Many livestock breeders try not to keep rabbits in winter and send all individuals to slaughter, as they worry that in cold weather due to a lack of feed, animals will start to hurt and die. In fact, with a certain preparation, rabbits can be raised year-round, including in winter. At the same time, the key role is played by the proper balanced feeding of livestock in the cold season.
In this article, we will discuss in more detail how to feed the rabbits in the winter, on what schedule to produce food and what diet should be followed to preserve the health and productivity of animals.
Growing rabbits in winter
What to feed rabbits in winter
It is believed that the cultivation of rabbits in the cold is unprofitable from an economic point of view. This is partly true, because to keep rabbits on the street or in cages in the winter is really difficult, although, with some training, it is quite realistic. The main difficulties relate to the preparation of a diet and arrangement of comfortable cages or enclosures for animal placement.
But even in the presence of some difficulties, the winter breeding has its advantages:
- Young animals, obtained in the cold season, have better health and immunity. As a result, such individuals are sick much less often than their “summer” brethren, their fur is distinguished by higher quality, and the animals themselves are distinguished by increased body weight.
- The winter ration is very nutritious, so the animals increase their weight much faster, which means that the slaughter of the carcass will be more.
- With the arrival of cold weather, the fur in rabbits becomes more dense and fluffy, which is in the hands of livestock breeders who breed animals precisely for obtaining high-quality skins.
- Rabbits tolerate low winter temperatures much better than summer heat. On a hot day, the thick fur of animals can lead to heat stroke, whereas in winter it is enough to place the livestock in specially equipped cages.
In the cold season, the diet of animals changes
In addition, due to low temperatures during the cold season, individuals do not suffer from parasites and are much less likely to get sick, naturally, while observing the rules of feeding and comfortable maintenance.
Content of rabbits in winter: features
Growing these furry animals during the cold season can really become profitable. However, we must not forget that the winter content in many ways is different from the summer. In order for animals to be comfortable, and they can fully develop and gain weight, it is necessary to take into account the peculiarities of such rearing.
Firstly, only the largest, healthiest and most productive individuals with thick fur are selected for wintering. If you have the opportunity to choose a breed for winter growing, it is better to prefer gray and white giant rabbits, a butterfly or a chinchilla, as they are best adapted to low temperatures.
Secondly, it is necessary to insulate the cells, especially those that will contain young and pregnant females. Severe frost can cause frostbite in animals or a surge of colds. At the same time, it is not at all necessary to build a separate capital rabbitry: it is enough to properly warm the street cages in which the livestock is located in the summer.
Winter content options
Also experienced breeders recommend to prefer meat breeds. The fact is that with the advent of cold, the sexual activity of animals decreases, and mating occurs rarely, sluggishly, and often without the desired result. But the weight of rabbits is increasing perfectly, so in the spring you will be able to get high-quality meat.
Allowable low temperature for rabbits
Despite the fact that rabbits are considered to be frost-resistant animals, it is not recommended to leave them in a strong cold without supervision. However, if you live in a temperate or warm climate, there should be no particular content problems.
The fact is that in winter rabbits calmly maintain temperatures up to 10 degrees, and in this mode the sexual activity of males and the ability of females to fertilize do not decrease. However, if the temperature drops to the mark of 15 degrees, sexual activity will greatly decrease, and at 25 completely stop. This should be taken into account when arranging a room for animals.
You should also take into account that the warmth of the rabbit fur is not enough for severe frosts, from 30 and below. In such conditions, rabbits will not survive for a long time and will simply die from hypothermia. Therefore, in the northern regions with severe protracted winters, street housing is not practiced, and the cages are transferred to a separate room for the winter.
If rabbits are constantly kept outside in the winter, they do not need a special lighting regime. For normal growth and preservation of productivity, both natural light and the length of daylight will be sufficient.
However, if the animals are kept in a shed, it is imperative to conduct electricity into it and connect an artificial light. This requirement is especially relevant if you expect to get young. With a short duration of daylight hours and low light intensity, the sexual activity of males and females decreases. If you want to increase this figure, the duration of daylight will have to be artificially increased to 10-12 hours.
Winter content options
In cold winter conditions, the energy that rabbits receive with food is spent primarily on maintaining body temperature, rather than weight gain. To make a profit from breeding animals, you should provide them with the most comfortable conditions of detention.
