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Frozen water woes

 
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Last winter, our chicken waterer stayed liquid, inside the hen house, but it added to the moisture, in there. So, I moved it out to the run - and, it froze. I'm using 5gal buckets with nipples. For a while, I tried keeping it wrapped in styrofoam packing materials, and that worked beautifully - until the goofwads decided it would be fun to destroy the covering, the wrapping, and the underlaying styrofoam. Ugh. Thankfully, by the time it was past working, it was also pretty much past the longer-lasting sub-0 temps. But, as always, the seasons change, and we're heading back to that season. How do you keep your chickens' water nipples thawed, when the temps drop to the bitter-zone?
 
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I use a heated bucket that I got from Tractor Supply and put nipples in the side of it.  It's electric but I think it's fairly low wattage and on a thermostat.  I made a lid for it to hold in heat and keep out chicken detritus.  It's in their coop which is only slightly warmer than outside.  It's made it through -30F without the nipples freezing.
 
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Carla Burke wrote:

Thankfully, by the time it was past working, it was also pretty much past the longer-lasting sub-0 temps.

Am I to assume you mean sub-0 Fahrenheit?

Have you considered giving up on a nipple system for the winter, getting a rubber bucket, and dumping the ice when it freezes?

goofwads

Yeah - that about sums them up where styrofoam is concerned! I had the same issue trying to use it to keep the top of a bucket warm. I'd use wood the next time. We usually don't have to cope much below 0 Celsius which is much easier, but I'm still known to carry out jugs of hot water late evening to help. It sounds like you need a better solution than that.
 
Carla Burke
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Ozarks, so yes, 0F, not C. I sometimes forget about celcius, because.. well. I never use it. I should know better than to pose questions like this, when I'm bordering on sleep, lol. I always forget stuff - like the fact that this run/coop is more than 150ft (down the length of a rough gravel driveway) from the nearest power & water sources. So, I'm hoping to find a solar or battery operated heater - but, so far...nada

 
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My grandpa used to have a kerosene heated one.  Basically it was a 5 gallon metal waterer on a stand with a little kerosene lamp base underneath.  He was always paranoid about the thing, it was shielded but still an open flame in a room full of straw and goofwads kicking it around.



 
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I just have rubber dishes I fill twice a day. Pain in the butt, but doable.
 
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Carla Burke wrote:Ozarks, so yes, 0F, not C. I sometimes forget about celcius, because.. well. I never use it. I should know better than to pose questions like this, when I'm bordering on sleep, lol. I always forget stuff - like the fact that this run/coop is more than 150ft (down the length of a rough gravel driveway) from the nearest power & water sources. So, in hoping to find a solar or battery operated heater - but, so far...nada



I think the problem with batteries/solar is that it takes so much energy to heat the water.  I've used a recirculating system and it works ok but you have to clear ice from the nipples sometimes.  You can run a pump on much less power, so it may work with a battery set up.  I've used a cookie tin waterer with much success, though I had to modify it to accept one 75W and one 100W bulb to keep the water thawed down to -40 (take your pick F or C).  

I've also used the method Jay describes.  Give them water twice a day and they're good.  I do feed fermented so that really helps lower the liquid water I give them in the winter.  I'm hoping 45 gal batches generate enough heat to not freeze this winter.  I will probably insulate the barrels.

edit:  I just wanted to add that, if your pump stops for any reason, you're probably looking at the bucket method until you get a thaw.  Using batteries will rule out power failures but you'd probably want to rig up a back-up pump that kicks in if the primary pump fails.
 
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I have the heated fount shown in the picture below. It holds three gallons which is good for my chickens for a couple days. I've had it as far away from the house as 300ft using extension cords and it still kept water from freezing into the teen temps (Fahrenheit). I believe the one I have is good to 0 degrees when the air is still. Wind can cause ice to skim over. While it's not a bucket with nipples, it works, and it might be an option to consider.


source
 
Mike Haasl
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Travis Johnson has a way to keep livestock tanks thawed in Maine by burying a culvert vertically (10' deep) below a trough.  Then the heat of the earth can circulate up and keep the tank warmer.  Plus insulating the sides and top, of course.  So maybe something like that would work.

