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Centralized Chin Watering Systems

Centralized Chin Watering Systems

For 1/3 of my herd, I use water bottles [just recently switched from plastic to glass Perrier bottles: became weary of constant silicone repairs].

The other 2/3 of my Chins are on centralized watering systems such as sold by Edstrom


Water Consumption


A 10 litre [350 ounces] container will easily supply sufficient water for about 80 Chins for one day [125 mL/day (4.4 oz/day); a little more in the summer, a little less during the winter] . Interestingly enough, Edstrom states on that Chins use 1.3 ounces/day. However, in practice, one uses some water to clean the lines [see next paragraph] , some nipples [drinking valves] will leak, and many Chins like to play around with the nipples. It for the last reason that ranch cages hold the nipples in a "stand-off" area of mesh so that the water will drop to the floor instead into the cage tray:

___________ | | | | | | | |___ | inside | | of ==== nipple | cage ___| | | |_________|


Water Lines


The water lines must NOT be transparent [black PVC is best] otherwise algae growth will occur. Some smaller breeders drain a litre or so through the lines every day but once a week is sufficient. When setting up a system, one has to make a decision to use either a 3/8" [usually for rabbits] or a 3/16" [usually for Chin ranches] system: adapter tees and connectors are quite expensive [for what you are getting] . Tubing standoffs are quite useful as it prevents Chins from chewing on lines resting against the cage. A drain value at the end of a water line is not necessary as one can simply pull the tubing from the bottom-most nipple. The lines are best bled by pulling the tubing off the last nipple of the line closest to the water reservoir, then moving to the next distant line, and so on to the furthest line. I arrange my lines in vertical columns rather than horizontal rows as shown in "Option 1. Typical 3/16 Flex-Tube System" in the middle of




I use chrome nipples with the black plastic caps [similar to Edstrom's "Original Valve" part number 1000-0765] . The nipples will last for about 5 years but the rubber diaphragm inside should be replaced about every 2 years. Usually the nipples will work properly for extended lengths of time but it is good practice to test them every few days by deflecting the central rod. Where practical, it is also prudent to provide two nipples per cage just in case a nipple becomes plugged. Edstrom provides a nice troubleshooting guide at


Water Reservoirs


I make my own reservoirs by fitting tire valve stems [with the valve removed] into the side of RubberMaid containers [ie., 11.7 Litre size] . The lids keep dust out but allow sufficient air to enter around the rim to enable the water to flow through the lines. The water reservoir should be mounted at least 15 cm [6 inches] above the uppermost nipple for sufficient water pressure. I highly recommend installing a cut-off value just past the tire value stem so that one can remove a partially full container for cleaning and to reduce the amount of air entering the lines [otherwise, the lines would have to be bled each time] . The size of the reservoirs should be matched to the amount of water being used: that is, the water should not stand for more than 3-4 days. Mine are replenished every 1-2 days, depending upon the drinking habits of my Chins. In this manner, one does not need to add [extra] chlorine to the water.




I do NOT recommend connecting a watering system directly to household plumbing or even via a float tank. If a major leak occurs [ie., a Chin has chewed a line or a nipple is malfunctioning] , the leak will be continuous and not self-limiting. In other words, instead of a minor flood, a major flood will occur.

I also do NOT recommend using centralized watering systems for the administration of medication [ie., antibiotics] or vitamins. First, added items may taste funny, causing the Chins to "back off their water", leading to constipation, etc. Secondly, animals not needing these items are being supplied them unnecessarily. Finally, the potential to gum up the lines and nipples is very high and cleaning them up is rather arduous. Oral syringes or separate water bottles are far more appropriate for this.

Centralized water systems are practical for people with 10 or more Chins. However, if those Chins are allowed to roam free around cages with such a watering system, some measures must be taken to protect exposed tubing [especially the lower lines] from chewing. I recommend setting up separate watering systems for every 20-40 cages: a system failure with one group will not affect the other groups and limit the amount of flooding in the case of leaks.




I have found that new Chins, as well as Chipmunks, Degus and Sugar Gliders readily adapt to water nipples. Sometimes you have to alert them to the purpose of a nipple by stimulating the nipple so that a drop of water hangs from it.


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