Rabbit Rhythms 
December 2019 Newsletter

December 2019 Newsletter

Oh the weather outside is frightful! If it's bad for you, is it also hard on your rabbits?

Rabbits love cold weather - just look at their fur coats. But rabbits that can't burrow to protect themselves from the bitter cold need a little additional help from you when the weather turns truly frightful. 

Our featured breed this time is our shiny friend, the Satin rabbit. What makes them so shiny? Read about the peculiar gene that makes their fur so satin-like, and how it came about.

Lastly, an update on the rabbit hemorrhagic disease calicivirus, which is spreading inexorably towards mainland Washington State from the San Juan Islands. 

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Preparing for a Winter Wonderland

Rabbit Food During Winter

Look around you at the wintery landscape! Grasses are brown, leaves have dropped, and life seems to have receded into a mere shell of itself. And in fact, everything may be covered in a blanket of snow. What is a rabbit in the great outdoors to eat??

Rabbits do not hibernate, and instead (in the wild), must find more food during the winter in order to stay alive. They will forage on whatever they can find, which might include dry, nutrient-poor grasses, the bark of trees which is at least something, or - horrifying as it sounds - possibly the dead frozen carcasses of animals. Rabbits are most definitely herbivores, but they are known to scavenge dead bodies in dire circumstances.

Your domestic rabbits certainly have it much easier because you are there to drop feed into their food dishes.

But, did you realize that the quality of those rabbit feed pellets may be nothing like those same pellets that you purchased in the springtime? This is because the raw ingredients available to manufacturers in the winter rarely contain the same vibrant nutrition that they contain in springtime. And your rabbits' condition will let you know it. 

This is why it is good to keep an eye on your rabbits and expect in the wintertime to offer your rabbits additional sources of protein and possibly a bit more feed than your rabbits typically eat. 

Extra protein sources:

  • Alfalfa hay
  • Whole oats
  • Black oil sunflower seeds

Additionally, make sure your rabbits are getting enough nutrition. You can do this by supplementing your rabbits' regular nutrition with Calf Manna or even switch feeds for a few months. It is possible that adding new feed or a feed supplement will completely solve the temporary nutritional shortfall in your rabbits' diet. We recommend both of the choices below: Calf Manna SHO for Rabbits, and Sherwood Feeds. 

To read more about rabbit nutrition, check out pages 103 - 128 of The Rabbit Raising Problem Solver. Alternatively, see our e-book, Feeding Your Rabbits.

Wintertime Rabbit Cage Insulation

Food and nutrition are not the only things a rabbit needs to stay comfortable during the winter. Your caged rabbits will need extra insulation or heat - either in their cages or surrounding their environment -- should temperatures threaten to drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 C).

  • Some rabbit hutches are free-standing in the back yard, which is perfectly fine. But during a bitter cold snap, use a waterproof tarp to cover the cage. This ensures the cage stays dry, and also helps to eliminate heat-draining drafts. 
  • Some breeders choose to move rabbits into an enclosed shed or barn, and then they heat the space to above freezing, say, 35 degrees F (+1 or +2 C). This solution also solves the problem of waterers turning into a chunk of ice. See below.
  • Depending on the measures you are able to use to deal with the cold, you could increase the weather protection by adding quantities of extra straw to your rabbit’s hutch in order to provide them with extra insulation. Straw is cheaper than hay, and provides greater insulation from very cold temperatures. Your rabbits will nibble some, lounge on some, and burrow into the middle of a thick layer of straw. They will love it!

Keeping Water Liquid in Sub-Zero Weather

It's hard to drink from a block of ice. 

Just like it is for humans, water is important to a rabbit's health. Watering your rabbits takes extra effort in the winter, in order to prevent the water from freezing. Here are the easiest solutions for keeping water liquid as the freeze sets in:

  • Change out the waterers and replace them with straight-sided crocks.
  • Refill the crocks twice a day, knocking out the ice and filling the crock with very warm water. If you can refill them three times a day, all the better.
  • Alternatively, some rabbit owners invest in electrically heated water bottles or bases to place under the water bowl to keep it from freezing. (Match the size of the base to the size of the water crock.) See below.

