For the past 2 years keeping fresh water available for my flock during the winter here in the North East has been a real challenge. I have purchased the plastic heated water containers but they all have cracked during the winter and quite honestly are a pain to fill.
Watering my flock
Featured Stories on BackYard Chickens
Welcome to BYC.
OK... there are sooooooooooo many options. First, I live on the front range in Colorado. Weather temps in the winter similar to yours. Though mild this past winter, last winter we had over a week stretch of sub zero weather with daytime highs in single digits. My watering system worked like a champ although there WERE a couple of mornings when some of the nipples had iced up and I had to thaw them with my fingers... a matter of rubbing them for a minute or so thawed them right out and they were fine the rest of the day.
I use 5 gallon buckets with horizontal nipples located ~ 2" above the bottom of the bucket (keeps sunken debris from clogging them and keeps them up near the top of the heat sink). I place a chunk of paver/patio brick in the bottom of the bucket as a heat sink. I use a submersible heating unit resting directly on the brick at the bottom with additional brick pieces on top to hold it in place. I cover the bucket with a sealed lid and run the power cable through a hole I cut in the center of the lid. This keeps added humidity out of the coop, holds the heat in rather than letting it escape, and keeps unwanted debris from getting into the bucket.
Here's what it looks like:
You'll notice some ice around the rim on the left picture because I had too many of these buckets plugged into one circuit and popped the breaker. When I realized the issue, I reset the breaker and moved 2 buckets to a different circuit The heater unit is an auto on/off unit that comes on when the water temp drops below 40 degrees, stays on for s short time, then shuts off.
This is the unit I use (4 in 4 buckets) and it's being used now for it's second year with zero issues across the board. The support frame will NOT fit in the 5 gallon bucket so I disposed of it. I have never had one melt through the side of a bucket. I HAVE had them melt through the plastic coop netting you see in the background when I hung it up to empty/clean/refill the bucket.
Like I said... there are soooooooo many options I use a 5 gallon for ~ 7-10 birds. I do it because I'm lazy. It's not overkill really in that I only have to clean/refill it about every 10-14 days or so. I'm moving this summer so will be starting over. In my next coop build I'll be using something like a 55 gallon drum/pickle barrel/rain barrel attached to PVC pipe with horizontal nipples and a recirculation system to keep warm water flowing in winter. With any luck, I'll only need to check it weekly and refill it maybe monthly.
Greetings @whoodoo welcome to BYC! You're most likely thinking ACV - Apple Cider Vinegar... the kind with the mother still in it, not the pasteurized stuff (that kills all the good bacteria). Some also add electrolytes (think Gatorade) but NOT at the same time.
Edited by Latestarter - 3/15/16 at 12:15pm