TOPICAL Tips, GIFT Items, YouTube Links

WINTER TOPICAL TIPS

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If your rabbit has a water bottle, be aware that the bit that freezes first is the spout, so although you may think that the water is not frozen in the bottle, there is the chance that the rabbit will not be able to drink out of it due to the ball bearing at the end being frozen solid.  On this basis it may be rather pointless putting insulation around the bottle as although you may stop the bottle freezing you will not be able to protect the spout.  The insulated bottle covers that are available have their uses, however, so long as you are aware of the limitations.

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On very cold days where the weather is unlikely to thaw you may need to provide water in a bowl, or position the bottle inside the hutch to stop it freezing so rapidly.  Bottles can be attached to the inside of the hutch by fixing a plastic plant pot to the inside wall and making a hole in the bottom for the spout to come through.  Bear in mind that some rabbits will think it funny to chew the pot, so make sure it is of the strong variety! It is always useful to have two water bottles anyway, making it easy to swap on a fresh bottle even if you are in a hurry in the morning.   Whilst I am aware that hot water can freeze quicker than cold water (the Mpemba effect), I find that the spout still seems to freeze less quickly if the bottle is filled with  hot water, but the difference is only marginal so you still need to keep a close watch on the situation. Some people suggest putting a few drops of glycerine in the water to stop it freezing but I have not found that it works very well and it has the disadvantage of possibly affecting the action of the ball bearing in the spout and maybe even affecting the taste which may put the rabbit off drinking as much.

If you are worried that your rabbits’ hutch is not as warm as it should be during a cold winter, you can insulate it by buying bubble wrap from a garden centre and fix that on the sides and back on the outside, covering it with tarpaulin or plastic sheeting to protect it.  This can be removed in the spring.   Do not be tempted to completely cover the front as it is very important that air is allowed to flow in, and you are better to try and site the hutch away from prevailing winds so the rain does not blow in anyway.  If you feel that you absolutely have to cover the front (remember that they are rabbits and are very hardy!) then cover no more than half of the wire door.  The following is a very useful link for hints and tips about keeping your bunny warm:

http://www.vetclick.com/news/view_article.php?ArticleId=544

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An experienced rabbit enthusiast sent in the following:

I have a seasonal tip re bunnies which may help a few furry ones if their owners haven’t thought of it already.  I was trying to find new ways of keeping my elderly twosome, Tinkerbell and Coco, happy in their deluxe accomodation in their bunnyshed through this arctic stuff – being mindful that they are getting on a bit and may need extra care.  They do snuggle up together very well, like a pair of old carpet slippers, but you never can be too careful.  Anyhow, I have a vetical tower which is a potato planter and it was in the shed awaiting next year’s potato planting, so i turned it on its side and stuffed it with hay – and hey presto – one instant bunny burrow!!  It was eagerly colonised by Tinkerbell of course, and now Coco joins her.  Bunnies live in the wild in burrows so the instinct comes naturally and they are as happy as pigs in muck in there.  The same trick works very well with an old swing bin (with the lid taken off) turned up on its side.  I appreciate that most people wouldn’t have enough room in their bunny quaters for such a thing but some bunnies live in conservatories etc so it may be of use. 
The photo below shows one owners solution to housing her rabbits in the winter, by making part of the house a bunny winter living area!
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The photo below shows a hutch front protected by a sheet of acrylic plastic, available from builders merchants.  It comes with protective film on either side which you peel off when ready to fit.  It is a little tricky to cut as you need a sharp Stanley blade and a solid ruler or similar to score along to mark the surface sufficiently to allow it to be “snapped” to the right size.  You also need to drill the fixing holes a little on the big size to allow for expansion to prevent cracking.  That said, it looks really good and is an excellent method of keeping rain and wind out of the hutch.
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If you are concerned that your hutch is very large and therefore the sleeping/dark area is not very snug, you can choose a suitably sized hooded corner litter tray (sold for cats) as these give a burrow-type feel to the area and rabbits really like them (presumably they feel secure).  Here at CottonTails all our upper 6 foot hutches have had one of these large hooded corner trays fitted into the sleeping area, and they have been a huge success!  The two photos below show a hooded tray in position, and the lower photo shows it turned around so you can see the opening.
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SPRING

