Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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How to keep chicken waterers from freezing

Chicken tracks in the snowAs cold weather descends on our chicken coops and tractors, I tend to get a flurry of emails.  Everyone wants to know the same thing --- will the Avian Aqua Miser work in the winter?  My quick answer --- it will work better than a conventional gravity-feed waterer, but you'll need to do a little more work as the weather cools.

First of all, throwing a stock tank heater in the Avian Aqua Miser doesn't work since the nipple tends to freeze before the reservoir.  We're still working on an innovative solution to that problem.  If you've figured it out, we'd love to hear from you!

Heated chicken waterer(Edited on October 29, 2013 to add: Actually, we've solved this problem in the years since we wrote this post. 
You can always see the most up-to-date posts on our heated chicken waterer page.  As of today, we use a homemade heated chicken waterer built around one of our Avian Aqua Miser Original kits, two buckets, and a three foot length of pipe heating cable ($23).  However, our tips for using unheated waterers still stand the test of time, so keep reading.)

We have three chicken tractors, so we use pre-made (half gallon) Avian Aqua Misers.  We find it easy to take the waterers in at night after the girls have settled down on their roosts, hanging the clean waterers on a shelf in the kitchen then replacing the waterers in the tractors the next morning.  We like to have a few extra waterers on hand, though, since sometimes we forget and let our waterers stay out overnight and freeze solid.  The frozen waterers thaw out within a few hours indoors with no apparent damage (though I suspect the reservoir might crack after a few months if we just left them out to freeze every night.)

In a coop setting, especially with large bucket waterers, most chicken-keepers instead opt to prevent the Avian Aqua Miser from freezing in the first place.  You'd be surprised at how well a light bulb in the coop works to keep the air temperature above 32 F.  The light bulb will also extend the day length and keep your chickens laying at summertime levels all winter long!

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Can you leave a light bulb on all night? I have used a caged orange heat bulb in the past but I'm afraid they stay up all night if they have continual light.
Comment by Staceytrap@hotmail.com at lunch time on Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
Actually, keeping a light in the coop overnight is a common trick that farmers use to trick their chickens into laying more in the winter. They must be able to sleep partway through the night, so it just makes them think the days are longer and they should be laying more eggs.
Comment by anna late Sunday afternoon, November 21st, 2010

A light placed UNDER a terracotta garden pot will keep the pot warm enough to prevent a waterer from freezing if placed on top of it. If chickens have light on all the time it shortens their life span, as they have to work harder to produce eggs year-round. Hope this helps someone.

Comment by Anonymous late Monday evening, February 7th, 2011
That's a great idea! It would make the bulb less prone to being pecked at too. We might have to work on that idea....
Comment by anna late Tuesday morning, February 8th, 2011
I stand my galvanized waterer in a large heated dog water bowl (I use the bowl dry). It's thermostatically controlled so it wont come on until temp hits 32 or so. It produces no light so wont bother the hens yet still only uses 50 or 60 watts (same as a light bulb) The heat rises from the (dry) bowl, conducts through the steel waterer and keeps the trough of the waterer ice free. I did notice a thin film of ice at the top of the reservoir water level on the coldest days but the birds still had water to drink at the trough. The power cord has a reinforced coil around it sio dogs can't chew on it_no worries for the hens. A plastic waterer may work also in the dog bowl but I think the steel will conduct heat better.
Comment by Tony_SW Ontario, Canada late Tuesday evening, April 12th, 2011
That sounds like a good idea if you're willing to put up with dirty water. :-) I have to admit that I'm sold on our clean waterers, and luckily some of our readers came up with some great methods for turning our kits into heated chicken waterers.
Comment by anna Thursday evening, April 14th, 2011
I came across your website and am chuckling at your innovations! I've gone round and round on the watering method...to keep it clean and plentiful...and thawed in the Montana winters. As far as keeping the water thawed out, I used a common heat tape wrapped around the traditional waterer; plugged it in when necessary. But now my new coop doesn't have electricity...yet. We'll have to work on a way to keep the nipples ice-free in frigid weather; maybe go back to the old waterer in the winter. Thanks for your great ideas!
Comment by Linda Wlaysewski at lunch time on Monday, April 15th, 2013
Linda --- I've you haven't gone there already, I recommend checking out this heated waterer, which is currently our favorite in our own coop. It's like what you're using, but has an extra bucket around the heat tape for added insulation. Of course, that assumes you end up with electricity before this winter.... Good luck!
Comment by anna at lunch time on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

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