How cold is too cold for rabbits?

by Joshua Paulson

How cold is TOO cold for your rabbit?

One question many rabbit owners ask, depending on what kind of climate they live in, is “how cold is TOO cold for rabbits”?  Rabbits are designed to not only survive, but thrive in cold weather.  In fact, cold weather often increases the energy level of domestic rabbits, and invigorates them!  Many rabbits are at their most playful during the winter months of the year.  There are several considerations for rabbit owners when planning ahead for optimal care of their rabbits as the days get shorter, precipitation increases, and temperatures plunge.  It turns out that ideal rabbit temperature may be a lot colder than you think!


How cold is too cold for rabbits?


Indoor Housing:  There is a growing popularity among pet owners to share their homes with rabbits living as house pets.  Indoor conditions eliminate a lot of the other considerations that outdoor housing imposes. However, while rabbit owners enjoy the toasty warmth of a roaring fire, or crank the heat up to warmer temperatures, they must consider that the rabbit is wearing a fur coat, and cannot tolerate excessive warmth.  Indoor rabbits should ideally be housed in a room that does not have a heat source, because it eliminates the risk of the animals becoming overheated.  Even without heat, a well insulated home can easily maintain temperatures of 45-50 degrees, which is perfectly comfortable for rabbits.  The room the rabbits are housed in also needs plenty of ventilation, and their living quarters must be kept clean and dry.  It may seem like an easier solution to house rabbits indoors, but given the difference in preferred temperatures of rabbits and humans, it may in fact be a better solution for the animals to be kept outdoors.


Pros of Indoor Housing:

  • few changes are required for routine care of the rabbits
  • water bottles and crocks will not freeze
  • no risk of precipitation reaching the rabbits’ living quarters

Cons of Indoor Housing:

  • rabbits and humans are most comfortable at very different temperatures
  • rabbits need a space that can provide proper ventilation and fresh air, even in bitterly cold temperatures


Outdoor Building Housing:  For rabbits that are housed outside, but in a fully enclosed building, such as a shed, barn, or other free-standing structure, there are many great options for housing rabbits year-round without having to bring them inside.  A great option for rabbit owners with this type of setup is to use cages such as our Supreme Rabbit Cages made primarily with wire, and have plenty of ventilation.  With a fully enclosed shelter, the elements of wind, rain, and other cold weather elements are not directly affecting the rabbits in their home, eliminating the need for additional structures built around cages.  Outdoor buildings however, should be monitored closely if temperatures fall well below freezing, as frozen water bottles and crocks prevent rabbits from having a constant source of fresh water.  It is recommended that if temperatures are causing waters to freeze, that Heated water bottles, are used, as they can be easily plugged in and heated.  

In the wild, rabbits are natural burrowers, and they naturally create small spaces to shelter themselves from the weather and from predators. Rabbits living outdoors in cages will always appreciate some extra Timothy hay as bedding, to keep them off of the wire and give them a place to snuggle in from the cold.  They will also graze on the hay, because they need to eat a little bit more in the cold to maintain their body temperature.  If the rabbits are housed in an enclosed building, they likely will not require more than this to stay warm and dry.  If an outbuilding is fully shielded from outside weather, it is likely that even below freezing temperatures outside will not cause waters to freeze and the temperature in the outbuilding will remain a comfortable temperature for the rabbits living there.  


Pros of Outdoor Building Housing:

  • Rabbits are insulated from precipitation and wind
  • Rabbits can easily tolerate the outside temperatures


Cons of Outdoor Building Housing:

  • Risk of waters freezing if below freezing temperatures outside
  • Rabbits may need to eat more to maintain their normal body temperature


Outdoor-Only Housing:  For rabbits living entirely outside, there is good news for rabbit owners!  Rabbits are equipped to withstand even below freezing temperatures as long as two things are assured – they are kept out of the wind, and can stay dry at all times.  With those two precautions, these animals can thrive in very cold weather.  

Despite the cold weather, rabbits still require proper ventilation, such as provided by the all-wire design of our Supreme Rabbit Cages.  It is important, if rabbits are housed solely outside, that there be at least three of the four sides of their housing protected from the outside elements.  This could be more permanent hutch-type housing, such as wood or metal surrounding the cages, or something less permanent, such as tarps or plastic sheeting.  Regardless, it is important to make sure that the rabbits are unable to reach the outside material and chew on it.  Failure to do so can result in fatal consequences.  For example, pressure treated wood and plastic can permanently damage a rabbit’s digestive system.  As rabbits are prey animals, it is also recommended that a tarp or canvas cover be available to roll down over the rabbit cages at night, to preserve warmth, and to protect them against potential predators.

Water need to be regularly checked, to make sure they are not frozen.  It is often easier to use Heated water bottles that can easily be plugged in to prevent freezing. Use caution when using water bottles, as the metal drinking mechanisms inside the tubes can freeze solid, preventing the rabbit from getting any water when they go to drink.  Drinking enough water is vital to rabbits housed outdoors.  If they are not drinking, they will not eat, and eating is what keeps their metabolism going and helps them stay warm enough.  In temperatures of freezing or below, rabbits living entirely outdoors may benefit from a nest box or an edible hay structure designed for small animals.


