People contemplating getting a pet rabbit often find themselves giving a lot of thought to how the animals live.
One major question that comes up is whether or not rabbits hibernate. After all, rabbits do thrive in the wild and can be found in places with extremely harsh winters. So, do wild rabbits hibernate? How about domesticated ones?
Do Rabbits Hibernate?
The reality is that rabbits do not hibernate, no matter where they live. That does not mean they do not need special considerations when the weather gets cold, however.
Caring for Rabbits in the Winter
If you have a rabbit that lives indoors, you will not need to make any adjustments in their care. For those rabbits that spend some or all of their time outside, however, there are several things you should do to make sure they stay happy and healthy.
Thoroughly examine your rabbit’s hutch. Make sure it will adequately protect him from the wind and rain. Ideally, your rabbit’s hutch will not be sitting directly on the ground to help protect it from moisture. Check carefully for holes in the roof.
Help your rabbit maintain body heat. To accomplish this, you will need to add insulation to the rabbit hutch. You can purchase a rabbit hutch cover to help with this. You will want to add extra bedding and hay for your rabbit to snuggle up in. Be sure to always allow fresh air to enter the rabbit hutch.
Your rabbit will still need exercise. Although it is tempting for everyone to get lazy in the cold months, you should still try to interact with your rabbit daily and allow him to run around and burn some energy.
Check your rabbit’s water regularly. You want to make sure the water does not freeze. If you use a water bottle, also check that the ball-valve has not frozen.
Why Don’t Rabbits Hibernate?
Hibernation is when an animal sleeps for an entire season. Their body goes dormant and the food in their system starts to digest much more slowly. This is something that is common in bears, bats, hummingbirds, and snakes. The biggest reason for hibernation is because food sources get scarce in the winter.
During the spring and summer, rabbits have a lot of vegetation to choose from. In the winter, much of this stuff dies, making food choices more scarce. Rabbits then begin to eat more things like bark and twigs. Rabbits also tend to eat their own pellets. This can happen at any time during the year but is more common in winter. It saves them a lot of time and energy to eat their pellets and they can often extract nutrients they missed the first time around.
Do Rabbits Migrate in the Wild?
For the most part, rabbits stay put during the winter. They find hiding spots to protect themselves from hungry predators as well as hunters. Before winter comes, there are plenty of bushes and thick grasses to hide in. Once that dies off, they need to become more resourceful. Most types of rabbits look for underground dens to protect themselves from the elements.
Many rabbits have coats that become thicker in the winter. Some rabbits even have the ability to change the color of their fur, allowing them to blend in with the white/gray landscape better.
Although you may not see wild rabbits around as much in the winter, they haven’t gone anywhere and they are not hibernating. They are simply less active to help preserve energy and heat. You may also simply miss them because they are so good at camouflaging!
Rabbits do better in extreme cold than they do in extreme heat. They can even be okay in temperatures right around the freezing mark. That being said, taking a few steps to ensure the health and happiness of your outdoor rabbit in winter is vital.
For more bunny fun facts check out this post.