is the time of year when I start getting a lot of questions about how
to keep chicken waterers from freezing. First, for the sake of new
readers, I want to rehash some of the basics.
If you want to do without an electric heat source, I highly recommend our Avian Aqua Miser Originals.
We kept chickens for years just by taking these small waterers in each
night and hanging them on a shelf in the kitchen. If I
accidentally left one out during a moderate freeze, I could let the
waterer melt just enough to decant the chunk of ice, pour in some hot
(but not boiling) water, and in a couple of minutes the nipple was
thawed enough that I could return the waterer to our chicken
tractors. Keep in mind that any plastic waterer will crack
eventually if frozen and thawed enough times, but this technique seems
to be pretty effective otherwise.
A couple of years ago,
Mark decided it was time to enter the twentieth century. (We’re
not so sure we want to enter the twenty-first.) We solicited
feedback from our readers and received a slew of great suggestions for building heated chicken waterers. Mark took his favorite and tweaked it to come up with the heat tape chicken waterer we used for the past two winters. Here in zone 6, the heat tape waterer does great for 95% of the winter, but does
freeze up a few times when nights drop into the low teens. I
generally just bring out an Avian Aqua Miser Original for those days to
make sure everyone has enough thawed water to drink.
At the end of last winter, though, Mark discovered a relatively cheap heated bucket that has no heating element at the side of the bottom, making it simple to install a chicken nipple at an appropriate angle.
We didn’t start experimenting last year until the cold weather was
nearly over, but early results suggest that this heated chicken waterer
may stay thawed even longer into the winter (although potentially with
more electricity use?) compared to our old system. Stay tuned for
later posts as we work the kinks out of this new heated chicken waterer.