Or burying a water container in a pile of hot compost with a part that extends out where the birds can drink from.  
 
Jay Angler
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Timothy Markus wrote:

I do feed fermented so that really helps lower the liquid water I give them in the winter.

I'm not sure what defines "fermented" as opposed to simply "soaking" whole grains for 24 -48 hours before feeding the birds, but my friend in the Yukon does the latter. Wet vs dry food does decrease the need for water.

All of you have awesome, creative suggestions!
 
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A 5 gallon insulated water cooler  is between 20-30 bucks,and pretty well insulated.
An even bigger cooler would be more resistant to cooling.

Small solar powered fountains are pretty cheap and could push the water through a drain back style solar thermal water heater.

 
Carla Burke
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Lots of great ideas here! Thank you!

Today, I got (yet another) hose, so hauling isn't a terrible thing, now (YAY!) But, filling pans multiple times per week is not even an option *for me*, for our own health, and likelihood of emergency interstate travel, for our parents. One of the things I tried last year, for the goats, was rubber buckets. Eventually, I sacrificed both of our biggest picnic coolers, filling them with the hottest water I could get from the tap, plus a gallon or two, heated on the stove. They loved it, and within the shelter of the barn, it worked like a charm. That was the thing I managed, for them, that gave me the idea to wrap the chicken watering buckets. I also used the hot water, when filling the chicken buckets, which they also loved - while it lasted. Hmmm... I wonder... maybe water-heater wrap, reinforced with metal tape?

Part of this winter's plan is wrapping a good part of the run with heavy duty tarps, to help break the wind. Maybe I could build an insulated alcove around the water buckets, too. I'm getting closer to resigning myself to running power out there - I just don't trust our wiring, to be frank. I do have a temp sensor, that will turn the power off and on, automatically. Ugh. I'm GOING to figure it all out, probably incorporating several of your ideas! Thank you so much!
 
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I live in an area where the news is announcing to bring pets indoors at 32 degrees. So, I tend to just use rubber buckets for water.  I do own electric heaters for the water,  but those are rarely used.
 
Timothy Markus
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Carla Burke wrote:Hmmm... I wonder... maybe water-heater wrap, reinforced with metal tape?



They burn out when the water gets too low.  I made a beautiful one with heat wrap, insulation and a 1/4" hardware cloth exterior with two nipples.  Might work if you recirc through the bucket, but it was an expensive lesson.
 
Carla Burke
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Timothy Markus wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:Hmmm... I wonder... maybe water-heater wrap, reinforced with metal tape?



They burn out when the water gets too low.  I made a beautiful one with heat wrap, insulation and a 1/4" hardware cloth exterior with two nipples.  Might work if you recirc through the bucket, but it was an expensive lesson.



Oh! I meant just the wrap-type insulation, maybe with a livestock tank heater, inside - if I cave and go electric. I think I'd be too worried about a possible fire, with the electric wrap.
 
Jay Angler
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Carla Burke wrote:

I'm GOING to figure it all out, probably incorporating several of your ideas!

Your determination has convinced me! I believe you!
At Princess Auto, I've seen insulated tarps - don't know how they would work on parts of the run.
My sister used that silver-backed bubble wrap in her basement. I wouldn't want to trust it within reach of chickens, but if you made a "water alcove" and put it in between two layers of wood or consider insulating the whole roof of the coop with it, would that help?
Hubby always says that insulation just keeps the heat where it is, it doesn't actually *generate* any heat. If you blocked the wind on some sides, but put clear plastic or old windows where the sun shines, would there be a way to hold the sun's heat in? We get a fair bit of sun in our living room in the winter, but none in late June early July due to the angle of the sun, so you'd need to figure out what the sun's angle is at the time of year you get the coldest weather.
And also wrote:

But, filling pans multiple times per week is not even an option *for me*, for our own health, and likelihood of emergency interstate travel, for our parents.

