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how do i keep my chicken water from freezing with no electricity?

 
Al Senner
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Location: southeast SD (zone 4b/5a)
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does anyone have any good methods? tried any affordable solar power? i use a 75 watt light bulb where i have power but perhaps an aerator would work and use less power. has anyone tried it in a cold climate(sometimes 20 below zero farenheit)?
 
Craig Dobbson
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The first winter I had chickens I bought one of the 3 gallon heated waterers. It worked well but was a bit awkward and if the power is out...

So this year I used the large rubber feed bowls that are practically indestructible. Little Giant makes them in a lot of sizes

I would just fill it with pond or tap water in the morning and keep it out of the wind. It would stay unfrozen for a few hours on most days. The chickens typically pecked a small hole on one edge that they all seemed to agree they would use to drink from. Even though there was water available, some chickens chose to eat snow or peck ice from the swales, so I figured if the bowl froze over they'd manage for a bit. Since I had to go out to get eggs before they froze, I might as well break the ice and refill the bowl too. Right? The good thing about the rubber bowls is that even if they freeze solid, you can just flip them over and stomp on them. The ice comes right out.
I don't think chickens get up in the middle of the night to drink so I just didn't bother leaving water out at night.
 
Adam Klaus
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^^^ This.

I do the same thing as Craig, works great in all regards. Chickens dont need water 24/7, especially when temps are subfreezing.

Little Giant tubs are absolutely boss for everything!
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I use those rubber tubs too, but had one crack this winter.

I used the carry-water method this winter too. It works pretty well. I use warm water. I also mix water and other liquids into the kitchen scraps. That gets eaten right up, less chance to freeze.
 
Lincoln Smith
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Location: Bowie, Maryland
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After a couple years carrying water out to my 20 pastured ducks, this winter I buried a couple water tanks in a compost pile. I love it--a lot more water available, and a lot less water hauling for me. The compost keeps the water at about 60 degrees no matter how cold the weather gets. Here's a video of the setup:

 
Marianne Cicala
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Thank you Lincoln - wonderful video! Where are you located?
thanks
Marianne
 
Lincoln Smith
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Location: Bowie, Maryland
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Glad you like it! I'm in Bowie, MD, zone 7A.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Very nice idea, but i have a critical question. Doesn't the water in the tub freeze during the day?
 
Lincoln Smith
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Aljaz Plankl wrote:Very nice idea, but i have a critical question. Doesn't the water in the tub freeze during the day?


Great point Aljaz. Couple things: if the daytime temperature is above ~25 degree F, the ducks' activity is enough to keep the tub from freezing. Below that, you do get a thin layer of ice by the end of the day, but the birds get their daily bath in the hours before it freezes. It helps that the water starts out fairly warm. When I come out at the end of the day, I fill their small nighttime drinking water tub and again they can drink for a few hours before it freezes too hard. Two waterings per day seem to do the trick -- the intervals of a few hours without liquid water available don't seem to be a problem for my birds.
 
Byron Gagne
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I live in the Yukon Canada many times a winter it gets below -40c. The coldest I've seen since we moved to our new property was -52c.
We or also struggling with how to keep the coupe water from freezing!

One solution I came up with is Utilizing my shop. I'm going to build the coupe attached to the heated building. The coupe will be extremely insulated. Also it's sized not to big so the birds residue heat will help keep it warmer.

Combining the attached coupe with lots of insulation will temper the environment around the waterer considerably. I then took a 5 ft length of 3" pipe capped the end installed watering nibbles and glued in a 90" and another 3ft length of pipe. This 90" will stick into the warm shop and us were it can be filled, plus heat will conduct down the pipe through the heated space.

I may wrap the pipe with something? Or build a box around it only letting the nipples stick out?

Another up grade is mounting a heat exchanger in through the pipe 1/2 copper pipe which I'm going to hook to my teg generator mounted on the wood stove in the shop. The teg generator is self powered cooling the teg water at the same time warming the drinking water. Will it work? Well next winter will be the test! Teg is thermal electric generator.

Good luck keeping your water warm
 
Thomas Partridge
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We came up with a fantastic low tech method that worked 100% for us in the winter.

