This is our first year with rabbits over winter and we were not sure how to handle the freezing temps and water. We did a little research and most people either used heater bottles, or changed the crocks our 2 times a day. We were not going to spend the money for heated bottles (around $40 each) and the reviews of them were questionable. We were doing the crocks 2 times a day but that meant we HAD to be home and could not travel to our small house project on weekends. I needed something to fit my needs. I stumbled upon a video of a guy who had a similar issue on YouTube. I would love to give the guy credit but after 2 days of searching I cannot find the original video that gave me the idea. If someone else comes across it please let me know in the comments so I can give him credit for the inspiration. He did slightly different setup, but this design came from his concept.
I took the original idea of what he had, and modified it to what I had available as to spend little to no money out of pocket. I had submersible pumps from aquaponics builds. If you do not have one you can get them for under 20 bucks, especially at local stores in fall when they go on clearance. (Aquatic Design and Supplies here locally has this exact one) The tank is an old kitty litter box. The tubing and nipples I got from Amazon. They were pretty cheap as well. The nice thing about the nipples and tubing is they came in a pack of 50 and I have enough tubing to make another complete setup at the new location (V2.0). The heat lamp we had for the chickens in winter so no extra cost there. If you do not have one, you can pick them up lamp and fixture for under $20.
Version 2.0 this was the first design to fix a need at the moment. I am designing some improvements into version 2.0 and some improvements are listed below.
- I will be using a 55 gal drum for the tank for the reservoir
- The tank will be filled by rainwater from the roof of the rabbit/chicken barn area (filtered before entering tank with homemade sand/charcoal filter)
- There will be a heater in the tank. Probably a submersible fish heater unless I find a better alternative before then. I want the water to stay above freezing. The water moving helps keep it from freezing.
- I will add nipples for the chickens as well. Different type of nipples than the rabbits. Rabbits needed all metal nipples at they can damage the plastic housing of chicken nipples.
- Version 3.0 may switch over to off grid power and use a solar panel. It may be in V2.0 but time, money, and other projects may prevent that.
Some things I learned. The tubing did not fit tightly enough on some nipples. I added zip ties to make a more snug fit. You may want to go with a slightly smaller ID tube, or just use ties like I did. Not all the nipples leaked where the tubing fit.
If your hose comes out from the circulator, you lose circulation (power out, low water), the tubes, and nipples will freeze solid (if temps are below freezing) and the only way to thaw is wait until the entire thing is above freezing temps. adding warm/hot water MAY work if you have a shorter run of tubing. we had about 30 ft, and not enough pressure to melt the ice in the lines.
Before leaving for any period of time, figure how long it takes your rabbits to drain the tank, and take an average. Some days they drink more than others. Plan accordingly.
You may need to leave both watering systems in place for a few days until they figure it out. Alternatively, letting the old source dry up, and showing water is available through the nipple by pushing the tip, can help train them.
If one rabbit gets it, soon others see and catch on.