How have you remedied frozen nipple waterers?

mrrr0809

In the Brooder
Apr 12, 2015
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I live in the Northeast where it's not uncommon for highs to be in the single digits. I'm trying to put together a nipple watered for the birds that will not freeze. I've read that horizontal nipples are better than vertical nipples for this purpose, but they still have issues in colder temperatures. Water de-icers/heaters work great for keeping the water in the tank thawed but are not effective for the nipples themselves. Thoughts?
I have not tried this, but my thought would be to wrap heat tape around each nipple on the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket and then around the bucket itself. Has anyone tried this or can you see this working out?
 
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Blooie

Team Spina Bifida
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Feb 25, 2014
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I live in the Northeast where it's not uncommon for highs to be in the single digits. I'm trying to put together a nipple watered for the birds that will not freeze. I've read that horizontal nipples are better than vertical nipples for this purpose, but they still have issues in colder temperatures. Water de-icers/heaters work great for keeping the water in the tank thawed but are not effective for the nipples themselves. Thoughts?
We had a discussion about this. Someone used one of those point-n-shoot thermometers and found the the temperature of the water is warmer at the top of the bucket than lower down, so the thought was that by moving the nipples up higher it would help.

I had a stock tank heater in my water bucket and the water never froze. But this was what happened to the horizontal nipples this past winter:

Some mornings the routine was start the coffee, put on our winter duds, and take the heat gun out to thaw the nipples. Now, this was only on really cold days...like 17 - 20 below zero. Days where we hovered around the upper teens and low twenties and up, we had no problems with them. What happened was a little water would remain in the cup part of the nipple, it would freeze, and the pressure would open the nipple, making water continue to trickle into the cup until it ran over and froze too, forming icicles all the way to the floor of the coop.



This nipple has been thawed completely and the area dried, except for where the icicle still remains. The other issue might be that it was up on open bricks, so cold air could flow completely around the entire waterer. I'm no scientist, but that's what common sense tells me.

Overall, we were pleased with the performance of the horizontal nipples. It's not like we had to go out with the heat gun every single morning - just on the mornings when we had sub zero temperatures. We plan on moving the nipples up higher on the bucket, and doing a better job of insulating the waterer. I'm sure we'll still have days when we have to use the heat gun, but looking back on it now it wasn't that often, and it is still much easier on this old lady's body than hauling water out to the coop over the snow a couple of times a day would have been.
 

mrrr0809

In the Brooder
Apr 12, 2015
30
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24
Thanks for the post and pictures! Very informative. It does intrigue me that heat doesn't transfer sufficiently from the inside of the bucket to nipples to prevent them from freezing. Your location sounds much more frigid than mine. Maybe I'm making more work for myself than I have to. I suppose I can put a standard heated waterer out there and a homemade nipple waterer and just see what happens. If they do freeze, they'll never not have access to water then.
 

Blooie

Team Spina Bifida
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That sounds like a plan. Like I said, our issues were not often enough, nor serious enough, to make us stop using the waterer during the winter, although with all of my whining about it here on the forum at the time it seemed that way!
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But in the overall scheme of things, we were still better off because the chickens had access to water at all times and I didn't have to haul it out there for them, so we still feel like we "won". Sure the nipples froze a few times. But just a few minutes with the heat gun and they were back in action. Funny, as long as they were being used during the day they worked just fine. It was in those frigid overnight hours when the chickens weren't keeping the water flowing through them that the remaining water in the cups froze. Maybe it would be a good idea for me to take a few paper towels out there when I lock up the coop at night, use it to blot up any standing water in the nipples (as long as I'm already out there anyway) and see what the morning brings.....hmmmmm
 

sophiaw00

Songster
Apr 27, 2015
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Illinois
I'm gonna follow this thread because even though summer is just starting, I want to be prepared for winter and I'm already nervous that my watering cups will freeze and the chickens won't have access to water.
 

yyz0yyz0

Songster
8 Years
May 2, 2012
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I've used one of these for two winters now with no problems with frozen nipples:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/mode...icken-waterer-zm0z13fmzhun.aspx#axzz2LYNCVRFQ

I added a layer of rigid foam on the bottom with holes drilled for the nipples and the bottom cutout from the outer bucket over it to protect from curious beaks and another layer of foam that is cut/sanded to fit part way down inside the bucket. With these two additional mods I have no problems with freezing of water anywhere. When it gets low and I open it to refill I get steam coming out.
 

mrrr0809

In the Brooder
Apr 12, 2015
30
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This does seem like a clever method. The added foam does seem to be a very worthwhile upgrade. Without it, I don't see a guarantee that the nipples will be kept insulated/warm enough to not freeze. May I ask how cold it gets in the region in which you live?
 

Blooie

Team Spina Bifida
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Feb 25, 2014
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Northwestern Wyoming
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Thanks for providing that link. I sure appreciate you taking the time to look it up and post the link here. The author said that it kept water unfrozen there in Zone 6. I still think that here in Zone 4, with sometimes days of temps that don't even get up to zero, there will be a freezing issue. I don't use the vertical nipples, which is what is being shown in the article from Mother Earth News. They just drip too much. If a chicken walks under the waterer and brushes the nipples with her back or head ( and they do do that from time to time) the water drips onto the floor or onto them. I had a chick, Scout, with frostbitten feet from getting his feet wet when it was 19 below zero, and once was enough.
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The entire reason I switched from vertical to horizontal was that drip factor, although I do still use vertical nipple waterers for chicks in the brooder (which is located out in the run) to start them out. The nipples only seem to drip for a second or two after the chickens have gotten a drink, and if there's accidental contact with the little trigger part. But when you have 9 adult chickens, 15 between 11 and 12 weeks old, and 8 that are 5 weeks old, that's a lot of opportunities for drips. I haven't had any issues with them dripping while they aren't being actively used. With the horizontal nipples, the tradeoff there seems to be that last little dribble of water that remains in the cup freezing, expanding, and then the pressure pushing the trigger partway open for more water to come out and freeze.

No matter how warm the water is in the bucket, the little bit that remains in the cup after a drink is the real problem here at Oleo Acres. So I'll keep looking for solutions, and if I have to I'll resort to taking that 10 minutes or so and thawing all of the nipples in the waterer every morning. I only have to do that from about 15 below zero and lower.
 

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