Y’all want to see something funny?

The Brahmas aren’t getting enough water, since their water nipple keeps freezing up. (Also having just one nipple per bucket isn’t working out. I’ve got more coming.)

Those of you who have raised chickens know that you can’t just pour water in a bowl for them, because they’ll just shit in it. (Oh, yes. They will.) But Landlady’s hens are so starved for water in the morning that water in a bowl doesn’t last long anyway. So I’ve been pouring some of the chunky water from their bucket into a big dog food bowl. This always starts a riot. They’re really thirsty.

There’s only so much room around a dog food bowl, and Brahmas are big chickens. So there are always outliers who can’t get to the bowl, and they don’t accept this passively. If they can’t jostle their way between their sisters, they’ll go over or – hilariously – under. Yup, I watched one determined bird lower her head and tunnel her way right between the legs of a flockmate. The bird in the process of being displaced didn’t even seem to notice until the usurper stood up and power-squatted her right the hell away from the bowl.

I’m expecting Landlady to show up here any minute, and she’s bringing an aquarium heater we’re going to try in the watering bucket. I’m not convinced it’ll solve the nipple-freezing problem, but it’s worth a try.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to Y’all want to see something funny?

  1. MamaLiberty says:

    LOL!! That reminds me of the time one of our Labrador ladies had 14 puppies. Eight faucets… They spent more energy jockeying for a tit than they got out of the milk, I’m afraid. I wound up having to bottle feed half of them, at least during the day. Not the same half all the time, of course, just random grabbing and feeding. But it was essential or I think they’d have worn that poor dog to the bone otherwise.

    I suspect that you’ll get far more eggs once this problem is solved, Joel. They are not going to do their maximum without plenty of clean water.

    And yes, they shit in everything. The only real downside for me of keeping birds. :) But the ducks and geese were worse… vast quantities of very liquid shit. EEEEWWWWW

  2. Bear says:

    Tell the truth: When you moved out there way back when, did you imagine that chicks with cold nipples were going to be one of your main problems?

  3. Wolfman says:

    This probably isn’t a solution for the short term, but something to consider is ground heat. In MT, the frost depth is generally less than 30″, and everything below that stays a very predictable 60ish degrees (I don’t recall the exact number). For stock tanks, people will often put the requisite valves etc over a deep pipe. For example, a 10″ piece of PVC pipe buried vertically in the ground, then put the valves and float of the stock tank directly over the pipe. The constant 60′ air in the hole keeps the valves from freezing up. Could you build a set-up like that to put the watering dish on?

  4. Howard says:

    My hen house here in interior Alaska is pretty well insulated but when it gets below ten below the water does start to freeze. We are offgrid so an electric heater will not work. I use a regular self waterer that holds two gallons. I start out in thr morning with very warm water heated on the wood stove in the house. If it is below zero I add a little boiling water from the kettle a couple times a day. I empty it when I shut off the lights at night..We have 17 hens and are getting 9 to12 eggs a day. The lights are an led off a marine battery that I recharge when I run the generator.

  5. Joel says:

    For the Fortress of Attitude, I run a string of LED Christmas lights on a 12-hour timer from 10 to 10. That way I’m mostly taking advantage of the sunlight for my solar power system. The days are usually above freezing or not far below, so their little 1-gal waterer doesn’t freeze as long as I remember to bring it in at night.

    We do the same thing for lighting the big chickenhouse, except Landlady’s larger power system runs a 60-watt-equivalent LED. We’ve got 5-gallon buckets in there with those little brass-and-plastic nipples on the bottom, but even though the buckets seldom freeze solid overnight the nipples always do. So I have to rotate the buckets. It remains to be seen if an aquarium heater will solve the freezing problem, or need to be put on a timer itself.

  6. Queen Bee says:

    Joel, I have self waterer that I sit on a milk crate. The hens can reach it fine enough, but it’s mostly too tall to get full of bedding and crap. You might be able to do that with a shallow pan of water, it wouldn’t be perfect, but it might help.
    Miss V

  7. tierlieb says:

    Joel, I know you chose the LEDs because they are so efficient at producing light.
    But ordinary lightbulbs are not inefficient, they are actually very good at producing heat…

  8. Joel says:

    Oh, I agree. And that has its place. But they suck up more energy doing it than I can afford.

  9. Matt says:

    You must be heating up the Lair in the AM prior to Chicken duty, so put a few rocks on the stove (on rotation) to heat – put them in the bucket, voila—that might buy you some hours of available water,,,It’s all about the chickens…and eggs.

  10. MamaLiberty says:

    This is a great discussion because I plan to get some chickens this spring and had not really thought much about keeping water unfrozen and available in cold weather. I think there is a thread about this at TMM, but not sure. Will look for one, or start one. :)

    I’d be afraid the aquarium heater would be much too fragile to survive long in a chicken house, but will be interested to hear about how that goes. Might just be an answer.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I live in ND, and it is double digit below zero here. We have approx 86 chickens separated into 4 coops, and we use heated dog bowls to water them when it is this cold. Not too much problem with poop in them.

  12. Expat says:

    This guy
    http://adaptivecurmudgeon.wordpress.com/
    has a thread on this. He’s grid tied so perhaps won’t work for you or the landlady.
    I thought the hole in the ground idea presented above was worth trying. Cold country water meters use the same principle. Perhaps suspend the tank and nipples above a 10″ diameter hole covered in steel mesh?

To the stake with the heretic!