We dumped the 8 gallon waterer out each day when we got home and brought it inside to defrost. Then in the morning we cleaned it and emptied it all the way and brought it and a 5 gallon bucket with room temperature water down to the coop. It was a good bit of extra work but our birds had clean liquid water every day and we didn't have to pay to heat a waterer or run cords to it.
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 389
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I usually use a heated water bowl made for dogs. Only one side of the bowl is on the chicken's side of the fence. They can't get to most of the bowl so it stays fairly clean. My dog uses the other side.

This year, I have two kids in the household and don't want a cord laying outside. I've just been refilling every morning.
 
Helene Dube
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Location: Chertsey, Qc
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We are Zone 3 and often get -30C, our hens are in an unheated greenhouse all winter.
Being off-grid, we can't heat the water so we bring in a full bucket of warm water in the morning.
When it gets really cold, I make sure to shovel a pile fresh snow in there to make sure they can drink... Yes, they drink snow! A neighbour keeps his chickens in an outdoor pen, covered with tarps on top and 3 sides, he doesn't give them ANY water, just snow!
 
Bob Gilder
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Location: Zone 2, United States
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Has anyone tried an underground solution like a root cellar? I assume it would have to be well ventilated in addition to being frequently cleaned... my only concern would be the humidity. Thoughts or suggestions?
 
Nathan Pieper
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Location: Upper Midwest USA
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One IDEA I've considered is that of building on of those "solar air heaters" (people make them to heat home air) with a snow hopper above it. The hot air coming out the top of solar air heater could perceivably melt snow in the hopper, that you could arrange to have run or drip into a small pan that the birds could sip from as it arrives. It would of course only work during the day, and probably only well when generally sunny, keeping it out of wind would obviously be a help. Might have to try that someday.

Currently, for my 24 ducks in Minnesota I just provide 1/4 to 1/2 gallon of fresh water from the house with each meal (twice per day). It's an extremely quick and easy amount of water to fill and haul any reasonable distance. I pour it warm to hot into the rubberized tubs already mentioned. It melts some of what froze from the time before too, and stays thawed plenty long enough to wash the meal down and keep even ducks happy for a good while. Ice gets stomped out of the oil pan sized tub maybe once per week. Apple cider vinegar brings the freeze temp down too, and though I've not tried it I hear a ping pong ball or other floating ball helps keep surface molecules moving. If we have to leave for a weekend or something, I currently put an electric de-icer in their small 15 gallon bath pool, and hope the electric doesn't go out. If it does, guess they are eating snow for a day or two, which won't kill em. The de-icer only runs maybe 6 days a year, so it's a pretty economical system for us I think.
 
C Jones
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You can probably get an awfully long way with a little bit of insulation around your water tank/bucket/dish.

Here's a great write-up, with links to other ideas, on how someone made a large stock tank for their horses. Many of the ideas would transfer across to a smaller-scale one for chickens. May help you think through (permaculture style) what's available and where your losses are (solar input, heat out the sides, or especially on top). Depending where your chicken water is located, maybe you can't use solar input (under shelter, e.g.)...but might not need it anyway. http://builditsolar.com/Projects/WaterHeating/SolarHorseTank/SolarHorseTank.htm

Suggested semi-analytical approach: Think about how much water you have and how quickly that would freeze in your environment (water temp, outside temp, etc.). Compare with how often you will/can/want to add or freshen or change the water. Figure out approx heat losses and how much insulation to keep your heat in for however long you want. Decide on a way to reduce surface area of water exposed, while still allowing plenty of access.

Or....put your water container inside some other larger container (build one if needed) with some insulating material around it, cover it some if possible. See if it works . If it gets sunlight, use a dark color.

Some other good suggestions here too. I'm especially intrigued with the compost one - clever! That heat would escape anyway, so may as well put it to use! And.....snow might be the more permaculture-y / natural approach. In the absence of people supplying fresh water, what would their wild ancestors have done? (Or would they even have lived in an area with such conditions...)
 
