Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Aquarium heater makes heated chicken waterer

Chicken waterer made out of a kerosene canIt's pretty simple really, just insert a 25+ watt submersible aquarium heater inside an appropriate closed container such as a CLEAN / NEW kerosene can and plug it into a thermostatically controlled plug (can buy off the internet). Works well into the 20s, doesn't get too much colder that that here.

My guess is it would work at any temp if you gauge the heater wattage appropriately.  Do note: the last heater I bought said "don't use in freezing weather."  I'm not sure I understand that as a caution but I could imagine it might have something to do with the amount of "time on heating." My thought is the plug in thermostat takes care of that concern because it cuts the heater off at 42/44.  Please remember though, I'm talking about SC where daytime temps almost always get above freezing.  If I were in a colder climate I would call the heater mfg and get technical advice--I still bet it works!!

--- Mike Boynton

For readers who want to follow along at home, Mike started with one of our homemade chicken waterer kits and followed our simple instructions to make his waterer.

We recommend our 3 pack DIY kit for making a heated waterer for up to 50 chickens.  The CD that comes with each kit includes complete instructions to help you build our favorite heated options without any trial and error.

The heated waterer we use in our own coop requires two buckets, a three foot length of pipe heating cable ($23), and the contents of our kit.  With a layer of chicken-friendly insulation, the waterer is good down into the teens.

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The problem with aquarium heaters is that they can and do fail on a regular basis. When they fail, they can either stay off (even inside they seldom last more than 3 years), stay on, or have one of the seals break or the glass bottom break, when this happens the water get electrified and anyone who touches it gets a really nasty jolt or worse if they are not hooked up to a GFI. I bet the reason they say to not use in freezing temps, is that the glass often has flaws in it and if the heater fails and the water freezes then the glass will break resulting in electrified ice.
Comment by Rebecca at lunch time on Monday, February 21st, 2011
That's an excellent point against aquarium heaters. We had been thinking of trying to use them for a simple and cheap heated waterer that others could mimic, but I'm not so sure I'd want to now...
Comment by anna mid-morning Thursday, February 24th, 2011
There are aquarium water heaters that have stainless steel housing. No glass They are made to go under the gravel in a fish tank, but need a thermostat ... Don't know who makes them ... sorry
Comment by Charlie Fortney Wednesday night, April 13th, 2011
Good point! I hadn't considered those, but that would make another good option. I wonder how much they cost?
Comment by anna Thursday evening, April 14th, 2011
I thought of doing the aquarium heater idea but thought of another flaw. When the water level gets down low and the heater kicks on and off without water around it the glass can explode. Not only electrifying the water but putting small shards of glass in it as well. Unless you can make sure the level doesn't get below the heater I don't know if I'd take the risk.
Comment by jeff wilkinson Sunday night, October 9th, 2011
Our nipple system would keep shards of glass away from the chickens, but even so, I think that aquarium heaters are probably the least-suited to keeping chicken waterers thawed. You might check out what we consider the best heated chicken waterer for a more elegant (and not too pricey) design.
Comment by anna Monday evening, October 10th, 2011

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