbits inside the house you may not have considered. For one thing, rabbits can squeeze themselves into tinier spaces than you might expect, such as:
- Small cabinets or drawers
- In between the couch cushions
- Inside pillows
- In between kitchen appliances
Finding a cat in an unsafe situation is not unheard of, but for a rabbit, it can be almost probable. For these reasons, it is better to keep the hutch as the home base for your bunny.
Indoor Exercise Can Help Keep Your Rabbit Warm
If you have a safe room away from other pets and appliances, you do not need to keep the rabbit in the hutch 24/7, either. If you are home and watching your rabbit, you can allow him out for a little while to run around and get some exercise. Exercise is not only good for a rabbit’s physical and mental health (they love to hop around, after all), but they also to stay warm.
Having that time, maybe just an hour per day, to walk out of their hutch and exercise is critical for a rabbit to generate a little more body heat. Have you ever played football or basketball in the winter outside with friends? After 20 minutes, you probably lost the jacket because you were too hot. The same principle applies to rabbits.
An hour per day of running around will give a great boost to the rabbit’s body heat and leave them feeling warm and happy. Just make sure you leave the hutch nearby so it can crawl back in when it is done.
2. Bring Your Outdoor Rabbit Inside
If you have an outdoor rabbit, you may not think twice about leaving them outside all year long. And yes, with some protections we describe later on, they will probably be okay. But remember, without the option to burrow, getting through February will not exactly be a cakewalk for your rabbit.
If the outdoor temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you may want to consider bringing your rabbit inside the house.
Wind chill might even prompt you to make that decision earlier. If you are not sure, these are the tell-tale signs that your rabbit is struggling in the cold:
- Low responsiveness
- Docile behavior
- Not eating as much
If your bunny is exhibiting any of these symptoms, you definitely need to make their hutch warmer or seriously consider bringing your pet inside.
3. Use Straw or Hay in Your Rabbit’s Hutch
Whether inside or outside, one of the best ways to keep your rabbit warm within their hutch is to line the floor with straw or hay. This material is:
- Easy to obtain if you already own a farm
Bunnies can bury themselves in it like a blanket, utilizing the skill they miss using the most: burrowing. In fact, straw and hay are often the most successful materials used to keep a rabbit warm since they do an excellent job of insulating the ground.
The advantage of putting the straw in your rabbit hutch is that it is a bit warmer than hay. They can still burrow in it easily without being a safety hazard. However, it is a bit more difficult to find straw for some people and only serves a single purpose, so it is not always economically feasible.
Hay, on the other hand, is not quite as warm as straw. However, if you use enough, it will certainly get the job done and keep the hutch warm enough for your rabbit. Since it grows naturally on most farms, you may not even need to pay for it. And it doubles as food!
A free way to simultaneously feed your rabbit and keep it warm? Not a bad deal. Just make sure you replenish the hay as your rabbit uses it up. And change the hay bedding every so often since it is more likely to become dirty.
4. Have a Nesting Box in Your Rabbit’s Hutch
If you live in a cold environment and plan on keeping your rabbit outside as much as possible, a small house inside the hutch (also known as a nesting box) is critical. You want to strike a balance here: a big enough home for them to move around in and be cozy, but still have a fair amount of space outside of the home (still within the hutch) for them to exercise.
Having a hutch nesting box, even though it does not have central heating, is critical for your rabbit for a few other reasons:
- It is covered from the elements like snow and cold rain. Being wet in cold weather easily causes hypothermia. Sure, your bunny might like to play in the snow for a little bit. But there is a limit.
- It cuts out wind chill, another major cold factor.
- Extra sturdy protection from especially hungry outdoor predators.
Purchase a Hutch With a Nesting Box
The easiest way to provide a nesting box for your rabbit is to purchase a hutch that already has one. More elaborate hutches with a nesting box are a lot cheaper than you might think.
Below are four of the best hutches with nesting boxes on Amazon:
- Aivituvin Rabbit Hutch
- PawHut Wooden Rabbit Hutch
- Kinsuite Large Rabbit Hutch
- Esright 43” Rabbit Hutch
A rabbit hutch with a nesting box is one of the best ways to keep your rabbit nice and warm in the winter. Here is a closer look at these specific rabbit hutches in greater detail:
Aivituvin Rabbit Hutch
This rabbit hutch from Avituvin will keep your bunny warm and happy all winter long. It is raised a few inches off the ground as is, and then has two floors of various sizes for fun exercising to keep your rabbit’s body temperature up while it is having fun. And this huge house will keep your bunny cozy during a windy snowstorm. Check it out on Amazon here.
PawHut Wooden Rabbit Hutch
If you only have just one rabbit, you can get away with this smaller, cheaper hutch. This hutch is a bit simpler with less room to play, but there is just enough to get out for some fresh air. In the winter, your rabbit can hop on over to the closed-off section of the hutch. One added bonus of this hutch is the covered feeding trough for placing grass and rabbit food. Check it out on Amazon here.