Nathan Pieper
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Location: Upper Midwest USA
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C Jones, last winter I tried something along the lines of what you're mentioning, with pretty good success. I basically built a giant "coozie" that fit over the top of a standard galvanized poultry waterer, and kept that combo inside the coop (not out in the run) where it would be further protected form cold and wind. Filled with hot water, and given all that mass of water inside an insulated coozie, (with plenty of insulation on the top of course) it would stay unfrozen for several days, even in subzero temps outside, though replacing the water every day with fresh warm water always proved the best proactive defense against a difficult to open and clear waterer. In short I can attest to insulating water storage (essentially what that cool compost method is doing too but with the added benefit of decomposition) working well, the question for me was whether managing that larger volume of water generally well suited to trying to insulate, was a better option than smaller quantities of water slightly more frequently (once per day vs twice). Ultimately, moving 5 gallons once a day was a lot more trouble for me than 1/4 gallon twice per day, and having the insulated waterer in the coop certainly added more moisture and eventually ice to the inside of the coop than was ideal.
 
Erica Wisner
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My in-laws use electric water heaters, but I've helped with some other farms here. The electric water heaters are REALLY popular up here, even for sites that are somewhat off-grid.
We get lows of -10 F routinely, -30 occasionally at night up in the hills here. (that's about -25 to -35 C, in round numbers)

I have seen bigger troughs stay unfrozen longer, especially with a good-sized herd sharing the same trough so the water is added more often. Goats and sheep seem to keep the ice broken up pretty well. A lot of the farmers I work with will do 1 heated and 1 spare water trough, so there's a fallback if the unheated one freezes. Some places will bucket water from 1 heated storage tank to 3 or 4 different stock-watering areas, all unheated. Seems like at that point, if electric is not your thing, you could do the same with a single, freeze-protected water source in a house or greenhouse.

Just adding fresh/warm water to the chicken pan daily seems to be enough for most flocks. (I would bring a bucket of warm water out, wash out the heated pan, refill, then pour the leftover warm water into the unheated pan to melt the ice, or dump out the ice if it looked grossly dirty. Extra pans seemed like it let all the girls get a good drink while it's fresh, and then the heated pan inside the coop was the main access point for the rest of the day.)


I have an idea, untested, but let me know if anyone tries something similar:

- The simplest solar water heaters are a clear case over a black pipe or tank, with insulation anywhere that's not actively collecting heat.

I wonder about using a big shallow rubber pan or bin, maybe just start with the oversized oil-change pans that people already seem happy with, and use a piece of Plexiglass to cover 2/3 of the pan. (A broken windshield from an ATV, or a Pyrex pan of the right size, could work fine - just something a little tougher than window glass, to take some abuse from the birds.)
Insulate the outside or bury it in dry earth, to avoid unnecessary heat loss out the sides.
Leave in a sunny location, with the water available through the last 1/3 opening.

Consider a floating, insulated, evaporation barrier on the drinking side, to further reduce evaporation losses (something like an empty plastic bottle or hip-flask, that would be too smooth and boring to peck apart, but could be pushed under water/out of the way to get a drink.) A string, hinge, screen, or bars between the drinking and supply sides might be needed to keep the drinking-side cover in place.

If it freezes, can always kick the ice out of the rubber pan and start over, as most people are already doing.

If it works well enough to be interesting, could be built into a box, with added features.

Make sure the clear lid is airtight as possible, except where it's open for drinking. Condensing water would be a good sign, that means you're recovering some of the evaporative heat loss.

Consider making the solar-heated end deeper, for a larger water supply that will hold heat longer into the night (using pond liner or something). A larger trough or bin could be used, with screen or bars to keep the birds from accidentally falling down into deeper water under the cover. Or it could be a standard tank-type self-watering trough, with a pan at the bottom and replacement water overhead, an airtight lid, and good insulation. With the self-watering kind, seems like a glass airtight lid might be technically tricky to make, and keep the access easy. So I'd lean toward a black tank (can blacken other colors with food-grade oil and soot), and build the clear-topped, insulated box for solar collection around the whole thing.

Black, or any dark color, is most likely to be effective at heat collection.
It would be smart to cover it with insulation during the night, if it's convenient (if you're already visiting the birds morning and evening).