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Do not be surprised if your bunny changes his/her behaviour a bit at this time of year, as even neutered rabbits still react to the lengthening daylight, as this is the cue in the wild for the onset of breeding.  This can be the trigger for fighting between pairs, especially female/female pairs, but if you can nurse them through the first few months of the year, they may well settle down again, so long as no long-term damage is done in the meantime.

This is also the time of year to either cover the hutch felting with white roofing plastic or paint it white, as there is no doubt that a white roof keeps the inside of the hutch cooler in the hot weather.  If you have a plastic lid on the run, you can coat the inside with greenhouse shading.  If the rabbits are kept in a greenhouse or conservatory, do remember that on a warm day the heat in such situations builds up dramatically with often fatal results.

SUMMER

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The main risk at this time of year is heat stroke and flystrike, so make sure your rabbit’s accommodation is not in a sun trap where the rabbit can’t move away into the shade, and also make sure the diet is correct so that there are no loose droppings or dirty bottoms.  See “rabbit care sheet” for hints on dealing with such problems.  Make sure that fresh water is available at times, and be aware that a rabbit will drink more on a hot day, especially in the evening.

Here at CottonTails I have come up with a sunshade idea that fixes to the front of the hutch, positioned over the wire mesh side.  These are only needed for the upper hutches as all the others have runs attached so sun screening is not needed.  The photos below show the sunshades in position.  I have used plastic facia boarding from DIY stores, and used metal right angled pieces that I was able to bend slightly to get the right angle.
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EARLY AUTUMN

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Be aware that if your rabbit or guinea pig runs around the garden at this time of year that there will be the extra hazard of fallen fruit such as apples and also the start of fallen leaves, either of which can be a real problem, especially to rabbit’s fragile digestive system!  Now is also the time to get your hutch and run ready for the winter weather.

It is a good idea to completely coat the outside of the wood with a good quality weatherproofing product.  Check that it is safe to use with pets.  Also check that the roofing felt is still sound and not letting in any rain.  Don’t forget to check the sides and back as well.  At the same time it will be useful to oil any hinges and catches, and make all those little repairs that you have been putting off for another day!

Vaccinations are important whatever the time of year.  The new combined vaccine is given once a year and protects the rabbit against VHD and Myxomatosis.  There have been several cases of house rabbits catching myxomatosis, so don’t think that your rabbit is not at risk just because he or she lives in the house.

GIFT ITEMS FOR SALE

Way back in 1994 we had keyrings, T shirts, sweatshirts and other items bearing the CottonTails logo made, predominantly for our volunteers but they were also made available for general sale to visitors.  I am pleased to announce that we have now opened a small online gift shop to allow you to help support CottonTails by getting a gift for yourself or a loved one. 

All profits go to CottonTails to support the animals.

eBay

CottonTails also has an eBay account under “cottontailsrabbits“, so items such as second hand cages (as in the photo below), as well as our pens and bags, will appear on eBay as and when they are available, with all proceeds going straight to CottonTails funds.
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YouTube Links

You will find lots of embedded film clips throughout the site to illustrate various points raised within an article or perhaps to demonstrate a particular rabbit or guinea pig that is available for adoption.  You can also go through all of the films that have been made and posted on YouTube if you go on to the Cottontails account on YouTube (type in my name,Mairwen Guard, on the search box within YouTube itself) but be prepared as there are over 300 films now posted!  These films also include some non-rabbit videos as when I am wearing my other hat I am a musician!  These films are listed under the “music” section, however, so you can easily weed them out and stick to the “pets and animals” section if you prefer. Below is an example of one of the bunny films.