So, recently we posted an article about keeping your chickens cool in the summer.
You can check that out HERE
However, a lot of us have friends of the furry variety both as pets and as livestock. Being naturally fat and fluffy, rabbits can have a difficult time in the peak summer months. What does rabbit heat stroke look like?
-Thumper is fully stretched out. The feet are sprawled apart and the tail is limp.
-Wetness around the nose area
-Eyes are half closed. thumper has a sleepy or dazed appearance.
-Thumper’s tongue is hanging out. His breathing is rapid and possibly labored.
-Fast, shallow breathing
-He is reluctant to move.
-He refuses to eat or drink.
Did you know that excessive heat can even make your buck sterile? But don’t worry..it’s typically not permanent.
So… What can we do?
-Plenty of ventilation – Keep your rabbit cage well-ventilated. Use fans to cool your rabbit. Position an oscillating fan so that it blows in the rabbit cage. This will create a breeze to cool your rabbit down. Make sure that your rabbit can escape the fan if it chooses. You can build a hiding place for the rabbit with a cardboard box.
- A wire covered cage allows air to flow freely from all sides. If your rabbit is outdoors in a hutch keep them in the shade and allow for cover without compromising ventilation. Bedding should be absorbent and non-toxic like straw, aspen shavings, CareFresh (recycled paper), or wheat-based like Eco-Straw. These materials air out easily and don’t retain heat.
- A circulating ceiling fan above the cage is another option. Used in combination with floor fans, ceiling units can effectively ventilate your rabbit’s area.
-Plenty of shade– Keep them in the shade during the day. Ideally you would use trees to shade your rabbit building or hutches. I have grown sunflowers, pole beans on trellises to help shade my rabbits plus feed them! Natural shade is very helpful. If you have a shelter of some sort made of wood, which is then shaded by a tree, this is optimal. Being under a tree will make a big difference vs. being under a wood cover that is being hit directly by sunlight.
Hang a wet towel over top of your rabbit cage. This is especially effective in combination with a running fan. Not only will the towel provide shade, but the cool moisture will help as well.
- Take a normal sized shower towel (roughly 2.5′ x 3.5′). Soak it in cool water. Wring it out and place it on top of the cage. Try to to cover the entire cage with the towel. You want to make sure that you don’t obstruct the cage’s ventilation. Make sure that the towel is not still dripping either. You don’t want to soak your rabbit.
-Frozen ice cubes in a dish during hottest part of day. Place small ice cubes in your rabbit’s water bottle to lower its temperature. If you have to leave your rabbit for a long period of time in warmer temperatures, this is a good step. Over the course of the day, the water will remain cooler for longer as the ice cubes melt. Dehydration can lead to heat stroke more easily in rabbits. If your rabbit is overheated, it will look for ways to cool itself off. If its water is colder than usual, it will seek it out and drink more to cool itself down.
- Give your rabbit veggies to help keep it hydrated. Soak small carrots, celery stalks, and other vegetables that your rabbit enjoys in water and then place them in your rabbit’s cage. This way your rabbit will get additional water through its food
-Make sure there is enough space for them to stretch out to get cool.
-Ceramic tiles can be provided for them to lay on. If you place the tile in the refrigerator for an hour beforehand it will provide even greater relief
–Plenty of clean cool water. Cool water is important. Make sure they have cool water to drink to cool themselves down. If their water is hot, it not only causes them to drink less, but also keeps them from cooling down when needed. You may need to change their water 3 or 4 times a day during the hot months. And if you have an automatic watering system, make sure you have some way of flushing the system to get the hot water out of the lines and cool water in several times a day. Lixit Assorted Critter Brites Deluxe Rabbit Bottle, 32-Ounce
-Frozen liter bottles for them to lie against. Fill two to three one or two liter bottles about eighty percent full with water and freeze them. Take one out, wrap in paper towels or with a thin, clean rag that you won’t care to be chewed upon. Place this in your rabbit’s pen. This will last between four and eight hours before you will need to replace it with a new one. Place the thawed bottle back in the freezer so that you may use it again. Your rabbit will lay next to, or even on this bottle and get great relief from the heat.
-Evaporative systems like swamp coolers work in dryer climates. If barn is small enough to be closed an ac window unit can be used but again ventilation is stressed.
-Wet piece of carpet-Carpets cut into small pieces dunked in water will retain water throughout most of the day. You will have to watch for soiled pieces and change out for clean ones.
-Feed in early morning or late in evening. Leave them alone during hottest part of day.
-Misters can be used also. If your aisles are 4’ to 5’ wide, place the mister down the middle. If you use “J” feeders, you may need to cover them to keep the feed dry. Do not let the water mist on the rabbits. Misters will lower the temperature 10-15 degrees in dryer climates. Orbit 20066 Portable 1/4-Inch Outdoor Mist Cooling System
-Outside hutches – Staple a burlap bag to the roof of the cage and have it drape over front of the cages. Place a soaker hose upside down close to the front of the roof edge. Set the hose on a timer or turn it on manually. The water will run over the burlap and act as a swamp cooler. The rabbits will lay closer to the fronts of their cages for the coolness.
-Avoid keeping multiple rabbits in the same cage. When you have multiple rabbits sharing a cage, their shared body heat contributes to a hotter living environment
When you are able to put most of these together; the cages being under a shelter which is under a tree, with cool water for them to drink, frozen water bottles in their cages, with air flow from a fan and a proper misting system, your rabbits can get through the scorching summer heat.
If you’re just getting into rabbits , check out one of the best guide’s on the market.
[amazonjs asin=”1603424563″ locale=”US” title=”Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, 4th Edition”]
As well as THE GO TO book for all natural rabbit feeding: [amazonjs asin=”1493654055″ locale=”US” tmpl=”Small” title=”Beyond The Pellet: Feeding Rabbits Naturally (The Urban Rabbit Project) (Volume 2)”]
Do you have any other ideas? Please comment and let me know and I’ll add them to the list!
Have chickens? Here is how to keep them cool!