Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Heated bucket chicken waterer

Lu Ann Shank did such a good job of describing her homemade, heated bucket waterer that I'm just copying her email and photos below:

Our flock belongs to my 13-year old son, Christian. As part of his 4H project he raises and shows several breeds of large fowl. At one of the poultry shows an acquaintance gave him a few of your nipples to try. We went home and put a bucket waterer together and have been thrilled with the result.

I saw your request for winter-waterers and thought I would share what has worked for us. As a disclaimer – we live in North Texas – I can hear those flock owners from up-north cackling already – we are fortunate to only get snaps of cold temperatures here that do not linger – So far this waterer has functioned for us without complaint. The idea is simple enough and could be easily modified by your creative readers in colder climates.
Reinforced bucket handleHere is what we used:

2  5-gallon buckets
1  15’ pipe heating cable
2 Fender Washers

I started with our original bucket waterer. It is the black bucket in the photos. I chose black to discourage algae growth. Before I began to modify the bucket I reinforced the handles with fender washers and epoxy to compensate Heat cable wrapped around bucket watererfor the additional weight.

Starting at the bottom of the black bucket, I wrapped the heat cable around the bottom third of the bucket. Make sure that the cable lies flat and does not cross itself.

Hole in side out of outer bucket


Remove the handle from the second (white) bucket. Cut out the bottom of the bucket and drill a hole in the side of the bucket about two thirds of the way up from the bottom.

Heated chicken bucket waterer 

As you slide the black bucket into the white bucket thread the plug and thermostat of the heat cable through the hole in the white bucket. Twist the black bucket as you slide it into place to take up any slack in the heat cable. Before you push the buckets into their final position - run a bead of caulk near the top of the black bucket. This will adhere the two buckets together.


Chicken nipples in a bucket watererFlip the buckets over. Run a bead of caulk between the bottom of the black bucket and the inside lip of the white bucket to keep curious hens from pecking at the cable.
Let it dry and plug it in.
The "lip" created by the white bucket protects the nipples from the wind and - so far - has kept them from freezing. The added benefit is that my son can now set the bucket flat on the ground to clean it without damaging the nipples.
Modified bucket waterer lid 

The only other modification that I made was to add a PVC elbow to the lid making it easier for my son to fill without removing the lid. I also put a wire plant basket on top to keep the girls from perching on top.

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 just got to make one of these--love this idea
Comment by pat g late Wednesday evening, March 30th, 2011
I totally agree --- that's why we chose her as our contest winner! I know what our chickens are going to drink out of this coming winter....
Comment by anna at lunch time on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011
I like this waterer it is going to work great this winter for my new chicks.
Comment by linda Saturday evening, June 4th, 2011
This would be my top choice too! I think I'm going to get Mark to convert our bucket waterer over when cold weather comes.
Comment by anna late Monday evening, June 6th, 2011
I used an orange Home Depot bucket and it's handle broke after 2 weeks of use. The thin metal handle pulled right out of the washers due to the weight of the water. I am going to try again, but with an industrial grade bucket.
Comment by AndySlammer Monday afternoon, July 18th, 2011
Did you try adding the washers to the handles to strengthen them? Another alternative is to mount from the bottom rather than hanging by the handle.
Comment by anna early Thursday morning, July 21st, 2011

I tried making thiis watererwith two identical "True Value" buckets but once I installed the heat tape it was next to impossible to get the one bucket inside the other bucket. I'm gonna try again with a different outside bucket.

Comment by ktm rider Tuesday night, November 22nd, 2011

We actually had a similar problem with the Lowes buckets we used last week. I'll post the full photo tutorial on our blog in a week or two, but here are the steps we took to make it easier:

  • With the lowes bucket, at least, we had to cut the outer bucket down more than is shown in this post.

  • We made the cord come out a slit in the bottom rather than a hole near the top.

  • We only used a three foot length of heat tape that wrapped around the bottom of the bucket once.

Using those changes, our buckets went together quite well.

Comment by anna late Sunday afternoon, November 27th, 2011
Well, I simply changed out the outside bucket witha different bucket and it slid right together. I would guess not al 5 gallon buckets are exactly the same measurements, so the outside one I used was a hair larger.
Comment by ktm rider terribly early Thursday morning, December 1st, 2011
Ktm --- That's what I'm hearing from other people too --- if you use two different style buckets, it's much better than trying to use two of the same.
Comment by anna Friday evening, December 9th, 2011
Does the thermostat go on the inside of the white bucket or the outside?
Comment by Tarheel at teatime on Monday, January 2nd, 2012
We put our thermostat on the outside and it seemed to work well. We also tweaked this design a bit to come up with something that felt easier to construct.
Comment by anna mid-morning Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
Well, my waterer worked very well after getting the buckets to go together. It keep the water thaed down to 10f deg. this winter..
Comment by ktm rider late Friday evening, March 23rd, 2012
Ktm --- Ours did a great job this winter as well! It wasn't all that cold here, though, so not a good test, but as I recall the nipple only froze up once for a short time.
Comment by anna Sunday evening, March 25th, 2012
I would like to make one of the heated waters. We love using the bucket waterer in the summer, but we get to -20F and negative teens (F) in the winters for days at a time. Does anyone have any tips or experience at these temps?
Comment by Julie early Saturday morning, July 6th, 2013
Julie --- Good question, and I wish I had a definitive answer! Unfortunately, this type of heated waterer is really only good to the positive teens Fahrenheit. We've started to experiment with a premade heated bucket waterer (the kind you might buy for horses or dogs) with nipples added to the bottom, and our early tests suggested those stayed thawed longer, but then winter ended. (Plus, we never really get down below 0, so I couldn't tell you anything for sure about the negatives anyway.) If you do experiment and figure out how low a heated bucket waterer will stay thawed, I'd love to hear about it!
Comment by anna Monday afternoon, July 8th, 2013
We have built a chicken waterer very similar to this and I wanted to say that it works great! We live in Wyoming and have experienced some record low temps this week. I checked on the water every day and it was never frozen at all. Not once! We had temps at night falling to below -15 degrees!
Comment by Jenny W Saturday evening, December 7th, 2013

I have a horizontal mounted nipple waterer. I'm in Canada so the winter nights can get quite below freezing. I use an inexpensive aquarium heater. I place the heater horizontally at the bottom of the waterer so it stays submerged. It is a mere 50 watt heater. It keeps the water a reasonable temperature and has never frozen. I purchased mine at Walmart and is like this one:


Comment by Nicole Matthews at noon on Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

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