Avoid Single Use Plastic Water Bottles! Don't Repeat Our Mistake!

HoopyFrood

Songster
5 Years
Mar 21, 2016
481
596
201
Maine, USA
My Coop
My Coop
This year we had two (and only two) chronic health problems with our flock (all now about 18 months old).

One went from laying eggs with strange deposits/pigmentation that degraded into hardly laying at all, frequent laying of rubber eggs, and increasing lethargy (details in this thread: https://www.backyardchickens.com/th...nyone-seen-this-before.1250379/#post-20098369).

The other was a case of asymptomatic (but very messy and challenging) diarrhea (mentioned in this thread here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/th...erwise-seems-normal-possible-problem.1231772/).

Both chronic issues were challenges for several months. As the heat of the summer settled in we changed our outdoor waterer (homemade) to commercial product that made use of chicken cups to help the girls beat the heat. We were shocked that both conditions showed immediate improvement in a single day and by the third or fourth day, both chronic conditions had completely vanished!

We have made use of two different outdoor waters since and have not had any signs of recurrence of these chronic symptoms in the past four+ months.

The old waterer we replaced was nothing more that a plastic #1 (PET) 1 quart orange juice bottle with horizontal nipples installed in it. It was in service for 13 months, most of which was outdoors where the bottle was exposed to UV and rough weather conditions.

The new waterers are both food-grade HDPE containers (one with chicken cups for heat, the other with horizontal nipples for cold). We think the PET plastic broke down over time releasing chemicals (perhaps phthalates, which are possible endocrine disrupters) into the water that the chickens were drinking. The bottle yellowed and became translucent (rather than clear) so obviously SOMETHING was breaking down.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about plastic bottles and health concerns. Interested parties will have to dig into the matter for themselves. Snopes.com has a good summary write up here:
https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/reuse-plastic-bottles/

Here's a write up of phthalates on Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phthalate

Regardless of the EXACT chemical mechanism, this was a serious health risk to the chickens. We feel terrible for not having recognized this sooner.

I would strongly encourage any chicken keepers to make use of food grade HDPE in waterers at a minimum. All other plastics are more risky. BPA-free polycarbonate bottles (e.g. Nalgene PC) might be acceptable. I've been using the same PC Nalgene bottle for 10 years. But I'm obviously much larger than a chicken and only a small percentage of the water I drink passes through that bottle.

Ideally I'd use stainless steel for a chicken waterer, except the thermal conductivity of the metal causes problems in both hot and cold environments. No easy answers here it seems...

But at least the girls are healthy and happy! Please keep them that way and don't do like we did and try to do a waterer on-the-cheap!

We are going to closely monitor how the food-grade HDPE waterers age over the next season. We may need to just budget to replace them every couple of seasons if they show any signs of degradation or the chickens show any unusual health signs. We will be watching very closely as this is a mistake we never want to repeat again!

Good luck out there!
 

Kale Chips

Songster
Apr 2, 2018
219
689
181
Central Wisconsin
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I currently water my flock using an old ice cream bucket, but I'd imagine I should probably upgrade to a safer alternative. I know you may not be an expert, but what is your take on those large black rubber waterers used for livestock? Do you think that would be a better (or worse) option?
 

HoopyFrood

Songster
5 Years
Mar 21, 2016
481
596
201
Maine, USA
My Coop
My Coop
Thanks for the information. I use plastic buckets in summer but they say they are safe for food consumption. Glad you got it figured out, and boy is that scary.
Of course! We are only about a year and a half into our full time chicken keeping careers. We've done pretty well, but any time we make a major mistake, I'd really like to help other folks NOT do the same! :)
 

HoopyFrood

Songster
5 Years
Mar 21, 2016
481
596
201
Maine, USA
My Coop
My Coop
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I currently water my flock using an old ice cream bucket, but I'd imagine I should probably upgrade to a safer alternative. I know you may not be an expert, but what is your take on those large black rubber waterers used for livestock? Do you think that would be a better (or worse) option?

Could you post a link that represents the livestock waterer you have in mind? I'm not familiar with them. And yes, I'm certainly no expert! But I am very inquisitive :)

I'll try to find links to what we've purchased for watering supplies and been very happy with. I think one of the products may have been discontinued. Stay tuned...
 

Kale Chips

Songster
Apr 2, 2018
219
689
181
Central Wisconsin
Could you post a link that represents the livestock waterer you have in mind? I'm not familiar with them. And yes, I'm certainly no expert! But I am very inquisitive :)

I'll try to find links to what we've purchased for watering supplies and been very happy with. I think one of the products may have been discontinued. Stay tuned...
Well, here is the link to what is in mind, and I'll stay tuned ;)

https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/p...iIOsDpaiPo-aiQJHD6t0cfykh55XQE1caAszWEALw_wcB
 

HoopyFrood

Songster
5 Years
Mar 21, 2016
481
596
201
Maine, USA
My Coop
My Coop

Interesting. I've never seen anything like that, probably because I've never looked ;) We only have five chickens after all. It sounds like @oldhenlikesdogs has had good luck with them. Some quick google searching doesn't seem to reveal any health concerns.

I do have some training in material science, but that all was focused on certain plastics and common metals and their alloys. I'm afraid I have no experience/training in regards to rubber in any capacity, to say nothing of using it as a food/water material.

Sorry I can't offer anything else on that front. But I did find links to the waterers we used.

This is the outdoor summer (we try to keep it shaded all the time) waterer with chicken cups (though ours doesn't have the cone and the cups are on opposite sides of the bucket):
https://www.amazon.com/RentACoop-Gallon-Yellow-Drinker-Corner/dp/B07D5M2XG1/

And here is our outdoor winter waterer (I installed horizontal chicken nipples at the container's base):
https://www.amazon.com/Verdana-Plastic-Jug-Rectangular-Translucent/dp/B018O8J7FI/

We use ordinary 3 gal, food safe, HDPE buckets with horizontal nipples as a waterer in the coop from early spring through early winter. When the winter cold settles in we use a heated, food safe, HDPE waterer in the coop:
https://www.amazon.com/Farm-Innovators-HB-60P-Poultry-Drinker/dp/B005BV1WLE/

Good luck!
 

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