The sun collection could be expanded with tin-foil covered reflector panels, like a solar oven... an insulative cover with reflective foil facing the tank could serve both functions, with a keeper chain at the right angle to catch some extra sun at the end of the day. (Two or three panels will get you near-total coverage from morning to evening...)

Although if the birds are half as smart as they seem to be, they'll start sitting on the cover and sunbathing. I suppose a chicken tanning-bed would not be a bad accidental side effect, if it keeps them happy.

Mad science .... FOR THE CHICKENS!!


Let me know if anyone gives it a try.

-Erica

(aren't you proud that I didn't suggest a rocket stove water heater?)

It sounds like one of the main purposes for such a contraption would be to increase the number of days the flock can go without attention.
If you're visiting morning and evening to open/close a lid on the solar water tank, there's not much difference to just hauling a bit of water out twice a day.
If you have larger flocks, or your winter water access is difficult (trucked or moving hoses around), I could see where you might find it worth building several water contraptions so you can run the refills less often, say once a week.

As an occasional farm-sitter for neighbors, I suspect that finding a compatible human who can be trusted to check your beasts while you're gone, and swapping flock-sitting for fresh eggs on the occasional winter absence, will probably be the most permaculture solution in the long run.
 
C Jones
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Lol Erica....I was actually thinking of making a rocket heater, before you posted that. I don't see why not.......
 
Davis Bonk
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I was thinking of hauling rocks or bricks in and out from my wood stove after the mass heats up and set the water on that.

Is there a better material?
I'm guessing there's a type of cement out there that is lighter and holds more heat in and releases it slower than cinder blocks.

They could also be heated in solar ovens.

This is VERY labor intensive though.

Edit: I'm not sure if the days will be long enough to work with solar when the heat would be most needed.
 
C Jones
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I suppose it's getting that time of year again, when people might be thinking about this kind of stuff.

justin rhodes had a video about an "ever-flow" system or something that he came up with.  (He mentioned it in a recent video and I recall seeing it previously.)
Actually, now that I look for it, there are several videos on topics like that....two for the chickens and two for the cows.  I haven't watched them all, but maybe they'll be useful to someone?  (Note most of his vids are in a "vlog" style, so not necessarily detailed how-to...)








 
Jeff Wesolowski
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What if we were to give them food with very high moisture content, like sprouts and put em in the greenhouse after 10 am or so, so they don't freeze so quick, just a thought.
 
C Jones
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For completeness' sake, here's his latest version.  


High moisture food....sounds like a reasonable idea to me, but I have very little clue.
 
Annie Sires
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I don't know if anyone suggested this:  take two old car tires, stack one on top of other.  Place two boards or three across bottom.  Fill inside the tires with spray insulating foam from a can (or any other good insulator like bubble wrap) and place a five gallon bucket inside.  insulation will keep water from freezing.

voila.
 
Kevin Swanson
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Water freezes from the top down. Could you get some chicken watering nipples and install them on the bottom? Then it is just a matter of sizing the container that it stays unfrozen long enough to suit your needs.
 
