Well, hello all, we are back after a break. LOTS of new updates and info to share.
1st we recently purchased a 32 acre farm in Greencastle, IN and have been working on it EVERY day since December. Very busy. Between the two properties it has been very time consuming. We also moved during this time.
The Greencastle property will be our main farm and we remodeled almost every room before moving in. Additionally we have been working on farm infrastructure, some things were here already, some needed improvement, some we needed to build.
We will have a tour in April/May sometime. We would like to get additional structures built and in place. We will also be having more workshops here. There will be hands on activities as well.
Our Wingate property will be our example of suburban/urban farming and Tiny house living. It is a 2 bd, 1 ba in 550 sq ft. Once we finish the inside we will have house tours and tours and talks about how to maximize small space living. We will have no animal onsite due to issues with the previous Town Council and not being onsite to manage them. We will talk on how to incorporate and are leaving much of the infrastructure to show how to set it up. It may be available for rent on short term basis (2 week or less) to evaluate Tiny House living.
We went from 15 chickens and 3 ducks to now 32 chickens, and 15 ducks (more to come). This is our layers. We will also be raising meat chickens (50-200) and turkeys this year and will be selling them. They will be fed NON-GMO grains and on pasture.
We added two lambs currently, and plan to add 10-20 more before June. Lambs will be available in late fall/winter and will be sold live, and can be transported for butcher to your specification. We will also have wool available for sale/trade. All grass fed. No hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening. We are attempting to keep parasites managed as natural as possible (herbs/oils).
2 goats have been added, and 10-15 more planned. These are mowers for pasture maintenance. We MAY (I was TOLD I would be milking) have milk, and fiber from them as well. LEGAL DISCLAIMER Milk will be sold for crafts (soaps/lotions etc.), bottle feeding animals, pet milk. What you actually do with the milk is your business, not ours.
Pigs may be making an appearance this year, or next. Pigs will be available for sale whole or 1/2 sold live and taken to butcher for your custom processing. Non-GMO fed, and pasture raised. Same as other animals no hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening and we would always tell you that before purchasing.
Beef will make an appearance, but we are not sure when at this point. The pastures need some work and fencing added. Same as above, no hormones, antibiotics unless life threatening, and transparency. Sold in 1/4. 1/2 and whole cow. We take to butcher, and you pay them for how you want processed.
We have increased our rabbit operation from 4 to 14 and will be offering rabbit as well. We will process for you or you can do it yourself.
Geese will also be here, but we are specific to the breed we want and they will be available too for sale.
We have begun tapping trees this year, and will be offering a variety of syrups next year. Maple, Black Walnut, Sassafras, and maybe more.
We have almost 500 fruit, nut, and other beneficial trees coming in April, so massive planting underway.
Our herbs and herb gardens will also increase this year. Other than comfrey no herbs are available currently since we are splitting and growing our gardens.
We will have almost an acre of vegetable production and will be selling the overage. More information once we begin to harvest.
We may be offering a you pick blackberry option this year, we would like to see how the berries turn out first. These are all wild berries, but almost 6 acres of bushes. It will be picked and eaten or turned into wine.
We have also begun making a variety of fruit and herb wines, experimenting with recipes and different blends. Currently not for sale, but is something that is on the horizon to look forward to. While we cannot sell we can speak to making your own, or how to get started.
The farm is an open operation and people can see how we raise our animals through tours or by stopping by (by appointment or tour only). Not that we have to hide anything, but we have schedules, and projects as well, so to drop everythign each time someone comes by, we would get nothing done.
We look forward to our new adventure, and much more to offer in the future. I am still available for permaculture consulting, training, and speaking. with all the new additions we have much more to speak about. We (I) will try and be more diligent about posting information.
To give our buns more open air time, exposure to fresh greens, we decided to make a rabbit tractor. So far, they have all spent time in it and loved being out in the open. This will eventually be used to house the grow outs until freezer camp day. I took several designs I saw and combined what I liked, and used materials I had available. If you click on the images you can enlarge them for more details.
