Category: Chicken Waterers

Heat tape chicken waterer

Heated bucket waterer

We decided to try out a heat tape waterer this winter.  The instructions call for a Remove bucket handle15 foot length of heat tape, but Mark wants to find out whether a 3 foot length will work as well.  If so, the shorter heat tape should use less electricity and will definitely make the construction process cheaper and easier.

Materials included:

  • bucket
  • a second bucket from Lowes
  • 3 foot heat tape
  • duct tape
  • screwdriver
  • drill
  • jigsaw
  • coping saw


First, Mark removed the handle from the bucket waterer using the screwdriver.

Cut down bucket

Next, we fiddled around for a while until we figured out the best way to cut the extra bucket into an outside housing for the new heated waterer.  This step will vary depending on the style of your bucket, but if you use Lowes buckets, you’ll want to cut in a line that follows the bottom of the
blue “Lowes” logo.  (Mark suspects that a three gallon bucket might just need the very bottom removed — that’ll be our next experiment since cutting off so much of the bucket felt wasteful.)  Either way, start your hole with the drill, then make your cut with the jigsaw.

Coping saw

The coping saw made a small slit about three inches down the side of the outer bucket. This
slit will allow us to thread the power cord out the side.  (If you’re using a Lowes bucket, the slit goes down to the end of the blue logo.)

Heat tape on bucket

We used duct tape to attach the heat tape to the outside of the bucket waterer, close to the bottom. 

Build heated chicken waterer

Then it was easy to push the sawed off bucket over top of the bucket waterer, letting the cord come out the slit.

So far, our heated chicken waterer has stayed thawed down to the mid twenties Fahrenheit.  I’ll be sure to report back once we discover its lower limit.

Edited on October 29, 2013 to add: It looks like the lower limit of this particular unit as built is 16 degrees Fahrenheit.  We’re experimenting with some new possibilities this winter as well, so stay tuned to our heated chicken waterer page for updates.

How to keep chicken waterers from freezing

Chicken tracks in the snowAs cold weather descends on our chicken coops
and tractors, I tend to get a flurry of emails.  Everyone wants to know the same thing — will the Avian Aqua Miser work in the winter?  My quick answer — it will work better than a
conventional gravity-feed waterer, but you’ll need to do a little more work as the weather cools.

First of all, throwing a stock tank heater in the Avian Aqua Miser doesn’t work since the nipple tends to freeze before the reservoir.  We’re still working on an innovative solution to that problem.  If you’ve figured it out, we’d love to hear from you!

Heated chicken waterer(Edited on October 29, 2013 to add: Actually, we’ve solved this problem in the years since we wrote this post. 
You can always see the
most up-to-date posts on our heated chicken waterer page.  As of today, we use a homemade heated chicken waterer built around one of our Avian Aqua Miser Original kits, two buckets, and
three foot length of pipe heating cable
($23).  However, our tips for using unheated waterers still stand the test of time, so keep reading.)

We have three chicken tractors, so we use pre-made (half gallon) Avian Aqua Misers.  We find it easy to take the waterers in at night after the girls have settled down on their roosts, hanging the clean waterers on a shelf in the kitchen then replacing the waterers in the tractors the next morning.  We like to have a few extra waterers on hand, though, since sometimes we forget and let our waterers stay out overnight and freeze solid.  The frozen waterers thaw out within a few hours indoors with no apparent damage (though I suspect the reservoir might crack after a few months if we just left them out to freeze every night.)

In a coop setting, especially with large bucket waterers, most chicken-keepers instead opt to prevent the Avian Aqua Miser from freezing in the first place.  You’d be surprised at how well a light bulb in the coop works to keep the air temperature above 32 F.  The light bulb will also extend the day length and keep your chickens laying at summertime levels all winter long!

Best heated chicken waterer

Heated chicken waterer using heat tapeEdited 2/2/18:

We’ve tried several more heated chicken waterers since this post was made, both DIY and storebought. You can always find up-to-the-minute information on the best heated chicken waterers here.


Sick of frozen chicken waterers?  It’s quick and easy to turn your existing waterer into a heated waterer, some of which will keep your water liquid down to 20 below.  Here are the top DIY options:

  • Pipe heating cable — Sandwiching a line of heat tape between a pair of five gallon buckets has the side benefit of forming a lip that gives the nipples a bit of extra protection.  Waterproof heat tape can even be threaded into PVC pipe waterers.  Estimated cost — $26.
  • Heated bucket waterer — Modifying a pre-made heated bucket to work with our chicken nipples is one of the quickest methods of making a heated chicken waterer, and the lip that protects the nipples is reported by one customer to keep his water thawed down to 20 below.  Estimated cost — $50.
  • Stock tank deicerStock tank deicer — Throwing a stock tank deicer in an existing bucket waterer is a very dependable option since these sturdy deicers are made to deal with freezing temperatures and constant use. Estimated cost — $25.

Some other workable solutions include:

  • An aquarium heater plus thermocube — Aquarium heaters are the cheapest option, but they tend to have a short working life and to break down at inopportune moments (shocking your birds if the glass cracks!)  Adding a thermocube to the assemblage means that the aquarium heater only turns on when the temperature drops below 35, making the arrangement safer and using less electricity.  Estimated cost — $30.
  • Bird bath deicerBird bath deicer — These are very similar to stock tank deicers, but look to be a little more
    expensive.  Estimated cost — $35.
  • Rain gutter heater — This is similar to pipe heating cable and works well in PVC pipe waterers.  A quick search of the internet suggests that a rain gutter heater costs over $100, but I could be looking in the wrong
  • Heat lampHeat lamp — In a pinch, a heat lamp aimed at your waterer’s nipples will keep the water from freezing during moderately cold weather.  The problem with this design is that it’s not thermostatically controlled like the other options, and you’re heating the air rather than the water, so you’ll use a lot more electricity.  However, the start-up cost is very low — $10 for the bulb and perhaps another $10 if you don’t have a reflective fixture (and chicken keepers are likely to already have both on hand.)  In warm climates where you only see a freeze warning occasionally, this is a very good option.  We also find that adding a light shining on the nipples is an effective way to supplement other heating options when the temperature drops into the low teens and freezes the nipple.


So, who won our heated chicken waterer contest?  I had to make Mark judge the contest since I wanted to give out at least half a dozen prizes.  Congratulations to Lu Ann and Christian Shank who came up with a design that is elegant, cheap, and effective!  We’ll be putting a 10 pack DIY kit in the mail to them shortly.