judd ripley
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I want to share my solution for frost free, no electricity drinking water for my chickens. I searched high and low for ever to try to find a solution online, and the following is an amalgam of different ideas that has so far worked perfectly for me, and has cost exactly zero dollars. This idea could be scaled up somewhat I think, to suit a bigger flock, but there would be limitations with regard to materials, weight etc. i am in a relatively cold area, (Denmark-Scandinavia) with daytime temps of around 20 degrees farenheit ( minus 6 celcius) dropping to around 10degress f, but rarely lower in my area. i don't know how effective this would be at lower temps, but it has so far proved to be very effective, with very little input.  i wanted something portable, ( to follow my chicken tractor around with my five chickens)  electricity free, and automatic, in the sense that i wanted the water supply to the chickens to be constant, clean and unfrozen. essentially it is just an insulated automatic gravity fed waterer, made from an old polystyrene cooler i had laying around, with a couple of plastic jugs, and some minor modification, in all, about 30 minutes work. a couple of things to consider:
(1) the waterer needs to be on a level surface, i have mine sitting on top of a piece of concrete, off the ground.
(2) the drinking access hole needs to be small enough to restrict temperature transfer, but big enough that the chickens feel safe to insert their heads. mine needed to be 3 inches in diameter before my chickens would put their heads in it to drink. ( i experimented)  i have isa browns and Icelandic chickens. This could vary for different breeds, i don't know. # IMPORTANT! chickens eat Styrofoam, so the drinking access hole needs to be sealed, i used a piece of plastic pipe inserted into the hole i cut with a holesaw.
(3) the outlet hole in the water supply jug needed to be 3/8 of an inch to allow water/ air transfer to be effective.
(4) the height of the drinking access hole needs to be considered, depending on the animal, but also considering the outlet hole in the jug for the water to pour out.  after experimenting, i put the outlet hole on the TOP of the jug, near the handle, for convenience in refilling and carrying. i insert the jug upside down in the cooler when i want to start the waterer working. this way i can carry the jug, before and after filling, using the handle for convenience.
(5) to calculate exactly where the outlet hole in the water jug needs to be, you need to measure the level of the LOWEST point of the drinking access hole, and make sure that your outlet hole in your water jug is BELOW that height! otherwise your automatic waterer will pour out the drinking access hole until it is empty.
(6) one jug inside the cooler is just for thermal mass, it is filled and sealed with ordinary water, i have used hot water inside this jug when temps are particularly frosty out, with very good results, otherwise, its not necessary, you can  bring the  cooler inside a heated dwelling overnight, to keep temperature up.
(7) make sure there is enough free space and water surface for the chicken to insert its head and drink comfortably ( see my awesome diagram!)
( placement of unit. i have mine outside the portable coop, on a brick, surrounded by bales of hay, with old windows on top, allowing the sun to provide some additional heating to the unit. my chickens also enjoy the space under the windows during the day as its out of the wind and it is warmer under the glass. all of these things combined have made this waterer as easy as i would have hoped! i tend to my chickens every day, but i have had occasion when i haven't been able to, and the waterer has functioned perfectly, without frost, even when outside water is frozen. i usually top up the water every day, but depending on many factors, the water supply can last many days without any input from me. i have been very pleasantly surprised on many occasions when i thought i would be in trouble with frozen water. a high quality, heavily insulated cooler would be a plus, as mine is very thin and cheap, as would having it black / painted black to absorb solar heat.
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judd ripley
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extra diagram
cooler-diagram.jpg
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Photo-05-01-2017-11.23.06.jpg
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Todd Parr
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Judd, cool idea.  I may try making something similar here.  My temps get quite a bit lower than yours, but I may be able to make something similar that would work.
 
Craig Dobbson
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I finally got around to uploading a video about how I deal with freezing water issues.  Since I'm dealing with chickens, ducks, rabbits and pigs(which will flip and smash just about anything for fun) and a dog, I had to come up with one simple solution to the frozen water question.  These bowls come in tons of sizes and they are pretty cheap.  I've had most of these for about 4 years now and none of them are even close to worn out. I keep some in just about every size, as water requirements change throughout the year and also as animal populations change.  I really like some of the ways others have solved the winter water issue.  I wish I were that thoughtful and crafty.  So in this case I take a brute force approach.

The main reason for me making the switch from other methods was that the ducks would constantly splash water all over the place, leaving a giant frozen mountain of ice and food bits around the heated waterer.  Then the waterer would be stuck to the ground until spring. Once it freezes here, that's it... no going back until the spring thaw.  Winter plays for keeps around here. The other thing was that when the power went out, I was pretty much back to hauling water anyway. 

There are a couple ways of dealing with the ice once it's caked up the bowl.  In the video I show you what I do to make it easy.
Thanks for watching



 
Les Van Valkenburgh
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I just use the rubber bowls, bust the ice out. Nice thing of the rubber bowls is they don't flip them over, way back I just used cut off milk jugs, ice busts out also, eventually they get a hole, thin and cheap, but also cheap to replace. I actually have one coop of naked necks with a milk jug water bowl, left the handle on so I could attach it to the coop and they can't dump it Lol!
 
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