Hens quit using waterer

Acre4Me

Free Ranging
Nov 12, 2017
3,639
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517
Western Ohio
Last winter we tried horizontal nipples in a 5 gallon bucket. Chickens were willing to drink from it, but as soon as we tried a de-icer type (doesn't heat up the water, just supposed to turn on when cold enough to keep it warm enough not to freeze. Well, despite being in the coop and protected and being plugged directly into a wall outlet, neither worked - frozen waterer. We tried 2 brand new ones, neither worked. So we moved to a bucket "heater" - water never froze, but the cage around the heater (meant to keep it away from the plastic bucket) were welded with a material that rusted quickly. The girls did not like HOT rusty water and refused to drink it. We tried to remedy the rust, but the girls would never drink the water. So we moved to a heated dog bowl. This worked fine. This year, we bought a large galvanized double wall waterer for the large water consumption of the summer, and now it is in the coop, on top of a heated base (which is elevated on concrete blocks). Works well because it doesn't freeze, isn't rusty, isn't hot, and is deep enough for them to get a drink. We have a lot of upper ventilation in the coop.
 

ngennetta

Songster
Premium member
Apr 26, 2016
106
151
126
Colorado
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?
We use the horizontal nipples as well, in Colorado. In a 5 gallon bucked an 80w heater works well. However, if it gets colder there, I'd recommend a 250w and then you won't have water issues :)
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
75,037
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SW Michigan
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Wattage has little to do with ambient temps.
I don’t understand, could you please explain?
Depends more on what temp the device is made to heat up to,
how much power it will use(and how fast) to get it there.
How much power a heater uses needs to be measured over time,
with something like a "Kill-A-Watt",
to know just how much power it consumes to meet the need.

My 50W aquarium heater keeps the water at about 68°F, in an insulated jug.
A 250W trough heater only keeps water at just above freezing.

I can't explain it completely, don't know electricity well enough to be fluent...
...maybe @cavemanrich can help, he's good at that stuff.
 

ngennetta

Songster
Premium member
Apr 26, 2016
106
151
126
Colorado
Depends more on what temp the device is made to heat up to,
how much power it will use(and how fast) to get it there.
How much power a heater uses needs to be measured over time,
with something like a "Kill-A-Watt",
to know just how much power it consumes to meet the need.

My 50W aquarium heater keeps the water at about 68°F, in an insulated jug.
A 250W trough heater only keeps water at just above freezing.

I can't explain it completely, don't know electricity well enough to be fluent...
...maybe @cavemanrich can help, he's good at that stuff.
I understand that a higher watt heater won’t warm the water to a higher temperature. However if you live somewhere that gets -30 at night you’ll need a higher power heater than someone that barely dips below freezing. That’s all I was trying to share 😊
 

cavemanrich

Enabler
6 Years
Apr 6, 2014
12,824
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Melrose Park Illinois
My 50W aquarium heater keeps the water at about 68°F, in an insulated jug.
A 250W trough heater only keeps water at just above freezing.
Let me explain the different circumstances and wattage differences, and how they act.
Aart's aquarium heater works well, even though LOW wattage comparatively. Reason is the INSULATED CONTAINER. Heater designed to make water @ 68*F. A built in thermostat shuts down power to the heating element when temp reaches setting. Same heater in an open container, and cold ambient temps, like 0*F ,,,,, and result would be possibly FROZEN WATER.
a 250 Watt tank heater is designed to maintain water temperature above freezing temp. Open tank, or insulated container would have similar temps, with the insulated one just slightly higher,,,,,, due to slower heat loss.
Was not able to find the exact temp specs of preset thermostat settings on these farm style Stock tanks. They ALL claim to not overheat water.
Here is a Copy, and paste from one tank's description.
Features
  • The patented cast aluminum design is safe, reliable, and efficient and is specifically designed for cold climates
  • It can be used in all styles of tanks - metal, rubber, and plastic - without the need for an additional cage or guard
  • Best for use in tank sizes of 150 to 300 gallons
  • It is thermostatically controlled to turn on and off automatically
  • Has a large diameter heating element that is open in the middle to improve the circulation of heat
  • The cord is protected by a metal spring which serves to deter chewing

Larger wattage tank heaters will keep a reasonable size tank from freezing.
Farmers with large capacity water tanks for their herds may need multiple heaters, depending on amount of water, and outdoor temps.

I understand that a higher watt heater won’t warm the water to a higher temperature. However if you live somewhere that gets -30 at night you’ll need a higher power heater than someone that barely dips below freezing.
Everything depends on the temperature setting of the heater.
The WATTAGE factor is important to compare, when you need to pair up a heater to your quantity of water to be heated.
Larger quantity, and colder temps mean Larger watt requirements.

Tank heaters do come with suggested sizes for water quantity, and outdoor temperature conditions.
 

gtaus

Crowing
Mar 29, 2019
1,791
5,847
387
Northern Minnesota
My Coop
My Coop
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?
I know I'm a little late to this thread, but it reminds me of another thread where someone else was using a water heater in the bucket. In that other thread, the OP was wondering why his water heater element instruction said he needed to drive a grounding rod into the ground for proper use of the submersible heating element. Many people suggested that if he just used a GFCI outlet, he would not need a grounding rod. Sounded reasonable to me.

However, as I looked further into that issue, I read that these submersible heating elements can build up a difference in voltage in the water and the ground the chickens are standing on. Although it might not be enough to physically shock the chicken and kill it, the difference in the voltage affects "the taste" of the water because that voltage difference does bother the animals. That was confirmed by a horse rancher who reported that he did not have his heating element properly grounded and he noticed his horses would no longer drink from the water tank. Although they were not getting shocked by drinking the water, he was able to measure a difference in the voltage which turned his horses off from drinking that water. After he drove a rod down into the ground (as advised on the package), that corrected the problem. I won't pretend to understand the details of how all that works, but my take away from that discussion is that a small voltage difference that we cannot feel with a shock, can indeed be present and affect the "taste" of the water and turn the animals off from drinking from that tank.

If your chickens are not drinking from your bucket with nipples, whatever the cause, that would be a concern to me. I am also in the old school camp and use a 3 gallon metal water fount with a metal heated base to keep the water from freezing. So far, it has kept the water from freezing down to -22F at night. I really like the old metal water founts because I can simply look down on the waterer to see if the water is frozen and every morning I lift the tank up to feel how much water is left. I have a patio block under my metal heater base, and the water fount on top of that. So the water is about 5 inches off the ground. The water stays pretty clean that way, but if it does get dirty, I simply swish around the water in the fount and dump that small bit out. My 3 gallon metal water fount lasts me about 10 days for my 10 chickens. I'm very happy with that old school method as others have also mentioned.
 

Bob 1313

In the Brooder
Sep 29, 2019
18
27
34
Although we are trying to avoid plastic more and more, it does make for a decent material for heated water founts. About $40 each and they last for a couple of years…longer if you're real careful. Protecting them from the wind will keep the water from freezing to at least 0º.
We have 9 of them running all winter long.
 
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