There are quite a few ways to accommodate livestock: rabbits can be lodged in specially insulated cages, holes or holes, free and spacious enclosures, and the usual greenhouse maintenance for rabbits. Each of these methods has its own characteristics, so we will consider each of them in more detail.
In the warmed cages
Residents of temperate climates and southern regions may well practice year-round street maintenance. It is better for livestock breeders from the northern regions to refrain from this practice, since at extremely low temperatures rabbits can get frostbite or even die. As a rule, in areas with cold winters, rabbits are kept in specially equipped barns.
Warming of the cells should be carried out from the autumn, so that the frosts would not take you and your pets off guard.
In order to qualitatively insulate the cages for rabbits, it is better to use natural materials, such as moss or tow. But, if you do not have enough of these natural heat insulators, you can use industrial building materials with similar properties.
Variants of the warmed cells
Insulation is fixed on the cell surface and with the outer and the inner side. Since there is a risk that the rabbits will gnaw through the insulation, they must be hammered in from above with linings of plywood or other durable, but light and thin material. The internal arrangement of such insulated cells remains the same.
In holes and holes
Wild ancestors of habitual domestic rabbits preferred to settle in spacious holes or pits. And although this way of keeping them is considered very ancient, many modern livestock breeders prefer it.
With such patchy content of rabbits on the street in winter, it should be borne in mind that from constant contact with the soil, the fur of animals will be constantly polluted. Therefore, this method is not suitable for those who are engaged in raising rabbits for the further production of skins.
Breeders who have already practiced a similar method of placing livestock, argue that in large pits rabbits feel much more comfortable and increase their weight faster. Naturally, for this you need to properly prepare the very pit. First, it is necessary to dig it below the level of soil freezing so that the temperature inside such a hole would be comfortable for rabbits even in the most severe frosts.
Secondly, it is advisable to arrange a shed above the pit, which will protect animals from piercing cold wind and precipitation. If you expect to receive the young, you will have to arrange the mother liquor separately, since the maintenance of females with young in the pits usually does not bring positive results.
In the greenhouse
Street winter maintenance of rabbits in polycarbonate greenhouses began to be practiced relatively recently, but this method is already popular among cattle breeders for several reasons.
First, the hermetic design of the polycarbonate greenhouse allows you to maintain inside the optimum temperature at moderate frosts. Secondly, rabbits can move freely around the territory, which has a positive effect on their sexual activity and weight gain. Thirdly, the constant presence of rabbits in the greenhouse leads to the fact that the soil is naturally fertilized, so you do not have to spend extra money to buy fertilizer from the beginning of the growing season of vegetables and berries.
Greenhouse is great for winter maintenance.
But this method has certain disadvantages. First of all, due to the breathing of rabbits, condensate may begin to collect on the inside of the structure’s coating. In addition, without proper ventilation inside it will be too stuffy and humid. Rabbits are not very fond of high humidity, and in such an environment they often have trapmatitis (rotting limbs). To eliminate such difficulties, it is desirable to equip the building with high-quality ventilation.
Residents of warm regions may well practice the winter maintenance of livestock in aviaries. Its peculiarity is that the cages are placed on a special fenced site, the size of which must correspond to the number of the livestock. From the cages they have free access to the paddock, where they can spend their free time on relatively warm days.
This method most closely matches the natural needs of rabbits for walks and fresh air. However, in regions with a cold climate, it cannot be practiced, since free placement on the range can adversely affect the health of animals if there is a strong frost outside, and the walking area is covered with a thick layer of snow.
Winter diet for these animals is significantly different from the summer. Its main goal is not only to satiate animals and contribute to weight gain, but also to provide the rabbits with the necessary energy for warming.
Proceeding from this feature, feed the rabbits in the winter should be those products that are able to permanently saturate them with vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
When composing a diet for rabbits, one should take into account not only the nutritional needs of animals, but also weather conditions. It must be remembered that as the air temperature decreases, the calorie intake should be increased. Otherwise, the animal begins to lose weight, freeze, and if no measures were taken to improve the diet – and completely dies. Next we look at the main types of products that should be included in the daily livestock menu.
