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Old 12/13/04, 06:24 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Michigan's thumb
Posts: 15,895
How to Keep Water From Freezing?

How do we keep the animal's drinking water from freezing? It's alright when the temps aren't TOO cold, I just bring out 4 gallons of water every day and this seems to work. But, when it's real cold, the water freezes up too quickly. The only water warmers I've seen need to be within four feet of the outlet. None of our animals reside within four feet of our house. Aquarium heaters would work for the amount of water we're talking about, but they are too delicate. Is there a heater with a thermastat available we could use?

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Old 12/13/04, 06:29 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Manitoba, Canada
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You can get submersible water heaters. Should be available at your feed store. You can also order them online from Lehmans, I think. You might have to use an extension cord if you don't have electricity in your barn.

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Old 12/13/04, 06:34 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 7,154
I just put a light bulb under my watering tub for the horses. The plactic tub in sitting in a platic barrel. What are you watering? They make a small floating water heater for stock tanks. They have a thermostat. They are pretty heavy duty for a five gallon water container.
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Old 12/13/04, 08:44 PM
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 1,906
water heaters

I vote with the submersible. We have used both but the submersible don't seem to be as attractive to any animal that might want to play with it. Our GSD had pulled at least 2 from the tub where I water the dogs in winter before I went to a submersible there. It has a little wire basket that keeps the coil off the bottom. I took a length of 3" UV stabilized PVC pipe, slipped it over the cord and down over the basket. I tied the part of the pipe above water to a tree (a post would do if convenient) keep the dog from bothering it and so far, so good. But then she's an inventive dog and may one day decide to chew the rope then pull out the pipe.

Most of the modern heaters are thermostatically controlled and if pulled from the water will shut off for a given period of time to reduce the chances of fire.

Every stock tank heater I've ever owned has the warning about not using extension cords but like you, who has that many outlets so close to the point of need? Just be sure the cords are rated for outdoor use, be cautious of the placement, and keep a close watch on them. It's best if the outlets are GFI too.
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Old 12/13/04, 08:55 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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I have another solution...

If you can find a cardboard box a bit larger than the water bucket, you can put the bucket in the box, then surround the bucket with straw to fill the box. I have found that when the water for my goats, sheep and chickens is sheltered a bit from wind and cold air temperatures, it doesn't freeze or doesn't freeze enough but to form a thin film of ice on top.

This solution requires no electricity and if needed, the straw and cardboard box can be used to deal with muddy spots or composted if it gets too wet to continue using it.
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Old 12/13/04, 09:12 PM
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 1,906
winter water supplies

I really have to brag on my husband! A couple of years ago, a friend of ours bought a trencher. DH went to a bunch of auctions that were selling PVC water line pipes and bought enough to plumb our barn. He borrowed the friend's trencher, laid the water lines to each pen in the barn and installed Lixit valves. Then he wired the barn appropriately, installed heating tapes on each riser, insulated them and covered the whole business with larger PVC pipes to keep the goats/sheep from damaging the insulation and wiring. A small exit hole for the nipple of the Lixit valve allowed access. We plug in the heat tapes in the late fall and unplug them in the spring. Unfortunately, for some reason, one lixit continues to freeze at very low temperatures but it's usually not for long at a time. It's really nice for me not having to haul water, clean troughs, etc., in the winter and the water is warmer and fresher than with any other set up we've tried.

The real kicker is that our dear sweet Great Pyrenees Heidi refuses to use the lixit so I have to keep water available for her anyway. I am amazed that the one hen fly control program (an escapee from butchering day that is worth her weight in gold eating flies and larvae) will drink from the lixit but that silly dog won't. Go figure!

Sorry to have posted again so soon but I'm really proud of the Lixits and DH's thoughtfulness.
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Old 12/13/04, 09:50 PM
highlands's Avatar
Walter Jeffries
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Mountains of Vermont, Zone 3
Posts: 9,506
Originally Posted by Maura
Aquarium heaters would work for the amount of water we're talking about, but they are too delicate.
Actually, I have an aquarium heater from OTTO that is made of epoxy rather than glass in one of my coral tanks. It is very high quality and has an external control. So that is an option, although expensive.

If electricity is the way you want to go then you can get electric heaters but you'll want to use a heavy duty extension cord to get around 4' distance issue. I would suggest getting an outdoor extension cord with atleast 5 amps extra rating above the heater you are using. If the cord heats up at all from the current then it isn't a heavy enough duty cord.

The ways that we keep water from freezing are:

1) Using running water - our home is fed from a spring about 400' up the mountain. The animal water comes from the overflow from the spring box about 100 gallons above our capacity. It runs year round and this keeps it from freezing in all but the worst weather (-40F and below). If it does freeze then I break the inch of ice on top in the morning. Water flows out of each waterer to the next and then eventually to the animal pond.

2) Have a small opening into the waterer. The animals tend to keep this open even during cold weather.

3) Get ducks. They are very good at keeping the water from freezing and tend to go get water even at night. We have ducks in the corrals with the other animals. This won't work if you have pigs who aren't already trained not to kill ducks. If you need to train them, best is to raise the pigs with the other animals from a small size. Ducks can be very bossy and will tell off a 400 lb sow if the pig isn't too aggressive. Of course, there is always the electric chicken (or duck) for training if it becomes a problem.

