Rabbits do fairly well in cool temperatures, but when it comes to very hot weather, you have to take extra precautions.
Rabbits are very susceptible to heat stroke and it is of grave importance to keep your rabbits cool. This can be a challenge in very hot weather, but there are a few things you can do to keep your rabbits safe. Any time the temperatures get very hot, especially if you reach the upper 80’s or 90’s, you want to take measures to keep your rabbits cool. Depending upon the climate, you may need to do these at lower temperatures. If your rabbit is sprawled out and panting heavily, that is a clear sign that they are hot. If you see your rabbit doing this, don’t wait for the thermometer to reach a certain temperature. Take precautionary measures. Remember: rabbits would much rather be too cool than too hot.
First of all, I am not a soda drinker, so I don’t routinely have soda bottles in the house. I went to my local dollar store and got several 2 liter bottles of their cheap soda. I came home, disposed of the soda, cleaned out the bottles and filled them with water. Then those water bottles were put in the freezer. You could also use milk jugs, but I find that the plastic soda bottles last a little longer and stack in the freezer easier. Because I have rabbit tractors, there are two areas for each of the rabbit homes. The “house” structure and the yard. I put a frozen water bottle in each, giving the rabbits the option of where they want to be. The rabbits will lay up against the ice bottles, keeping them cool.
I have enough bottles for one in the rabbit house and one in the “yard” and another full set in the freezer. Each afternoon I will take two frozen bottles out to each rabbit tractor. If you have a traditional rabbit hutch, you will only need one at a time. I will leave that ice bottle there until the next morning. In the morning, I’ll take the thawed bottles out, clean them off and set them aside. In the afternoon (or whatever time the temperatures rise) when I take the ice bottles out to the rabbits, those cleaned bottles will get put in the freezer. This way I always have a rotation of bottles freezing while the others are out with the rabbits. One set comes out, and the other immediately goes in.
Depending upon how your rabbits are housed, they may have continual shade from a structure. As you have seen, my rabbits live in rabbit tractors with an attached yard. In the summer, I attach heavy fabric over the yard creating a sort of tent for them. I simply attach it with clothes pins. Another option is cutting open empty feed bags and zip-tying them to the structure. Both work well. With the fabric, I feel there is better air flow so that when a breeze comes along, the rabbits can enjoy it better.
Ceramic tiles are naturally cool, they are also very inexpensive. I headed to my local hardware store and purchased several 12 inch tiles from their clearance section. At 72 cents, it doesn’t really matter what the tiles look like. I don’t think the rabbits would care. These tiles can be layed inside the rabbit’s house or cage, but you could also stick them in the freezer if you like. Laying the tiles on the ground inside my tractor, pulls the cold from the ground. Without the tiles, the rabbits will dig holes to lay in to stay cool. This way I have found, they will simply lay right on top of them. It makes the rabbit happy, and keeps them from digging holes in the ground that I have to repair.
Not just water, but cold water. Just like humans, rabbits need to drink lots of fluids when the weather is hot, but rabbits are picky little things. If their water gets hot, they may refuse to drink it. Every afternoon when the temperature rises, I put a ceramic dish in their tractor. I fill the dish with ice and a little water to get it started. As the ice melts, they will have a steady supply of cold water. On really hot days, I’ll fill their dishes with ice a couple times just to be extra careful that they don’t get dehydrated.
In the winter, a rabbit needs lots of bedding (straw) for insulation to stay warm. But in the summer time, too much of that insulation will keep them too warm. Now I do have baby rabbits that like to burrow down in the straw, but this time of year I only put a little bit inside there. There’s just enough for them to think they are hiding, but not enough to block air flow. The house structures I have are slightly elevated off the ground with hardware cloth floors. Keeping the straw to a minimum or eliminating it altogether allows air to flow underneath the floor and keep it more cool in there.
Another option, if you have your rabbits in a static structure, is to set up fans to blow through their area to stay cool. Because I have the mobile houses for our rabbits, that isn’t an option. So I use all of the above methods.
Those are a few ideas that you can use to keep your rabbits safe from dangerous summer temperatures.
Have another idea that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below!