OK, if there's an emergency, can you have a prepared, fenced area in with the goats? Like pre-prepared panels that latch together, so the chickens and goats can share heat?

I'm trying to throw crazy ideas out there, because even if my crazy won't work, it might inspire other people's crazy! I totally get what you're dealing with. We almost never get snow. Then we'll get a year with two feet of it, the chickens are in the back corner of the back field almost a quarter mile from the house, and Hubby would get called away. Not just "not fun" but dangerous. Normally the snow melts the same day or within two days, but with weather weirding, it's often hanging around for 1-2 weeks and things I can physically cope with for two days, becomes overwhelming for two weeks.
 
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Any solar warmth you can add to the coop would be a plus, as would insulation. But don’t shut off the ventilation. They could be in danger from a buildup of ammonia inside the coop. Not that you were planning to make it airtight, just posting a general warning.

If you go the way of nipples, only use horizontal nipples. The vertical ones can freeze up.

I have a small (2 gallon?) heated waterer. It’s thermostatically controlled. It was a lifesaver from having to go break the ice repeatedly. They don’t love drinking from those nipples, but they do it. Mine also get mash made with warm water in the morning, and this is a big favorite. They also eat snow!
 
Carla Burke
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Jay Angler wrote:
At Princess Auto, I've seen insulated tarps - don't know how they would work on parts of the run.
My sister used that silver-backed bubble wrap in her basement. I wouldn't want to trust it within reach of chickens, but if you made a "water alcove" and put it in between two layers of wood or consider insulating the whole roof of the coop with it, would that help?
Hubby always says that insulation just keeps the heat where it is, it doesn't actually *generate* any heat. If you blocked the wind on some sides, but put clear plastic or old windows where the sun shines, would there be a way to hold the sun's heat in? We get a fair bit of sun in our living room in the winter, but none in late June early July due to the angle of the sun, so you'd need to figure out what the sun's angle is at the time of year you get the coldest weather...

OK, if there's an emergency, can you have a prepared, fenced area in with the goats? Like pre-prepared panels that latch together, so the chickens and goats can share heat?

I'm trying to throw crazy ideas out there, because even if my crazy won't work, it might inspire other people's crazy! I totally get what you're dealing with. We almost never get snow. Then we'll get a year with two feet of it, the chickens are in the back corner of the back field almost a quarter mile from the house, and Hubby would get called away. Not just "not fun" but dangerous. Normally the snow melts the same day or within two days, but with weather weirding, it's often hanging around for 1-2 weeks and things I can physically cope with for two days, becomes overwhelming for two weeks.



I've actually never heard of Princess Auto, but Harbor Freight has some very reasonably priced ones, in varying degrees of strength and size, so we will probably make a run, next week, for that. Our chicken run has a full roof, and is pretty much blocked on the south side, by mature oak trees that don't overhang the roof, but effectively block the direct, hot summer sun, from there. So, unfortunately, the sun is pretty much entirely blocked, in winter. Our warmer-than-freezing seasons last 9-10 months, or so, so protecting them from overheating seemed more important than the relatively few weeks of (what we'd consider) bitter cold, of anywhere from -10°F to 20°F, when the water would freeze solid. Blocking the wind, last year would have been incredibly helpful, but we just used the (wimpy) tarps we already had on hand, which the wind shredded, in less than 48hrs, after I hung them.

