Hens quit using waterer

jjulian812

Songster
Feb 2, 2019
69
240
106
Bountiful, Utah
We have a 5 gal. bucket with horizontal nipples that the hens used all summer and fall.
As our Utah cold weather came in I dropped a trough heater into the bucket to keep the water from freezing but doesn’t “heat” the water.
I realized the water wasn’t going down, even though I checked the nipples regularly to make sure they weren’t frozen.
After a couple of weeks I decided to try the other waterer and they gathered around and drank for such a long time.
So they were thirsty, but refused to use the bucket with the heater in it except when absolutely necessary.

Any ideas?
 

Building Bridges

Songster
Jan 11, 2020
713
4,144
216
Ohio
We have a 5 gal. bucket with horizontal nipples that the hens used all summer and fall.
As our Utah cold weather came in I dropped a trough heater into the bucket to keep the water from freezing but doesn’t “heat” the water.
I realized the water wasn’t going down, even though I checked the nipples regularly to make sure they weren’t frozen.
After a couple of weeks I decided to try the other waterer and they gathered around and drank for such a long time.
So they were thirsty, but refused to use the bucket with the heater in it except when absolutely necessary.

Any ideas?
Very interesting....anxious to see the answers that come!:idunno
 

HuskerHens18

Crowing
Mar 11, 2018
2,155
4,934
387
Chickenlandia
Mine hate nipples and don't use them at all. They prefer the cups(which never work in winter) or just a bucket they can get a big gulp out of instead of droplets from the nipple. :barnie
Do you have snow? Can they reach any? They might like the snow better and just want to be stubborn about the nipple waterer.. that's my best guess. :idunno
 

rosemarythyme

Free Ranging
Jul 3, 2016
7,183
13,978
642
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
My Coop
After a couple of weeks I decided to try the other waterer and they gathered around and drank for such a long time.
So they were thirsty, but refused to use the bucket with the heater in it except when absolutely necessary.
They obviously were getting water somehow because they wouldn't have lasted weeks without water. If there's snow or rain I find that mine will ignore the waterer and drink droplets off the fence, from puddles, from every nook and cranny possible - they just seem to prefer the filthiest source of water available. I don't consider them taking a long drink as evidence that they were dying of thirst - like one of my dogs drinks like he just crawled from the desert when I pour water into the bowl, just because he likes lapping at moving water.
 

jjulian812

Songster
Feb 2, 2019
69
240
106
Bountiful, Utah
Mine hate nipples and don't use them at all. They prefer the cups(which never work in winter) or just a bucket they can get a big gulp out of instead of droplets from the nipple. :barnie
Do you have snow? Can they reach any? They might like the snow better and just want to be stubborn about the nipple waterer.. that's my best guess. :idunno

Yes, we had quite a bit of snow and as it melted I was sure that must be where they were getting their water. But we’ve had a coup,e of weeks with no melting snow or rain.
The water level in the bucket went down a tiny bit, but nothing like it did in the summer when it was so hot.
 

jjulian812

Songster
Feb 2, 2019
69
240
106
Bountiful, Utah
They obviously were getting water somehow because they wouldn't have lasted weeks without water. If there's snow or rain I find that mine will ignore the waterer and drink droplets off the fence, from puddles, from every nook and cranny possible - they just seem to prefer the filthiest source of water available. I don't consider them taking a long drink as evidence that they were dying of thirst - like one of my dogs drinks like he just crawled from the desert when I pour water into the bowl, just because he likes lapping at moving water.

I think you must be right. I would see them stand on top of the water bucket to reach droplets of melting snow on the fence.
I’m thinking too that they just need a lot less water in the winter.

We’re getting quite a bit of snow now. I wonder if they have to wait until it melts to access it.
 

NatJ

Songster
Mar 20, 2017
451
989
156
USA
I dropped a trough heater into the bucket to keep the water from freezing but doesn’t “heat” the water.

So they were thirsty, but refused to use the bucket with the heater in it except when absolutely necessary.
Maybe the heater changes the flavor?

Any chance they could have gotten an electric shock? That might be enough to make them stay away for quite a while, even if it only happened briefly.

Chickens do drink different amounts in different weather, so there's a chance their water needs really did go down, but I don't think that would account for the degree of difference you noticed.

For what to do:
Maybe leave that bucket, but put out a dish of fresh water once or twice a day.
That way they've always got the heated water in case they want/need it, but they can have a chance to drink "better" water sometimes (whatever better is to a chicken!)
 

rosemarythyme

Free Ranging
Jul 3, 2016
7,183
13,978
642
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
My Coop
I think you must be right. I would see them stand on top of the water bucket to reach droplets of melting snow on the fence.
I’m thinking too that they just need a lot less water in the winter.

We’re getting quite a bit of snow now. I wonder if they have to wait until it melts to access it.
Some chickens will eat snow and yes it does seem they can get some of the water they need that way. Mine did it last year once the snow piled high enough that they didn't have to bend down for it - not sure if it really slaked their thirst or if it was just novel to them, or a little of both.

I also think that overall they're less thirsty when it's cool/cold than when it's hotter, when they need the extra hydration to deal with the heat.
 
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