Cereals, or concentrated feed, are considered the most nutritious, although they do not contain enough vitamins and minerals. However, in the cold season it is the concentrated and coarse food, due to its nutritional value and caloric content, should form the basis of the diet.
Some livestock breeders feed rabbits with extremely rough feed, completely or almost completely depriving them of cereals. It is not recommended to do this, as eating such foods helps the animals to be satisfied and promotes weight gain.
Grain feed – a valuable source of energy
The best option for saturation and weight gain will be wet mash beans made from grain, which are given out in a warm form. Rabbits eat them very willingly, but if after feeding in a container a portion of uneaten porridge remains, it must be thrown away. In the evening, dry grain feeds can be poured into bunker feeders or bowls, which will help the animals to get enough of food before a cold night.
If in summer the basis of the diet for rabbits is fresh green grass, in the winter they are deprived of this valuable component. This in turn can adversely affect the weight gain and productivity of animals. To replenish the rate of green fodder in the cold season in the absence of succulent grass, always include succulent fodder in the diet.
Juicy foods are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Best of all, rabbits eat fresh carrots (grated or whole), topinabur, boiled potatoes, and also fodder and sugar beets. The advantage of these products is that they can be easily grown in the garden, and put in storage in the basement or cellar for winter storage.
This group of feeds is also called rough, because they contain the minimum amount of water, but a lot of vitamins. The main component of the winter ration for rabbits is hay, so it should be sufficient for the entire period. It is better to harvest it in advance, during the summer, using the best meadow grass for this purpose. For example, a good buttercup will be a good food for rabbits, which should be harvested before flowering begins or immediately after it starts.
Hay and woody branches form the basis of the diet
Twig feed for rabbits is also valuable. Firstly, with it, the animals grind off too large front hems. Secondly, such brooms from young branches of the tree are a valuable source of vitamins and minerals, so necessary for animals in the cold season.
With the arrival of cold weather, rabbits with pleasure feed on silage prepared at home. Harvesting such food for rabbits for the winter is not particularly difficult, but with the arrival of cold weather it can be very useful.
To prepare the silage with your own hands, you need to grow in advance a certain amount of a suitable crop, for example, corn. Then one or several barrels are driven into the ground and they begin to lay the corn in layers, carefully tamping each of them. After the container is filled, it is covered with a lid and any material that is not permeable to moisture.
If you did everything right, juicy, nutritious, and most importantly – a healthy feed for rabbits will be ready in a month. You can determine its readiness by its smell, which resembles the aroma of fermented apples. It should be borne in mind that ensiling is not an analogue of pickling, since salt and sugar are used for the latter.
Vitamins and Minerals
Winter feeding of rabbits is characterized by the fact that with the onset of cold weather, animals cannot receive enough vitamins for rapid growth. Even with a balanced nutritious diet, animals will still need special vitamin and mineral supplements that will contribute to the increase in live weight.
Features of feeding pregnant and lactating females
Feeding pregnant females must be given special attention, because the health and productivity of offspring will depend on the amount of nutrients entering the body of such an individual.
In the mother liquor, where pregnant and nursing rabbits are kept, it is necessary to maintain perfect purity so that the individual does not accidentally get sick.
Both sucker and lactating females, as well as producing rabbits, need an enhanced nutritional diet, which contains many vitamins and minerals. If you are afraid to make a mistake in proportions, it is better to immediately buy special feed in pellets, designed for feeding rabbits during certain physiological periods.
In order for females to receive enough vitamins during pregnancy and feeding, it is necessary to include fresh carrots, boiled potatoes and germinated oat grains in their daily menu. In addition, a sufficient amount of concentrated feed must be included in the diet, both for the period of pregnancy and for the first two weeks after caul. Naturally, you need to regularly issue females hay and branch feed.
How to water the rabbits
In winter, as in summer, fresh water must always be kept in the cages of rabbits so that the animals have constant access to it. One should not think that with the arrival of cold, rabbits do not want to drink. They do not suffer so much from thirst as they need drinking water for better digestion of dry fodder.
If there is no permanent access to drinking water, the animals are disturbed by their metabolism. Some individuals begin to drink their own urine, which negatively affects their development.
