I am thinking of using a 55 gallon drum to catch rainwater from the roof of the chicken coop. Then running a line of 2" PVC to the chicken run with poultry nipples. This all sounds good until I think of the winter here in Indiana. It's not horrible, but we do get freezing temps. Looking for ideas to keep the system from freezing. I've seen many use bird bath heaters, but not sure they would be large enough for a 55 gallon drum, and even so would the line of PVC need additional heating?
Heated Watering Systems
Going to be tough since the nipples will want to freeze. You could easily heat the drum or keep it agitated to keep it liquid longer at lower temps. But keeping the 2 inch pipe and the nipples is going to be harder to do. Maybe if you find a way to run a rope type heater element into the pipe near the nipples? If you had a removable end cap on the end of the pipe, you could snake in an aquarium heater or other rope heater and then seal the electric cable into the end cap? At least then you have some heat near the nipples. Or maybe a small pump on the end cap that circulates the water in a giant loop from the drum thru the 2 inch pipe, and then back to the drum? Seems like a big hassle....
Anything is possible, but it might be a lot easier to have a second winter waterer for those cold subfreezing days.
I just did something similar with this. I also put one inside the coop, that could be kept operational with a heat lamp if I wanted to do that.
I'm leaning towards a stock tank heater because I don't think a smaller unit will keep it warm enough, then wrapping the exterior pipe in heat tape.
I spent all last year researching ways to provide water to the chickens in the winter. From what I've read, those systems using PVC pipes just don't work well. People have tried heat tape. The major problem I think is that vertical nipples tend to freeze even if the water is liquid. So far I have never heard of anyone using those little cup waterers being able to use them in winter as they freeze up faster than the vertical nipples. Horizontal nipples seems to be the way to go. They do not freeze up as easily as the vertical nipples or the cups.
Those who seem to have the best luck with providing water to their chickens in the winter use some sort of container with the horizontal nipples. Some use buckets. I use a large tote I got from WalMart with horizontal nipples. Put a stock tank heater in the tote that is rated for plastic containers and you have a pretty easy and efficient way to take care of the water problem. My waterer was kept out in the run. It stayed thawed all winter. The coldest it got was -12 F. Some people use aquarium heaters instead of the stock tank heaters. I like the stock tank heater. They cost more to begin with but I think they are more efficient. They turn on at 35 degrees and off at 45 degrees. Aquarium heaters would be working to keep the water much warmer than that. I also don't believe aquarium heaters were designed to work in sub zero conditions and might fail much more easily than a stock tank heater. My tote was large enough that it only needed filling once a week or so using a 5 gallon bucket.
Anyway, just my 2 cents. I spent hours researching all this last summer. It's what I came up with as the best way to handle winter water. All I can say is it worked very well.
There is a pic on this thread.
Have the horizontal nipples in the front of the tote. There is a hole in the lid of the tote where the cord for the stock tank heater comes out. The lid of the tote helps to keep the water nice and clean.
Edited by wamtazlady - 4/28/16 at 7:12am