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Keeping chicken coop water from freezing

 
Posts: 29
Location: Kentucky - Zone6
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I live in zone 6 and have a property 30 min away from where I live where I want to have some chickens. I don't have the time to drive 1h round trip each day to attend to their needs, so I have been tinkering with a set-up so daily attendance is not needed:

- PVC piping system for multiple days of grain/food (pretty straight-forward)
- Cool nesting area so eggs stay cool in the summer (pretty straight-forward)
- Water is more difficult, keeping it unfrozen in the winter. So my current thinking is: 4 inch PVC pipes that go under the group, below the frostline, PVC piping goes into a well-insulated shelter (think straw bale and plaster shelter, the height of a dog house, with small opening for chicken and one tiny window for light). I envision the shelter to be long, but most of that will be to have the PVC pipe run horizontally as to store enough water for the chickens for half a week, majority of that pipe will be unaccessible by chickens but wrapped in heavy insulation/surrounded by straw bales/plaster for insulation. Small section (uninsulated) will have chicken nipples. The idea is that the water in the ground will be warmed by the ground temperature, that water (as it is less dense), will float to the top into the shelter. That, combined with the insulation around most of the pipe would hopefully prevent the pipe from freezing.

I don't have electricity close to my suggested chicken coop and a solar set-up is not fool-proof enough to my liking. Any suggestions?

Thanks

Maarten
 
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Location: Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
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Maarten Smet wrote:Small section (uninsulated) will have chicken nipples. The idea is that the water in the ground will be warmed by the ground temperature, that water (as it is less dense), will float to the top into the shelter. That, combined with the insulation around most of the pipe would hopefully prevent the pipe from freezing.
Maarten




Cool idea!

I don't have experience with underground piping to prevent freezing, but I would be curious to know if this works for you!

I think it will depend on how cold your ground gets. I wonder if it will stay warm enough to keep circulation going in your pipes. Once water gets down to 4 degrees C, it becomes less dense. That's why ice floats.



I would be worried that if your pipes got below 4 degrees C and circulation stopped, then the top would freeze.

Again, I'm not experienced with piping and pumps, besides small fish tanks that never froze, but I think you could maintain circulation with a small solar or battery powered pump like you would use in a fish tank?

If electrical components are out, I wonder if you could manage a foot powered pump that the chickens themselves step on when they go to get a drink?
 
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In addition to burying the pipes, running them through a large hot-compost pile should help keep them from freezing up.
You might even get a decent thermo-cycle going if you can place the compost heap down-gradient from the chicken coop.

Not sure how much it will help to prevent freezing, but adding some apple cider vinegar to the water is also good for chickens.

https://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2014/01/does-apple-cider-vinegar-keep-water.html
 
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I like the compost idea, this seems like an appropriate use for it.  My pile (in zone 4a) inside a single layer poly hoop house is cooking hot all winter.  It's all leaves, plus the poop from the birds and I add copious coffee grounds to it weekly.  So with a pile like mine you could put the water vessel in the middle of the pile and run the pipe out to the birds.
 
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Plus, birds will LOVE compost. Biggest problem is likely to be keeping them from kicking it apart.
 
Mike Haasl
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I have my compost retained behind a 10" tall board which is 12-18" off the ground.  They scratch down to the level of the board but then their disturbance really slows down.  So I think that if you had the compost in a bin or contained by some hay bales, the birds would like to be on top and will flatten/level the pile off, but not disturb down where the water container is.  Your mileage may vary...
 
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Thats tough without electricity. If you are going to do plumbing, better keep a constant flow otherwise it'll freeze. So a chicken water feature? Not a bad way to keep the water clean as well. Just make sure it has somewhere to go and that an ice dam doesn't cause issues.

My experience with compost heater: one time the coop was elevated off the ground so the water froze of course froze. A different coop which was in an unheated room with 6 chickens and accumulated litter from October to February: 5 gallon water container froze solid on cold nights (below 10 degrees).
 
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This might be out there.
I've heard they use beet juice to fill tractor tires with.
Somehow the beet juice doesn't freeze.
I wonder if it could be added to chicken's drinking water.

I think I also heard something about oats doing the same thing.

Way off topic, since you don't want to use a solar panel.
I bought a couple lizard warmers cheap on ebay.
USB plug.
They only use 5 watts.
Wouldn't take much of a solar panel to run a couple of them.
No battery or controller.
A buck a watt for an old used 30 watt panel.
A cig lighter to USB converter.
Total $40 bucks.

Drawback: It would freeze at night and thaw during the day when they need it.
So they might not have water first thing in the morning.
 
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