I had a small section of chain-link fence left over from another project. This looked like a good base, and size for the tractor.
We had some extra tubs laying around. This looked good to make a hiding hole, shade for them.
Using a jigsaw I cut a small opening into one side.
Left over 1×3 lumber from the demo of the office (the inside of our tiny house). I chose an A frame to minimize materials needed, and weight. And I only had 2 rolls of wire and didn’t want to go to store. The frame is screwed together with deck screw we had from another project. The base is made of treated 2x4x8. Left over from building the greenhouse attached to the building. I happen to have 10 feet of chain link fence, and the 2×4 was 8 feet long. Bonus, no cutting.
2 rolls of left over 1/2″x1″ welded wire. This was going to be a grow out pen in the coop, but we liked the tractor idea better. The wire is stapled to the frame.
Because I was working alone, and needed to stretch the chain-link tipping the tractor on edge was the easiest thing to do.
This is metal fastening tape, found in the plumbing section. I use this stuff all over the place. Works great. It is woven between the chain-links and secured to the bottom of the tractor frame. This way I can move rabbits and everythign without ever having to get them out. It also prevents them from digging holes, and protection from predators.
I hinged the whole side of the tractor. This allows easier access to the rabbits inside. If I opened from one end, someone (not me) would have to crawl in there to get rabbits.
The door is kept closed with bungee cords connected to the bottom chain links and the wire mesh on the sides. It is tight enough that the rabbits or predators cannot open it. The pet litter box is actually a waterer. I drilled the bottom and made a shelf for it to sit on.
The hole in the bottom is connected to rabbit nipples (tubing, connectors, and nipples available though Amazon)
I had all the materials on hand, and made do with what was available. If I had to make it again and buying materials it would probably cost around $60-80 and that is a high estimate. You can scrounge materials from various places or buy used materials.
Lumber can be from used pallets = free
Cubbie can be made from Rubbermaid containers from goodwill <$3 Goodwill. You can also find hinges at goodwill, Habitat for Humanity Restore. or asset Recycling.
Instead of watering nipples you can use watering dishes/bowls/tupperware/etc. = free
Wire may need to be purchased, but if not overnighting rabbits can use chicken wire. Check craigslist.
Many places like Habitat, and Asset Recycling will have sections of chain-link. you really don’t need it, but we will be overnighting the rabbits in it, and ease of moving them.
Just a couple of topics covered today; Using clover as a living mulch, rabbit poop collection system, automatic watering system, massive rainfall in the Midwest, and some related news.
We have been busy with another site www.townofwingate.org as it is related to our activities we do on our little homestead. Upon moving to this small little rural town of 267 we thought all our practices and livestock would be just fine. After all, our neighbors had chickens, we are miles and miles from urban areas, it is a farming community, there are horses in town, we thought sheep were in town as well. Low and behold the town has an ordinance prohibiting chickens. After offering to help the town write a more updated ordinance, more inclusive (it was written at least 30 years ago), even offering to put together a website, our offers were ignored and the town council seemed to make us public enemy number one. We made it our mission to educate the town’s people who seemed to live in constant fear, who were kept in the dark about ordinances, laws, what was going on in the town, and even what their rights were. We are now publishing town council meetings online, put the ordinances online, put relative information online and made it FREE to the people. Since that wasn’t good enough, we are now also running for town council seats so that the HOA style mentality can be replaced with a more libertarian stance. Not really an excuse for lack of publication here, but does tell you what we have been up to. Try to change the things you can, and if that doesn’t work, be the change you want to happen. We needed to stop complaining and take action. Knowledge is power.
