I’ve tried all kinds of schemes for providing water for chickens during the winter. This year, I think I’m finally close to a satisfactory design.
This design owes a lot of credit to a similar system described at Green Machine Farm. I’m using a very similar setup with an aquarium pump, a tank heater, an insulated tank, and a recirculating loop. Besides the fact that I’m using a bigger tank and more insulation, my design differs in that I’m using horizontal nipples instead of vertical nipples. The horizontal nipples spill more water, but they have a tremendous cold-weather advantage: they don’t store any water inside the body of the fitting so they are unlikely to plug.
I’m not sure how cold it has been during this recent cold snap. I know it has been below -10F but I haven’t been watching the thermometer too closely. The nipples form a little ice overnight but if I bring a gallon of hot water from the house and quickly wipe off each nipple, the water is flowing again immediately.
This system seems like it should work well, but there are a few vulnerabilities. First, if the power goes out or a cord is unplugged, the system will freeze up. Second, if the pump or heater were to fail, the system would freeze up. Third, if the system were to run dry the pump would burn out or the heater might melt the tank. The third situation is preventable by frequent monitoring, but it seems foolish to think that I’ll be able to avoid either of the first two situations indefinitely. At -10 or -20, it wouldn’t take long to freeze solid. I know that whatever I build, I eventually repair. So when I repair this system, I’ll add a loop of heat trace under the insulation along the pipeline. That will allow me to thaw the pipes when the inevitable freeze up occurs, potentially saving lots of downtime.
Now if only I could figure out a system to take the chill off my nest boxes, I’d be all set. Unless we collect eggs hourly, we end up with lots of frozen eggs.