Since watering rabbits is an obligatory stage of care for them in winter, and in ordinary drinkers with street content, the liquid is quickly covered with ice, it will be necessary to provide for the mode of its heating. The fact is that it is unpleasant for animals to drink very cold water, and in some cases it may even provoke colds. It is best to give the animals warm water in the morning and evening. For this purpose, you can use the automatic drinkers, drawings of which can be easily found on the Internet.
Drinking water should be freely available.
In some cases, if there is no access to clean drinking water, it can be replaced with snow. But it must be clean, without any third-party impurities, and it can only be used as a substitute for water for a short time.
Winter diseases: prevention and treatment
With improper care for rabbits in the winter, animals can start getting sick. Of course, the obvious advantage of winter growing is the fact that at low temperatures there is almost no risk of developing infections, since the pathogens simply do not spread in the cold.
However, there are also such pathologies that lie in wait for fluffy animals in the cold season, and to protect themselves from them with the help of vaccinations will not work out – the only possible option is to provide the livestock with the right care.
These diseases include:
- Frostbite: occurs when rabbits are in a hard frost for a long time. To avoid negative consequences, you need to carefully insulate the cells, especially for those individuals who change the coat in the middle of winter. In addition, livestock need to provide balanced feeding, which will provide them with the necessary amount of energy. If frostbite still occurs, you need to determine its stage and take action. Thus, in the first stage, certain areas redden and slightly swell. Such an animal just needs to be transferred to a warm room and smeared the affected areas with fat. In the second stage, frostbite areas blister with liquid inside. In this case, it will be correct to call the veterinarian who, under sterile conditions, will pierce the blisters and lubricate the lesion sites with camphor ointment. The last stage of frostbite is that the damaged areas become dry and shriveled. This indicates the death of tissue. In this case, valuable rabbits are treated, but most livestock breeders simply prefer to send such an individual for slaughter.
- Cold rhinitis: expressed in constant sneezing and nasal mucous discharge. In addition, cold rabbits become lethargic, almost do not eat and drink very little. Sick individuals are transferred to a warm room and isolated from the rest of the population. You should not try to cure colds in rabbits yourself: it is better to immediately contact a veterinarian who will prescribe the correct treatment.
- Poddermatit: occurs when the rabbit paws are constantly in contact with the cold or wet floor of the cage. Over time, this leads to inflammation of the skin on the limbs. To cure an animal, it must be moved to a warm place, and bandages with anti-inflammatory agents should be applied to the injured paws.
All these diseases occur in the event that the owner does not pay due attention to the comfortable maintenance and full feeding of rabbits. And on the contrary, if the diet of animals will be nutritious and high-calorie, and the cells – warmed, all these ailments can be successfully avoided.
Breeding rabbits in the cold season
Despite the fact that during the cold season the male’s sexual activity and the ability of females to fertilize decreases, the breeding of rabbits in the winter is not only possible, but can also be very successful and profitable.
Young animals born in winter have better health.
Individuals obtained from rabbit around the winter will be more hardened and will not often get sick. In addition, they are much faster weight gain, and their fur has a higher quality. Experienced livestock breeders recommend choosing individuals for further crossing from the winter offspring. Both males and females of this type are characterized by increased sexual activity and actively breed.
In order for pairing to be successful, several recommendations should be considered:
- For mating, it is better to choose not too frosty days, and it is better to push the female to the male during the day when the air is warmer.
- Choosing a female, it is better to give preference to a proven individual, which has repeatedly given offspring. In this case, you will be sure that the pregnancy will take place normally, and the uterus will have enough milk to fully feed the young.
- Do not try to mate often. For young animals to be truly healthy and productive, you need to give them enough time to grow.
In addition, it should be borne in mind that too intensive mating and frequent rounding can cause irreparable harm to the health of females.
Recommendations and advice from experienced breeders
Taking into account the peculiarities of the winter rabbits, it can be concluded that with a certain preparation such a method of cultivation can really bring substantial profits.
Experienced breeders recommend beforehand, even in the fall, to warm the cages of rabbits so that the sudden cold does not harm the livestock. In addition, you need to pre-feed pet food, and it is desirable to prepare them in abundance, so that in the cold season the animals receive enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The rest of the winter breeding of rabbits is not too different from the summer and does not cause much difficulty.