Q. How do you keep the water from freezing in cold weather?
A. The short answer is, you don’t. To my knowledge, there is no safe way to prevent either a bottle or a crock of water from freezing, short of keeping your rabbits in a heated building. In most climates of the United States however, heating the rabbitry is unnecessary. You certainly want to protect your rabbits from extreme elements and from drafts, but with a few provisions, healthy rabbits are able to tolerate winter weather quite well. This does not, however, mean that you don’t have to provide your rabbits with fresh water. They still require access to drinkable water, at all times. So the real question is, how can you do that in sub-freezing weather?
Some larger scale rabbitries have an auto-watering system such as this one which, with a little creativity, could be fitted with a water heater to help ensure the system does not freeze in the winter. If you have a smaller operation however, or are like me and continuously trying to keep cost as low as possible, you may need a different solution.
So here at Wildflower Valley Farm, we go low-tech and use ceramic crocks (why I don’t use bottles is another post for another day), similar in size and shape to this one. I sometimes pick them up at thrift stores and yard sales, but fortunately my local Dollar Tree has them in stock relatively frequently. When I see them, I buy two or three just to keep a few spares. In the winter, I like to have two crocks for each rabbit (more for does with kits). Each morning and evening, I provide each rabbit with a fresh crock of water. When the temperatures drop near or below freezing, I fill them with hot tap water. Believe it or not, my rabbits enjoy the hot water much like you or I might enjoy a cup of hot tea or coffee. This encourages them to drink, even in cold weather, and helps prevent dehydration.
My reason for keeping at least two crocks per rabbit, is in case the water freezes solid in them overnight (it rarely stays cold enough here during the day for them to freeze solid before evening). Should that happen, I have a spare for each rabbit so that I can give each one a fresh crock of warm water, and the frozen crocks can be taken inside to thaw. Another alternative to carrying them inside, is that I can place the frozen crock in a bucket of warm water (don’t use hot water or the crock will break due to the sudden temperature change). After only a minute or two, the chunk of ice will float to the top of the bucket, and the crock will be ice free and ready for use again.
So there you have it - my solution for ensuring my rabbits always have access to drinkable water, even in sub-freezing temperatures. It has worked beautifully for me for several years, but I am always open to new ideas, so if you have a different method I would love to hear from you!
None of the information contained on this site is intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise substitute for the care and advice from a qualified human or animal medical professional. Please consult the trusted medical professional of your choice before using any of the information contained on this site.