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Giant Rabbit

It is easy to think that a rabbit needs to be wrapped up to survive the winter but outdoor rabbits are extremely tolerant of cold conditions provided they have shelter, plenty of bedding and sufficientventilation.With the onslaught of winter just around the corner, it’s time to check that our rabbits are protected from the wind, rain and drops intemperature.But is it just a case of moving the hutches undercover, or should you be giving more thought to keeping our animals warm this winter?For fanciers who keep several rabbits within a shed or similar construct, the effects of the cold weather are perhaps easier to cope with as the temperature can be controlled and adequate ventilation(which was necessary in the summer) can be made available For people who keep rabbits outside in a hutch or blocks of hutches, it is common to think that a rabbit needs to be wrapped up to survive the winter- but outdoor rabbits are extremely tolerant of cold conditions provided they have shelter, plenty of bedding and sufficient ventilation.Althoughventilation suggests exposing a rabbit to cold air, it is a must. Without it, there can bean increase in dampness and humidity, which may increase the likelihood of disease.Even if the temperature drops below freezing, ventilation is required to eliminate harmful gases, moisture, dust and heat. An increase in ammonia in the air can lead to rabbits becoming infected with organisms that may lead to respiratory disease, for example.In Rabbits Health, Husbandry and Diseases, Virginia Richardson explains:“The presence of ammonia due to poor sanitation will weaken the respiratory mucosa. Sudden changes in environmentaltemperature or draughts can trigger infection, and outbreaks are more common in spring and autumn when the temperatures are most variable.“The actual environmental temperature is not that important, it is sudden fluctuations that must be avoided.“In house rabbits the presence of air conditioning or central heating can lower the humidity and increase the amount of airborne dust particles which may also weaken the respiratory mucosa “.When stacking hutches in blocks, whether in a shed or outside the home, the gaps between each block must be wide and the hutches should not touch a wall to ensureventilation.In The Domestic Rabbit, John Sandford recommends an air space of at least 25cm between the rear of the hutches and a wall. He lists the signs of inadequate ventilation as a smell of ammonia, condensation, too high a temperature or relative humidity compared with the outside air and a marked difference in the temperatures recorded by a maximum-minimum thermometer.Before the cold and wet weather really sets in, rabbit hutches and sheds should be checked for any leaks and repaired sooner rather than later. If a hutch does not look as though it is going to make it through the winter then it should be replaced.The Happy Hutch Company (01482 214744) suggest a good check around the whole of the hutch, starting at the roof to ensure that the felt isn’t torn or damaged, making sure that the wood on the outside of the hutch is well treated and ensuring that the hinges and fasteners aren’t rusty or damaged.II the wood of the hutch needs treating then they suggest that any water based wood preserver should be fine as long as it is safe to use around animals. It is of course important that the rabbits are not in the hutch whilst it is being treated.Moving an outdoor hutch into a more sheltered spot for the winter is a sensible option, especially if they were moved into a cooler spot for the warm summer months.The indoor cages of house rabbits should be moved away from radiators and draughts.Insulating the root of a rabbit hutch with new felt is one thing but if you have a whole shed to do then you want to be sure that you are using a product that keeps the building at a comfortable temperature arid increase heat efficiency. You also want a product that will withstand the test of time arid the elements.According to Atlantic Country Superstore (01986 891430), research shows that the heat passing through a building’s roof accounts for approximately 80% of all building surface energy absorption and emission.HR Super Polynum is a superior insulation product, constructed of pure aluminum foil attached to polythene bubble sheeting. Its design prevents heat penetration in the summer and escape in the winter and substantially increases heat effiency and dispersion.Atlantic says that the product is easy to install, even in buildings as it can be stapled into position and causes no burning, irritation or itching. The product is also said to be virtually indestructible.For pet rabbits, kept outside in the garden, many people cover their hutches with blankets and plastic sheeting during the winter to protect them from the rain, wind and snow.Some even build their own blinds that are rolled over the hutch each night but care must be taken with this method of insulation. Some pet shops sell roll down plastic blinds that are designed to keep the rabbit dry in wet weather.

According to Anne Mitchell of the Rabbit Welfare Fund “if the cover is not lifted first thing in the morning, there is a chance of the rabbit becoming overheated with even the smallest amount of winter sunshine”.If the hutch does not have a covered ‘sleeping area’ then half the hutch could be covered with a blind or tarpaulin which the rabbit could shelter behind but the other half of the hutch must be kept open to enable ventilation.A coalition of the UK's leading animal welfare groups are rejoicing as a firework bill passes sucessfully through parliament and become law. This means pets, assistance dogs and wildlife will be protected from the year-round distress they suffer due to fireworks.Under the new law, fireworks will be controlled by restricting their sale and use to certain times of the day adn year and public firework displays will be licensed.The animal welfare firework coalition which supported the Bill as it progresses through Parliament, believes it is essential that the Government now ensures regulations introducted under the Bill are strong enough to deliver what the public expects. In a recent MORI poll, 71% of the people surveyed agreed that loud fireworks only be used at public displays.A spokeman for the Coalition said "you are delighted that this historic opportunity to prevent the wide spread suffering of thousands of animals has come to fruition. you hope that as a result of the new law and subsequent regulations, thousands of people around the UK, their pets and workings dogs will have an improved quality of life"

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