So, here's where y'all have helped me bring this, so far:
1. Replace the shredded cheapo tarp wind-block run-wrap with heavy duty
2. Build a water alcove, with protected-insulation
3. Look into passive water-heater insulation wrap, protected by metal tape
4. Seriously consider starting (yet another), or moving the existing compost mountain (from north of the goat barn) onto the north or northeast side of the coop & run
5. Possibly install a roost in the goat barn, in case things get truly insane (no need of nesting boxes, as the aforementioned goofwads already have a couple of coveted nesting books they've created, themselves), & we have no other options, in an emergency. While goats are great for chickens, chickens are not always great for goats. We will be down to only 2 ducks, by the end of this week, so they'll just have to find their own way around, in the goat barn, if it comes down to that.

YAY!!! A plan of attack! Just what I was looking for! Y'all  ROCK!!! Thank you!!
 
Mike Haasl
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Another idea, if you ever get power down there, is to bury a 100' long piece of 4" corrugated drain tile in a loop that goes from the coop to the coop.  Put a little fan in it and it should take coop air (5 degrees warmer than outside?) and run it underground to be heated up to 40-50F before it returns to the coop.  Aim it at the water so it keeps that thawed and the heat in general will keep the coop warmer for the birdies.  

I made this idea up so maybe you'd need more pipe than that.  But it feels about right to me...
 
Carla Burke
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Anne Pratt wrote:Any solar warmth you can add to the coop would be a plus, as would insulation. But don’t shut off the ventilation. They could be in danger from a buildup of ammonia inside the coop. Not that you were planning to make it airtight, just posting a general warning.

If you go the way of nipples, only use horizontal nipples. The vertical ones can freeze up.

I have a small (2 gallon?) heated waterer. It’s thermostatically controlled. It was a lifesaver from having to go break the ice repeatedly. They don’t love drinking from those nipples, but they do it. Mine also get mash made with warm water in the morning, and this is a big favorite. They also eat snow!



I'm not doing anything inside the house, only in the run. My hubs was incredibly generous, with the whole thing, and bought one made by the local Mennonite community. It's huge, has windows, a separate, inside storage area, and it's even wired for an electrical system - it's just too far from any of our available electric sources to be able to hook it up. Our water system is already created - with the vertical ones, lol. Hence the problems. ~sigh~ I'm going to switch to my phone, so I can add some pics, to give a better idea of the current and last winter's set-up. If I can't find any recent ones, I'll go out tomorrow, and take some new pics.
 
Carla Burke
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Mike Haasl wrote:Another idea, if you ever get power down there, is to bury a 100' long piece of 4" corrugated drain tile in a loop that goes from the coop to the coop.  Put a little fan in it and it should take coop air (5 degrees warmer than outside?) and run it underground to be heated up to 40-50F before it returns to the coop.  Aim it at the water so it keeps that thawed and the heat in general will keep the coop warmer for the birdies.  

I made this idea up so maybe you'd need more pipe than that.  But it feels about right to me...



I should probably mention, we are situated on rock. It's the only thing we've been able to grow, outside of containers, besides wild blackberries, and a fair number of very tenacious, fierce, ornery, often agressive weeds, (many of which just happen to have awesome medicinal value, so I love them!)lol. Any burying we do requires dirt, at this point, because as far as fresh compost goes, we've used it up, for this season, and I'm basically holding a bucket under the critters, waiting for more. Ok, no. Not doing that - but, it kinda feels that way, this week!
 
Carla Burke
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Lots o pics...
20190602_151832.jpg
South side
South side
20200623_191307.jpg
West side of coop, facing the run - our house is about 20ft behind me. Goat barn is to the left
West side of coop, facing the run - our house is about 20ft behind me. Goat barn is to the left
20200904_070659.jpg
Goat barn south chicken run just making it into the frame, on the right
Goat barn south chicken run just making it into the frame, on the right
20200716_101907.jpg
Current set up in run
Current set up in run
20200619_150125.jpg
The north west corner, from the front of the goat barn
The north west corner, from the front of the goat barn
20200113_133606.jpg
First layer - cardboard
First layer - cardboard
20200113_135852.jpg
Styrofoam inside the box, hole in the top fort the chain
Styrofoam inside the box, hole in the top fort the chain
20200113_153916.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20200113_153916.jpg]
20200113_154501.jpg
Plastic bag covered box threaded into chain first, then bucket hung on chain, styrofoam covering bucket
Plastic bag covered box threaded into chain first, then bucket hung on chain, styrofoam covering bucket
20200113_154735.jpg
The cardboard & the box provided a small amount of protection for the nipples
The cardboard & the box provided a small amount of protection for the nipples
20200113_154725.jpg
Looks like a stupid box hanging - & a pita, to refill!
Looks like a stupid box hanging - & a pita, to refill!
 
