Rabbits and guinea pigs can be housed comfortably outside all year round, however some slight changes need to be made in their daily care to ensure they stay healthy during the colder months.
Rabbits and guinea pigs will look to eat more food in winter as the extra fat insulation will help to keep them warm. Remember, 80% of rabbit and guinea pig diet should consist of a high-quality dust free hay. In winter, making sure you provide a good quality pellet food daily. This will help make sure they can maintain a good body weight. Pellet food will ensure they are getting a balanced diet without the risk of selective feeding. Don’t forget, guinea pigs need daily vitamin C which can be provided with fresh vegetables and herbs. Some good sources of vitamin C include, sweet red and yellow pepper, broccoli, brussel sprouts and parsley.
Placement of their hutch
It is important to make sure the rabbit or guinea pigs hutch is positioned in a sheltered area, against trees, a wall or a shed works well, and away from direct wind! If the weather is bad, tarpaulin can be placed over the hutch to help keep wind and rain out. Raise the hutch off the floor by standing it on bricks, this helps to prevent damp getting to the floor of the hutch. Placing a sock over the water bottle will help prevent freezing, but it is still important to check the bottle often as the spout can freeze.
Make sure you provide plenty of straw and hay so they can make a deep warm bed. If the hutch does not have a separate sheltered sleeping area a cardboard box, sealed with a small hole, big enough for the rabbit or guinea pig to fit through, filled with bedding will make a nice warm area for them. Just ensure you replace the box if it becomes wet or torn.
Be sure to keep the rabbit or guinea pig hutch clean and free from urine and faeces. Heavily soaked bedding can freeze which can lead to illness. Remember, guinea pigs will urinate in their bedding area so check this daily as if it is left it can lead to sores developing on the animals feet.
By checking the weather forecast and keeping a close eye on their behaviour and physical condition you will be able to keep rabbits and guinea pigs healthy all winter.
If you’re going to be away for any period of time, get in touch with your local branch of We Love Pets so we can pop in and make sure your furry family members are safe and well – it’s one less thing for you to worry about.