December 30, 2012
Frozen water bottles
We water our rabbits with three different types of waterers: gravity fed water buckets on top of the pens, traditional water bottles, and homemade water bottles using a brass nipple and a smallish Gatorade or other bottle. None of them remained free of ice. The tubing for our gravity fed water buckets froze. The brass water nipples froze. Water in the buckets froze. Water bottles froze; some cracked. We ran out of replacement bottles for the pens using water buckets.
The temperatures have remained right around freezing since those first two days when the snow hit. Because the temps haven't fallen drastically, we haven't had nearly as much ice in the bottles or buckets. Most of the waterers remain flowing throughout the night.
So. How did we combat the ice-up? We pulled water bottles, soaked them in warm water to thaw the nipples and melt the ice, then refilled them with hot water. The bucket systems were given a new nipple so we could use the original brass nipple to make more home-made bottles. We took buckets of hot water into the pasture to soak the tubing and thaw it out. Sounds simple enough but it was very time consuming and labor intensive and stressful. At first, we didn't have enough unfrozen watering devices and resorted to giving the rabbits a few snowballs to munch on. This was not optimal, by far. Eating snow for hydration is a solution that will quickly lower a body's core temperature and bring on hypothermia.
Our long term solution is to buy more bottles and nipples, have more bottles on hand and make more of our home-made bottles using the nipples. Then simply fill the spare bottles with hot water, put them in a cooler and swap them for the frozen bottles. Frozen bottles will be brought up to the house, thawed and prepared for the next switch.
Rabbits on pasture, 365 days of the year. Makes for some creative, albeit stressful, problem solving.