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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Water Heater for Hens' Water--tutorial

Waterer on heater I made on the cheap
My frugality does pay!

Need to keep pet or chicken water from freezing? Do you want to make your own heater? I did.

I love to make instead of buy
I am all about frugal, making instead of buying, reusing what I have, saving my money. Here is this project from beginning to end. Your supplies may differ from mine. This is my experience that can be duplicated with changes.

Clear and level the ground. For my water container, the surface must be level. 

I bought this in order to have a more solid barrier from ground moisture and to retain heat from the bulb and the sun. I could have used bricks I already own, but this is a better vapor barrier.

50 foot extension cord bought years ago at 90% off sale. Maybe--$1?

Knife and duct tape I already owned.

Old popcorn tin--$0.50
Friend holding it just right for a picture of the pretty scene--polar bears pulling a sleigh.  Any old bucket might work for this inner piece.

Floodlight bought for $0.33 about seven years ago at 90% off sale. Leave the cord coiled. Place the whole thing and the extension cord plug under the outer, galvanized cover to keep water from it.

Old minnow bucket with a hole in the bottom serves as insulation. It looks like a dog chewed on it. I found it on the side of the road in a trash pile.
For six months, I searched from the car, looking for the inevitable tossed minnow bucket that I see every year. Finally, about September, I found this one, just waiting for me. I often wonder what people think when I pick up something useless looking, like the minnow bucket with a hole! Watching and waiting pays off. FREE!

Minnow bucket needed to be shorter. The hole is taped shut. Actually, the diameter was too large to fit. I cut it too short and made the diameter too small!

Large Stones to help hold heat from the bulb. These were in my yard. I had to hurry and get up the styrofoam before the hens ate it!

Stones in styrofoam in popcorn tin
The galvanized outer part will go over this as the popcorn tin sits on the step. See, I cut too much of the styrofoam bucket off at the top. It needs more stones, lots of tiny ones.

Outside of heater
For some reason this galvanized "bucket" was in my basement. I believe I bought a whole pile of pots for plants, and this was amongst them. It is open on the end on the ground. Around the upper or lower edge, whichever was you orient the "bucket," there are four evenly spaced holes. This hole had to be enlarged to insert an extension cord.

Chicken waterer purchased last year for $21, onetime purchase. I had tried lots of things for water, and the hens stood on and pooped it them. A beautiful antique bowl that I used cracked when it filled with ice. So, I was out $45 right there. This only has to be refilled every four days to keep water for the hens. Of course, if you want fresh water for hens, this needs to be refilled more often. There are instructions on the internet on how to make one of these, but I don't think I could make one.

1--place stepping stone where heater will go
2--place popcorn tin on stepping stone
3--put styrofoam minnow bucket into the popcorn tin
4--place large stones in styrofoam
5--wire floodlight assembly into top of outer galvanized container
6--put extension cord into the galvanized container and plug into floodlight
7--insulate the opening around the extension cord with plastic and duct tape
8--place glavanized, wired assembly over the popcorn tin
9--plug in the extension cord (outside plug is GFCI), so no problem with rain

Further instructions
use only wattage the floodlight assembly uses
use incandescent bulb for the heat
place plastic under the concrete stepping stone

Improvements needed in my design
*Place plastic under stepping stone.
*Paint the galvanized bucket black.
*Place a bucket of small pebbles in the styrofoam minnow bucket for better heat retention.
*Make a crude, wooden shelter that only has bottom and front open to further keep chill winds from the water heater.
*Use a level to get this really level so that draft from the double-sided waterer will work properly.
*Use washers instead of duct tape to cover the three extra holes that came with the galvanized container!

Finished, Assembled, with filled waterer on top. Price in the store for heater--$45 + tax. My cost=$3.71 + things I had purchased years earlier on sale.
Last year
The heater I made last year lacked--stepping stone underneath for heat retention and a water barrier; popcorn tin and minnow/bait bucket and rocks for heat retention and insulation. This year's version is an improvement! I did reuse the outer galvanized "bucket," the extension cord, and floodlight holder. The last year version was basically just the galvanized "bucket" and the floodlight holder.
Your turn
You will probably not have the identical items that I used. But, any substitution that suits the purpose will work. You may have a better setup than I. What can you come up with? Does this give you ideas?  

Do not copy this. Link to my blog, ONLY.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (taking a bow)
    The weather was several degrees below freezing last night. The water was not even cool to my fingers early this morning. Chickens surely enjoy a less-than-frigid drink of water.


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