Kinsuite Large Rabbit Hutch
On the other end is the hutch by Kinsuite. With a ton of space to move around, this one is ideal if you have 2 or 3 bunnies; no need to buy a separate hutch for each of them. The hutch house itself is conveniently located on the second floor, well out of the way of even a big snowstorm. Check it out on Amazon here.
Esright 43” Rabbit Hutch
Esright’s rabbit hutch is probably the most unique looking rabbit hutch on the market. Its simple triangle shape is perfect for maximum ventilation and easy access. Plus, the house has a door to the outside so you can easily reach in there without reaching through the metal part itself.
It is a bit on the small side, though, so it is best for one small rabbit. Also, with no floor, putting this up on a sturdy table during a storm is absolutely necessary. Check it out on Amazon here.
Create a DIY Nesting Box
If you already have a basic hutch and winter is fast approaching, you may not want to buy a whole new one. If you are not able to bring your bunny inside, another fix to keep it warm is to build a nesting box in there yourself. To do so, follow these tips:
- Take the rabbit out and put it in a safe place before you begin. They are not the best carpenters.
- Use well-sanded wood and make sure it is sturdy by adding screws.
- Make sure those screws are not sticking out in a place that could hurt your rabbit.
- Make the roof slanted so that rain drains out of the hutch completely. If cold rain drains into the floor of the hutch, you are defeating the purpose.
- Add proper roofing shingles to make sure it is completely weatherproof.
Here’s a helpful video that shows exactly how to build a rabbit nesting box:
5. Purchase a Hutch Cover
As I alluded to earlier, buying a hutch cover can be another rather simple way to keep your rabbits warm in the wintertime. My suggestion is to use a clear one, but it ultimately depends on what you and your rabbit prefer.
While hutch covers do not produce heat on their own, they are valuable because they keep heat trapped inside and block the wind.
The best part, however, might be that you are essentially expanding the comfortable living area to include the entire hutch. No need to retreat into the nesting box when it starts snowing; your rabbit can stay “outside” in the exercise area and play. That being said, most hutch protectors retain heat quite well, so make sure you utilize them only for deep winter.
Which hutch protector should you buy? It depends on what fits the hutch and what you prefer. Here are some good hutch covers found on Amazon:
- Bunny Business– The hutch cover from Bunny Business does not do too much for the side walls. However, it will cover up the roof of the exercise area, at least, keeping out the worst of the rain or snow. It also completely surrounds the nesting box, making it extra warm. There are adjustable flaps so you can open it for fresh air.
- Amazon Basics– In all black, we certainly would not recommend using this cover in the daytime. But during an extra cold, snowy winter night? It just might be a less expensive solution you need.
- Arcturus Heavy Duty Survival Blanket– Not something you should use every day. But if a bad storm comes out of nowhere, you are going to need something to protect the rabbit besides its hutch house. Throwing this over it will keep your rabbit warm during even the worst snow. Just make sure you take it off when the storm passes.
6. Give Your Rabbit a Blanket or Heating Pad
Part of being comfortable has some nice and soft material. In the winter, you may find yourself using a blanket while sitting on the couch, or perhaps using a thicker comforter. Well, rabbits also enjoy snuggling up, thanks to their burrowing instincts. Hay or straw are certainly cheaper options. But why not let them be as comfortable as you?
Besides, there is no need to spend a fortune on a blanket for your bunny, or really any money at all. Use some small blankets or other soft home materials that are old and no longer needed. Just make sure they do not have any loose materials or pockets where the rabbit could get caught. Consider the following easily available household items:
- Blankets– Throwing out your old blanket with faded patterns, but it is still clean? Line the bottom of the bunny hutch with it instead, leaving some loose space so it can crawl underneath.
- Hoodie– Even just throwing an old hoodie in, there can be a fun way for your rabbit to exercise while staying warm. Just make sure you remove any strings and that the sleeves are wide enough for them to easily pass through.
- Pillows– Rabbits cannot exactly wrap themselves up inside a pillow, but they can have fun with them and hide underneath them out of the elements. Or throw a big pillowcase in there.
One major difference-maker in this category is the heating pad. Heating pads are blankets with the capability of producing heat via battery power. If your rabbit stays inside and just needs a little extra heat, any old animal-proof heating pad like the K&H PET PRODUCTS Electric Small Animal Heated Pad will do. It is specifically designed to measure your rabbit’s temperature and adjust its intensity accordingly. Check it out on Amazon here.
If your rabbit stays outside, you are going to need to find a heating pad that is weatherproof and a bit higher quality. Give the K&H PET PRODUCTS Outdoor Heated Pad a try, making sure that your rabbit does not become too hot from experience. Check it out on Amazon here.
