Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Heat tape chicken waterer

Heated bucket waterer

We decided to try out a heat tape waterer this winter (the design for which is included in the instructions that come with our DIY chicken waterer kits.)  The instructions call for a Remove bucket handle15 foot length of heat tape, but Mark wants to find out whether a 3 foot length will work as well.  If so, the shorter heat tape should use less electricity and will definitely make the construction process cheaper and easier.

Materials included:

  • bucket waterer
  • a second bucket from Lowes
  • 3 foot heat tape
  • duct tape
  • screwdriver
  • drill
  • jigsaw
  • coping saw

First, Mark removed the handle from the bucket waterer using the screwdriver.

Cut down bucket

Next, we fiddled around for a while until we figured out the best way to cut the extra bucket into an outside housing for the new heated waterer.  This step will vary depending on the style of your bucket, but if you use Lowes buckets, you'll want to cut in a line that follows the bottom of the blue "Lowes" logo.  (Mark suspects that a three gallon bucket might just need the very bottom removed --- that'll be our next experiment since cutting off so much of the bucket felt wasteful.)  Either way, start your hole with the drill, then make your cut with the jigsaw.

Coping saw

The coping saw made a small slit about three inches down the side of the outer bucket. This slit will allow us to thread the power cord out the side.  (If you're using a Lowes bucket, the slit goes down to the end of the blue logo.)

Heat tape on bucket

We used duct tape to attach the heat tape to the outside of the bucket waterer, close to the bottom. 

Build heated chicken waterer

Then it was easy to push the sawed off bucket over top of the bucket waterer, letting the cord come out the slit.

So far, our heated chicken waterer has stayed thawed down to the mid twenties Fahrenheit.  I'll be sure to report back once we discover its lower limit.

Edited on October 29, 2013 to add: It looks like the lower limit of this particular unit as built is 16 degrees Fahrenheit.  We're experimenting with some new possibilities this winter as well, so stay tuned to our heated chicken waterer page for updates.

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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How is the 3' doing? I'm curious to hear if it is keeping the waterer thawed.
Comment by Heath at teatime on Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Holding up great so far! But we haven't had seriously cold weather to test it with yet. In a month or two, I'll be sure to report back when (if?) we find the lower temperature limit.
Comment by anna Friday evening, December 9th, 2011

Here is the metal bucket that I mentioned that works well with the Lowe's bucket like you've used in this write up. There is plenty of room for heat tape and if you remove the existing pop rivets from the handle and move it higher on the metal bucket you could easily hang your heated waterer.

It is a 6 gallon metal bucket made by Behrens and made in the USA! I bought it more than a year ago at Orscheln's, I don't recall the price.

Here is a picture of the Lowe's bucket sitting inside the Behrens.


Here you can see the gap between the two buckets. I am going to bring the heat tape cord through this gap and then fill it up with silicone.


If anyone is interested, here are the part numbers for the Behrens and Lowe's buckets, respectively.



Comment by Heath late Saturday afternoon, December 10th, 2011

Your pictures didn't seem to embed right, so I've embedded them (and the related text into this comment below:

Bucket waterer

Here you can see the gap between the two buckets. I am going to bring the heat tape cord through this gap and then fill it up with silicone.

Making a heat tape waterer

If anyone is interested, here are the part numbers for the Behrens and Lowe's buckets, respectively.

Bucket part number

Part number for other bucket

Comment by anna at noon on Sunday, December 11th, 2011
By the way, it got down to the upper teens last night and our waterers were still free flowing this morning. Sounds like three feet of heat tape might be sufficient in a moderate climate.
Comment by anna at noon on Sunday, December 11th, 2011
Last year I got all excited about chicken nipple waterers and used them happily all summer. The trouble in the winter wasn't with the water freezing in the bucket, the trouble was that the nipples froze up. I'm not sure that the heat tape is going to address this problem.
Comment by Anonymous at teatime on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

I've got it assembled and ready to go to the chicken coop tomorrow. Here is what it looks like now.

Comment by Heath late Tuesday evening, December 13th, 2011

Anonymous --- That's what we like about this design --- we had the same problem, and this seems to fix it. The outer bucket forms a lip that extends down past the bottom of the bucket, partially enclosing the nipples and tempting the heat from the heat tape to head down that way. We also concentrate the heat tape near the bottom of the bucket, which seems to help. We're still in the trial stages, but so far this method has held up very well down into the high teens. Now, if you live in Alaska, I doubt this will cut it, but if you're in zone 6 or below, this is worth a try.