On a more farm note, this year we had some experimental garden beds where we used clover as a cover crop, and living mulch. We used dutch white clover. So far the results have been very positive and I think we are going to expand into larger areas. The clover only grows about 4 inches high, so any plants taller than that have done very well. They are bringing much needed nitrogen into the soil. It appears that the clover has also choked out many of the seeds as it is a thick blanket across the soil. We did till this particular bed as noting had ever been planted in the area and we wanted to break thinks up. This also has been an unusually wet season and normally I would think the think clover would have kept moisture in the soil. I really cannot make that claim as everything has had rain, and cannot really tell a different in the clover bed vs. non clover.
In our current animal enclose we are housing chickens, ducks, and rabbits. The guardian goose seems to think it is a dog or human and refuses to interact with the other birds. She lives inside for the moment. In our rabbit area, our breeders are in cages and are suspended about eye level and are in a U shape. Each rabbit has their own cage, roughly 2 ½’ x 3’. There is 4 foot space between the rabbits and the ground. We have been using deep litter (straw) in their area as well as the duck/chicken area. We are needing grow out pens for a future meat rabbits. The initial idea was to put them under the breeders, but then how to keep the waste off the meat rabbits? I had some old EDPM liner from a pond laying around and fashioned a trough/roof for the meat rabbits. In theory it should have allowed the pellets (poop) to roll off to the back, and same with urine. It didn’t work. Because of the weigh, and I didn’t secure it well enough the poop, urine, un eaten pellets, greens, and hay all dropped into the “diverter” and collected in one pool. That was a stinky nasty mess. Lesson learned, make sure the liner is taught. Once we install the meat rabbit gage, and clean it up a bit I will post a video of how we set everything up.
While still on rabbits, I have a 275 gal auto watering system. It means I do not have to fill bottles every day, they always have a water supply, and I do not have frozen waterers in winter. So I thought. Usually when I go and feed the rabbits I also make sure the water is still flowing by a quick push on one of the rabbit nipples. It has been hot, they have not been eating as much, and my wife fed them for a few days. I never told her about checking the nipples to see if water is still flowing. One day we bring our doe into breed with the buck, and he is just not doing his job. While waiting, and waiting, and waiting I check the nipples, no water! Went to check things out, and started trouble shooting. After about 10 minutes, we figured out the pump that recirculates the water had pulled something into the line and it had become clogged about half way through the 100 ft of tubing. Using the hose we were able to backflow and flush the clog out. Lesson learned, while it may seem intuitive, and repetitive task, always have someone follow you though farm chores. What you say and what you do may be two different things. This lesson was repeated when helping on a friend’s farm. He knows the electric fence is ALWAYS on and well, assumed I did too. NOT the case! Lesson learned there, assume all fences are electrified unless told or tested otherwise.
The Indianapolis CIty Council has sent Indy Rezone to committee – specifically the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee. Their next meeting is Monday July 27 at 5:30 in room 260 of the City Council building. This is where there will be discussion and debate. Here is where the rubber meets the road and where a large presence is needed. This will be a critical meeting.
Monday night (July 13) the “Retail Workers Bill of Rights” had a large group at the City Council meeting. They expected their Special Resolution for the Bill of Rights to pass, instead it was sent to committee – the same committee and day that will hear comments about Indy rezone. They were not happy and will have an even larger group at the committee meeting. This is a critical turning point for them, and for Indy rezone. If there are not people there showing opposition to Indy Rezone, the absence of people will speak volumes.
Right now what is needed is twofold: Come to the meeting if at all possible (even if you have to get there late) and contact the councilors on the committee via e-mail and telephone prior to the meeting, so that they know there is opposition/concern from more than just a handful of people. Here is the city webpage with the names of the committee members. Open each councilors page for their contact info: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Council/Committees/Pages/metro.aspx
We already know that Zach Adamson is not happy with this whole thing. We are working on talking to all of the committee members and hope you will too.
One of the many issues: All there is, is a draft for the livestock license – too many uncertainties that could be changed after this debacle is passed.
