Chicken Coop Drinking Water De-Icer





Introduction: Chicken Coop Drinking Water De-Icer

I keep chickens in an outdoor coop and run in Western New York. In winter, we get temperatures as low as 19º F. in the winter. That leads to the chickens' water freezing. I had a Bucket De-Icer that I had submerged, but the water kept turning rusty, and the element got all corroded. Also, the top of the bucket needed to stay open for the chord, and I prefer to keep the bucket closed so it doesn't get debris inside.

My solution was to make a mini water heater with drinking nipples for the chickens.

Step 1: Find Container... Drill a Hole.

I had a 5 Gallon Plastic Hedpack from another project, so I used that. The fact that it is rectangular makes it easier to butt up against the side without it moving around too much. I drilled a 1" hole to insert the Submersible Stainless Steel Heating Element. The threading was 1" NPT, so I had to widen the hole little by little with the dremel, until I could get threads to catch the plastic. I made the mistake (on my first attempt) of drilling the hole too close to a ridge on the container, and the washer wouldn't sit flat, so it would not stay watertight. The second hole shown was just a test hole, since that container was garbage... I ended up using a second container, and it worked fine once I drilled the hole in a flat spot. I just used some teflon plumbers tape on the threads and there are no leaks.

If I were to make another one of these, I would try to install a Bulkhead Fitting so that in the summer, I could remove the heat element and put in a Plug. I feel like the threads on the probe would go in and out easier. The heating element came with a silicon sealing washer which is flexible and waterproof. So far, it's holding well.

Step 2: Drinking Taps

My chickens drink from Poultry Water Nipples, so I put four of them at the bottom of the container. These are pretty much self tapping into plastic. I had to bevel the opening a little bit for them to get started, because of how thick the container is. **Don't over-torque the nipple, or it will strip the threading on the bucket. I didn't use teflon tape, and they are water tight. There is a soft washer on them. It doesn't need to be crushed.

Step 3: Connect Power Supply

In the future, I'm going to add a Temperature Sensor and regulate on/off based on need. For now, since the water had turned to solid ice, I just connected it to a Power Supply i had. I spliced it to a longer paired wire and just connected the leads. I checked everything with a multimeter, and it's all holding up.

I used a 400mA supply, because I didn't want to get the element too hot. I'm not looking to boil the water, just keep it from freezing. In the spring, when I'm not fighting against freezing temperatures, I plan to experiment with different power supplies to determine how quickly the water heats up with different amperages. With an temp sensor and an automatic on/off switch, it should matter that much. i.e. if water temp < 5ºC, then turn on. if water temp > 10ºC, then turn off.

The next step will be to connect this (and a few other functions) to a Raspberry Pi and an Automation HAT, all connected to a Solar charged 12V battery.



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    Nice solution. I was hoping to use something like this, but our weather in Southern BC gets down to into the -F numbers so I had to purchase a commercial heated unit for my chuks.

    Wow that place looks amazing, by the way appreciate your project

    Interesting project. I am in Central NY and we now have a balmy 4 degrees this morning. My feathery friends, both chickens and pheasants get their water in the colder conditions from 1 gallon dog water bowls with the heaters built into the underside of the bowl. Prior to adopting this method, I used the large kitty litter containers with the screw in nipple feeders and a special aquarium heater. It was completely submersible and the glass would not break like the run of the mill aquarium versions. I did have the freeze up in the nipples at very cold temps so I went to the heated dog bowl. I picked up from the trash, a stainless steel double basin sink and I was considering using pipe wrap heater wire in a similar application like the dog bowl version, but I haven't had the need to go to a larger heated water system at this time.

    One thing that I noticed about water consumption is that if I take large joint compound pails and mix the layer mash, cracked corn and any other dry feed material and mix with a gallon or so of water and let it sit in my heated garage for a day or more, the feed becomes more granular and can be scooped into feed bowls easier. The birds seem to prefer it given in this mode and the fact that it is already moist cuts down on their water requirements. I noticed that if I given them straight dry feed, the 1 gallon heated water bowls need filling the next day while with the moist feed, it rarely freezes up prior to their consuming it and the water bowls seem to go for a few days before refilling.

    Cool project! I have a similar setup, but went with an external heater (I was afraid of having a heating element IN the water in case of a short)

    However, I had freezing problems with the vertical-style water nipples at around 20 F, so I opted for the horizontal style which seem to have lower freezing temps (hasn't gotten that cold in a while to see how low it can go)

    If I still have freezing problems in the next couple months I'll have to go your route and go to in-water heaters.

    4 replies

    I considered using a wire like that but I didn't want to leave the cable submerged all the time. I have seen those short out after the plastic jacket rots out. Also, they're not designed for fresh water supply. They are for drainage. I didn't want to leech chemicals into the birds' drinking water.

    The other reason is that I plan to hook everything up to automation. The 12V element will let me supply it with a car battery.

    Oh, sorry I should have specified; I don't submerge it. That heat-wire is designed for wrapping around pipes not inside them:

    I currently just have it wrapped around my 10 gal bucket a bunch of times and then covered in duct tape. I'll probably add some insulation too, but haven't gotten around to it.

    Yeah, the 110V requirement on mine isn't great. I currently run a 200 ft all-weather extension cable from my garage to my coop just to power the heat for the water (not ideal.) Additionally, mine has a built in thermostat so that negates any automation with a Pi.

    I guess 12V @ 400mA seems pretty safe if there is a short (may tickle the chickens a bit.) Do you think the 5 watts: P = I (0.4) x V (12) of heat is enough for a north-eastern climate? My temps can get as low as -15F. How low have you tested yours at?

    thanks for the ible. I'm In the process of building a chicken tractor and I need to work out a freeze proof waterer.

    I hope the new setup works better :) This winter looks like it may be rough!