It’s getting to be that time of year again when those of us in ‘the frozen North’ can all look forward to frozen drinking troughs and waterers and a trek through the snow to take fresh water to our flock.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to do that trek several times a day? Well, you can avoid some of it and we’re going to talk about how today.
Heated chicken waterers aren’t new – they have been around for several years now and seem to improve with each year.
In this article we discuss what makes the perfect heated chicken waterer, why you should be using one and much more…
|The Best Heated Chicken Waterer|
|Heated Plastic Poultry Fountain
What Makes the ‘Ideal’ Heated Chicken Waterer?
Everyone has their own idea about the perfect heated waterer, but I bet we are similar in many points. It should be:
- Easy to fill
- Easy to clean
- Plastic or non-corrosive material (apple cider vinegar will corrode metal)
- Minimal waste
- Thermostatically controlled
- Long electric cord
With the exception of the long cord, most of these wishes have been granted by the manufacturers. I would love to know why they won’t give you more than three feet of cord though!
Plastic is the ideal material since it’s easy to clean and you can see the water level through the plastic.
It’s not as heavy as metal and as we already mentioned it won’t corrode.
As for minimal waste, we recently talked about chicken nipples here.
Advantages of a Heated Chicken Waterer
People who live in moderate climates often wonder what all the fuss is with heated waterers.
Those of us that live in areas that get snow bound from December to March know full well what all the fuss is about.
At the beginning of the season it seems adventurous, almost fun (like the pioneers) but by the end of the season we are heartily fed up of carrying buckets of water to the coops 3-4 times a day in blowing snow and frigid temperatures.
Trust me when I say the older you get the less fun it is!
Heated waterers allow us the luxury of only having to venture out a couple of times to check on the ladies or fill up the waterer.
|All-Seasons Heated Plastic Poultry Fountain||Heated Waterer||
|Harris Farms Heated Poultry Drinker Base||Bottom Plate||
|Farm Innovators Heated Pet Bow||Heated Bowl||
|Water Deicer with Guard||Deicer||
Types of Heated Chicken Waterer Available
There are a few different types of heated units available depending on what you want or prefer.
|The Best Heated Chicken Waterer|
|Heated Plastic Poultry Fountain
These types are usually plastic and have the heating element built into the base. There are several different makes but they all basically function the same way. They are the most popular on the market today.
When the temperature dips down below the 30 Fahrenheit the heater comes on to prevent the water from freezing.
They work well when the temperature is in the twenties, even teens, but single digit temperatures can cause the ice to build up inside. They can be either top fill or bottom fill for water.
My personal favorite is from Farm Innovators and can be bought for around $50.00. Mine has lasted 3 years; it’s easy to fill and use and stays thawed even on the brutally cold days.
These are made to sit underneath metal waterers to keep them from freezing. They really aren’t suitable for plastic waterers as they may cause them to melt and start a fire.
These items do put out quite a bit of heat, so be careful in using them.
Also some come without a ‘base’ to cover the element – personally I think that a little dangerous so get the completely covered in base if you can.
These are similar in design to heated pet bowls. They do work well in keeping the water unfrozen, however there are a few drawbacks.
The water does not stay clean for long; as you can imagine the chickens lose no time in scratching dirt, poop and bedding into the water.
They are also rather small. If you only have a couple of chickens it would do fine, but any more than 3-4 birds will have you visiting the coop to refill several times a day.
I do use one but it is used as a secondary source of water.
These items are designed to be plugged into the electric, put into the container and keep the water from freezing. It’s basically a small version of a stock tank heater.
If you have recently made yourself a chicken nipple waterer, a deicer would work very well in keeping the unit ice free.
A very nice thing about the chicken nipples in the cold weather is that birds don’t tend to get their wattles wet, so they are less prone to frostbite.
Alternatives to Heated Chicken Waterers
We have covered the most popular heating items, but there are just a few more out there to take a look at.
Unless you already have solar power in place, I don’t recommend this for chicken waterers. Installing solar power costs a significant amount of money and in the northern areas it would be doubtful if you could harness enough sun power to keep the water unfrozen.
If you already have the system in place, simply add your waterer into the circuit.
Something you can do if you happen to get a lot of sun is set up a mini greenhouse area for your girls.
All it requires is an old window and a couple of supports to make a triangular area in which you can sit the water to keep it from freezing. This will work nicely for those days when the sun does shine and the wind isn’t too brisk.
Battery Operated Water Heaters
This is another money draining idea.
Battery operated sounds great but the battery power is eaten up rather quickly which ends up costing you money you don’t need to spend. Be prepared to use up to 8 size ‘D’ batteries in an overnight period!
These are good to use in a pinch. Yes they do freeze, but when you need to refill them you just turn them over and jump on them a couple of times!
The ice will break away easily and you won’t damage the bowl. I have been using mine for a couple of years now and they are indestructible.
If you set them in the sun they will actually absorb the heat and keep the water unfrozen a little bit longer.
Ping Pong Balls
Another idea I came across was using ping pong balls to float on the water. The theory being that with a breeze blowing, the surface of the water is disrupted by the balls inhibiting freezing.
I did try this one year and ended up with frozen ping pong balls – but perhaps you will have better luck!
Cinder Block Heater
This requires a bit of DIY but is not difficult to do.
Your supplies are:
- Cookie tin (without the cookies)
- Lamp kit
- 40w light bulb
- 3/8 inch drill bit
Drill a hole through the side of the cookie tin. Thread the lamp wire assembly through the hole.
Plug in and test – you should have light and heat!
Place the lid on the cookie tin and set the waterer on top – if you need extra height use a block of wood or cinder block to stand it on.
This works very nicely and surprisingly doesn’t get too hot, but keep it away from dry bedding just in case. More on how to build one here.
How Many Waterers Does Your Flock Need?
How many waterers should you have for your flock? I try to average one waterer for every 10-12 birds over the winter.
I use a variety of waterers:
- a hanging heated 3 gallon waterer
- a large heated dog bowl
- a large rubber pan (this serves everyone’s needs for the day)
I place them far apart from each other so there isn’t any ‘water guarding’ going on – I do the same with the feed too.
Long winter months lead to boredom in the flock and guarding food and water is a favorite pastime for a couple of the more assertive girls.
If you can, avoid putting the waterers into the coop. They do give off moisture and you really want the coop to be dry. Damp and cold can lead to frostbite in birds with pronounced combs and wattles which will give you a whole other set of problems to deal with.
You really can’t go wrong with the plastic waterers with the heated base. They are well built and mine have lasted 3 years but now need the cords replacing.
We have shown you a variety of options here so hopefully something will fit the needs of your flock.
As a word of caution, if you have small chicks do not use open pans of water (such as dog bowls or rubber pans) as the chicks can easily fall in and either drown or freeze to death.
Here’s hoping your winter is mild and short.
Let us know in the comments section below how you stop your chickens’ water from freezing…