WINTER TOPICAL TIPS
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.
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:
An experienced rabbit enthusiast sent in the following:
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.
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.
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.
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.