Is winter deadly for rabbits not hibernating?
March 9, 2020
Before winter arrives, you have to take all the extra measures to protect your pet rabbits.
Knowing rabbits’ typical mentality is crucial for keeping house rabbits protected.
House rabbits are not different from wild rabbits. Most of their characteristics and behavior are similar.
Pet rabbits are only different from wild rabbits, in straightforward ways, such as:
- House rabbits do not know how to survive in the wild;
- House rabbits have to rely on their parents.
Let us start by discussing hibernation first. What does a wild rabbit do during winter?
Surmising wild rabbits’ characteristics can aid us in caring for the house rabbits more straightforwardly.
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What is hibernation?
Hibernation is a survival technique for wild warm-blooded animals during the winter season.
This way, wild animals conserve more energy and live throughout the winter.
Small animals such as:
- ground squirrels,
- as well as wood frogs hibernate during the winter.
It means animals such as specified above will take long, deep sleep during the winter season.
During this time, hibernating animals will prevent them from going out hunting. Nature taught them that during the winter season, food is scarce out in the wild. Therefore such animals decide not to go out hunting and waste their energy.
As a better alternative, they store food as fat under their skin and use that during the winter season.
Due to the reason they do not go out hunting or better, they go to a deep sleep means they use as little energy as possible.
Thus it is common to see many wild animals gain weight during autumn. They are preparing for the winter ahead.
The more they will eat during the autumn season, the more energy they will store under their skin as fat, and the better their chances of survival until the winter ends.
Do rabbits hibernate?
No rabbits do not hibernate. They live their active lives throughout the winter. There are no changes in a rabbit’s lifestyle during the winter season except for a slight change in their diet.
How winter affects a rabbit’s lifestyle?
During the winter season, a layer of snow covers the land, and the condition gets harsh for anyone.
Regardless of wild animals or human beings, everyone has difficulty maintaining their healthy life.
When land gets covered with snow, all the greens and vegetation lies beneath the snow.
Such a condition makes it difficult for herbivores to sustain their life.
And when herbivores are struggling to sustain their life, many of them go hibernating, and there remain the carnivores.
With many animals hibernating, it becomes difficult for carnivores to find their meat.
Overall there is a deficit of food in the wild. With so much food scarcity during the winter season, only intelligent animals can survive.
Thus rabbits being a brilliant animal, knows where to find their food and hide from their prey.
Rabbits are crepuscular animals, and they are most active during dusk and dawn.
So they only go out to look for food during dawn and dusk. That is how to stay safe from predators.
Indeed, during winter, the land is covered in snow.
These cute animals have to forage under the snow, looking for vegetation.
Do you think wild rabbits look for green vegetables under the snow?
Well, they are ingenious animals. They are looking for something that will help them survive throughout the winter.
During the winter season, unlike hibernating animals, rabbits change their diet slightly.
Wild rabbit focuses more on a wood-based diet.
Rabbits in the cold season prefer to eat twigs and tree barks. This type of wood-based diet helps rabbits in two ways:
- Twigs and tree barks do not digest as quickly as green vegetables and leaves and remain in the stomach for a more extended period.
- Wood-based food is the only available diet for rabbits during the cold wintertime.
Changing their diet from having mostly hay and grasses to twigs and tree barks helps rabbits to live the long winter season.
Foraging is a natural behavior of a rabbit, and there is no less willingness to forage through the snow and find some twigs.
Are twigs and tree barks enough for rabbits?
I suppose it is the only available option for rabbits. However, rabbits tend to eat their wastes.
Rabbit’s digestive system is quite weak and fails to absorb all the nutrition from any food they consume.
Therefore rabbits eat their stools, which allow them to absorb all the nutrition from the food they have consumed.
Throughout the winter season, when their survival depends on wood-based food, which certainly does not have adequate nutrition, require rabbits to eat their waste several times to gain all the necessary nutrition.
A rabbit’s digestive system requires fiber. To live a healthier life, rabbits need to consume as much fiber as they can. Their diet does not depend on protein.
However, when food is scarce in the wild during cold times, a rabbit may eat certain kinds of insects.
That does not mean they like it. To live throughout the cold season, rabbits choose to feed insects when they do not have many available options.
Do pet rabbits hibernate?
Like I told you earlier that pet rabbits are no different from wild rabbits. They all have similar characteristics.
Therefore your pet rabbits will not hibernate, likewise, the wild rabbits.
But the safety of your pet rabbits through the cold times is in the rabbit guardian’s control.
You have to take all the precautions and provide them all the required nutrition during the winter season.
How do rabbits stay warm in the winter?
Rabbits in the wild know how to stay warm in the winter. Although rabbits have dense fur, that is not sufficient to prevent them from severe cold circumstances.
Rabbits’ dense fur is adequate to keep them warm in moderately cold weather.
When the weather gets very rough, wild rabbits prefer to stay in their burrows or may move to the locality within their territory.
They may temporarily live inside old houses or places that are abandoned by humans.
Wild rabbits live in large groups, and it is easy for them to share the body temperature of each other and keep warm.
Now trying to take care of wild rabbits is not a wise thing to do. You may even scare them away from the shelter they chose to live.
So it is better to leave the wild rabbit the way they are and accept the fact nature will take care of them.
On the contrary, if you have pet rabbits, you may do your best to take care of them.
I never suggest anyone have pet rabbits outdoors neither in cages.
Having pet rabbits indoor is safe and healthier to raise them in a free-range environment.
After all, they are your beloved pets, and you must take care of them.
Yet, I understand many of you do not have the opportunity to have pet rabbits indoors.
For them, I must say it is crucial to take proper measures if you and your pet rabbits live in a freezing climate.
How to take care of pets rabbits in winter?
Pet rabbits can’t stay warm by themselves in icy weather. Especially pet rabbits are not adopted to survival techniques like their wild counterparts.
Thus the guardians can help the rabbits keep warm by taking corrective measures. If it is possible, bring your rabbit hutch or cage indoor. Let them stay indoor.
It is advisable not to bring outdoor rabbits indoor abruptly. An unexpected change in the surrounding temperature can shock your rabbits.
Before you bring your pet rabbits indoors, if you deem necessary, first take the steps described below. That way, your rabbit will adapt to less cold temperatures.
Following these steps will keep your rabbits safe and sound outdoors, even in chilly weather.
If such is not possible and you have to leave your rabbits outdoor, then you must
- Insulate the hutch on all sides, however, keep proper ventilation so that the rabbits can have fresh air.
- Cover the hutch in all sides, so that chilly breeze cannot trespass;
- Always check the floor of the cage, and keep it as dry as possible.
- Clean the roof of your hutch so that snow will not form into ice and make the cage a freezer for your pet rabbits;
- Keep extra hay than usual inside the pen which your rabbits can use to comfy themselves and keep themselves warm and tight;
- Provide your pet rabbit enough food, as they will require energy and eat more often than average to keep themselves warmer;
- If possible, provide them lukewarm drinking water. Check the water feeder regularly to ensure the water is not frozen;
- Clean their litter box regularly for signs of pee that may freeze. Frozen pee will spread odor and is very unhealthy for rabbits;
- Change the hay for rabbits frequently as hay can trap moisture during the winter season, and it will not help keep your rabbits warm as you may expect.
So your original question is, do rabbits hibernate? If they don’t, then how do they survive throughout the winter being a prey animal?
Do rabbits migrate in winter?
No rabbits do not migrate in winter. Wild rabbits remain in their territory during the months of winter. Indeed, they may like to shift their home somewhere they can warm themselves.
But they will shift their home within their territory. That way, they can keep themselves safe from cold weather and wind.