Trying to keep outside rabbits in 100 degree weather alive

by Theresa

We are in a very hot drought for Va in the beginning of June and all my rabbits are outside. I have 2 pregnant does, 2 does with kits only a week old, 2 young rabbits only 9 weeks old, 2 bucks and a couple other juveniles. I have had to use some imagination to prevent heat stroke deaths. I lost 2 does in the past when they were due to give birth and the temperature rose over the mid 90s. This time I stood to lose even more if I didn't come up with some way to keep them cooler.

They are in an area that receives almost complete shade, but just a little sun raises the surrounding temperature. My back yard looks different with sheets hanging from trees and across fences, but it seems to help. I choose the thinnest and oldest sheets that were going to be cut up for rags and hung them up around the rabbit cages to completely block the direct sun from reaching the rabbits. Spraying the sheets with cold water during the heat of the day helps cool the area even more. That helped the adults some, but didn't do much for the very young kits.

Recycling soda bottles or any small plastic bottles by filling them with water and freezing them helped greatly. When I put the frozen bottles in the cages it didn't take them much time at all to realize if they would lay against them it would cool them off, but to help the youngest kits I set the bottles of ice up next to the metal nesting boxes.

When they survived the first week I took a big chance and removed the nesting boxes and put them on a little of the fur from the nest on the floor of the cage so they can feel the cooler breeze the box was blocking. So far I have only lost 1 kit at 2 days old. Replacing the bottles occasionally is needed.

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