Winter Rabbit Care

By Laurie Stroupe

We lost power last night for several hours. We live on top of a ridge, so when it’s windy in town, it’s horrible up here. I sometimes feel like we’ll be blown right off the top of the hill!

It was a wake up call for us. Winter is coming. Power outages will become more common.

Now is the time to prepare.

The first thing we need to do is put summer and fall away. We still have fans out (in fact, I noticed that they turned on at least one day this past week). Each fan needs to be cleaned, oiled, and stored. That’s a big job in and of itself. For one thing, just making space for them in a shed is a huge job!

Fly strips can be put away, perhaps with one or two for the occasional hatchling that comes out on an unusually warm day. I can now wipe the evidence of flies from the PVC pipes and other surfaces and they will actually stay relatively clean for a while!

a Red-eyed White Holland Lop Rabbit with the REW gene

 

I need to shovel manure while the weather is still gentle. Once everything starts to freeze, I’ll probably let the manure accumulate more. The temperature keeps the ammonia much less active, flies are naturally controlled, and there’s little odor. I’ll take advantage of any unseasonably warm days to do some mid-winter shoveling, though.

I need to build up stockpiles of water. At less than 75 cents a gallon, it’s cheap insurance against the loss of electricity. Since we have a well that is run on an electric pump, we also lose water not long after we lose electricity.

I also need to make sure I stay slightly more ahead on my feed stockpiles.

I don’t like to use old feed, so I try to keep just enough in the summer. But we have been snowed in for three weeks straight here before, and I need to take into consideration that I might not be able to make the 2 1/2 hour round trip on any day I choose during the winter.

It is also time to get out my nest box warmers and get them cleaned up and ready to use. Most of the time, my kits do just fine all winter in my unheated barn, but there are situations that call for the nest box warmer. I use it for singletons. I use it for poor nest builders (you know, the type that take out far too much of the material, even though you keep putting it back in). I also use it for poor nursers. I have found that putting the warmer under the nest box encourages the dam to spend more time in there. She nurses more and then produces more milk and I end up with better fed kits. Too bad I can’t find an equivalent lure for summertime litters!

Blue Jersey Wooly posed wooly blue wool wolly up ear cute type rabbit,I have a small ceramic disk heater in the barn. I need to clean it up and check to make sure it is in working order. I’m sure it’s accumulated a lot of rabbit fur over the summer. Obviously, I don’t use it to heat the barn. I use it to unfreeze parts of the water line. We will have to learn the most vulnerable spots all over this year since we have a new system. This time, the water comes up out of the ground inside the barn. Only the part from the ground past the pressure reducer will be unheated by cable, so if anything freezes on it, that should be the spot.

I also use it for warming my hands in the dead of winter. They can get especially cold if I have to work with water – such as removing ice from water crocks (I use crocks for litters).

It’s time to put the tarps over the northern windows.

It would have been nice had we done it before this horrible cold wind we had. The tarps remove the cross breeze, which is so important in summer. Before Christmas, we will cover the southern windows and the screen door with clean plastic. The clear helps preserve some natural lighting and gives us a bit of a greenhouse effect as well.

It’s also time for the fall pressure washing of cages. This will be the first time we clean them in place and I’m anxious to see how that will work out. I have my first row almost cleared right now of rabbits. I will clean that row and then move rabbits over. It’s a ripple effect.

I really look forward to having a clean barn, readied for winter.