Rabbit Water: Bottles & Bowls
Rabbits should have constant access to water. The amount they drink varies greatly depending on the environment and their diet. A medium sized rabbit will drink around 50-300ml per day. Rabbits fed fresh foods or allowed to graze on grass will obtain much of their water requirement from this and may drink up 50% less than rabbits only fed on dry foods. Rabbits may also drink more in hot weather.
Rabbits should be given pure water to drink, from the same souce as you'd use for drinking water. This may seem boring to humans used to a wide range of beverages but it is the most natural and healthy option. Be wary of vitamins added to the water which may incourage your rabbit to drink excessively and are generally unneccessary if your rabbit eats a healthy diet. If you do use them and find your rabbit empties it's bowl/bottle after vitamins are added then refill the with plain water until the following day. Excess water and excess vitamins can effect your rabbits health.
The only exception to this rule is for sick rabbits at risk of dehydration when a small amount of pure unsweatened apple or carrot juice added to the water may encourage drinking.
Rabbit Water Bottles
A 600ml water bottle should provide adaquate water for two small-medium rabbits for 24 hrs. If you've got multiple rabbits or the drink a lot, I'd suggest multiple bottles rather than bigger ones. It's also a good idea to consider a second bottle in summer, to provides a back up incase the water runs out and also if the bottle is knocked off. This is particularly useful if you work or are out during the day and unable to check on your rabbits.
Classic Water Bottle Spout (left),
Sippy Spout (right)
There are two common types of spout on water bottles. The standard type are composed of a metal tube with several balls inside. Gravaity locks the ball in the end of the tube until the rabbit it licks it pushing the ball up and allowing water to fall past. The most popular brand is Lixit (32oz $7 via Amazon), these bottles are cheap and readily available, but they can be prone to leaking and some rabbits also find them frustrating and will bite & pull at the ends.
The other variety have a non drip sippy spout. These are also quieter so great if your rabbit is near your bedroom at you don't want to be woken in the middle of the night. This style bottle are generally made with wider tops that make filling and cleaning easier too. They do tend to be more expensive to purchase but are very durable. Ferplast sippy bottle (£5 Amazon) are the most readily available but I personally prefer the John Hopewell Ezi-Filla Bottles however they are only available direct and with shipping they are a bit expensive (£10) unless you are ordering multiples.
Attaching a Water Bottle
Most bottles are sold with a simple wire with hocks bent at the end to attach them to the cage/hutch mesh. Whilst these work they can be difficult to get on and off and position correctly to secure the bottle. A bottle spring (x5 $8 from ebay) , which is a spring with a hook each end which can be pulled back to slide the bottle in and out, makes changing water easier.
Bicycle Water Bottle Cage
If you need to attach a bottle in an area when there is no mesh the you can use bottle holders designed for cyclists. You will need to take a bottle with you to test to get the correct size.
Keep in mind that attaching the bottle on the inside where you rabbit has access means that they are susceptible to chewing.
Bottles can be cleaned using a bottle brush. A more thorough cleaning can be done using sterilizing tablets sold for use on babies bottles. This type of cleaning should be done on any second hand bottles before use.
Algae requires light for growth so you can prevent build up by placing an opaque cover over it. This does have the draw back of making it difficult to see the water level at a glance.
Water Bottle Covers
Left: Trixie Therm'o'Drink
Bottle Cover ($12 via Amazon)
Right: Scratch 'n Newton
Bottle Snug (£8 via Amazon)
In winter water bottles are prone to freezing. There are a wide range of insulated bottle covers available designed to prevent this. They all do basically the same thing, just double check they will fit the style of bottle you have. The Scratch n Newton Snug (£8 via Amazon) is a little more expensive than some but it's the most versitile I've found, it will fit round and square bottle of various sizes easily and it comes with a piece of stretchy elastic with hooks for attaching the bottle to the hutch mesh (which I find much easier to use than the standard bent wire bottle attachments). If you are on a budget, you can also make your own using bubble wrap and an old wooly sock.
Although the covers protect the bottle, the spout can also freeze, so check the bottle regularly to make sure water still comes out.
For more tips on stopping bowls and bottles freezing see: winter care for rabbits.
A water bowl is undoubtably a more natural way to drink and many rabbits will use them in preferance to a bottle. The downside with water bowls is very easy for them to become soiled with bedding and litter, and can also be knocked over. Bowls work best if your rabbit is indoors or you have room to place a bowl away from lose bedding/food or you are available to change the water regularly during the day. You can also provide both a bottle and a bowl so your rabbit has the option and a back up if they knock over their bowl.
Mason & Cash Water Bowl
($12 from Amazon)
Coop Cup Attaches to Cage
($7 from Amazon)
Heavy ceramic bowls are the most rabbit-proof as plastic ones are often picked up and thrown around as toys. Mason & Cash might not be the snazziest coloured bowls but they are easy to find, chunky and come in a range of sizes. The rabbit one is 5" across and holds about 550ml but you can upgrade to dog sized if you need to hold more water. Be wary of placing ceramic bowls on a high level eg a second floor where they can be nudged over a ledge or down a ramp and get broken.
If you do find you rabbits knocks their bowl over (or throw it) then a bowl that clips to the side of the cage (called Coop Cups - usually sold for birds) might work better for you. They either come with hooks or two plates that fit each side of the mesh and screw together. The bowl lifts out of the fixings so it's easy to change the water.