FIXING YOUR BUNNY UP FOR FALL

by Barbi Brown

Barbi Brown's Bunnies

Fall is a funny time of year for bunnies. Here in California we find ourselves faced with 70 to 90 degree days and 30 to 50 degree nights. It's tough for the bunny to know whether to put on his coat or take it off! The rest of the continental U.S. faces even greater extremes and unsettled weather this time of year.

Our first instinct when we feel a chill in the air is to cover up the bunny so he will stay warm, when, in fact, we should do just the opposite! We need to let him feel the chill so he can begin beefing up a winter coat. If he is kept too warm now he won't have enough coat to keep him comfy when the really cold weather gets here.

We must, however, be sure he doesn't get wet. The wind is not so great a concern as the rain. But make plans now for how to protect your bunny from extremly gusty winds. Moving bunnies to a garage is one option in areas of extreme weather but remember that a garage can be hot and stuffy one minute and cold and drafty the next. Not a good thing for a bunny.

Now is the time to prepare for winter BEFORE it gets here.

Here is sort of my checklist that I go through in the fall:

1. Make sure all the lights are working in the barn (or around the hutch) so we can see as the days become shorter. Lighting is also important to keep breeding stock in production. (Fertility decreases with decreased daylight)

2. Check for leaks in barn (or hutch) roofing.

3. Repair any leaking water lines or bottles. (This is a nasty chore when it's freezing out.)

4. I move all the bunnies into the main barn from the outdoor kennel area but leave the play pens set up outside so they still can get some fresh air and exercise on nice days.

5. Add wheat, barley, sunflower and safflower seeds to the feed mix to help "finish off" the summer molt.

6. Carefully feel each bunny for anyone a little out of flesh from the summer months. Those guys get a higher protein feed mixed with regular ration.

7. Worm every one with Piperazine and Ivomec. I do this in the first week of each quarter.

8. Make sure all nest boxes are in good repair. I also dig out the plastic plant buckets and clean them up for use in freezing weather. (They clean and dry more easily than wooden boxes).

9. Add extra bedding to nest boxes.

10. Check all the tarps for tears and missing grommets. We hang large tarps as wind breaks in areas where the barn doesn't have doors to close.

11. Prepare for heavier fall breeding by updating my breeding board in the barn where I track who is bred to whom and when they are due. Each cage is tagged as well.

12. Complain that my barn isn't bigger and better!

In general, just plan ahead. If you are in areas of freezing weather consider adding heat tapes to your water supply.

See Winter Tips for more ideas.