Featured Breed: Satin Rabbits

Lionhead rabbitSatin rabbit

Satin Rabbits

The Satin Rabbit breed was first recognized in 1956 after the satin fur mutation occurred in the rabbitry of famous Havana rabbit breeder, Walter Huey. He continued to show his satinized Havanas against Havanas with normal fur, but because the satinized Havanas tended to do all the winning, they were later recognized as a separate breed.

It is a recessive gene mutation that makes their fur translucent, reflecting light more easily and giving them the distinctive satin sheen. Their coats are fairly easy to care for and only require the occasional brushing. 

Havanas max out at 6.5 pounds, but not so the current Satin rabbit breed. Over the years, the genes from many other rabbit breeds entered the Satin breed gene pool. Today, the Satin standard calls for a rabbit with a commercial body type that can reach up to 11 pounds.

Satins come in a variety of colors - nearly twelve, with the twelfth being under development- so this breed certainly appeals to a wide range of color preferences. 

Do you like Satin Rabbits but wish they were smaller?

You’re in luck! They also come in mini versions - no larger than 4.75 pounds - with even more color variations than the original breed. The possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to breeding these shiny rabbits.

Satin rabbits make great pets with their calm and gentle temperament. They are fantastic with children, and make delightful family pets.

To learn more about satin rabbits, check out our Satin Rabbit page.

Rabbit Health Questions 

They said my two rabbits were both boys!?!

Q: "I got two rabbits from a pet shop. They told me both were boys  however I opened the nest box today to clean and found 5 babies. I’m not happy with the fact that the pet shop said they were boys. Can I go tell them off?" (from C.I.)

***** Karen Sez *****

A: Hi C.I., 

If I had a dollar for every time this happens, I'd be rich. On the other hand, that's why we're happy that there is a Raising-Rabbits website. There's a page right on this website that makes it very easy to tell boy bunnies from girl bunnies. Check it out: Sexing Rabbits.

As an aside, and in defense of the pet shop employees, I'm guessing they aren't paid big bucks in order to know the difference. You may even do them a favor by helping them learn what they did not know!

And by the way, two BOY rabbits will not live peaceably together indefinitely! This would have created a big, BIG problem. Having a girl rabbit probably prevented any conflict between them (whew!).

So, instead of chewing out the folks at the pet shop for not knowing the difference between boy and girl rabbits, why don't you call or swing by the pet shop and give them the web address to our Sexing Rabbits page so they will not be mistaken in the future.  A little kindness and education goes a long way.


If you have a copy of The Rabbit Raising Problem Solver:

  • Instructions for sexing rabbits are on pages 148-149.
  • Find tips for pairing pet rabbits on pages 35-37. 

Rabbits in the News:

Update on Presence of RVHD2 in Vancouver Island and in Orcas Island, WA

Please Please Please!
Mind this Quarantine Notice if you live on, or visit, Vancouver Island in Canada, or Whidbey Island or the San Juan Islands in Washington State!

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is a highly infectious and devastating disease that only affects rabbits. But just because humans aren’t affected by it, does not mean that humans cannot be a vector, a means of germ transmission to your own poor unsuspecting rabbits.

And unfortunately, humans seem to be doing an excellent job of spreading the calicivirus. Recently, the disease has been confirmed in Whidbey Island, in addition to the already confirmed  disease on San Juan Island and Orcas Island, both a part of San Juan Island County, WA.

Because this disease is so lethal to rabbits, it is of utmost importance to keep it quarantined. In order to do this, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has labeled specific quarantine zones where rabbits, rabbit supplies, and products are to be kept quarantined. These areas include the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, where the rabbits, or any animal from these islands are not allowed to leave their quarantine zone. See this Quarantine Zone article for more information, especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest, and please, abide by the quarantine. (Note that the quarantine applies to rabbits and rabbit supplies of all sorts, not to people.)

See also this WSDA Ag Briefs article for quarantine best practices

Like this Rabbit Rhythms December 2019 Newsletter?

Maybe your friends would too...

Your friends at Raising-Rabbits.com wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a lovely December 2019. 

Enjoy your rabbits!

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