Pros of Outdoor-Only Housing:

  • Provides the rabbits with a more natural environment
  • Provides plenty of ventilation

Cons of Outdoor-Only Housing:

  • An additional structure around cages standing outdoors is necessary to construct
  • Rabbits need to consistently be provided with fresh hay and water, especially if temperatures fall well below freezing


In short – whether or indoors or outdoors, it is fairly simple to make life enjoyable for your rabbits.  It turns out that these critters find their ideal temperature to be a bit chillier than their human friends do!

If you have more information or have a question, feel free to leave a comment below! 

Other contact information:


Helpful Links:

RSPCA-Rabbit Housing

Author: Joshua Paulson and Quality Cage Team
Josh is the owner and CEO at Quality Cage Crafters since 2015. During his time at Quality Cage Crafters he has been able to learn from tens of thousands of pet owners and pet educators. He blends his ambition for manufacturing and passion for animal care to create solutions for pet owners, breeders, animal rescues, and zoos. He has brought together a team of great animal lovers to create high quality pet care content for the Quality Cage Crafters audience.


  • Becky

    I brought my 2 male rabbits inside in oct . thinking it was to cold for them they also both have heating pads in their hutch what should the weather be outside to put them back out without making them sick the temps here in n.e 45degrees day but 9-17 degrees at night. Hope i havent made mistake doin this advise please

  • Justin Scott

    I can’t seem to get my wife to understand that keeping our daughters Holland lop outdoors is best suited for us and her. I guess I’m looking for iron clad proof the bunny will be better off. In the garage that is kept at 30degrees in the middle of winter.

  • Jay Wolf

    Hi, Spring is almost here and my outdoor bunnies are hungry for bark! I trimmed some lilac and rose bushes for their gnawing pleasure. These branches are placed where the bunnies can sit on dry Timothy hay underneath a sheltered manger and chew away.

  • Brianna

    It was so refreshing to read your advice as well as others experiences. We have had a dwarf male for two or three years and he was always inside, but my little sister snuck over the biggest (I think female) rabbit and they connected immediately. I literally couldn’t keep him off of her. I brought them in finally when the weather got down below the 20’s bc is wind and rain and my tarp disappeared off their hutch outside. They’ve been miserable in the carrying cage we put them in inside the house, which was only for two days. We even bathed them and we always make time to play with them. Idk if she’s a female, the large one, but she has nipples and the other rabbit doesn’t, and she’s been nesting with her hair. Is it true they only reproduce usually in the spring time? Also, if she is pregnant, how long do they carry, 29-35 days? Anyway I’m putting them back outside today. But I’m going to go get a heater for the water bottle since we all take shifts with unfreezing it, it surprisingly doesn’t freeze (with a heavy hat on the bottle) and blankets over their cage. I want to add to their two story home, can I build a walkway down to the ground and make a fenced In area for them? If so would the top have to be covered (most likely due to predators) and is it okay to bring them in to cuddle for a few hours here and there?

  • Jerry H
    Thank you for the tips. I am very new to having rabbits. I had a dog for 16 years. He got cancer and I had to put him down. 3 days after I had him laid to sleep. A white rabbit (same color as my dog) shows up in my backyard. About 2 or three days later a second white rabbit shows up in my back yard. All of my neighbors say they are not theirs. So I have no clue where they came from. I had been feeding them rabbit food and little did I know one was a female and was was a male. They were living under my shed. About a month goes by and I see 5 tiny white things in the darkness chasing the two adult rabbits. Yeah. 🥴 I became a grandpa. Sadly, the neighbors cat got 4 of the babies. That was even with me staying awake all night long sitting in the lawn chair. Lost about 5 nights of sleep and he still kept managing to get them. Change of plans I went to the hardware store and bought everything I needed and built them a 4’x8’x6’ two story cage. Since getting the two adults and the surviving baby into their new home. Penelope has given birth to another liter of kits. 3 adorable healthy 1 month old kits. I think she is pregnant again and due any day now. Little did I know they could get pregnant within hours of giving birth. Live and learn. Have the two adults separated now. With the changing temperatures and it getting much colder. I was worried about the family of 6 and her soon to be (new arrivals) surviving the cold. They are sheltered from the wind and rain with a tarp over the cage. They do get plenty of circulation flowing from the bottom of the cage up. I do have a small heat lamp in the room where Penelope gave birth to her 3 kits. It’s not real hot and it is a good 2.5’ away from them. Between the heat and airflow. I wanted to make sure I am doing everything right for this growing family. I have been very worried for the three new kits and the next litter of kits she will have any day. Please help. I have a soft spot for this family that showed up out of nowhere. I want to protect them and help them thrive. I would blame myself if anything happened to any of this growing family. P.S. Sorry this is so long. Just wanted you to have a full understanding of situation critical, my lack of knowledge to raising rabbits and the desire to protect this adorable family. A family full of personality. Thank you. Sincerely. Jerry

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