DIY $5 Heated Chicken Waterer

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Introduction: DIY $5 Heated Chicken Waterer

About: We moved to the country a few years ago and started experimenting with organic gardening, raising chickens, tapping maple trees, beekeeping, etc. Check out our website for more DIY projects.

As soon as the temps drop below freezing, we Minnesota farmers break out the winter gear. My least favorite contraption is the chicken waterer. In the summer, I hook a hose up to drip waterers and never have to think about it all summer. In the winter, I switch to a regular gravity-fed bucket. But it turns to a bucket of ice within a few hours if I don’t keep it heated.

Every year I hunt for a better solution. I’ve tried every DIY project out there, but nothing works better than this simple design I came up with a few years ago. It’s also dirt cheap.

Supplies:

  • #10 tin can (one end open)
  • Extension cord – $1.35
  • Light bulb fixture – $1.79
  • 25W to 40W Light bulb – $1
  • Scrap wood

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Step 1: Cut Out Wooden Base

First we need to create a base to hold everything together. Trace around the #10 can on a piece of wood. Next, use a jigsaw to cut it out. Make sure to cut inside the line by about 1/8″, the can has to fit over the wood. Finally, drill a 1″ to 2″ hole in the center of the base.

Step 2: Wire Light Fixture

DISCLAIMER: Be sure to follow state electrical codes. Improper wiring can cause fires. If you are uncomfortable wiring a circuit yourself, find someone to help you.

Cut off the female end of the extension cord and remove wire insulation at the ends. Next, connect the wire ends to the fixture. Now test the connection by plugging it in.

Step 3: Putting It All Together

Slide the extension coord through the hole in the wooden base and fasten the fixture to the base. Slide the #10 can over the base, closed side up. If the fit is not snug, use screws to hold in place.

You should feel warmth instantly when plugged in.

Step 4: Set Out in Coop

You’re all done! Set the base on a level floor and push bedding around it. Then plug in to an electric source and set the chicken waterer on top.

Hint: If the base will not lie flat because of the extension cord, try chiseling a channel in the bottom of the wood for the cord, or prop up with scrap wood or shims.

This setup works great down to -10°F. If needed, you can always increase the heat with a higher watt lightbulb.

Also, I installed a dimmer switch on my coop’s electric source so I can better control the amount of heat and not waste electricity.

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    19 Discussions

    0
    Errol1951
    Errol1951

    5 weeks ago

    I used a similar set-up to heat my home brewing cupboard for the fermention using an old air-conditioner thermostat

    0
    YoramG
    YoramG

    6 weeks ago

    Nice, but wouldn't a cheap aquarium heater directly in the water be a simpler and more energy effective solution?

    0
    OculumForamen
    OculumForamen

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    I've tried to use an aquarium heater, and they are meant for indoors use, they fail really quick when they are exposed to the elements and the constant jostling and pecking that hens do. Best to use a container and heat the container like this with a light bulb or if you have the knowledge, a heating wire with a thermostat. However, what works for you is what works for you, and I'm a big believer in the statement "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". So do what works best for you because there are many ways to skin a......polecat. LOL

    0
    yeagerxp
    yeagerxp

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Yes he could have gone to wal mart and bought an aquarium heater and be done with it, but he built that, now he has a memory of how he did it and can up size it for something else, chicken brooder, piglet warmer, plus all his parts can be scrounged. The idea is to be selfsufficient.

    0
    YoramG
    YoramG

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    I am all for self sufficient, really am, but lamps are poor source of heat, compared to heaters...

    0
    thansen871
    thansen871

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    the purpose of that design, is the same as the store bought models, they heat the water from the bottom, that way the water will still flow out of the bottom. with an aquarium heater, i do not think it would keep the small passages the feed the outer ring, where the bird drink from, clear. the waterer that we use, has a small hole, that spreads the water between the inner and outer walls of the device, at about .015", we have had it freeze up when it gets very cold out there, to the point that we bought second waterers to replace them when they do freeze up. only on really cold days, like -20 deg F.

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    " a cheap aquarium heater "
    There's a significant difference as between little fishes and the fowl he's attempting to provide Winter water for! Chickens are very active! Violently so at times. They have been known to upset, knock over, break feeding devices, heating lamps, watering devices, etc.
    Thus a Bullet Proof Aquarium Heater might suffice - but the electrical wiring in close proximity to fowl that do not understand basic electrical codes presents a clear and present fire hazard as well as electrical (deadly to chickens) shock.
    Best to keep all the wiring outside their environment and, when possible, out of 'reach!'

