The Arizona heat is the hardest thing to manage when raising rabbits. The hottest months can be very difficult on the rabbits. Because of this, there are certain things that can be helpful or that are critically important.
First, many people will find an air conditioned shed, garage or other place where they can keep their rabbits during the hot months. This is the optimal situation, but not an option for all people.
Natural shade is very helpful. If you have a shelter of some sort made of wood, which is then shaded by a tree, this is optimal. Being under a tree will make a big difference vs. being under a wood cover that is being hit directly by sunlight. Again, not always an option, but helpful if it is.
Frozen 2 liter soda bottles put in the cages during the hot days can help keep the rabbits cool. They will often lay next to them to cool off and if one is in each cage, it can be very helpful. During the extremely hot days, these may need to be changed out 2 or 3 times a day. Unfortunately, an extra freezer dedicated strictly to freezing water bottles may be a necessity.
Cool water is important. Make sure they have cool water to drink to cool themselves down. If their water is hot, it not only causes them to drink less, but also keeps them from cooling down when needed. You may need to change their water 3 or 4 times a day during the hot months. And if you have an automatic watering system, make sure you have some way of flushing the system to get the hot water out of the lines and cool water in several times a day.
Air flow is critical. Have a fan that is circulating the air. This not only makes the area cooler, but can help with the ammonia smell that can build up and increase in strength during hot days. And if possible, have the fan set up so that it is pulling the cool air in and not blowing against it.
Misters are very nice as well. The proper setup of some misters that spray over the area (not sprayed directly at the rabbits at close range) can cool the area down by up to 15 degrees. Coupled with all the other suggestions above, this may be the secret component to keeping your herd alive during the painful summer Arizona months.
When you are able to put most of these together; the cages being under a shelter which is under a tree, with cool water for them to drink, frozen 2 liter bottles in their cages, with air flow from a fan and a proper misting system, your rabbits can get through the scorching summer heat.
The wonderful thing about raising rabbits in Arizona is that other than these few hot months, the rest of the year is perfect for the rabbits and extremely low maintenance. Just take great care during the summer and give them the extra help they need to get through it. Then you can sit back and wait for the next summer to arrive to get back to work! ;-)
Also remember that bucks will go sterile when the temperatures are consistently above 85-90 degrees. When the temperature comes back down, they will remain sterile for approximately 30+ days after the temperature drops. Keep this in mind during your breeding program.
Here at AZ Rabbits we have our rabbits in a climate controlled shed to allow year-round breeding and easier rabbit management. We highly recommend this method whenever possible.
We're often asked about what to do with rabbits during the winter months here in the Phoenix area. The answer is: Nothing. Keep them protected from the elements (wind, rain) and shaded and they'll be fine. They are perfectly comfortable in temperatures far cooler than we are used to. People in other areas have to worry about keeping water bottles and watering systems from freezing. That's something that we don't have to deal with other than maybe 1 or 2 nights a year. But even then, the rabbits are perfectly fine. The only adjustment may be that they have a greater appetite in the winter time and less in the summer time. Watch your herd and be sensitive to their changes.
If you are living in Alaska or Canada and are looking for advice about dealing with extreme winter conditions, we have no advice for your situation. Good luck!