Do Rabbits Hibernate in the Winter? (Everything You Need to Know!)

When it comes to winter in the wild, we know that bears don’t eat, drink, poop, or pee during hibernation. Their bodies basically fall into a do-nothing survival state that eats away at their fat to keep them alive.

But if you have a pet rabbit, you might be wondering, do rabbits hibernate in the winter?

Rabbits do not hibernate in the winter. Hibernation is a survival method for some animals during the cold and scarcity of food. During hibernation, an animal’s body temperature, breathing, and heart rate will drop significantly to accomplish a minimum yet stable metabolic rate. Rabbits are physiologically unable to do this. However, they do have their ways.

There are several methods that rabbits use to survive through the winter, and that’s what we’re going to talk about.

Why don’t rabbits hibernate?

They don’t need to hibernate because they have a natural mechanism to keep themselves warm during the winter.

Somewhere along the line of evolution and natural selection have been placed rabbits outside of the realm of hibernation.

Throughout the winter, rabbits will stay active enough so that their bodies don’t actually go into any hibernation state.

Many cases for rabbits, whose scarcity is not one of the biggest factors in survivability.

Now you might think hibernation is great because you don’t really need that much food and you can sleep all day long while preserving energy.

There is however one caveat when it comes to hibernation. When an animal hibernates, it is vulnerable to predators. These animals can come out extremely weak after hibernation due to a loss of energy supplies. And they could also accidentally die from hypothermia.

Another thing about rabbits is that even though they don’t necessarily go into hibernation, you’ll often see less activity from them during the winter.

What they actually do is hunker down inside their burrows most of the day. And during these cold times, they tried to conserve energy and hide from active winter predators.

Can rabbits die from cold weather?

If a rabbit is not well prepared or in any way not fit for winter weather, then there is a high chance that it may not survive.

This can be due to a number of reasons when it comes to the cold weather.

Even though rabbits have an abundance of fur that covers their bodies, it may very well be no match for some of the coldest temperatures.

Rabbits require warmth and they often do this by burrowing into the ground and making their hideout there. These burrows are fitted with hay, grass, and shrubs in order to help keep the rabbit warm during the winter season.

If you’re wondering if a rabbit can freeze to death in cold weather, the answer is unlikely. Rabbits can live outside during the winter.

Under the proper conditions, as long as the rabbit has proper sheltering and there is an abundance of food in the area, a rabbit should be able to live outside in the winter.

What makes winter difficult for rabbits?

Even though you may find that rabbits have evolved to a level where they can survive cold weather, it’s not always that easy.

There are several factors that go into the survivability of a rabbit during the winter season.

In fact, the winter is so harsh for rabbits that the survivability rate of a wild rabbit is only about 30 to 40%.

During the cold, there’s much less food going around the area.

In order for a massive population of rabbits to survive, there would have to be an abundance of food. However, during the winter seasons, food becomes extremely hard to find. And no matter how resourceful the rabbit is, he will be up against others who are just as resourceful as he is.

You also have to take into account the winter predators that don’t mind the cold at all. During the winter and snow, it is more difficult to find a safe hiding place to live. And because of this, it is much easier for predators to find rabbits.

The temperature can also be dangerous to a rabbit. Now, a rabbit may have an abundance of fur to keep it warm in extremely cold temperatures, but rabbits are not impervious to hypothermia. If the temperature falls below freezing, and a rabbit finds itself wet or living in a burrow that is just not fit for this condition, then it might likely die.

What are some facts about how rabbits sleep

The sleeping patterns of rabbits also play a major factor in their survivability during the winter.

Rabbits are not heavy sleepers. They can easily be woken up when sleeping.

These animals are natural prey and so they are always instinctively prepared to take action even when they are asleep.

But if you’re wondering how exactly a rabbit gets to sleep, it has to do with the many intervals of naps.

Rabbits don’t sleep for long periods of time. They get their full 8 hours of sleep, but in segments of 30 minutes to an hour. Sometimes they may even sleep for only a couple of minutes.

You may notice though that your domesticated pet will tend to sleep a little bit longer than a wild rabbit.

This can be explained through domestication and the feeling of being safe in an environment with no predators. These rabbits have already begun to trust humans and are much more calm and relaxed.

How do rabbits survive the winter?

The harsh reality is that many rabbits don’t survive the winter. Rabbits are very small animals and sometimes, they can’t simply produce the massive amount of body heat as larger animals can. In order to survive, they must build a shelter that can help protect them against the winter.

The following is a list of ways rabbits have adapted to the cold.

Do rabbit eating habits change during the winter?

In the winter, rabbits eat more because they need to find food that will not freeze or die. Their eating habits change when it is cold outside, and they eat more hay, which is a natural insulator.

When animals eat, their bodies’ metabolism begins to rev up. The stomach begins to process the food, and distribute the nutrients all throughout the blood and your body cells.

Has your entire body processes the nutrients, it creates energy to do work as well as in the form of heat. This heat helps regulate the rabbit’s body temperature.

Rabbits also have a number of ways to save up or find food that would be able to survive the cold weather. They often burrow in the ground to find food that will not freeze or die during winter.

In many areas of the midwestern states, rabbits find their food through man-made waste from agricultural grains. These grains will contain an enormous amount of nutrients that can help them survive through the winter.

Rabbits are also known for consuming their own fecal matter. If food is scarce, this is a method that will help keep their digested track active and help squeeze out any nutrients available.

I like to think of this as recycling your own food. Because all animals, including you and I, have digestive tracts that work by absorbing nutrients.

Unfortunately, it’s not always perfect. Not all the nutrients are taken up in one cycle. As an alternative resort to acquiring extra nutrients for rabbits, they will often eat up to 80% of their own poop to take in more of the nutrients that were excreted and not captured from the first round.

