Now that the SNAP Challenge is over, we can get back to lessons learned living with children and chickens in New Hampshire (which will include thrifty and frugal living just not full time, but can I just say that if more people had chickens, there would be more quality food available – so it does go hand-in-hand.)
I recently had a reader contact me about chicken waterers in the winter.
She had read about our use of chicken nipples and my reservation of using them during the colder months (due to freezing temperatures up here in New Hampshire.)
Although we do use chicken nipples during the warmer weather, we do not use them in the winter. The nipple heads freeze up and the birds get nothing.
Important Note: while we’re on the subject of chicken nipples, simply by the way they work, they have to be suspended over the chickens, use care when using them around chicks that are not tall enough to reach them. In addition to the nipples, I always leave a smaller waterer at ground level as long as there are any chicks in the coop.
Over the years, we’ve tried a few options for getting water to our flock in the winter, we’ve taken the waterer into the house at night (always a big mess on the kitchen floor) and we’ve tried to refill it first thing in the morning (but then it just freezes up and water can’t pass through.) We finally figured out that a simple base heater (think college hotplate) is the way to go.
Ironically, right before this reader had contacted me, Marc had just ordered a new heater for our birds. This is our second heater in about 5 years.
For our set-up we put our heater on a cinder block and then our galvanized (not plastic) waterer on top of the heater. We don’t have electricity in our coop, so we run a heavy duty electrical cord through our back yard to the hen house. It’s not pretty but it works.
How we then use it is pretty simple; if the weather is below freezing, we plug the heater in (we don’t unplug it at night because it would take too long in the morning for the water to melt) and if the daytime temps are above freezing we don’t plug it in. Chickens do not need warm water, they simply need liquid water – don’t think that you need to provide them with Hot Chocolate temperature water in the winter.
Last winter was very temperate around here and we didn’t use the heater that much.
The winter before, we went below zero degrees on more occasions than I could count. A heating system was mandatory for the health of the flock.
It’s December 2012 and although we’ve had a bit of snow, for the most part, it’s been mild, so mild that we haven’t even taken our new heater out of the box.
But this is New Hampshire – give us a week.