Heath --- Thanks for the followup photo! Looks great!

Comment by anna late Thursday morning, December 15th, 2011

Thanks for the excellent website and great idea! I took what you've done a step farther...others may be interested. I used two buckets from the odd ones laying around which had a little extra room between them. Put 4 chicken nipples in the bottom of the inner bucket, wrapped it with a 6' heat tape; cut off the bottom of the outer bucket to make a 'loose fit' in the inner bucket. Then the inner bucket was wrapped with foil-bubble-bubble-foil (about 1/4" thick) and duct taped to hold in place. The lid of the inner bucket was fitted with a thick (3/4"?) tube, assisted by 2 small stainless steel hose clamps on each side of the lid, then buckets were assembled and the whole thing is held by the outer bucket.

By creating a length of hose on the bucket, I can fill from outside with a funnel (an old wine cork with a 'knob' on the end seals the hose when not being filled). The hose is a bit long until it is in its final place (may want to move it), then will be trimmed. The chickens are using and enjoying the un-frozen water!

I have some nice pix, maybe I can get someone to include them...

Comment by Anonymous late Sunday afternoon, January 22nd, 2012
The photos are so great, I thought they merited their own blog post. So, stay tuned! They'll show up this week or next, once I have time to play with them.
Comment by anna at lunch time on Monday, January 23rd, 2012
I built this kind of heated bucket waterer, using 6' heat tape, but have not gotten around to making insulated fitted lids yet. we're in Zone 7b, and it got down to 6 Farenheit last night, and was not quite 9 when i went out to check on the birds this morning -- and the water nipples had not frozen! they were all still working fine. we're all feeling very happy with this system!
Comment by yarrow at lunch time on Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Yarrow --- Thanks for sharing --- that's impressive!! Better than mine has been doing; maybe you used a longer heat tape?
Comment by anna early Friday morning, December 21st, 2012
Mine was working fine until it got down to 15, now the nipples are freezing. I am going to work on it tonight and make sure the heat tape is still working and bunch it more down to the bottom. Poor chicks.
Comment by Scott early Tuesday morning, January 22nd, 2013
Scott --- 15 degrees is about the design limit, unless you use longer heat tape. We only get temperatures like that a few times a year, so I just break out the small, portable, premade waterers and bring them in for the night. Good luck!
Comment by anna early Monday morning, January 28th, 2013

I am trying to make this heater using Home Depot buckets and they fit to tightly to go over the heat tape when taped to the first bucket. Does anyone have a recommendation for a bucket that will work?

BTW.. Lowes seems to have changed their buckets and they seem smaller. At least they don't fit over a HD bucket.

Comment by Vladimir early Wednesday morning, October 16th, 2013

Vladimir --- You're right that Lowes has changed their bucket. We haven't tried the new ones yet to get exact measurements on where to cut.

But it sounds like your problem isn't the bucket, but the method. Two buckets of the same kind (no matter what kind that is) should fit over top of each other with the heat tape in between, but you have to cut quite a bit off the bottom of the outside bucket to make them come out close to even. I hope that makes sense --- it's hard to describe without a bucket in front of me. If you look back over the photos in this post, I suspect it'll click, though.

Comment by anna early Wednesday morning, October 23rd, 2013
Looks like great ideas everyone. Does anyone have experience with sub zero temps. I'm in midcoast Maine and most winters are in the teens but many days go sub zero?..
Comment by Anonymous Sunday evening, January 5th, 2014

Anonymous --- You might want to check out this heated chicken waterer, which is what we've been using this winter instead. That one did finally freeze up at 8 degrees, though.

In Maine, I might be tempted to do what I do with my tractored chickens --- just use Aqua Miser Originals that are easy to bring inside and warm up overnight.

Stay warm!

Comment by anna at noon on Monday, January 6th, 2014

I am going to try it with these 4.25 gallon buckets. They are food grade materials. I made my summer waterer with a 6 gallon bucket and a gamma lid for easy access to clean and fill.

I will post pictures when I make one.

4.25 gallon bucket: http://beprepared.com/4-25-gallon-bucket-with-lid.html

Gamma lid: http://beprepared.com/gamma-seal-lid-white.html

Comment by Kathy Brown early Monday morning, September 29th, 2014
Kathy --- Thanks for sharing! I'd love to see your photos once you're done. If you have trouble posting them here, just email them to info@avianaquamiser.com and I'll add them to the site.
Comment by anna Monday afternoon, October 6th, 2014

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