This is a term that labels rabbits as cecotropes and the process of consuming one’s own feces is known as coprophagy.

How do wild rabbits get water in the winter?

Now, there’s a problem with water when it comes to the wintertime.

During winter, there’s a strong chance that the water has either near-frozen or freezing cold at around 32° F.

Fortunately for rabbits, they don’t require a significant amount of water. They get plenty of liquid from the food that they’ll eat throughout the winter.

Collecting even a small amount of water should be enough for a rabbit to keep it hydrated.

If the water hasn’t frozen up already, rabbits can find water through puddles, streams, dew from plants, etc.

If it finds any vegetation within the trees, shrubs, or even roots underneath the ground, that should be enough to keep it hydrated and well-fed.

Does rabbit fur grow thicker during the winter?

The peculiar thing about rabbits is that they adapt to their environment.

Right before winter begins, a rabbit’s fur will grow thicker and darker at the same time.

The thicker the coat, the warmer the rabbit will be prepared and winter comes.

Also, the color of the rabbits makes a big difference to temperature regulation as well.

Darker colors have been found to attract and absorb more heat than lighter colors.

So, during the winter rabbits will do everything they can to keep the rabbit warm aside from becoming thicker.

Interestingly enough, during warmer seasons, a rabbit’s fur will shed more as well as lighten up to cool the rabbit down.

How does adipose tissue help rabbits stay warm during the winter?

This approach focuses on energy-burning tissues that are found deep inside the body. These tissues are known as adipose tissue or brown fat.

Scientists produced studies and discovered that this brown fat actually also generates heat for mammals.

This is opposed to the more common white fat that is found under the skin and also surrounding the organs. White fat actually stores energy and uses that energy to help rabbits move.

During the cold season, brown fat uses its own energy stores to solely generate heat for the rabbit.

Do rabbits sleep more during the winter?

When accounting for sleep during the winter, a rabbit’s sleep cycle varies mildly during the cold season.

Rabbits will still get 8 hours of sleep per day. However, they will likely be a lot more sluggish than they normally are.

During sleep, instead of sprawling out and laying on its side, a rabbit will tend to ball up so that it can keep itself warm through the cold.

This helps reduce the surface area of the body and protect its extremities from temperature drop.

Where do rabbits stay during the winter?

Rabbits will often take shelter underground within burrows that it creates. These pearls will often be lined with grass, hay, straw, and sticks that will act to insulate and keep the heat inside.

During the winter seasons, rabbits will sometimes forage further and longer for food and vegetation since it will become much more difficult to find food that survives the temperatures.

How does the winter change a rabbit’s behavior?

Rabbits have this thick coat of fur that actually helps protect them from very cold weather.

In contrast, you might also see rabbits being more sluggish during the hotter seasons.

The fact here is that rabbits and winter seasons come hand in hand.

They actually love cool weather and become active and playful up to the point where it becomes too cold.

At the peak of the winter season, when the weather reaches close to freezing, rabbits may become less active.

How much cold can rabbits tolerate?

Rabbits can survive and tolerate extremely cold temperatures.

In fact, it is common for rabbits to adapt to temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time.

Unfortunately, every rabbit has its own tolerance. And there are many factors that come into play when it becomes too cold.

Take for example if a rabbit becomes wet during freezing temperatures. There will be a likely chance that the rabbit may end up sick or even get pneumonia. If a rabbit ends up getting wet, it’s likely that it might not survive during the cold season.

Also, if it becomes too cold, such as temperatures beyond freezing, it is possible that the rabbit won’t be able to regulate its own temperature. This is a condition known as hypothermia.

How to know if your rabbit has hypothermia?

When a rabbit develops hypothermia, its ears and feet will be cold.

Hypothermia occurs when an animal is no longer able to keep its internal temperature steady at a life-sustaining rate.

The body loses control when creating energy to keep heat throughout, and the system’s organs begin to fail.

When dealing with rabbits and hypothermia, veterinarians will often use their rectal body temperatures as a diagnosis to approach treatment methods.

If a rabbit ends up severely compromised by the cold temperature and falls into deep hypothermia status, its metabolic activities may actually shut down.

The following are a few signs and symptoms to look out for if your rabbit is experiencing hypothermia.

  • Shivering
  • Pale lips and gums
  • Poor coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Curling up into a ball
  • Not moving
  • Ears and extremities are cold
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing

This can become fatal unless the rabbit finds a warm place to gain back its temperature.

Below is a table on how veterinarians diagnose certain types of hypothermia in certain animals like rabbits.

Hypothermia severityCore rectal temperature
Normal100.4-103.8° F
Mild86-89° F
Moderate71-77° F
Severe32-47° F
This table explains the severity of how veterinarians determine the severity of hypothermia by measuring the temperature of a rabbit’s rectal

According to Clinicians Brief, a rabbit’s normal rectal temperature is usually between 100.4° F and 103.8° F. If a rabbit were to experience extremely cold weather that drops its rectal temperature below or equal to 100.2° F, then it would be considered in the beginning stages of hypothermia.

Do rabbits migrate?

The answer here is no. Rabbits don’t normally migrate throughout the seasons.

A rabbit will usually stay in the same place they inhabit all year long.

They have evolved to live and survive through almost any weather within the biosphere that they live in.

The bottom line

Rabbits don’t necessarily hibernate. Hibernation is what happens when mammals go without eating for several months. During the wintertime, they are actively foraging for food. That is until the temperatures drop to significantly low numbers.

This is when rabbits will tend to hunker down and survive by means of being less active and even consuming their own feces in order to get as many nutrients until they can weather the rest of the season.

In order for rabbits to survive cold winters, they do need shelter, food, and water. But what’s equally important is that they must always be kept safe from predators.

Other interesting articles:

Author: John