7. Dress Your Rabbit for the Weather
One of the most basic things we humans do when we are cold is layer up by throwing on a:
- Extra shirt
But can you dress up your rabbit to keep it warm? Yes, but there are some things you should keep in mind before you do. First off, you want to avoid buttons and other small objects, so that pretty much takes jackets out of the occasion (plus good luck finding a rabbit jacket on Amazon).
And even though some rabbits have those really big and cute floppy ears, earmuffs are super impractical for an animal that loves to be on the move.
Knit a sweater for your rabbit
But if you have the know-how, you could knit a sweater that will look adorable and keep your rabbit warm throughout those cold months.
Before you start knitting, keep the following in mind:
- Listen to your rabbit
- Make sure the sweater fits
- Be patient
Listen to your rabbit
Your rabbit will not come up to you and say, “Hey man, I do not really like this sweater thing. By the way, can I have some more food?” That is not what we are talking about. While pets do not literally talk to us, they do, however, communicate with us. It all comes down to knowing your bunny’s personality and responses.
For your first rabbit sweater, make a quick and easy one. Then carefully put the sweater on the rabbit and just observe how they like it. If they love it, that is great. However, if they act:
- More nervous
- Uncomfortable or itchy
- Actively trying to take it off, even after a couple of hours
Sweaters are probably not for them. Sure, it may be adorable to see, but at the end of the day, what matters is how they feel.
Make Sure the Sweater Fits your Rabbit
This should go without saying, but the sweater actually needs to fit your rabbit. That means you want to avoid a sweater that is:
- Too small
- Too big
- From a previous rabbit
You may have worked long and hard on this sweater, but if it does not fit, you are going to have to make it larger or move on. On the other hand, a sweater that is too big can cause your rabbit to get tripped up, which has a negative effect on its ability to exercise.
Also, just because your previous rabbit enjoyed a sweater does not mean your new one will. Rabbits come in all different shapes and sizes, so make sure that the old sweater fits on your new rabbit before you leave it alone with it.
There is a good chance that your rabbit will be undecided on the sweater when you first give it to them. Let them try it on. If they like it, keep an eye on them for an hour or so and then take it off. Gradually increase the time with the sweater until they are completely used to it.
Since you should supervise at first, you may not want to leave the sweater on the rabbit overnight until you know for sure that they will handle it safely. The main thing is to be careful and use your common sense. A sweater is a great tool for keeping your rabbit warm during the winter, but it is certainly not a cure-all.
8. Change Up Your Rabbit’s Eating and Drinking Habits- A Bit
Another major way to make sure your rabbit is staying warm all season long is to make a few nuanced changes to their eating habits. Not that you would completely change their entire diet, but there are certain additions and modifications you should consider making to keep them warm. Heat originating from inside the body helps out a lot compared to outside sources.
Give Your Rabbit More Food in the Winter
Firstly, you want to give your rabbit more food this time of year. That is not to say you should fatten them up; although rabbits are more docile in the winter, they do not hibernate. Still, more food means a heightened digestive system, contributing to body heat.
Consider adding about 25 percent more food to your rabbit’s bowl in the wintertime.
Also, if your rabbit likes the occasional treat, you may want to double up the frequency of those surprises. Make sure the dish is warm as possible, too: use plastic, not metal, that becomes extremely cold to the touch. If you only have a metal dish, try putting a soft covering over it to minimize the transfer of cold temperatures.
Give Warm Water to Your Rabbit in the Winter
Sometimes it is the little choices that make all the difference—for instance, the water temperature. Instead of room temperature water, try to make it a little on the warm side. Not blazing hot, but noticeably warm to the touch. When you put it back in the hutch, they will come running and drink that warm water, which will warm them up too rather quickly.
In addition, the warmer you can comfortably make the water, the longer it will take for it to become cold and freeze. Frozen water is useless to your rabbit. Another trick to delay the water from becoming cold? Wrap it up in a wool material or some other thermal.
9. Cuddle With Your Rabbit
Rabbits are not fish; you are allowed to touch them and snuggle with them. Depending on its personality, your bunny might be a big fan of hugging all the time. While they should definitely spend most of the time being independent, cuddling with your rabbit is great for bonding.
Doing this a little more often in the winter is great for scientific reasons as well. Humans are much larger than rabbits, meaning the transfer of body heat is really easy in this situation. Besides, having to hug your rabbit does not exactly sound like a punishment.
Since a hutch is not a natural environment for your rabbit, you are going to have to put in a good effort to make sure your rabbit or rabbits are staying warm in the wintertime. That is not to say that it will not have fun there, but fun and winterized can mean two different things. Luckily, if you:
- Act safe
- Listen to your rabbit
- Are open to trying new things
This process will mostly come as common sense. Remember also that you should not just try one method and give up. There is no issue with using a heating pad and a hutch cover or cuddling them while they are wearing their favorite sweater. A combination of things may ultimately be the right call to keep your rabbit warm and cozy all winter long.