Keeping Rabbits Cool When It’s Hot Outside

saflora / stock.xchng

saflora / stock.xchng

Remember the Nelly song in the 90s? “It’s getting hot in here so I’m gonna take my clothes off!”

Well, sorry, Nelly, rabbits can’t take their clothes off. They’re stuck wearing a fur coat while temperatures soar.

I’ve been believing, hoping, that we would escape the worst of the heat since we’re living at about 8,000 ft. in elevation. Just this weekend we did a backyard campout and all of us ended up in a huddle in the wee hours of the morning because it got so chilly!

However, today’s temperatures moved into the high 90s and we lost the runt of our Silver Marten litter to heat stroke. I’m a believer in natural selection but I’m mad about the loss and we’re going to do our best to make sure we don’t lose this battle against summer time heat!

We’ll be trying a few different ideas to cool our rabbits down. This afternoon we filled Ziploc baggies with ice and distributed a bag to each rabbit. Tomorrow I have prepared bananas, cut in half and frozen solid. All of my friends are scrounging around for glass jars and bottles I’ll fill with water and freeze over night – I’m hoping by two days from now we’ll have enough to cycle them in and out of the freezer.

Though we have the ventilation of our rabbitry working in our favor – open air hutches are good for catching the breeze – we do still have to take precautions against heat stroke for our rabbits. The ideal temperature in a rabbit’s mind is in the low 50s – so anytime temperatures soar over 85° it makes sense to incorporate some cooling techniques into your animal husbandry tool bag.

Rabbits don’t have the ability to sweat, so their entire cooling system is coordinated by their ears. A cold rabbit will keep their ears close to their neck, a hot rabbit will have their ears high and wide open to cool their necks and catch any breeze that comes by. There is actually a phenomenon called “summer ears” – where a rabbit born in the summer will have longer ears than a rabbit born in the winter!

Rabbits suffering from a heat stroke will have glazed eyes, be relatively motionless, and may have spit coming out of their mouths. This is very bad stuff and can cause permanent brain damage or death.

In a quick, easy to read list, in order to cool your own rabbit(s), you might consider:

  • installing a mister system outside of your hutch.
  • wetting their ears with a washcloth to turn them into swamp coolers.
  • freezing water bottles they can lay next to.
  • giving them ceramic tiles to sit on (this can be a cause of hutch burn so watch and remove if they’re urinating on the tiles).
  • spraying the buns with water.
  • (in extremely hot weather) dunking a rabbit’s body in a bucket of cool water.
  • spraying down the roof of your hutches with a hose.
  • soaking cheesecloth or a burlap bag in water and draping it over the cage.
  • moving them to an air conditioned area.
  • moving them to a well-shaded area or installing a sunshade over their cages.
  • pulling the hair off of babies in the nestbox.

What other suggestions do you have for keeping your rabbits cool in the summer heat?

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5 thoughts on “Keeping Rabbits Cool When It’s Hot Outside

  1. heidiskye333 June 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm Reply

    Our rabbitry has a small air conditioner but it isn’t really powerful enough. I bought the biggest freakin’ industrial sized gigantic fan last week to cool the rabbitry. I put the fan in the back of the rabbitry so it sucks in the cool air from the woods and blows it thru. Certainly, it’s not perfect but it’s good enough for now. Last summer I almost lost a few rabbits to heat stroke before I just grabbed them all, ran to our home, and let them lay on the slate floor. They perked up in about 15 minutes. In a perfect world, I’d love to have a super powerful factory sized air conditioner for the bunnies.

    • madhatrabbits June 11, 2013 at 7:25 am Reply

      That sounds good! A lot of what we’ve done is “what works for now”. I hope we aren’t freezing water bottles for forever around here!

  2. willowcreekfarm June 11, 2013 at 5:35 am Reply

    That ear thing explains a litter we had
    years ago with huge ears. I never knew that and always wondered about that litter.

    • madhatrabbits June 11, 2013 at 7:24 am Reply

      Summer ears can be a big deals with breeds that have an ear length maximum for showing, like mini Rex.

      Personally, I think it’s fascinating how our natural systems adjust to the needs of the environment!

  3. bluepebbles@comcast.net July 26, 2013 at 7:48 am Reply

    We have found that using Gatorade or Poweade quart bottles work great for our medium sized rabbits. Two liter bottles for our mini lops. Thanks for all the information, especially on the new vaccine bunnyvac.

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