How to Build an Automatic Gravity-Fed Water System For Rabbits

Providing a consistent source of fresh water to your rabbits is essential to their health, especially in the heat of summer. The most common way to water meat rabbits is to fill a water bottle or a water bowl in each cage. With five kiddos and a never-ending to-do list, I needed a lower maintenance method to keep my animals hydrated so I decided to build an automatic gravity-fed rabbit water system instead.

This step-by-step guide will walk you through building your own automatic rabbit watering system.  

What is a Gravity-Fed Watering System?

Gravity-fed systems are far and away my favorite types of waterers. They ensure a constant supply of fresh water with minimal maintenance (a necessary benefit for me). The premise of a gravity-fed water system is to move water from a high location to a lower one. In this system, you fill a reservoir (in this tutorial we use a bucket) with water and attach plastic tubing that allows gravity to pull the water from the reservoir to water nipples which the animals can drink from. 

Benefits of a Gravity-Fed Water System

Minimal Maintenance

Since this is an automatic watering system that holds a large amount of water, it requires fewer fill-ups compared to water bowls and water bottles.

Constant Clean Water Supply

This rabbit watering system ensures that your rabbits always have access to fresh and clean water. Since this is a closed system (the bucket has a lid and the tubing flows in one direction) nothing should be able to get in or out so the water stays clean. 

Affordable Solution

Making a DIY gravity-fed rabbit water system can cost less than $30! Most homesteads have buckets lying around (you can do SO much with buckets) so that reduces the cost even more.

Easy to Build

Making your own rabbit watering system doesn’t take professional skill. You just need to be able to drill a few holes in a bucket and attach tubing. 

Water More Than One Rabbit

Multiple rabbits can be watered out of one bucket so you only need to fill one reservoir instead of filling a bottle or bowl for each cage. 

Cons of a Gravity-Fed Rabbit Water System

Bacteria Growth With Infrequent Filings

If the water sits too long it can start to grow bacteria (as with any stagnant water). Make sure that it is being refilled at least a couple of times each week and clean the bucket as needed. 

While you don’t have to refill the water everyday, you will need to check the bucket on a daily basis to make sure the water stays clean. You can also add a water circulator to mitigate any bacterial growth. 

Water May Freeze in Winter

This watering system can be a little tricky in the wintertime when temperatures drop below freezing. To prepare for cold weather, you can use an insulator for the tubing and wrap the bucket to help keep the water from freezing. You can also submerge a stock tank heater into the bucket to keep the water a couple of degrees warmer. 

Metal water nipples tend to freeze as water sits on them constantly. You may need to switch to plastic nipples or break the frozen water off daily during extreme cold spells. 

rabbit in cage with water nipple

How to Make an Automatic Gravity-Fed Watering System for Rabbits

To make this automatic water system you will need the following materials:

Instructions:

STEP ONE: Secure An Elevated Bucket Stand

You want the bucket to be higher than the cages so the water can flow down the tubing easily. Figure out exactly where the bucket will be to get the appropriate water flow and the proper measurements for the plastic tubing. I built a simple stand with scrap wood. 

automatic gravity-fed water system for rabbits

STEP TWO: Drill Holes in Bucket

Drill 2 small holes (the size to match the barb adapter tee) about an inch from the bottom of the bucket. One hole on each “side”. This will allow four tubes to come straight from the bucket. This was all I needed as I had four cages that needed water. 

If you have additional cages that need to be included in this gravity-fed water stystem, you can add more holes, tees, and tubes to the bucket. You could also add a tee to the end of a piece of tubing to connect two more tubes. 

STEP THREE: Attach Barb Adapter Tees 

Push one tee into each drilled hole. The barbed ends should face left and right. Make sure that the tee fits snugly in the hole. You may want to seal around the tee with silicone to reduce the risk of leaking. Hose clamps can be used to secure the tube to the tee if you need them.

STEP FOUR: Measure & Attach Plastic Tubing

Measure four pieces of tubing to reach from each tee in the bucket to each cage. You will want to measure enough to allow a little slack. Pulling the tube taut could cause issues.

bucket waterer for rabbits

STEP FIVE: Attach Water Nipples 

Push the water nipples into the end of the tubing. This should be a snug fit to avoid leaking. Now you can fix the nipples to each of your rabbit cages. Use hose clamps to secure the tube to the nipple if you prefer.

STEP SIX: Fill the Bucket with Water

If the bucket is already on your elevated platform, then you can fill it up and add a lid. I didn’t have a lid on hand so I used a piece of wood. Not ideal, but it did the job. 

STEP SEVEN: Check for Leaks

After you fill the rabbit water bucket with water, check all the connections for leaks. If there are no leaks, then you are all set! 

water nipple attached to rabbit cage and plastic hose

Maintaining a Gravity-Fed Rabbit Water System

  • Refill the water at least a couple of times per week. This is a low-maintenance setup, but you don’t want your rabbits drinking week-old stagnant water. 
  • You can add a water circulator to reduce the risk of bacterial growth. 
  • Check for leaks periodically and reseal as needed.
  • Empty and wipe out the bucket as needed. Check the nipples daily to make sure that the rabbits haven’t blocked them with bedding or feed.
  • In freezing temps, you can insulate the tubing and the bucket. 

Making a DIY gravity-fed water system is an easy and affordable project that can reduce your chore time and improve your rabbits’ health. With about $30 and an hour of your time, you can have this system set up and ready to go!


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