What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In The Winter?

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In The Winter
What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In The Winter

Wild rabbits survive even the harshest winters. If you’re curious about how they survive winters, especially where they get their food, I suggest you read up on the subject. In fact, people ask me on a regular basis what wild rabbit eat all winter. So, what do wild rabbits eat in the winter? 

During the winter, wild rabbits forage for greenery they can find such as grass, flowers, leaves. Once the weather gets cold, they eat tree bark, twigs, branches and pine needles. They also eat their cecotropes, partially digested food that’s extremely nutritious. You can feed a wild rabbit if he comes into your yard. Be sure to provide rabbit safe foods. Never try to adopt a wild rabbit as a pet. It’s very stressful and against their instincts to be domesticated.

Do Wild Rabbits Hibernate In The Winter?

Many small animals hibernate during the winter, but wild rabbits do not hibernate. They live in the same area during the spring, summer and fall, seeking shelter as it gets cold in the winter. Wild rabbits stay in one small area their entire short life, which is only about one year. They might find shelter under a large pine tree, a hollowed out log, dig under a shed or even burrow under a pile of rocks. Once they’ve found adequate shelter, they hunker down staying warm, only venturing outside for food and water.

Where Do Wild Rabbits Live In The Winter?

Wild rabbits live their entire life in a small 5 acre section, so they don’t migrate to prepare for winter. Some wild rabbits, like the eastern cottontail rabbit, don’t dig burrows, instead they find an empty burrow dug out by another animal and crawl inside it during the winter. In residential areas, wild rabbits shelter under porches, cars or near a garage to stay warm during the winter. Wild rabbits are resourceful, they’ll even live in old bucket or inside yard decor to stay warm.

But wild rabbits have a poor survival rate during the winter. A recent study showed that only 2 out of 226 tagged rabbits reached the age of two years old. It’s reported that about 30% of wild rabbits survive winter. Fortunately, rabbits repopulate quickly. A female rabbit can have up to 6 litters ( generally 1 to 6 babies per litter) per year.

Where Do Wild Rabbits Get Water In The Winter?

During the winter, wild rabbits stay inside their sheltered area only venturing out for food or water. They can get lots of water if it’s snowed during the winter. If there’s no snow, they will drink water where’s its collected on plant leaves or in puddles, ponds or small streams. Even the little water a rabbit collects is enough for him to stay hydrated.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat In The Winter?

Rabbits are herbivores. Their diet is vegetables, fruits, grasses and herbs. In the summer months, there’s plenty of grass, clover, wildflowers and other green plants for them to eat. When it gets cold outside, the greenery dies off. Wild rabbits forage for greenery until winter hits. During the winter, they munch on the bark of trees like willows, birches or white oak trees. They also eat pine needles, twigs or branches.

Wild rabbits also eat their cecotropes. Cecotropes are partially digested foods that ferment in the rabbit’s digestive tract. Cecotropes are high in nutrition. Rabbits actually get more nutrition from their eating cecotropes than their first digestion of the food.

Can I Feed A Wild Rabbit?

Typically, it’s not a good idea to feed a wild animal. If it’s a cold winter, feeding a wild rabbit. Here’s some suggestions on how to feed a wild rabbit:

  • Pick a place in your yard where you’ve seen wild rabbits. Usually around shrubs or bushes on the edge of your yard is the best place to put the food.
  • In the summer, allow grass, wildflowers or weeds to grow in this area you’ve chosen to feed the rabbits. In the winter, pile up twigs or branches that fall into your yard in this area.
  • Keep an eye out for other wild animal that might slip in to munch on your pile of food for the wild rabbits. They could be a danger to the wild rabbit and an unwelcome visitor to your yard.
  • Put out some hay for the wild rabbits. Timothy hay or oat hays are good choices of hay  to feed to wild rabbits. You can buy the hay at a farm store, online or pet store.
  • Don’t spray pesticides in your yard that could be dangerous for the wild rabbits.
  • You can also give wild rabbits pellets made for rabbits. Rabbit pellets are sold at pet stores or online.
  • Feed the wild rabbits various vegetables such as:

Collard greens

Beet greens

Romaine lettuce

Spinach

Parsley

Basil

Mint

Bok Choy

Brussel sprouts

Dill

Cilantro

Celery leaves

Green tops of carrots

  • Give the wild rabbits fruits sparingly since they’re high in sugar. Wild rabbits are accustomed to wild berries, so these are the best fruits for them.

Raspberries

Blueberries

Strawberries

Blackberries

You can also give them:

Bananas

Papaya

Honeydew melon

plums(pitted)

Should I Take Care Of Wild Rabbits In The Winter?

Generally, wild rabbits do fine on their own, needing little help from humans to survive winters. You should always be careful around wild animals, even wild rabbits can carry rabies although it’s rare. If you leave out some food and a little bit of water in the winter months when it’s cold, that should be plenty of help for the wild rabbit.

Will Wild Rabbits Eat Sunflower Seeds?

Wild rabbits can eat sunflower seeds like those you feed wild birds. Don’t give them too many sunflower seeds though, because they’re very rich and oily. It could trigger a digestive issue for the rabbits. Try one teaspoon of sunflower seeds three times a day.

Can Wild Rabbits Eat Bird Food In The Winter?

