Winter living for wild cottontails

by Carol Shenkenberg
(Milwaukee, WI)

Recently I found a little bunny living in my outdoor patio and have been feeding it greens and carrots. Wondering how it will survive the winter outside? Do they burrow somewhere and hibernate? It waits for me to bring food out in the morning and then I watch it for hours from inside my house. It has to survive Wisconsin winter weather out there!

***** Karen Sez *****
It'll survive. Rabbits do fine in sub-zero weather, especially if they have a outdoor patio to live in/under.

Cottontails don't hibernate, and they don't burrow. They typically sleep in a hollowed out depression in the ground, giving it some shelter from the wind and the worst of the cold. It might even be buried by snow, which is quite insulating.

Domestic rabbits do dig burrows, especially the females. If this rabbit is a feral domestic rabbit, it may dig itself a burrow which will protect it from the weather and from predators.

If you feel the need (especially if the rabbit is of the domestic variety), you can give it a fairly large wire cage that sits on your patio, and then stuff that cage full of straw or orchard hay. The hay provides insulation, and the bunny will nibble the hay little by little.

Tip: If needed, it might be wise to put down some sort of plastic sheet, if that "cage" is a cardboard box. Or, most wire cages come with the availability of a metal or plastic drop pan which catches the rabbit's droppings. Either plan will help protect your patio from the rabbit's manure and urine.

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Jul 25, 2013
Growing Cottontail
by: Anonymous

The bunny I described earlier that was living in my patio has now matured and from several online instructionals, I have learned that it can be on its own now. I still put chopped up carrots and lettuce out on a stepping stone that is the designated "feeding station", but the bunny is gone most of the time now. It still comes during the dark hours or early morning hours when I'm still sleeping to eat what is left out there, but I am assuming that it is finding its own natural clover, grass, and dandelion greens to eat because it is not eating as much of the food I provide.

It used to eat, then make a slight burrow under a little Alberta Spruce in the patio, and rest for about 10 minutes before starting the feeding cycle again over and over. It used to be waiting for me to bring food out in the morning, and didn't seem afraid of me, though I never made quick moves or got too close to it. I have a little Maltipoo that is very intrigued by the bunny, and when I come out of the house with him, the bunny got scared away.

I see it hopping around the condo complex during the day and I assume it is possibly mating with other little bunnies in the area. Time will tell if it stays around for the winter!...or reappears with a tow of little babies to feed!

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