There is so much wrong in Indy rezone, I could write a book (and that is without having read most of this 700+ page document!). There is a lot of confusing, unclear information in it. And in the words of someone working for Indy Rezone,who helped write it “It is Flawed”. (She said this several times at the Metropolitan Development Commision meeting.)
You may be surprised at what you find when searching for specific things.
If you are like me, you have a real hard time figuring out how many more restrictions make us more sustainable. I realize there is no way to make everyone happy. But why in the world would we pass something that we already know is so flawed?
Recently it came to my attention that some people believe our animal care and farm practices are dirty and unkept. 1st before making assumptions you might want to get facts straight, learn what you are talking about before opening your mouth, and lastly ask us, we would be glad to tell you all about it.
We will educate the uneducated and ignorant. Grass should not be cut 1/4 inch above the dirt. It is very unhealthy, longer grass survives drought better, and longer grass will hold more water in both roots and green tissue. The ability to hold water has been important lately.
What one person views as weeds is actually medicinal plants we grow for FREE , do not require a prescription, doesn’t have nasty side effects. It is also food for our animals. This is why we do not spray any chemicals on our property.
We let grasses grow longer because it has more nutrients for animals, reducing our dependence on buying processed feed. Ask any rancher using grass fed techniques.
We clean our combined rabbitry and coop every 3 months. We use deep litter bedding inside to absorb and hold wastes. After 3 months it moves out to the compost pile where it is turned into soil for future gardens. Properly managed neither have an odor. I have the training and experience on both. Due to the excess rain and poor stormwater drainage in our area, some of this bedding became wet. we immediately changed and dried it out once we were able.
We house our rabbits and poultry together to harness heat in the winter, and the chickens reduce any worms or parasites, as well as till the litter naturally and help it all break down faster.
We even installed fans this summer to keep both rabbits and poultry cool, and help keep air moving in the coop.
All of our animals have names. When the chicken went past their prime for laying, they remained and are still productive, just not as many eggs a week. We did not butcher them. They still eat bugs, they still turn the compost, they still have a name, and they still process food waste from our kitchen. When old age finally takes them, we will look at replacing them.
We used to give tours, and will do it again soon. We are still working on many things, since moving in March, and because of Avian flu we do not want additional traffic if we can help it. We had to start a great many plants and systems all over, so we would like to showcase more than just concepts, but actual practice.
We have had Animal control on our property (for a neighbors issue, not ours) and were commended on how well we took care of our animals. We have had a vegans, and staff of animal control and also tell us how well we take care of our animals.
What one person sees as “unsightly” another sees it as a 40% reduction in a grocery bill of all natural all organic food. Some people see it as beautiful and natural. Being ignorant and failing to educate yourself is ignorant in itself. Singling one person or a group of people out because you dislike something is called discrimination. Using position of power to go after that group is called harassment. Both of which can land someone in court. Since some people are ignorant of what I mentioned above I just thought they may also need some education on the latter as well.
In our little RURAL town of Wingate, Indiana, population 267, surrounded by farms and farm land on all sides for 10 miles in any direction, of all things chickens are not allowed. We can have goats, pigs, horses, cows, llamas, alpaca, sheep, alligators, opossums, camels, and any number of other animals without limit, but not “poultry, weasels, chinchillas, ermine, mink, raccoons, muskrats or foxes”. Seems a bit odd grouping, but upon getting notice we were not allowed to have them, we went to the next town council to investigate why, and offered to help change the ordinances, as we had been part of the Marion Co ordinance revisions. The ordinances have been in place as long as anyone can remember. It took over 60 days, involvement of outside legal bodies just to get a copy of the section, of the ordinances, and still do not have a full copy with approvals and effective dates of the ordinances (originally requested in March).
