A week of sub-zero lows – rabbit water system

So the last couple weeks have definitely been a learning experience with the rabbit’s water system. Many people in the Backyard Meat Rabbits group on facebook switch over to rubber or ceramic crocks in winter time and just resign themselves to emptying ice twice per day or they have double the number of water bottles and swap them out twice a day. I wasn’t really wanting to do that, so I tried to continue using these water nipples but obviously without just using a big water jug.

My first attempt was to use a 2 gallon bucket inside a 5 gallon bucket and then line it with foam (EPS) 1″ thick around the sides, underneath, and a lid of the stuff as well. Then I used a submersible heater to provide some heat. The first try used a 50 watt heater which was programmed at 78F as max temperature. This worked fine down to about 20 degrees (in an area out of the wind) but as we dipped below that the nipples started freezing up. If you dumped a bit of water on them they’d thaw though and the main line did not freeze so it was still better than crocks. As I went I learned a trick to just pull the return line from the bucket and let it go on the nipples which was much easier than filling up small bowls of water and trying to pour it on the nipples.

I tried adding another higher power aquarium heater, but it was too long to fit nicely so it sat at an angle. The vinyl hose didn’t make great connections in the cold and would drip; when the water level got too low that heater glass broke. So I axed that idea. I also replaced all of the vinyl tubing with this silicone tubing so it would remain flexible. That coupled with some zip ties to keep tension stopped my lines from dripping any longer.

I still tired of the nipples freezing up; in the highs below 10 and lows of -10 some nights the nipples were frozen solid and took a while to thaw. I knew I needed more heat as well as a higher temperature. In the super cold weather the 50 watt heater couldn’t keep it anywhere near the 78 degree set point; rather, the bucket was hovering in the 30’s most of the time. I added this 100w submersible heater that I could set different temperatures in. It ranges from 17-34 degrees celcius (no farenheit option), that is about 63-93F in the temperature range. The first night I added that it was a night and day difference in the water system! Even at -10F the nipples stayed thawed! One night was windy and a couple did freeze up (from the rabbits that don’t drink as much), but even then it was just barely frozen. A 1 second splash from the warm return water and it was thawed compared to when its frozen solid and it takes a good 10 seconds or more to thaw it.

I only have 4 cages so the lines go maybe 10 feet there and back; I’m not sure how LARGE of a system this could handle. The larger the system the bigger your pump needs to be for more velocity (I’m using about the smallest/cheapest one Amazon had) so your return water stays hot and also you need more heat power. It feels like this heater could handle at least twice the system it currently has.

The down side of the water staying thawed is the rabbits drink a ton more so I have to fill the 2 gallon bucket every couple days, though that can only be good for their health. Its a slight annoyance, but not nearly as much as thawing the water at least twice per day! So I highly recommend a 100W or so heater that can get up to over 80 degrees. If you don’t have insulation you’ll need a LOT more power than what I have, please keep that in mind and I hope this was helpful.

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