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Freeze protection for chickens' water container...  RSS feed

 
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How can I protect my chicken waterer from freezing without using electricity?  Or off of a solar panel?
 
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Just refill it every day
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Rick Kruszewski wrote:Just refill it every day



It can still freeze.
 
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I tried various heated water devices.  They work okay, but the longevity isn't great, and when it gets really cold, they can't keep the water thawed.  Currently, I carry water to them twice a day.  It's far from ideal, but I haven't found a better way yet.
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Has anyone tried floating bottles of peanut oil in the water?  According to Google, peanut oil has a freezing point of 37 degrees; which should be just about perfect as a phase change material to keep water from freezing.
 
Trace Oswald
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:Has anyone tried floating bottles of peanut oil in the water?  According to Google, peanut oil has a freezing point of 37 degrees; which should be just about perfect as a phase change material to keep water from freezing.



I don't understand how that would work?
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Creighton Samuiels wrote:Has anyone tried floating bottles of peanut oil in the water?  According to Google, peanut oil has a freezing point of 37 degrees; which should be just about perfect as a phase change material to keep water from freezing.



I don't understand how that would work?



As the water cools, the peanut oil inside the bottle should start to freeze at 37 degrees.  As it changes states, it will give off some heat to the water around it, delaying further cooling.  At least, in theory; I'm curious if anyone here has already tried.
 
Posts: 36
Location: Vermont, USA
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What kind of temperatures are you trying to deal with?  Lows of 30F vs -30F might need different approaches.
 
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Location: North central Ontario
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The first part would be where are you? that way we can quantify how much heat you need. next would be how many birds? Finally what kind of exposure would the water container have? Before our off grid system was large enough we used a small dish washing basin that I cut foam for and fitted. Then I cut a foam lid that fit over 75 percent of it to reduce surface area. Then I brought hot water out in the morning. Now I just use a 2 gallon heated waterer with a thermostat built into it. it uses about 300 watt hr per day. I keep it suspended in their coop to reduce the heat load. I want to fit the reservoir with a thermal blanket this year to cut consumption further...
 
Creighton Samuiels
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I live in Kentucky.  It's normal to get a little below freezing overnight, with a daily high in the 30s.  Hard freezes are rare, a couple of times each winter.  I'm not trying to protect against those hard freezes, but against the regular overnight issues.  18 chickens.
 
Jean-Paul Calderone
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Location: Vermont, USA
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:I live in Kentucky.  It's normal to get a little below freezing overnight, with a daily high in the 30s.  Hard freezes are rare, a couple of times each winter.  I'm not trying to protect against those hard freezes, but against the regular overnight issues.  18 chickens.



Okay, sounds probably doable.  I'm sure there's lots of approaches.  Here's some ideas.

Build a little box and insulate it (with whatever you've got or are comfortable with) on all sides except the top.  Fill it with sand and a resistive heater powered by a little solar panel.  Plunk the waterer on top of this.  During the day, the panel pumps energy into the sand as heat, at night the sand loses the heat through the top - into the waterer.  You can play with other fill materials too.  Sand is easy to work with but clay will hold more heat and release it on a slightly different schedule.  Water still more and yet another schedule (with drawback of not playing nicely with stray current, of course - don't electrocute your chickens on my advice, please).

Or...

Charge a deep cycle battery on the solar panel and run an electric resistive heater directly under the waterer - no extra mass - at night.  Or better, off a thermostatic switch (so it only switches on around freezing - you'll probably have to play with the threshold a bit to find what works best).  There are also resistive heaters made to go directly in a water tank, though the most common ones seem to be sized for cattle not chickens.

Or...

When it gets cold, swap your regular waterer (whatever type it is, not sure you mentioned) out for a rubber bowl.  Let it freeze a little bit and knock the ice out in the morning.  The chickens will peck a hole through a little ice to get a drink, anyway.  If you have this in a coop, it probably won't freeze on a 30F night anyway.  Chickens do make a mess of those bowls though...
 
gardener
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Can the sun shine on the waterer?  If so, using a black bucket with chicken nipples in the sun could work.  Water takes a fair bit of cold to freeze solid.  If it's in a slightly warmer coop I'm guessing it wouldn't freeze anyway.

I like the peanut oil idea.  Getting the volume of oil vs. the volume of water correct may take some tinkering.  You might have to warm it up each day so that it can coast through the night.  