4) Set 50 gallon plastic barrels 80% into the ground. Ideally supply the water from under the ground. The warmth of the earth helps keep the water from freezing.

5) Protect the waterer from wind. Wind steals heat really well. Build a shelter of rocks (my fav), wood, snow, hay bales, etc.

6) Put the waterer's where the sun will hit them in the winter.

7) Put a ball in the water, or several, which insulate the surface and the animals can push down.

8) Make an insulated waterer - one barrel inside a larger barrel with insulation between the two. This is very effective. I'm currently experimenting with putting nipple waterers on this design. I'm feeding milk to pigs and need something that is up higher than the waterers I have in the ground.

Good luck!

Sugar Mtn Farm
in Vermont
__________________ -- Pastured Pigs, Poultry, Sheep, Dogs and Kids
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Old 12/13/04, 09:53 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: WV
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I have an acquaintance who says he has success floating a black tire in the trough.

When I had chickens I changed their water midday, then I bought a small (one gallon) water dish that was heated. It was successful using an extension cord.
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Old 12/14/04, 01:25 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: MN
Posts: 8,107
I've never liked the combination of electricity, animals, & water.

I just installed one of these.

It was 10 degrees this evening when I looked at it, open water yet. No power needed.

Probably overkill if you only use 4 gallons (I water 40-50 cattle in Minnesota where minus 20 can happen - I'm not sure how well it will work when it's that severe....) but you might be able to burry a barrel as someone suggested, use the same principle.

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Old 12/14/04, 01:51 AM
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dig these....
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Old 12/14/04, 02:19 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: South East Iowa
Posts: 437
For the chickens I use a regular galvanized steel waterer and set it on an old metal pan, under the pan is a scavenged lamp part with a 60 watt bulb and it keeps the water thawed out so far. Tonight will be a good test when the temp is suppose to reach around 0. Better than buying a 30 something dollar water warmer from TSC and the "heating element" in mine is easily replaceable.
I've seen alot of different contraptions over the years to include 30 gal drums partially submerged with a wood fire burning in them. The barrel doesn't last long but with a free supply of barrels and wood, why not?
We have now officially entered the twilight zone.
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Old 12/14/04, 11:05 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: FL
Posts: 467
I just thought of something, why not add some mineral salt to the water to see if that helps. Salt lowers the freezing point of water so it may help. But it would also depend on how much salt/minerals you'd need to add
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Old 12/14/04, 12:35 PM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: South West MI
Posts: 932
Originally Posted by comfortablynumb
Dollar for dollar these are the best we have 4. 69$ at TSC they use about 200 watts.

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Old 12/14/04, 02:32 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Idaho
Posts: 121
For small stock tanks, I use a aquarium bubbler that keeps the water moving and a hole open in the ice. It is cheap, easy to put in place and used 4 watts, which is important since we are off the grid
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Old 12/14/04, 08:17 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Michigan's thumb
Posts: 15,895
Thanks soo much. I've read hubby the suggestions and his mind is humming. I love MOgal's metro water system.

For tomorow, think I'll try RPatriot's suggestion. I have bales of straw which I can surround the stock tank with, and toss the jolly ball in. I'm practicing managed manure right now and will be moving the water and hay every week or so to get them all over the pasture.

I don't know how adding mineral salt would do, but I may try as an experiment.
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Old 12/14/04, 10:47 PM
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 1,906
frozen water

I'm house/critter sitting for a neighbor while the husband is in the hospital for heart surgery. Last night was our coldest of the season and they've got one of those fancy horse waterers. It was frozen when I fed their horse at midday (I go then so I can collect the mail and put it inside). I spoke to their son who lives in the town where his father is hospitalized. He said to check the breaker in the garage. That wasn't the issue. DH and I went back tonight after supper and the breaker in the BARN had thrown, same position the son said was off in the garage. We still don't know if that is the problem but it seemed to be thawing while we waited. It isn't much warmer tonight than last night but at least there is no wind.

They live about 5-6 miles from us. I made 2 trips over and then the one tonight with DH. Sure hope it works. Their horse is a sweet but HUGE 22 y/o QH/palomino mare. I took her an apple at midday and this afternoon and tonight she really checked out my pockets and hands for another.

I told DH it was one thing for him to go out in the cold to help with one of our animals but really above and beyond the call to go for someone else's beast. I appreciate it in both instances.
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Old 12/15/04, 07:12 AM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: South West MI
Posts: 932
I don't know about salt in the water but we did a test because one of our hydrants is soft water and the rest are not and the horses definately liked the soft water better.

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Old 12/15/04, 08:02 AM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Central New York
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I don't use the outside stock tank in the winter. I bring hot water out in the morning and at night (about 10 gallons). Put a bit of hot water in 3 5 gallon buckets and clip them to the fence outside for the horses...don't make the water warm it will freeze quicker because of condensation. Just take the chill off it. At night the stall buckets are warmed the same way. I warm the chicken waterers in the morning, but they're brought down at night because I can't keep them open.

I'm thinking about installing hot water in the grain room, but I haven't figured out either to use a small hot water heater, or a "hot shot" type thing that just heats water when you need it. When my shoulder goes out like it did last year I'll make the decision in a hurry.

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