Galvanized Waterer Problem and Feather Loss

DenverChickens

In the Brooder
10 Years
11 Years
Jan 24, 2009
13
0
22
Hi chicken friends,

I've search the forum and found a few almost-related topics, but not specifically, so I was hoping you could help me.

My setup:
I have 7 chickens, one year old, in a shed-like coop with 24/7 access to an enclosed run. I use a 3 gallon galvanized double walled fount on a level, metal-pan style water heater, which is elevated on a couple concrete blocks. They've had no problem drinking water from the fount until about 2 weeks ago.

Problem history:
2 wks ago, I changed their food to a different type, still a layer ration. They absolutely devoured it, and seem to like it still. Shortly after this, I noticed my chickens were not drinking as much water. There's been a lot of snow on the ground which they like to eat, and they've been getting moisture-rich treats like greens, lettuce, and pumpkin, so I didn't really think too much of it. There was always a small amount of water in the bottom of the 3 gallon galvanized waterer I use, but it still seemed like they were not drinking as much. A week ago, I noticed they were starting to lose feathers. It seems they are only losing body feathers (shaking after a dust bath, you can see a few feathers fly out), they're not losing head or neck feathers, and not enough to really show when you look at the chickens, only enough to make the coop and run look like there are more feathers around (full feathers, not broken). I started getting fewer eggs. A few days ago, I finally thought they must be having their first molt, and I thought that maybe they are drinking less water because of molting. Now, I realize they should not drink less water when molting, and I started wondering if something was preventing them from getting water.

So, I cleaned the waterer well, and did a test where I slowly remove the water that has fallen down into the pan to see if it fills properly. It fills only enough to maintain 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the tray. It used to maintain the water level at 3/4 inch, to the point where the pan was 3/4 full. I'm thinking now that the chickens are unable to really get enough water into their beaks, since it is only refilling to about 1/4 inch.

When I empty the waterer, I always tip the double walled fount to the side, as recommended to break the vacuum, so I don't believe I've damaged it. I paid around $28 for it, so I'm interested in fixing it rather that getting something new. I am keeping a 2nd bowl of fresh water out there now until I'm sure this is figured out.

What is it about the fount that controls the water level in the tray? Any idea why a galvanized dbl walled fount will stop filling past 1/4 inch? Do you think that's enough for chickens to get enough water into their beaks? Any idea how to adapt the fount so it releases more water down into the pan without ruining the fount?

Regarding the feather loss - is it unusual for chickens to molt in February in a climate like Denver? Have you ever caused a molt by changing the food to a different type? I'm now mixing the food half and half with the previous food and they have ample water.

Any ideas are really appreciated. Thanks so much.

P.S. A few months ago, a friend cared for the chickens, and she didn't know to tip waterers to the side when emptying to break the vacuum. This was A DIFFERENT dbl walled fount, and it was damaged and the result was it doesn't stop filling the pan so it slowly releases all it's water through the pan, running over the side of the pan until it's empty, rendering it useless (if you have an suggestions how to fix that fount too I'd be so grateful). I feel like my investment in 2 dbl walled founts (around $55 total) was a waste of money and I heard these were so durable and I'd have them for years!

Thanks for any responses.
 

Lesa

Songster
11 Years
May 28, 2008
839
6
139
Upstate NY
Not sure about your specific problem- but I notice when it stays just above freezing, the water last a lot longer. I think evaporation happens really fast when it is cold, with a heater under the waterer... My chickens have molted during the winter- I have two right now! I doubt the feed change is causing it...
 

encorepistol

Songster
10 Years
Mar 25, 2009
547
4
139
MO
You could drill the vent hole on the outter wall of the fountain that slides over the other up a little higher. This controls the ammount of water since when it gets covered it quits letting air in and water out.
 

encorepistol

Songster
10 Years
Mar 25, 2009
547
4
139
MO
The only thing I can think of that might cause the other one to leak out its contents would be setting unlevel where the hole is out of the water allowing it to always be syphoning air or there is a hole somewher in the outer shell that needs repaired. I like the 3 I've got except for rusting, I preffer the little giant or brower 3 gallon plastic waterers. They are big enough to hold lots of water and easy to clean and will not rust. Only problem I have is in the cold the lids are a bear to open sometimes.
 

teach1rusl

Love My Chickens
10 Years
Jul 28, 2009
10,017
176
356
Floyds Knobs, Indiana
My Coop
My Coop
Were the protein levels the same between the two feeds? I think most layer feeds are around 16% (not sure), but maybe the new brand has less? You might try upping their protein (eggs, salmon, etc.) a bit for the feather loss. I've seen many folks complain about winter molting, so that could be the case. Whether it could be triggered by a feed difference or not, who knows? Could be a big coincidence... Encorepistol's idea sounds good to me. Sometimes my waterer has slight issues, but not as badly as what you're describing. I have mine at a very slight tilt so that one side always stays pretty full, with the other slightly lower.
 

DenverChickens

In the Brooder
10 Years
11 Years
Jan 24, 2009
13
0
22
Thank you all for your great suggestions. As far as the waterer that is just continually leaking, it does it even on a level surface. I think by pulling hard on the outer part, and not tipping it to the side as directed, it somehow ruined the vacuum. I'm thinking that waterer is a goner. I like the idea of drilling a higher vent hole that controls the water level (it's great to know that, thanks!). Maybe first I'll try tipping the waterer just slightly so that more water is available, if only on one side. I'm also glad to hear that winter molting is not that uncommon. The protein in my new food is actually a little higher (18%) than the previous food, so I would also be surprised if that's what led to the feather loss/molting.

Thank you all so much for reading my long post. I realized afterward I probably should have just left out a lot of the details, and just stuck to the facts to make it easier to read. Thanks for taking the time and offering your advice - I really appreciate it.
 
Last edited:

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom