My water system froze last night :(

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by hillbillygreen, Nov 10, 2008.

  1. hillbillygreen

    hillbillygreen Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 22, 2008
    Central Illinois
    Here is my system designed and worked pretty well through the summer. It is an old cat litter bucket which I fitted with plumbing parts and a toilet line to attach to the poultry fountain you see in the foreground here. I threw a tank heater in the top and closed the lid and here's my failed test. It was frozen down below in the poultry fountain. I'm sure it's because of the skinny toilet line and lack of insulation. I also knew those tank heaters only keep about a 6 inch radius un-frozen. I have pipe insulation I could wrap that tubing with, but do you think it will be enough?

    Let's hear your thoughts. What do you all use? Thanks in advance!

  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Sorry but I don't see any possibility of keeping that working through an Illinois winter unless you heat your whole darn coop to above freezing (which I really really don't recommend). Insulation isn't likely to do it. The problem is that cold water sinks and chickens don't drink during the night.

    If anyone tells you to try wrapping heat tape around the hose and the bottom receptacle, btw, PLEASE nod politely and ignore the advice, as that would be massively, massively unsafe and is how ya get barn fires. (Heat tape is dangerous enough when used as per mfr's instructions -- wrapping it around a short length of inappropriate material is the great big Kick Me (well, Melt And Ignite Me) sign)

    IMHO you're better off saying Oh Poo, and buying/building a more winter-appropriate waterer (perhaps a galvanized waterer on a homemade heated base).

    If you absolutely feel you MUSt try to keep the existing arrangement running, you could try aiming a lamp bulb at it. However this uses a gratuitously large amount of electricity compared to a heated waterer base; it is also less safe, because there is not going to be that much difference between the distance it takes to keep the hose and waterer icefree and the distance at which plastic starts to smolder and release toxic fumes and perhaps ignite. I wouldn't do it myself, but if you're going to do it, that's at least better than heat tape.

    Good luck,

  3. bills

    bills Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 4, 2008
    vancouver island
    1. The amount of water the birds actually drink is not enough to keep the warmer water down in the poultry fountain, so it has a chance to get cold enough to freeze. I don't believe insulating the pipe would make any diference. If you had the water circulating somehow, with a small pump, like they use in those small water fountains, the warmer water held in the upper tank would then be circulating, and less likely to freeze. This would involve building an overflow bucket with the pump in it, and a return line back to the main tank. A bit of fooling around but it might solve the problem.

    2. I notice you don't have a very large amount of litter on the coop floor. A thicker layer will help insulate the floor, and perhaps the cold passing through it. This may keep the coop warmer overall, with heat from the birds themselves (at night anyway) and prevent the water from getting so cold. Insulating the coop itself would help, as well as having a control on the vent opening, You could close off more of the opening, epecially towards the bottom part.

    3. I see you have a light pretty close to the water dish. Perhaps another way, would be to use a red heat light focused on the dish. The birds still sleep fine with the red light on overnight. A dimmer switch wired prior to the outlet, allows you to regulate the heat.

    Just some thoughts..[​IMG]
  4. mountaintopchicken

    mountaintopchicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2007
    I've been contemplating water systems that won't freeze for a while now. I would love to have an automatic water system, but winter in Vermont...

    I am more concerned with a system for our rabbits that live in the barn than one for our chickens. So hard to keep the water available 24/7. So I looked into

    This Freeze-X thing from Bass Equipment.

    The bucket reservoir is heated and it circulates the water through the system, so that it doesn't freeze up. I think what your system was missing is something to circulate your heated water throughout the system so parts of the system don't freeze (like bills said).

    I wonder if you could rig something up with an aquarium pump or something? The Freeze-X thing is $160 so I hope people respond to your post with lots of good ideas that are cheaper.
  5. ROC4K

    ROC4K Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 21, 2008
    NE Wisconsin
    My water froze up last night too. My solution...bring fresh water out in the morning. I like your set up but without flow or heat she's going to be stiff in the mornings for a couple months.
  6. danamillette

    danamillette Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 16, 2008
    Northern Wisconsin
    Northern Wisconsin here...
    I have a 125 watt red light in the coop. Last nite was around 22 degrees F.
    The coop stayed at 34 and the water didnt freeze.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2008
  7. hillbillygreen

    hillbillygreen Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 22, 2008
    Central Illinois
    Thanks for the input everyone!

    I think I'm going to do one of 2 things.

    1) Either buy a new poultry waterer that I can set inside a heated dog watering dish (also need to buy)

    2) or buy the red light bills and danamillette were mentioning. That one sounds the cheapest and will also keep the girls warm. .. but cost of running and safety were good points from pat.

    We'll see what the hubby says (after much rolling of eyes)

    Thanks again!
  8. jubylives

    jubylives Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 23, 2007
    Central Iowa
    Quote:Same here. I was at work and got a text that the waterers froze. When I got home around 8pm I turned on the red bulb which sits about three feet above the waterers and this morning everything was fine.

    There's nothing really wrong with the red bulbs or heat tape. These things have been used for years. Christmas lights are way more dangerous then these and people use them all the time. I wouldn't recommend using the heat tape in this application (as no one was) as it is designed more for galvanised or copper pipe. If you want the keep this system then just aim a 125w red light in it's direction. The radiant heat may keep it from freezing. Or during the real cold bits turn it off and drain it at night.

    I myself like I said use the red bulbs and will continue to even if Al Gore comes pounding on the door or until someone wires me the money for the expensive metal ones and heated bases.

    Maybe when someone asks for advise on their current situation we should come up with ideas to help instead of shooting it down and telling them to start over. Some people may not be able to. Just a thought.

  9. Mrs MIA

    Mrs MIA Chick Magnet

    Mar 3, 2008
    We use the heat-tape on ours, and it worked great except for the last 3-4" of pipe that led to the cup-waterers. We re-vamped the system and used copper pipe instead of pvc and modified it so that it shortened the "T" to the cups and we're hoping that helps. The heat tape should be applied in a straight line, though - spiraling around pipes and such is not good for it and can lead to fire/damage. With the system you have, I don't think the heat-tape would work on it, simply because without circulation you wouldn't be able to heat the water below.
    Now, in the turkey pen we have one of the large (1.5 gallon) heated dog bowls, and it works wonderfully. If I didn't have so many different pens, that would be the way to go. Put it up on a platform or something to keep it out of the shavings, and to keep the shavings out of IT, and it should work great for a small coop. [​IMG]
    I love the ingenuity in the system you have... just not practical for winter, eh? [​IMG]
  10. winniegirl

    winniegirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 15, 2008
    Mrs. Bird-Brain,

    Well, I feel rude addressing you as such; however [​IMG] could you tell me: Do your birds drink directly out of the dog bowl?

    I'm getting one of those. And DH is about to bury a line before it freezes. But then my neighbor who is an engineer just reminded me how he uses industrial extension cords for his Christmas lights for almost 2 months every winter, so maybe we'll do that for just this year. we only have to run it about 50 ft, though DH is not keen on that idea.

    Thanks everyone!

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