Yes, wild rabbits can eat bird seed in the winter. They love it. They will also eat dried corn like squirrels eat in the winter. It’s always good to buy good quality bird seed for wild animals. Usually home improvement stores carry bird seed or dried corn for feeding wild animals in the winter. Put the bird seed in an area where you’ve seen wild rabbits hanging out, at the back of your yard away from where people or pets will be walking. Lay out the seed, a bit at a time, for the wild rabbits to eat. If they aren’t eating all of it, cut back. They might do fine foraging for food on their own. It’s usually best to wait until it’s freezing or snow on the ground before putting out bird seed for the wild rabbits.

Do Wild Rabbits Eat Carrots?

Usually, you hear that rabbits won’t eat carrots, but only the greens tops. But many homeowners say they’ve fed wild rabbits carrots and they’ve loved them. They also report that when wild rabbits come into their yard, they feed them peaches, bread, apples, corn, spring lettuce mix and a few Cheerios! Generally, it’s not a good idea to feed a wild animal cheerios or bread, but to stick to a healthier, more natural diet.

What’s The Difference Between A Domestic Rabbit and A Wild Rabbit?

Wild rabbits are a brown or agouti, each hair is striped with brown, tan and black colors. This camouflage colorings hides them in the woods or meadows.  Cottontail wild rabbits are small, usually two to three pounds. Their bellies are white with a white tail. Their ears are erect. Wild rabbits look lean, and long legged.

Domestic rabbits come in a variety of colors and sizes. There are different breeds like Netherland dwarf that weighs around two pounds to a Flemish Giant or French Lop that can get up to twelve to sixteen pounds. Domestic rabbits can have floppy ears or ears that stick up. Wild rabbits steer clear of humans, while domestic rabbits are bred to be pets. Wild rabbits don’t make good pets, it isn’t in their genetic make up to be held in captivity.

What Are Predators to Wild Rabbits?

Wild rabbits are prey animals. They have many enemies so they are always on the lookout. If a rabbit senses danger, he’ll thump his hind foot to warn other rabbits of the dangers. If a rabbit meets a predator he freezes. When he runs off, zig zagging with his white tail up. The zig zagging confuses his predator. If he’s caught, he’ll kick and bite to escape. Here is a list of predators to wild rabbits:

  • Hawks
  • Falcons
  • Kestrels
  • Owls
  • Weasels
  • Ferrets
  • Badgers
  • Snakes
  • Foxes
  • Buzzards
  • Cats
  • Humans

Where Do Cottontails Live?

Cottontail rabbits live all over North America. They like to live on the edge of open areas. They also live in suburbs such as parks, playgrounds, backyards, or office parks. These areas are perfect habitats for the rabbits with enough food and shelter to live. They are a pest to many homeowners since they eat garden plants, shrubs and flowers. Also, because wild rabbits reproduce so quickly, homeowners can end up with a backyard full of rabbits in a just a few months.

Should I Rescue A Wild Rabbit Baby?

If you find a nest with baby rabbits, don’t assume the mother has died or deserted the babies. Mother rabbits nurse their babies twice a day, in the late evening or early morning hours. After nursing, she leaves the nest while she goes off to forage for food. When she returns, she purposely sits nearby instead of coming to the nest. If a predator arrives, she distracts him away from the nest towards her. Many times humans find a nest of baby rabbits not realizing the mother was hiding nearby. Never remove the baby rabbits from their nest unless you’re sure the mother left. Look for tangible signs the mother deserted the babies. They will be cold to the touch. Well fed baby rabbits have a little round, extended tummy. If their tummies look wrinkled, they haven’t been fed. Only after you investigated thoroughly  should you remove a wild baby from it’s nest. Call a local animal rescue group. They have trained folks who rescue wild animals.

Can You Make A Wild Rabbit A Pet?

Domestic rabbits are bred to be pets. Wild rabbits, even if raised to not fear humans, will still have wild animal instincts. Although a wild rabbit is tamed, he won’t necessarily be domesticated. He will simply be taken from the wild. These wild animal pets often remain skittish their entire lives. There’s a good chance the wild rabbit will die early from over stimulation of a domesticated life. It’s generally seen as cruel to remove a wild rabbit, even a baby, out of the wild due out of a personal desire to own a pet wild rabbit. People claim that they’ve saved a baby rabbit, raised it outside allowing it to run around but still feeding it. There are always unusual situations where a wild animal relies upon a human to feed it, but generally it’s not a good idea to make a wild animal dependent upon you to feed it. They won’t be able to survive on their own.

In conclusion, since wild rabbits don’t hibernate when the weather turns cold, they must forage for any plants they can find. Once winter hits, and the snow falls, they eat tree bark, twigs, branches and pine needles. Wild rabbits also eat their cecotropes, partially digested foods that ferment in the rabbit’s digestive system and are extremely nutritious. Of course, you put out extra food for the wild rabbits that show up in your yard. Be sure that what you’re feeding them is safe and healthy for them. Feeding them birdseed, sunflower seeds, vegetables and fruits can help wild rabbits survive a cold winter. Generally, it’s not advised to rescue a baby wild rabbit unless you’re absolutely sure the mother is gone. Even then it’s ill advised to make the baby a pet, since they instinctively remain a wild animal and will find domesticated life stressful.