Carrot and Clover are partial free roam bunnies. This means that they are free to roam anywhere they like during the day, including the garden and house. At night, we keep them in a large bunny hutch outside. If you’re anything like me, you worry about your bunny’s health and safety, especially as the cold weather rolls in. So, I wanted to share my tried and tested simple tricks to help keep your bunny warm in winter.
I live in Johannesburg, so in winter, during the daytime, it’s normally sunny. This is enough to keep the bunnies warm. However, nights in Gauteng are pretty cold with temperatures dropping to just below freezing in the coldest months (June and July).
I first adopted Clover in September 2017. It was warm and I didn’t have to worry about things like the cold. But when the first winter came, it was a huge stress for me, worrying that Clover would freeze to death, and how cruel it is to keep animals outside in the cold.
I won’t lie, I suffered my fair share of bunny-mom guilt that I was harming Clover in some way. So, I did what I always do, I turned to the internet and investigated this. As most of the bunny info online is from overseas, I struggled to find the answers I needed. I mean winter in South Africa is quite different from winter in say Washington, USA, where they get over a metre of snow in the winter. I then spoke to my local vet about my concerns about keeping my bunny warm in winter. Luckily, she assured me that I was doing everything right. Bunnies kept outside, if properly cared for, wouldn’t have a problem in winter.
Here are my simple tricks to keep bunnies warm in winter:
Insulate, insulate, insulate!
Let’s start with the inside of the hutch first. Most rabbit hutches have an area which is designated for the bunnies to sleep in. In our hutch, it’s a loft area at the top that is closed off, with two smallish entrances which the bunnies can enter into the “sleeping area”. In winter, we double up the soft fluffy blankets (side note: fleece blankets work really well) inside the sleeping area. We place two soft blankets on the bottom, which the bunnies like to snuggle into. We also wrap a blanket around the inside of the sleeping area. This insulates the inside from any wind or cold air that seeps in through the wood.
The second thing we do inside the hutch is place lots of hay in the “chill” area. This works extremely well as a form of insulation, as the bunnies natural instinct is to burrow into the hay. Carrot and Clover particularly like to relax on the hay in the chill area during the day in winter when the sun warms it nicely. Plus there’s always fresh hay for them to munch on whenever they want.
Ok, let’s move to the outside of the hutch now. We place a large, heavy woolen blanket over the hutch at night which is a great barrier against cold wind. Over this, we place a piece of silver insulation which we got from the hardware store. This acts as a barrier in case it rains, and holds the warm blanket down. On very cold nights, we place an extra blanket over (this might be overkill, but bunny parents worry!).
It’s always recommended that you place your bunny hutch in a covered area. Under a roof awning, against a wall as added protection against wind and rain.
Hot water bottles
This is a great trick which I learnt from my vet. Fill 1L or 2L colddrink bottles with hot water (not boiling) and place them under the blankets in the sleeping area. This acts just like a hot water bottle that humans use. They’ll warm the inside of the sleeping area, while still keeping the bunnies safe from burning as they’re under the blankets and not directly against their bodies. We normally place two 1L hot water bottles into the hutch at night. On very cold nights, we’ll add an extra one. Never use boiling water from the kettle. This could potentially melt the plastic of the colddrink bottle. Hot water from the tap is sufficient and will do the trick. We also remove the labels from the bottles.
Bring your bunnies inside
In extreme weather, like a cold front, I suggest you bring your bunnies inside. You can easily make a nice enclosure under your dining room table or somewhere warm and draught-free. Pro tip: you can use a puppy pen which you can get from most hardware or pet shops, to close off a designated area.
Always ensure your bunnies have the following:
- Safe sleeping area (free from wires & cables)
- Litter box
- Food and water
Get a bunny buddy
If you have two bonded bunnies, they snuggle up together at night sharing body heat. Since we adopted Carrot, I worry less about Clover at night in winter. They cuddle together, which is just too adorable.
Carrot and Clover also like to relax inside the house in front of the heater and under blankets.
It’s important to note that bunnies are domesticated animals. You should be caring for them the same way that you care for other pets like cats and dogs. If you feel like it’s too cold outside for your bunnies, then I always recommend bringing them inside. You will feel better and your buns will be safe, warm and dry.
Free roam bunny debate: If this is something you’re interested in. Why not watch my interview with bunny YouTuber, Loereli Carlson. One of the things we talk about is the free roam bunny debate.
What are your top tips on keeping your bunny warm in winter? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment in the comment section below, or connect with me on my Facebook page.
*Disclaimer: this is my personal experience. If you have worries or concerns about your rabbits, I strongly urge you to chat to your bunny-savvy vet and get expert advice.
Bye for now.