William Bronson
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I have found that tarps layered in between two blankets form a great winter barrier.
The outer blankets protect tarps from wind and sun, even better once they are wet and even better when frozen.
The inner blankets I spray or soak with borox water to keep the bugs from moving in.
 
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Would it be possible to make some sort of 3-legged stool with a hole that would support the bucket but leave the nipples accessible? That would get rid of the chains, which would make insulating the whole thing easier, but maybe with an insulated hinged lid that could just be tipped up to refill the bucket?

Downside would be that if you didn't make some sort of conical lid to fit on top, the birds might decide to perch there. Upside, is that at least they'd be helping keep it warm?

There'd be details to work out, but I could see an insulated wooden box attached to the "stool" and if the stool was wide enough, that would sort of make the "cubby" you were talking about that would help still the air and trap it a little?
 
Carla Burke
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William Bronson wrote:I have found that tarps layered in between two blankets form a great winter barrier.
The outer blankets protect tarps from wind and sun, even better once they are wet and even better when frozen.
The inner blankets I spray or soak with borox water to keep the bugs from moving in.



So, tarp between blankets, rather than blanket between tarps? Huh! I never would have thought to try it, that way. Not sure John will go for it - unless I can find some really cheap blankets. The run is 10ftx10ft. I don't like covering the west side, because that's the side I can see in, from the house, and that side gives them the most light. But, the north and south sides are where the wind comes from - but not as harsh, from the south. So, maybe, if I only do this on the north side...
 
Carla Burke
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Jay Angler wrote:Would it be possible to make some sort of 3-legged stool with a hole that would support the bucket but leave the nipples accessible? That would get rid of the chains, which would make insulating the whole thing easier, but maybe with an insulated hinged lid that could just be tipped up to refill the bucket?

Downside would be that if you didn't make some sort of conical lid to fit on top, the birds might decide to perch there. Upside, is that at least they'd be helping keep it warm?

There'd be details to work out, but I could see an insulated wooden box attached to the "stool" and if the stool was wide enough, that would sort of make the "cubby" you were talking about that would help still the air and trap it a little?



Hmmm..... the bottom of the bucket needs to be about 15" - 18" off the ground, and unobstructed, all the way around... We also adding a 2nd bucket, this week, because we went from 6 to 11 chickens. Last year's setup was klunky, at best - but it really did help. But, adding another bucket... The more I think about this, the more I'm sure that in addition to blocking the north winds, I need that alcove. And, it needs to be almost fully enclosed.
 
Mike Haasl
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My bucket uses the side approach nipples.  I heard on a permies thread somewhere that those ones don't freeze as bad as the underneath ones.  So maybe you could change nipple styles and be able to set the bucket on something.  Have a top and sides that come down nearly to the nipples so the whole thing is insulated except for a 2" band where the nipples are.

(new personal record for the number of times I used the word "nipples" in a post)
 
Carla Burke
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Mike Haasl wrote:(new personal record for the number of times I used the word "nipples" in a post)



Bwahahahaha!!!
 
Carla Burke
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I really don't want to start over again, with the buckets. But, I've come up with an idea to enclose the top. I'm either going to build the insulated enclosure with an interior support beam to hang them from, or build a mini swing set, with a saw horse, and enclose that.
 
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