So, due to our “discussions” with our local town council and the town ordinance stating we cannot have chickens, we have found it necessary to address the issues of keeping back yard chickens. Some of the points have been brought up, and we have already addressed them. As of now, the only argument that hasn’t been addressed is “We just don’t like to look at them”, to which we aren’t quite sure how to address. We are NOT a CAFO (confined animal feed operation) and have around 16 birds on 0.3 acres which is fenced in to keep birds in and larger predators out. The birds have a coop which they stay in at night and are closed up until released in the morning. The birds free range most of the day. The birds are here to help our organic orchard and vegetable garden stay pest free, reduce our kitchen waste, produce eggs, and are family pets. If you are facing similar push back from friends, neighbors, relative, or government bodies, hopefully some of this information may help.
Typically the first complaint about chickens is the noise, and usually the rooster. You do not need to have a rooster to have a back yard flock. We do not have a rooster and haven’t had one for many years. I actually like the sound of a rooster, as it seems to belong on a farm, and a farm without a rooster is somewhat missing. Chickens (hens) will lay eggs without a rooster, but do gain a level of protection if a rooster is present. Roosters crow between 70 and 90 decibel. This is the range of a dog barking, baby crying, a diesel truck, driving in a car at 65mph, alarm clock, or the level what most people listen to music. The level is also dependant on humidity, proximity, and materials between the rooster and the listener. Example a privacy fence would significantly reduce the sound level compared to open area across pavement. As a comparison, human conversation is 60-70 decibel.
Laying hens do “talk” or cluck, and typically are loudest just after they lay an egg. The typical hen is only 65 decibel which is right in the middle of human conversation. Most back yard flock owners have the nesting boxes, where the hens lay eggs, inside the coop. This is an additional level of sound barrier. Again, the sound will decrease with barriers, humidity, type of terrain (grass vs. concrete) and distance. The laying announcement lasts less than one minute and is only once per day, per chicken.
In our area, dogs trucks, diesel semi trucks, farm machinery, J brakes on trucks, sirens from emergency vehicles, lawn mowers, grain elevators and dryers, alarms and notifications from grain elevators, motorcycles, school band instruments, and tractors are ALL noisier than our hens just to name a few for comparison.
When opponents of back yard flock state the reasons, often it is disease. The two most often cited are bird flu or avian flu, and salmonella. Bird flu has recently been brought back up in the news as a series of cases that have been found. Typically around 90% of all avian flu cases have been documented in CAFO operations and not the back yard flocks. The CAFO operations typically have lower immunities to the disease, are stressed, have poor diets, and are extremely densely stocked. Back yard flocks, especially free range operations have the benefit of wide and varied diets. The birds get fresh air, are allowed to develop natural immunities, are less densely stocked and have the benefit of less stress. Stress in both humans and animals have been linked to an increase in illnesses and diseases. The cases that have come up in back yard flocks, is a result of someone recently traveled from a CAFO or farm and bringing the illness with them on shoes or clothing.
Salmonella is more a food handling issue vs. a bird issue. Humans cannot contract salmonella from chickens by contact, it is a food borne illness. The birds may have and carry salmonella but it is only by improper food handling or hand washing that humans contract the illness. The birds are not affected by it. So if someone is getting salmonella from being around chickens, eating the eggs, it is typically the humans fault. More and more cases of drug resistant strains are being found in CAFO operations due to the overuse of antibiotics when they are not necessary. In the 6 years we have been keeping hens, no-one in our family, or anyone receiving eggs from us, has gotten ill from salmonella. This is including children who as early as two years old are handling birds, eggs, and are in the area where the chickens live regularly.
To put things in perspective here are just a few of the diseases that are spread by human to human contact; influenza, common cold, HIV, AIDS, Meningitis, chickenpox (NOT CAUSED BY CHICKENS), mumps, measles, strep, tuberculosis, rubella, whooping cough, SARS, Cholera, Hepatitis, Polio, Rotavirus, Salmonella, Parasites, Chlamydia, Genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, trichomoniasis, cytomegalovirus, mononucleosis, athletes foot, impetigo, warts, conjunctivitis, and MRSA. So to call a chicken a dirty animal spreading diseases well, it is the humans who are spreading diseases.
