Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken Waterers & Winter Freezing

Chickens need access to fresh, clean water in order to stay happy and healthy. During the winter this becomes more challenging, particularly for those flock owners who live in the coldest climates. Over the years, backyard chicken owners have developed strategies for dealing with cold temperatures and these strategies can be used to keep your waterer operational in the winter.

The strategy that will work best for you really depends on the climate in your area and your access to safe electrical power.


Winter Time Means It's Time To Think About Your Chicken's Water Supply

Moderate Winters

If you live in an area that rarely experiences freezing temperatures, you may not need to do anything special during the winter.

  • Insulate The Water Supply Tank. If you are using a 
    BriteTap® chicken waterer, start by pairing it with a insulated water supply tank.  The BriteTap waterer can be attached to many types of water containers but most easily attaches to an insulated cooler such as those sold under the Igloo® and Rubbermaid® brand names.* These coolers are well insulated and will keep the water supply from freezing for a long period of time. Tepid water (70o F) stored in a well insulated cooler can keep water liquid for 12 hours or more in sub-freezing conditions. As chickens drink from the BriteTap waterer, warmer water will be drawn from the tank into the BriteTap waterer and this will extend the amount of time before water inside the waterer freezes. Depending on the temperature in your area, you many be able to fill the BriteTap watering system with tepid water each day and have the water remain liquid during the day when chickens need access to it. Refill the waterer with fresh tepid water the following morning, taking care to make sure you've melted any ice that may have formed in the BriteTap waterer during the evening. 
  • Bring Your Waterer In During the Evening. In many locations, evening temperatures are below freezing, but daytime temperatures are warmer. A simple and cheap strategy for flock owners in such locations is to bring the BriteTap waterer into the house or a heated garage during the evening and to return it to the coop or pen the following morning.
  • Let The Chickens Body Heat Warm The Waterer. Another solution that will work in some locations is to place your waterer inside the chicken coop. The chickens body heat may be sufficient to keep the temperature of the environment around the waterer above freezing. 
Cold Winters

If you live in a place where even daytime temperatures are routinely below freezing, keeping your chicken waterer from freezing is more of a challenge, particularly if you use a poultry nipple chicken waterer.
  • Frequent Water Changes. If you are at home during the day, the simplest solution is to change the water several times during the day. Just spill out any cold water and replace it with fresh, tepid water. The frequency with which you need to do this will depend on the outside temperature. We recommend checking every 2-3 hours in the beginning until you get a sense for the length of time your waterer will go before freezing. Owners of the BriteTap waterer who use an insulated water supply tank  can expect tepid water to stay liquid 4-5 hours in weather conditions ten degrees below freezing (22o F). Frozen water is crystal clear, so check your BriteTap waterer carefully to make sure ice has not formed inside and also test the valves to make sure they haven't frozen.
  • Bring In the Power. Owners of traditional plastic and galvanized chicken waterers can use either a bird bath de-icer or a heated base to keep their chicken's water from freezing. However, such solutions will not work for the BriteTap water because they don't directly heat the water in the waterer itself. To heat the BriteTap waterer with electricity, we recommend placing the BriteTap inside your coop and then using a 40 or 60 watt incandescent light bulb to heat the environment inside the coop so that the temperature stays above freezing. Several manufacturers (Lux, Allied Precision, Thermocube) sell thermostatically controlled units that plug into your electric outlet. These turn on the light whenever the outside temperature falls below freezing. If you decide to use an electric solution to keep your chicken's water from freezing, make sure that you comply with local electrical ordinances to ensure that your power connections are safe. Since electrical codes differ from town-to-town, you should check with your local government's building department, or consult with a licensed electrician before adding power to your coop.
It's Frozen. Now What?

If the water inside your BriteTap waterer freezes don't worry. Just run lukewarm water from your faucet over the outside of the waterer until the ice melts. This will take from 5 to 15 minutes depending on how much water is frozen inside. Check to make sure that there is no ice in the threaded section of the BriteTap that connects to your water supply tank. When thawing your waterer, don't use boiling water to melt the ice because the sudden change in temperature might damage the plastic material.

Once all the ice has melted, re-fill your BriteTap waterer with tepid water and place it back in your coop or pen.

*Igloo® and Rubbermaid® are respectively the trademarks of Igloo Products Corp., and Newell-Rubbermaid, Inc.

7 comments:

  1. We live in Ohio where temps start to get really really cold about late December to January. We found using a heat lamp clamped above the waterer is a nice solution. The chickens also gather closer to the light source for heat. So we are satisfying two great needs.

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  2. We were thinking of adding a water heater to inside of our container. Such as aquarium or bird bath type. Would this be ok?

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    1. A heater in the tank isn't sufficient, but hang in there. We are finalizing a design for a heating system that we like and will have available for sale at competitive prices in the Fall of 2014.

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    2. I know this is an old post but wondering if you have come up with a heat solution yet. Very interested to see what you come up with!

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  4. I know this is an old post but wondering if you have the heater yet? Very interested to see what you come up with!

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    1. We will have a heater available this fall. Please check back with us or visit our web site. The heater will be compatible with the BriteTap waterer currently sold on our web site.

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