As the summer turns to winter, temperatures drop and depending on where you live, you may see some snow. Your bunny has been enjoying their time playing outside in your yard, bouncing around and eating grass and sticks. But now it’s icy, and you’re not sure if it is safe for your bunny to be playing outside in the extreme cold and wet.
Bunnies can play outside in the snow. They actually prefer the colder weather to the heat due to their lack of ability to properly dissipate heat. It is recommended to limit their time to 10-20 minutes.
However, some precautions should be made when letting your bunny play outside in the snow. Not all bunnies may be able to handle the extreme cold.
How To Keep Your Bunny Safe In The Snow
If you are searching for this question, you likely have an indoor bunny. Bunnies are generally best kept at temperatures of 13° – 22°C (55° – 72°F). However, letting them play outside in cold temperatures for short periods of time is okay.
It’s important to only let your bunny to play in the snow when it’s powder. Wet, slushy snow should be avoided. Dry your bunny well when they come back inside to avoid hypothermia.
As house bunnies, there is no need for them to grow winter fur coats. Bunnies that stay outdoors will grow and shed winter and summer coats as the season’s change. This is something to take into consideration.
If your bunny doesn’t usually play outside (especially during the winter) then taking them outside to play in snow may not be safe. They could get sick from the extreme cold. However, if your bunny is used to playing outside, then they will likely have a lot of fun out in the snow.
One thing you can do if your bunny is purely an inside pet is to bring the snow to them. Bring some snow into your house or a wet room and they can play but still be inside where it is warmer.
You need to be careful with letting your bunny outside in the cold if your home is very warm. A sudden change of temperature from cold to hot or hot to cold more than 20°C can potentially put them into shock or make them sick.
How To Protect A Bunny From The Cold
Bunnies tolerate cold very well as they grow their fur coats to withstand the dropping temperatures. This is why some owners house their bunnies outside all year round. However, it’s important that proper shelter is given to them.
Their shelter should be protected from drafts (opening facing away from the wind), moisture, and should be tightly insulated using straw, hay, shavings or newspaper. Check their hay every day as damp or moldy hay can make your bunny sick and needs to be thrown away and replaced.
Lots of insulation material gives your bunny something to bury themselves in. Cover mesh doors at night with Perspex or plastic but make sure there is still an opening for fresh air to circulate and that light can get in.
Add blankets inside as your bunny will want to snuggle against them while they sleep. Another trick you can use is to take a cardboard box, place it upside down and cut a hole big enough in the side for your bunny to hop into.
Fill it nicely with hay and it can be an extra insulated area for your bunny to stay warm. The hutch should be waterproofed from the roof to the sides and reapplied every couple of years.
The roof ideally should be sloped to allow the water to drain away.
Raise your bunny’s hutch from the ground to protect the bottom of the hutch from soaking in moisture and freezing. It will also prevent the bottom of the hutch from flooding and if your hutch is high enough, will make it harder for predators to get to your bunnies.
Constantly check their toilet area as frozen urine can make it very uncomfortable. Make sure their bedding is dry as a wet bed could make your bunny sick.
Winter proofing your bunny’s hutch may not be enough for extremely cold temperatures and using additional pet items can be of use. This Self Warming Crate Pad (link to Amazon) is a perfect layer to the bottom of the hutch.
While this Heated Bowl (link to Amazon) is perfect to keep your bunny’s water from freezing. You should check your bunny’s water twice a day regardless to make sure it isn’t frozen. The hutch should be somewhere warm that is sheltered from the wind and elements.
Bunnies should be housed outside for the whole of autumn before they are left outside for the winter. They need to acclimatise to the cooling weather to have time to grow their extra fur coat. Be aware that your bunny’s calorie needs will go up in the colder weather.
Feeding extra pellets or more starchy vegetables are a good way of maintaining their body weight. Just monitor their poops so you know the food isn’t upsetting their stomach and monitor their weight so they won’t reach obesity.
Some bunny breeds don’t grow enough fur to handle the extreme cold so they shouldn’t be housed as outside pets. These would be lion head and other dwarf bunny breeds.
Further, if you have a very old, thin or young bunny, they may not have grown the winter coat they need to stay warm so it is best to move them inside.
This should be a gradual process. Bring them inside for increasingly longer periods each day to get them used to a new environment. Do this through the summer and autumn until you bring them fully inside to live in the winter. To make the transition easier, bring in familiar items such as their toys, bedding, etc.
Once your bunny is living indoors, they will need to adjust from natural to artificial lighting. Gradually increase their exposure to the artificial light each night and make sure they have a darker sleeping area they can go to.
When the winter ends and the temperatures start increasing again, you can reverse the process and start gradually increasing your bunny’s time outside. Keep your bunny indoors at night to sleep if the temperature is still very cold in the evening.
If you are planning on housing your bunnies outside throughout the year with extreme seasons, make sure you have more than one bunny. Bunnies need social interaction and company and will snuggle with each other to keep warm.
Winter Bunny Checklist
If you are housing your bunny outside, here is a checklist you can use to make sure they are safe and warm throughout the cold months.
- Have you check and repaired your bunny’s hutch? – Waterproof, draught-proof, damp-proof, escape-proof, predator-proof.
- Can your bunny handle the extreme cold? – Are they too old, young, or thin? Can they grow the necessary coat?
- Has your bunny had a recent health check? – Within the last year at the vet.
- Has your bunny been recently sick, or over/underweight?
- Is your bunny eating and drinking normally? Pooping normally? Behaving normally? – If no, see the bet immediately.
- Is water always available? – Can you check the water at least twice a day? Have you taken precautions to keep the water from freezing?
- Are fresh hay and greens provided every day? – Are you able to provide this? Can you check the hay and greens each day to throw out damp and moldy food?
- Do you have sufficient bedding? – Is there enough hay or straw for your bunny to bury themselves under? Have you provided a heating pad? Do you have plenty of soft surfaces such as blankets to snuggle against?
- Do you need extra enclosed areas? – Such as a cardboard box for extra insulation space.
- Is your bunny able to exercise each day?
- Does your bunny have a friend? – Very important for outside housing.
- If you have to move your bunny inside, have you taken actions to minimise the stress of the move? – Familiar toys, darkened spaces, etc.
- If you are going away for the winter, do you have someone that can look after your bunnies? – May potentially involve house sitting due to needing to check on the bunnies multiple times per day.
Let your bunny enjoy some time in the snow if they want to. Just be sure to keep the time outside limited to 10-20 minutes. If you’re not sure if you should let your bunny outside, you can always bring the snow to them to let them dig and have fun from the comfort of their own home.
If you are housing your bunnies outside, be sure to go through the checklist to provide everything your bunnies need to stay warm and safe.