Recently we were told that chickens carry lice. This is not the case. Chickens can contract mites which are parasitic bugs that can live on the birds. Birds will typically rid the mites by giving themselves dust baths. We go an additional step and give them wood ash containers for their baths, and add diatomaceous earth. The wood ash is caustic and in the even the birds pick up mites, the caustic nature of the ash helps eliminate and keep the mites from returning. We add additional diatomaceous earth as an added plus. Typically birds that have an infestation of mites will lose feathers and can eventually cause death in the birds. The mites themselves do not cause the death but stress the birds to the point they become more susceptible to other diseases such as pneumonia. Humans typically carry TWO different types of mites typically living on eyelashes. Domesticated dogs also carry mites. Humans are the species that typically have lice, both body and head lice are common.
Chickens bring flies. Well chickens to not, bring the flies, the flies are a natural part of the waste cycle breaking down manure. Any animal that defecates in open area without burying it will attract flies. Dogs, horses, cats, rodents, even humans that have open fecal piles will attract flies. Good housekeeping or coop keeping will reduce the amount of flies present. Having deep litter in the coops, having the birds free range, and composting the deep litter regularly will not only keep the smell down but reduce the fly issues. There are also fly traps that can lower or eliminate any fly issues.
Chickens will attract predators, pests, and rodents. This again goes to good animal husbandry. We have a family dog who doesn’t bother the chickens and deters many predators from the property. Locking the chickens up at night in a predator proof coop also helps. In urban areas there are not as many predators as there are in the country just because of the amount of activity and people around. Most predators hunt at dusk or at night, and having a secure coop eliminates many of the issues. As far as rodents chickens will kill and eat mice, snakes, and generally anything they can catch and take down. In addition they will eat ticks, fleas, grubs, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, sting bugs, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and ants. Proper animal husbandry will further reduce any pest issues such as keeping feed secured in sealed containers, not having excess feed on the ground, and regular cleaning and maintenance of the coop.
This goes back to animal husbandry. If you are keeping a clean coop then there should be no smell from birds. A 40 lb dog generates more manure (about ¾ pound) than ten chickens (two-thirds pounds of manure). Both are smelly, but the key is to keep the chicken manure from accumulating by composting. Composted chicken manure is valuable as a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Dog manure cannot be composted, and must be collected and sent to the landfill. So, 10 chickens produce manure that can be composted, returned to the soil for better plant health, while one 40 lb dog, the manure collected, and sent to a landfill. Which is the better situation?
Chickens are excellent garbage disposals. They will eat 95% of wastes generated from the family kitchen. Typically you are not to put meat, dairy, or fats into compost piles because they are slow to break down, smell as they decompose, and attract scavengers from bugs to animals. Chickens on the other hand will devour these materials like candy and in return give you eggs, meat, and fertilizer. We can reduce almost a whole bag of trash each month by allowing the chickens to have kitchen scraps and waste. This is a benefit to the landfill, and our trash doesn’t typically smell. To date, we have found 2 things our chickens won’t eat, olives and pickles, and this is over a 6 year period and a family of 6.
Property values will decrease
Three is no assessor or realtor evidence to support this statement. In fact 7 out of 10 most desirable cities to live in allow back yard chickens. More and more communities are allowing chickens and as such is an attractant to new home buyers vs. a deterrent. Restrictive communities will lower property values more so than accepting ones. More and more people either want more control over the food they eat, are unhappy with the food in stores, want to reduce the grocery bill, or just want to be more self sufficient. The trend is on the rise and the communities who limit the freedoms of the people are turning more and more potential buyers away.
Hopefully this answered some questions and alleviated some issues. Perhaps it will help you on your crusade to get back yard chickens into your area. The data in this article has been gathered from various sources from online, written publications, and personal experience.
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.