Is freezing water a problem you've already encountered or are you just trying to be proactive?  I'm guessing my coop stays 5-10 degrees warmer than the outside overnight.  For me that doesn't help but in your case that could make all the difference in the world.
 
garden master
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Our daughter uses apple cider vinegar in her chickens water.

You can also float some ping pong balls to help keep the water moving around.

Float bottles of salt water:

 
Posts: 424
Location: Middle Georgia
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I am in a similar climate and I just give them fresh water each morning (also so; they don't have to drink ice cold water first thing).

If you do give them fresh every morning it can help to dump the dishes the night before when you lock up the coop (which is easier than trying to break ice rings out of them in the AM).
 
Creighton Samuiels
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Mike Jay wrote:
Is freezing water a problem you've already encountered or are you just trying to be proactive? .



A little overnight ice formation on the top around the rim, but mostly this is a proactive exercise for the deep winter.  The Farmer's Almanac predicts a very cold winter in my region, and my experience is that they tend to be more correct than not.
 
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We use waterers with horizontal water nipples and since they are mounted near the bottom of the container they buy you some time. You can then also insulate the container to buy you some additional time and bring the container in when you put them bed at night.

Edited to add that don't bother with the nipples that have to bottom mounted, we found they freeze much faster.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Location: Middle Georgia
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:
Is freezing water a problem you've already encountered or are you just trying to be proactive? .



A little overnight ice formation on the top around the rim, but mostly this is a proactive exercise for the deep winter.  The Farmer's Almanac predicts a very cold winter in my region, and my experience is that they tend to be more correct than not.



I use a big metal dog dish waterer in the winter (set on a cinder block so the birds don't walk in it, which often happens in the summer) and try to empty it each night, otherwise I have to pop a big ice disk out of it the next morning. I have to assume the plastic waterers would likely crack.

For a light freeze a solar panel with a little water bubbler (air bubbles) would work but for a hard freeze I think you would have to have a lightbulb or something underneath the dish to keep it from freezing solid overnight. If the big concern is their water freezing over during the day (when you aren't home to replace it) then a bubbler may be enough.
 
Jean-Paul Calderone
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Location: Vermont, USA
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Just to contribute a data point: I use a galvanized 5 gallon waterer - maybe it's called a "double wall metal drinker".  I keep it inside the coop with the chickens.  The coop is 8'x16', uninsulated, not-very-tight 1" wood sheathing, and a metal roof and there's 20 layers in there.  In cold weather I put the waterer on top of a cookie tin with a 40 watt light bulb inside.  This keeps the water liquid overnight down to around 0°F (which we had here already this year - which is pretty crazy).  It works even better later in the winter when the bedding has built up around the cookie tin and provides a bit of side insulation so more of the heat goes up into the water.
 
Posts: 461
Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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i give water 2xs a day by hand to my 3 coops. even with electric bowls and such don't cut it here. we occasionally hit -35f and everything flash freezes in those temps.
 
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Location: Europe - CZ, Pannonian / continental zone
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1) hollow concrete block
2) some long-lasting candle ( grave candle..) inside the block
3) ceramic / metal waterer
 
Posts: 57
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We’re in western SD. In the Black Hills. Our lows are usually (but not always) above zero—except for SOME years when all bets are off. I’m using a bucket deicer in a homemade nipple bucket with the horizontal nipples. It doesn’t generally take a lot of power so could possibly be supported by a solar panel & battery & DC converter or however that works. For me it’s easier to run a long outdoor cord from the house. If your coop is large enough, keeping the water inside it will help. The nipple bucket is easy to make. Get the horizontal nipples at your farm store or Amazon. Be sure to get a food-grade bucket with lid. Delis will sometimes give or sell them or they have them at TSC. I set mine up on pavers, but you can hang them of course. The advantage of this waterer is that since the water tends to freeze top down, the nipples stay surprisingly clear. The grown chickens peck at it pretty hard, dislodging any ice. With the bucket deicer, there’s none to dislodge, but even if there IS, if you’re not going to use power, this type waterer might help so long as it doesn’t get TOO cold. 30 Fahrenheit shouldn’t cause you any trouble.

If your coop has a dirt floor, consider using deep litter, which heats up once it starts composting. (Search it: there’s lots of chatter out there.) The trick is that it may not start composting in winter... too cold to get it going. Even if you have a wood floor or it’s already too cold, you can use deep bedding, which will add a bit of insulation. Straw is nice, since being hollow, it can modulate some degree of temperature variation. You wouldn’t need an awful lot to keep the inside temps above 32 when the typical low is around 30. Even if none of this works for you, with winters like you described, changing out the water as needed likely won’t be a huge chore.
 