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    6 weeks ago

    Neat idea! I wonder if you could do something similar for a bird bath so it doesn't freeze :)

    0
    KarenP177
    KarenP177

    Reply 5 weeks ago

    I believe they do make bird bath heaters. Check your farm store or garden center.

    0
    yeagerxp
    yeagerxp

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Probably use an aquarium heater, if you are not handy with tools.

    0
    KarenP177
    KarenP177

    Tip 5 weeks ago

    This looks like a good idea for my feral cat colony. I normally run an extension cord out my back door to an electrically heated 1gal dog dish that has a thermostat to shut off the heater when the dish is empty. It is not cheap, but it works well, and I can usually get several years use out of a dish before it wears out. I was looking at this as a cheaper solution, but I wonder about tipping; it is rather tall for the width of the base, and all the weight (the water) is at the top. With cats (and racoons) trying to drink out of it, I'm not sure this would be safe. I would take a piece of 2x12 or wider and route a circular groove that the can would sit in on the base for greater stability. I would think that a metal pan would be needed for the heat transfer to work. It looks like your chicken waterer is plastic. It's not too hot for the plastic, yet it is hot enough to keep the water melted? What if it runs dry? Is the plastic damaged from the heat?

    0
    OldBlackBelt
    OldBlackBelt

    5 weeks ago

    My wife bought a professional $$ non-freeze waterer and it lasted about a year, she then bought the company's new and improved model to replace it. The second one is better sealed and does work well. I dissected the one that failed and it's just heat tape under the water tray with a thermal switch. I repaired the corroded connections and resealed it so it's working again.

    However, your idea is shear simplicity. If you added a thermal outlet (Farm Innovators TC-3) that kicks on at less than 35 deg. and off at 45 deg., you would have basically the same thing at a lot less cost. And we put our waterer up on bricks to keep it out of the dirt. So if you put a 12" x 12" paving stone under it I don't think the hens could tip it.

    0
    IamTedV
    IamTedV

    6 weeks ago

    A couple of things that I might suggest to add to this project. Put a Ground Fault Interrupter somewhere in the circuit so that you don’t prematurely have fried chicken! The other thing that you might want to add, is some form of a thermostat so the light doesn’t turn on when the temp in the coop is above freezing.

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    They make an adapter that closes the circuit when the temp drops and opens it again when the temp rises. I use one in my well head with an outdoor flood light (but recommend a string of incandescent (C-7) bulbs as a fail-safe (odd of all seven bulbs failing at once much lower -methinks- than just one bulb). Problem is, this adapter would need to be in the can and there's simply not sufficient room.

    Take an old drip coffee maker apart and find a thermo-switch that will cut the power to the heating element if things get too hot (kindling temp of coop shavings?) in the can it is fixed to. Come to think of it, you can scavenge a heating element from such a thrift store find and eliminate the porcelain fixture and bulb.

    When those cheap electric griddles go on sale next Black Friday ($8 after Rebate!!!) replace your old worn/scratched one and you have an aluminium heating element that as a thermostat allowing a range of temps that could be used UNDER THE COOP FLOOR (exposed to open air all-round*) in conjunction with the Temp Controlled outlet first referenced above:

    https://www.amazon.com/HEATIT-Freeze-Thermostatica...

    https://www.amazon.com/HEATIT-Freeze-Thermostatica...

    * I've used this approach w/o the thermo-controlled outlet as it warms the coop and the watering device as well - heat rises

    0
    rondame
    rondame

    6 weeks ago on Introduction

    What is to stop the chickens from tipping water over, and a dimmer switch will not save power I do not believe

    0
    SylvanB
    SylvanB

    6 weeks ago

    We use the little nipples that the chickens peck to release water. Much cleaner.

    Those nipples are installed in 5gal buckets, 2 or more per bucket.

    The water is warmed in each bucket with a small stock tank heater (with anti-melt guard to protect the bucket).

    0
    shalnachywyt
    shalnachywyt

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    I've tried using them for my birds. They turned up their beaks at it. :(

    0
    shalnachywyt
    shalnachywyt

    6 weeks ago on Step 4

    Good idea, but useless if you don't have a nearby electric outlet and I don't. Sometimes my portable coop is literally hundreds of feet away from the house. :(

    0
    yeagerxp
    yeagerxp

    6 weeks ago

    Very good idea 👍👍👍 ,