The Woes of Winterizing the Chicken Waterer

I knew when the baby chicks came in August that planning for winter had to start immediately. Since the little ladies would be fairly good sized pullets by the time winter rolled around I wasn’t too too worried about heating the coop, and with the location wind-breaks would be pretty easy to build up. The one thing that I didn’t bank on was the issue of the chicken waterer.

Not wanting to deal with having to lug water in and out of the run constantly, and wanting a more sanitary solution, we decided to go with a nipple watering system. When the peeps were peeps we had a very simple system that could be attached to a 5 gallon cooler. But when the peeps grew up, we installed The Chicken Fountain. This little gem takes up much less space in the run and has all the bells and whistles of being automatic (in the summer time). I was also pleased to know that there were several resources that helped describe how to winterize it. In fact, the Chicken Fountain people even made a YouTube video on how to do this very thing:

But did we listen to this?????? NOOOOOOOO!

What We Did

When it was apparent that #winterwascoming (thank you Ned Stark and Game of Thrones) we disconnected the water line to our house and purchased the heater accessory kit from The Chicken Fountain folks. We also purchased a bird bath heater from Amazon [affiliate link].

The initial thought was that the bird bath heater coupled with the wind-breaks we erected would keep the water flowing freely throughout the Chicken Fountain.

Yeah…. riiiiiight.

The Folly that Ensued

Frozen Chicken Fountain dethawing in the sink

Frozen Chicken Fountain dethawing in the sink

What happened next we should have seen coming. On the first week of subfreezing temps I went out to refill the waterer and found that it was a block of ice. Surprise! Not. There was no water coming out of the nipples, and the chickens were starting to look a little crazed.

So, the Chicken Fountain found its way into my kitchen sink for dethawing.

Dad (my cohort in all things relating to Villa Pollaio) came over that evening with some emergency heat tape, insulation and foil duct tape [affiliate link]. We quickly insulated the crap out of the Chicken Fountain and returned it back to the run.

The key word is quickly.

The Chicken Fountain - Winterized Take #1

The Chicken Fountain – Winterized Take #1

If we had read the instructions on the heat tape a little bit better we might have noticed that the thermostat needed to be positioned in a specific manner in order to ensure that the heat tape turned off and on at the correct intervals, allowing the pipe to remain unfrozen but not heated to the same degree as the fifth circle of hell.

Things were going well… for a day.

The Chicken Fountain didn't survive the 7th circle of hell

The Chicken Fountain didn’t survive the 7th circle of hell

Then I went outside to refill the Chicken Fountain only to find the girls huddled in the back corner, water leaking out of the Chicken Fountain, and smoke and noxious fumes come from the waterer. It was almost nearly on fire. After a brief inspection I determined that the heat tape had actually melted through the PVC pipe and the insulation. We definitely had a terrific disaster on our hands.

VP Ladies enjoying water from the 5 gallon cooler

VP Ladies enjoying water from the 5 gallon cooler

I returned the 5 gallon water cooler to the coop and took the melted Chicken Fountain back inside. When I first got the cooler situated in the coop there was nearly a fight to the death over good water drinking position. Vera (one of my Easter Eggers) decided that the entire waterer should be hers and hers alone. She tried to peck the other ladies in the eye the second they tried to approach where she was drinking from. Poor Roxie ended up just drinking from the drips that landed on their step stool. I had to chase Vera off while the other ladies got their fill. Shaking my head, I wondered what could go wrong next?

I’ll spare you the gory details of the remainder of our fight with winterizing the chicken waterer and just give you brief bullet points:

  • We found that incorrectly installed heat tape is actually equivalent to the seventh circle of hell; it also melted our bird bath heater.
  • A new bird bath heater was purchased for the 5 gallon water cooler; however, heat wasn’t properly transferred to the waterer area and thus the entire container had to be brought in overnight (and sometimes during the day) to be dethawed.
  • We ended up ordering a new bird bath heater to fit into the new Chicken Fountain that was also on order to replace the one that had been destroyed by incorrectly installed heat tape.
  • The new Chicken Fountain (bigger and better than the original) was carefully wrapped in insulation only and secured with foil duct tape.
  • Pipe insulation is tasty....

    Pipe insulation is tasty….

    Chickens enjoy a very unhealthy past time of pecking through foil duct tape and eating insulation (so far, no adverse affects have been determined, I might not want to eat the first eggs that come out though… they’re probably not going to be “organic.”)

  • 7-Eleven sells duct tape. REAL Duct Tape. And chickens don’t peck through that nearly as easily as foil duct tape. Thank goodness.

As it stands, the new Chicken Fountain has yet to freeze (knock on wood), and after adding an additional layer of actual duct tape we haven’t had any more insulation eating incidents. I can only hope that we have solved this issue for the remainder of the winter!!

Duck tape protected Chicken Fountain

Duck tape protected Chicken Fountain

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