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Central PA here. As of nov 15 we have had freezing weather what I do in the winter is empty all auto watering systems for my rabbits, quail, and chickens and go to dishes. My rabbits I have to use hard plastic dishes or they will chew them but for the chickens I find the 10$ rubber dishes at my local feed store work perfect. I fill water every evening when I get home from work sometimes before I leave if I have time. When I get home I fill a five gallon bucket bout half full and make my rounds the chickens water is frozen I just flip it over stomp it and the ice chuck falls out flip the dish over and fill it up the chickens and rabbits will drink their fill and drink until the water freezes again and they will be fine until you get around to filling it up again, being cold they are not overheating. My rabbit dishes are normally flipped already as they like to toss them around. I even used gallon milk jugs cut in half anything that can hold water and the ice can be knocked out of. Its extra work but I refuse to pay for water heaters that could go out and freeze my water lines for my auto systems.
 
steve bossie
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i do the same here Austin but because we are so cold here, i have to go 2xs. its a pain at -20f but a necessity for the birds.
 
Mike Jay
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I know this doesn't necessarily help the OP, but I really like my system.  It's a 2 or 3 gallon heated water bucket from Tractor Supply.  I made a lid for it and hang it in the coop.  I added 5 horizontal chicken water nipples to it.  It does need electricity but it hasn't frozen for me down to -22F outside.
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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I just tried something new that worked really well.  We seldom have a "hard freeze" but frequently do have temps drop to freezing or a little below which leaves 1/2 inch or so of ice on the water dishes in the morning.

Usually I dump the ice ring/dish and refill. But I recently bought an electric kettle (a carafe that boils a liter of water in 3-5 minutes for making tea or whatever). I discovered if i take a carafe of boiling water out I can just pour half a liter on the dish and it instantly melts the 1/2 of ice on top without leaving a floating "ice disk". Plus the water is a nice tepid temperature for thirsty cold birds first thing in the morning.

Way easier than refilling the dishes, I am going to keep using this method unless we have a really hard freeze that turns the whole bowl into solid ice.
 
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They make antifreeze for potable water systems for RVs and boats. It's safe for human consumption but I don't know about chickens. It has glycol in it I believe

How do you keep yourself from freezing? If you burn a woodstove, you could set a good sized rock(s) on top of it and stick it under or in the chicken's water container. Maybe have 2-3 rocks and rotate them.

Chickens don't need to drink at night. If your coop is in the sun, then you could use a dark container for the water so that the sun thaws it pretty quick.



Some warm rocks in the tire above would help

They make bird waterer heaters as low as 44 watts but that's still a lot for solar.  

Plenty of ideas on the web https://duckduckgo.com/?q=keep+chicken+water+from+freezing+without+electricity&t=lm&ia=web

One was putting very salty water in a 20oz soda bottle and putting that in the chicks' water. Something about the energy used trying to freeze salt water takes away from the energy that would freeze the drinking water. Probably good for a few degrees below freezing.

You could use or make an insulated bowl and make an insulated cover to put on at night. Maybe add some warm water before covering and again in the morning.

Deep litter as mentioned will create it's own heat.

If you do humanure, you could dig a hole that a bucket would fit in, put your most recent humanure bucket in it and set the water on top of it. Again, a lid at night would keep that little bit of heat in.

Any kind of hot compost in a bucket in a hole with water container on top.

1-2 gallon metal bucket in a hole with hot coals and then rocks on top of the coals and water on top.

Bury a cooler part way in the ground to use as a waterer and put warm rocks in periodically. (They come with lids too) Break or cut a hinged lid off so you can totally remove. The round ones they use on construction jobs would work good



Your frost line is probably about like ours here in Southern MO. Six inches tops. Something like the above cooler buried most of the way into the ground and covered at night might be all you need. The bottom would never freeze being 18 inches into the ground and that should transfer upwards as heat rises. Putting a lid on it at night would likely seal the deal.

 
pollinator
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I fill the water container with warm water (about +35 C) in the morning and it doesn't freeze until late at night when the chickens are sleeping anyway. The lowest temperature I've recorded in my hen house has been -2 C.
 
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