Hens quit using waterer

Foxinthehenhouse

Chirping
Aug 7, 2019
44
60
52
Cruso, NC
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?
Is the water too warm? 🤔
 

Foxinthehenhouse

Chirping
Aug 7, 2019
44
60
52
Cruso, NC
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.
I have the same set up and am very happy with it.
 

jjulian812

Songster
Feb 2, 2019
69
240
106
Bountiful, Utah
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 :)
The water in the bucket with the nipples and the heater doesn’t freeze. They just avoid it.
 

jjulian812

Songster
Feb 2, 2019
69
240
106
Bountiful, Utah
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.
Thank you for that detailed account.
I’ve been worried about the current.
They used the bucket/nipple method so readily all summer, so it seemed likely that the electricity was causing the problem.
 

leslielbk

Songster
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?
When I lived in Wisconsin I used a submersible warming heater in a big galvanized pan. Worked great.
 

Criticalicious

Crowing
Feb 25, 2017
881
1,641
262
New Market, VA
I use the 3 gal heated waterer from Premier1. It's a sturdy plastic bucket with 3 horizontal nipples on it that plugs in to keep the water from freezing. During summer, I can disconnect the cord and cap it. It doesn't need to be grounded; just plugged in. I prop it up on a cinder block (the holes filled with dirt to prevent injuries) but it can also be suspended. Partway through my second winter and chickens are still drinking their fill.
 

jjulian812

Songster
Feb 2, 2019
69
240
106
Bountiful, Utah
When I lived in Wisconsin I used a submersible warming heater in a big galvanized pan. Worked great.
The heater in the bucket is a submersible one. Unfortunately the galvanized waterer has a top that has to fit down over it to allow the water to flow into the trough. So I can't drop the heater into it.
 

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