Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How To Keep Chicken Waterer From Freezing

As I watch the few remaining leaves from our Maple trees fall to the ground, I am again reminded old man winter is knocking on our front door.  This is my "last call" to ensure everything is in tact for another midwest winter.  There is nothing worse than finding out too late you should have, forgot to, or something isn't working as expected when the snow is flying and its blowing cold out of the North.  Remember the story about the Ant and the Grasshopper?

For probably as long as man has kept chickens on his/ her homestead, there has always been the question of how to make sure the water doesn't freeze for their flock.  Fortunately for us now 'a days there are many new heaters and gizmos to lend a helping hand, and one which will probably fit your application.  

All summer long we have thoroughly enjoyed the ease in using the Chicken Fountain which has been hooked up to our garden hose and had eliminated any need for the "fill and spill" game.  As mentioned this automatic watering system is great, except it falls short (here) come winter.  The Chicken Fountain used to sell a heater for their system but for reasons unknown to me, no longer do at this time... 

So back to the starting board:

Some companies offer these plastic fountain type water fountains that have a heating element built into the base.  Do they work? You bet they do, but the question is for how long.  This waterer as like any other made from plastic have a short life span.  
If you are using a metal style fountain which can be placed on the ground, there is an option for a metal base which has a heating element.  If you think of it like a hot plate for your metal waterer, you will get the idea.  I have even found blog posts in years past that show you step by step how to make one of these using a lamp fixture and a metal cookie tin.  

The last option I will mention is the trough saucer shaped heaters.  These basically work by placing them in a bath style type of waterer that your birds normally drink from.  It works by keeping at the very least a small area around itself free from ice allowing your flock access to water in the frigid cold months.  

So as you probably have already noticed, all of these heaters require one thing.  Electric!  So how do you keep your water from freezing if you don't have electric out in your coop?  You don't!  For years and years and years, electricity was only a luxury for most.  Having electric and running water in your house was a rarity so you sure as heck didn't have it in your chicken coop.  

So what do you do? You let it freeze.  In the winter our chickens have free access to our backyard.  I allow them as much space as they want.  Every day or sometimes every other day, I go outside and grab my metal waterer, bring it inside and thaw/ wash it out under hot water, refill, add a little salt (maybe a teaspoon for 2 gallons), and repeat as needed.  What I find is when there is snow on the ground, the chickens are usually content with eating the snow.  Think this is cruel?  Ask yourself what birds in the wild do?  

One thing different I am going to try this year, is painting the outside of a metal waterer BLACK with some spray paint.  This "should" act as a natural heater when the sun comes out to help thaw a little of the water.  

Update:  I found a similar article on our friend Lisa's blog Fresh Eggs Daily.  Here is a snippet you can click which will bring you to her article. 

"Large Black Rubber Tub - The first and easiest way to keep water unfrozen longer is to switch from a traditional metal waterer to a wide, deep black rubber tub set in the sun. These metal waterers freeze up so fast because the metal gets cold and there's so little surface area. Conversely the black rubber tub absorbs the heat from the sun to keep the water warmer. Even more imporrtantly, the larger surface area will help keep the water from freezing as fast." ~ Lisa - Fresh Eggs Daily

I hope this helps some of you out.  If you have any questions or wish to share what you do I would love to hear!
Cheers! ~ Kevin

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  1. I bought a dog's heated water bowl. It was cheaper than the other options.

    1. Great post. I agree with Cassie, for options that use electricity, the electric dog water bowl is the cheapest and they last a lot longer than the heated bases. I like your idea of painting the outside of the metal waterer black. The black will absorb any available sunlight for sure.


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