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What Do You Think?

Ask the Breeder Jan/Feb/March 2007 Issue

What watering systems are being used, and what are the disadvantages and advantages of the system?
From Kevin Hooper:
I can only comment on the system that I have. It is the rigid, closed PVC system.  I have used this for 12 years with good success. It hooks directly to the water line, and has a pressure regulator that reduces the pressure down to 3 lbs. Since I have an unheated barn, I have two heat cables that run through the lines. One is on a thermostat and turns on at 34 degrees.  This will keep the line and valves from freezing down to about 20 degrees. I then can manually turn on the other line which will keep the lines open to zero to 5 below.
Advantages - Always have fresh water!  Much less time in the care of the animals.  No thawing of crocks or water bottles, or cracked crocks - more room in the pen for the rabbit.
One breeder several years ago worried that you would not know if they were not getting water. You do, because you will notice the rabbit is not eating!
Disadvantages - Some water will drip below the cages when the rabbit drinks.  (I have a gutter system that runs below the water lines.)  If you loose electric, and it is very cold, you need to drain the lines to prevent them from freezing and shattering. (Gray plastic conduit pipe can be used also, and I don't believe it will shatter when frozen?)  Occasionally you will have to fix a leaky valve - not hard to do, but it takes a few minutes. Cost.  You can plan on about $3 - $4 per hole for the entire setup including the pressure regulator, valves, pipe, heat cables for inside the lines, and heat tapes which will go on the supply lines leading to the pressure regulator.
My opinion is it is well worth the investment!
From Jill Phaff:
I'm a bit old fashion and use crooks because I can see how much is drank daily and I know it is fresh and clean daily.  The main draw back is the extra work, also occasionally a kit will drown in the crooks.
From Dennis, Barb & Megan Kline:
Call us old fashioned, but we still use water bottles.  We have thought about putting in a re-circulating watering system but opted not.  The reason we decided not to was because we want to be able to see if the rabbits are drinking or not, plus we can medicate them individually rather than all at the same time.  It is more work using the water bottles, but we feel it is worth it in the long run.  If the power goes out we don't have to worry about the rabbits not getting water because the pump doesn't work.  Well that's about all we have to say on this subject and we hope this helps some people make a decision.
From Fran Schettler:
I have had an automatic watering system for many years.  The advantages are obvious:  you don't have to fill up lots and lots of water bottles and you don't have to wash them either!  Saves a lot of time for the size of rabbitry that I have (about 85 holes); hooks directly into my main water line, and the rabbits always have a supply of fresh, clean water.
The disadvantages are:  they freeze in cold weather, and when they unfreeze you can get algae plugging up some of the nozzles.  Fortunately for me, this is not a frequent winter problem for we Californians; you cannot monitor the amount of water the rabbit consumes (or doesn't); it is more difficult to put medicine etc. in and you cannot target just one rabbit; the rabbit can chew a hole in the line and then you have a flood; your float bucket can fail.
Despite the disadvantages, the advantages outweigh the problems for me-- I could not maintain my herd without it!
From Theresa Kortbein:
Currently I use both water bottles and dishes for watering my Dutch.  During the winter months I will use water dishes since my rabbitry is not heated and I feel that the dishes are best for freezing temps.  I like them in winter because the ice is easy to remove by carefully tapping it out and then refilling.  The dishes don't freeze as fast as a spout of a water bottle.  Many times the rabbits will keep a hole licked in the ice so they can get to the water below, they can't do this with a bottle.  The dishes are also easier to clean and scrub out well, where with a bottle you must rely on a good bottle brush for proper cleaning.  The biggest disadvantage of using a water dish is that the rabbit many times will tip them over and spill the water leaving them without.
In the warmer months of the year I use water bottles which work well for me as the rabbits always have a continuous supply of water because they can't tip them over and spill the water like they can with the dishes.  I use stacking cages with pans so if a rabbit is always spilling the water dish, especially when the weather is warm it will cause more odor from the pans.  I realize that they do make dishes that can be hooked onto the inside of the cage, but that is more time consuming to do, so one might as well use a water bottle hooked on the outside of the cage which is more convenient.  With the water bottles I feel the water stays cleaner as well, because no debris can fall into them like a water dish.  When doing my rabbit chores I can also see which rabbits are not drinking as much because the bottle will still be full or much fuller than normal for that animal.  Another advantage of having water bottles instead of water dishes is that they usually mount on the outside of the cage and this provides for a little more room in the cage for the rabbit especially for those of us that have smaller cages for the juniors or need more space for the brood doe with a litter of bunnies.
From Bob Bergene:
At the Bergene Rabbitry we started out with a water crock, as we only had two rabbits in 1981.  After we got about 20 rabbits or so, a neighbor, Clay Walker from Mulvane, KS  talked me into putting in a water system.  It used Edstrom valves but that had to be screwed into a saddle and then that drilled into a PVC pipe and then that glued into place.  It worked okay for a couple of years, but I would get occasional leaks because of a poor fitting between the saddle and the pipe.  So then I changed to the Edstrom flex tube system which I have used for the last 25 years.  I have been very happy with it. 
Currently a crock will cost about $5.00 if you can even find a heavy duty ceramic crock.  The Edstrom watering system will cost about the same, when you add in $2.95 for the valve, 40 cents for the valve clip and 40 cents for the tube standoff per cage. Flexible black tubing is about 25 cents a foot.  And the only tool you need is a scissors to cut the flexible rubber tubing.   If you have more than 25 rabbits to water, I would definitely suggest the automatic watering system.  It is more sanitary than a crock and it really cuts down on your watering time.
However, one advantage with the crock, is that it is easier to medicate your rabbits, if you want to treat them for coccidiosis or worms.  You can just mix up the medicated solution in a 5 gal pail and then pour mixture into the crock, whereas with a automatic system, this is a little more complicated.  If you are using a pressure reducing system, you could switch it over to a gravity pail system and put the medication in the gravity pail which has a float.  Are you confused?
At a recent rabbit show in Missouri, I spoke with a rabbit equipment dealer from Kansas who had a booth set up at the show and asked him about watering systems.  He said that there several good brands on the market.  They were Edstrom from Wisconsin and Borak by Bass and Nivek by KW Cages.  He said that flex systems were easier to install than rigid.  (I found that out the hard way!).  He also pointed out that the automatic watering system is sanitary and also reduces labor.  I asked him if he had a sanitizing agent to put in the water line, he said he did not.  He indicated most people use small amounts of chlorine in the system as a flush about once a month.
From Al Gerhart:
We use water bottles in our rabbitry. The biggest disadvantage is the tedious job of filling up the water bottles almost every day. We usually have to fill up about 20-25 every evening. That is my job mostly as Adrianne and Mac usually do the feeding. The advantage to water bottles is that you can easily monitor a rabbit’s health by the amount of water that they are drinking. If a rabbit stops eating or goes off food, the first thing we check is the water bottle to make sure it is working properly and not leaking. Does with litters should drink about 20-24oz of water per day, if your not filling there water bottle every day then there is probably a problem with the litter that needs to be investigated. So the best advantage for us is the use of the water bottle as an indicator of possible health problems with our rabbits.

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