The good news is you have your hutches or enclosed structure constructed. You waited until the severe heat of summer has passed to acquire your rabbit flock. Temperatures are in the 70’s and 80’s perfect weather conditions for breeding your does. After 31 + or – 2 days one way or the other, your doe delivers 6 or 8 hairless kits. Now what? Conception to Weaning
Cold winter days can present challenges for novice rabbit growers. Temperatures that are near freezing for extended periods of time and moderate to strong winds that lower wind chill temperatures can pose serious problems for newborn, young, and adult rabbits depending on the type of rabbitry(hutch) or building structure in which they are housed. A few practical management tools can help rabbit producers overcome the challenges of cold, wet and snowy winter weather conditions.
Cold temperatures affect the availability of water, particularly for newborn and young rabbits. With wind or a continuous strong breeze, even the best of shelters may not be adequate enough to keep water supplies from freezing. A lack of water for several hours can cause problems. Your rabbits could become dehydrated and die if water is unavailable for more than 6 or 8 hours.
No matter what type of water supply rabbit producers use, all water bottles, lines, and water nipples are susceptible to freezing during extremely cold temperatures. Once water lines are frozen, they are not easily thawed unless temperatures rise above freezing. Frozen water bottles and nipples take a long time to thaw because of the volume of water in the bottle. Anticipating freezing temperatures, taking preventative measures, and planning for alternative water supplies will minimize the potential for your rabbits dieing.
Keeping newborn and very young rabbits alive during the winter can be challenging. Kits or newborn rabbits do not have enough fur or do not generate enough body heat to insulate themselves from cold temperatures and chilling winds. Adequate nutrition also plays a role in survivability of newborn and young rabbits. Does must provide milk for newborn and young rabbits so they can try to generate their own body heat. A well-nourished rabbit is better able to cope with cold conditions than a malnourished rabbit.
To be cost effective rabbits need to reproduce as often as possible. During the winter months, rabbit raisers may encounter reproductive management problems. Cold weather below freezing temperatures can kill rabbits of all sizes and ages. Effectively managing reproduction and newborn bunnies during winter requires exploring options and innovation. Newborns and young kits can be protected from cold weather by nest boxes lined with grass hay placed inside individual cages. In extreme cold weather adult rabbits will benefit form grass lined nest boxes as well.
Hint Have 2 soda bottles and watering tubes for each cage, one can be thawing out while the other is attached to your hutch or cage. If a soda bottle freezes and burst you are out only 1 recycled through away bottle. Replace water bottle morning and again before night fall. Take care not to under feed your rabbits in cold weather, it takes more food to generate body heat to help keep your rabbits warm and healthy.
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