Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Best heated chicken waterer

Heated chicken waterer using heat tapeEdited October 29, 2003: In the last two and a half years, we've done quite a bit more experimenting with heated chicken waterers.  You can always see the most up-to-date posts on our heated chicken waterer page.  As of today, the heated waterer we use in our own coop is based on the first option shown below.

Sick of frozen chicken waterers?  It's quick and easy to turn your existing waterer into a heated waterer, some of which will keep your water liquid down to 20 below.  Here are the top DIY options:

  • Pipe heating cable --- Sandwiching a line of heat tape between a pair of five gallon buckets has the side benefit of forming a lip that gives the nipples a bit of extra protection.  Waterproof heat tape can even be threaded into PVC pipe waterers.  Estimated cost --- $26.
  • Heated bucket waterer --- Modifying a pre-made heated bucket to work with our chicken nipples is one of the quickest methods of making a heated chicken waterer, and the lip that protects the nipples is reported by one customer to keep his water thawed down to 20 below.  Estimated cost --- $50.
  • Stock tank deicerStock tank deicer --- Throwing a stock tank deicer in an existing bucket waterer is a very dependable option since these sturdy deicers are made to deal with freezing temperatures and constant use. Estimated cost --- $25.

Some other workable solutions include:

  • An aquarium heater plus thermocube --- Aquarium heaters are the cheapest option, but they tend to have a short working life and to break down at inopportune moments (shocking your birds if the glass cracks!)  Adding a thermocube to the assemblage means that the aquarium heater only turns on when the temperature drops below 35, making the arrangement safer and using less electricity.  Estimated cost --- $30.
  • Bird bath deicerBird bath deicer --- These are very similar to stock tank deicers, but look to be a little more expensive.  Estimated cost --- $35.
  • Rain gutter heater --- This is similar to pipe heating cable and works well in PVC pipe waterers.  A quick search of the internet suggests that a rain gutter heater costs over $100, but I could be looking in the wrong places!
  • Heat lampHeat lamp --- In a pinch, a heat lamp aimed at your waterer's nipples will keep the water from freezing during moderately cold weather.  The problem with this design is that it's not thermostatically controlled like the other options, and you're heating the air rather than the water, so you'll use a lot more electricity.  However, the start-up cost is very low -- $10 for the bulb and perhaps another $10 if you don't have a reflective fixture (and chicken keepers are likely to already have both on hand.)  In warm climates where you only see a freeze warning occasionally, this is a very good option.  We also find that adding a light shining on the nipples is an effective way to supplement other heating options when the temperature drops into the low teens and freezes the nipple.

So, who won our heated chicken waterer contest?  I had to make Mark judge the contest since I wanted to give out at least half a dozen prizes.  Congratulations to Lu Ann and Christian Shank who came up with a design that is elegant, cheap, and effective!  We'll be putting a 10 pack DIY kit in the mail to them shortly.

Ready to put together your own heated chicken waterer?  All of the designs on this page start with our homemade chicken waterer kit, starting at $15.

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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I have searched online for "waterproof heat tape" "heat cable" etc, with no success. CAN YOU TELL ME WHERE TO BUY THE 15Ft OF THIS CABLE FOR THE WATERER??
Comment by AGFutch Saturday evening, October 15th, 2011
I'm sorry you're having trouble finding it. This is actually quite a common item which is generally on sale at local hardware stores or places like Wal-Mart. Here's one on Amazon.
Comment by annaearly Sunday morning, October 16th, 2011
I use heat lamps in my coop plugged into thermostat plug-ins. You can find them in hardware stores with the heat tape supplies. I'm going to try using a deicer in my buckets, and they usually already are thermostatically controlled. My biggest problem now is filling the buckets and carrying them in the cold. I like to spray them off with the hose, but my hose is froze already!
Comment by Jeannine Bockwoldt late Thursday afternoon, November 3rd, 2011
You'll have to take some photos and enter our contest. We'll have one coming up whenever I get time to write up a post about it, but you can also email your photos and description to info@avianaquamiser.com at any time and I'll put your entries in.
Comment by anna Saturday evening, November 5th, 2011
I use a bucket wrapped in reflectix insulation with a 50watt aquarium heater also wrap my PVC in heat tape and wrap them in reflectix duct insulation. With below zero weather my chickens water was toasty :-)
Comment by Anonymous at lunch time on Friday, October 10th, 2014
I live in Minnesota where temperature can reach -50. The only way to keep chicken nipple not frozen on the bottom is to have 250watt light bulb. I use 5gal bucket and heat tape with insulation. on the bottom light bulb pointing on nipples. Then extra thermostat for the bulb. Put thermostats everywhere or pay hi electrical bill like $100 month in winter. The problem fire hazard, hi electrical bill and if bulb die on you that's it.
Comment by chiken person in the wee hours of Wednesday night, January 8th, 2015
chiken person --- Very good point about adding a thermostat to any light shining on the nipple! A Thermocube is relatively inexpensive and should do the trick nicely.
Comment by anna late Tuesday morning, January 13th, 2015
I use heated dog bowls plugged into a thermostat controlled plug in. Works great! The water gets a little dirty, but I can easily throw it out and refill the bowls. I only have 5 chickens now.
Comment by Debi Wednesday afternoon, September 21st, 2016

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