We have 14 hens of varying ages. Over the past month, they have been drinking A LOT more. I have one large waterer that we’re filling every day now and its still running short. It’s been really hot here but its like they ramped up their water intake with their egg production or something. Every other day has been plenty for a long time.
Do you have any recommendations for an automatic waterer or would it just be better to buy another one like we have? My husband thinks we just need to double up on the number of waterers because the automatic one will freeze in the winter (we’d have to hook it to a water hose). He’s probably right. I guess I’d need to buy 2 anyway to keep 1 empty at all times during the winter so I have one to fill each morning while the other one thaws.
I think finding the perfect chicken waterer is like finding the perfect mousetrap… there are so many versions out there and everyone is always trying to make it more efficient, better working and easier to clean. Automatic waters are appealing because it takes the worry out of extremely hot days. How many of you, when away from home on a hot day, has called home or the neighbors to “check the water level on the chicken waterer”?
However, some bucket waterers have the ease of “dump, wash and refill” while automatic waters can be a serious-pain-in-the-behind when they get gunked up with something or need to be washed — then it usually needs a screwdriver and some elbow grease. On cold days, with cold fingers, it just gets time consuming and frustrating — plus the fact that hoses can freeze.
Most waterers also have be mounted up a little higher or hanging from something — otherwise, if it is near the floor it tends to get dirt and all sorts of stuff kicked into it. The general suggestion is for the waterer to be at the height of your smallest chicken’s back unless mounted on a platform the chickens can stand on.
One automatic watering system that has been tested on the Urban Homestead is the Little Giant. It’s actually called a “fount” and it features a brass valve and a plastic bowl. The plastic is very durable and the overall system appears very well-designed. The bowl removes for cleaning with a quick disconnect and the valve shuts off when the bowl is removed. Set up is very easy — two nuts adjust the spring tension and the water level. The weight of the bowl will then shut off the water which it reaches the desired water level.
This system does require attaching to a hose. But perhaps with a little invention, you can come up with a gravity feed system similar to this: http://farmfolly.com/2010/09/building-an-automatic-chicken-waterer. I would also believe that with this system, a heating element could be added for your freezing problem.
Here in Los Angeles, we don’t freeze as often as the northern parts of the country so when the hoses DO freeze on those global “weirding” days, bringing out some fresh warm water for a couple of mornings is no big deal.
But since you have a more serious freezing problem, I did some research among all my chicken friends and some said to add a birdbath heater or submersible aquarium water heater to your water source. Others suggested these floating de-icers to put in a bucket or tray or pail: http://www.americanlivestock.com./c-160-equipment-deicers.aspx
Here’s some more different types of heaters that look useful:
Heated 3 Gallon Poultry Fountain: http://www.cutlersupply.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=11_60_135&products_id=839
Heated 32oz Water Bottle: http://www.cutlersupply.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=11_60_135&products_id=955
I also found this homemade solution: http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=2636-chicken-nipples-anyone
But I really, really like this watering system. It’s a great solution for those who don’t have nearby hoses to their coops and it really would keep all the poop, dirt and general stuff from gunking up the waterer! The Avian Aquamiser is an ingenious solution for providing fresh, clean water to your birds whenever they need it.
Here’s some links from the site for dealing with freezing temperatures:
There’s many ideas for a better poultry watering system and I encourage our readers to share in on the comments below with some of their suggestions.
But I really hope this information has helped you find the right solution for your birds.