i am not sure about other options, but i have an electric bucket, and the heating element is completely enclosed, and the cord is covered in metal spiral conduit, so the goats cant chew on it, and it works great. heating bill went up maybe 5 bucks, it only turns on when the water temp drops below 40 degrees!
In the area where I have no electric I fit a 5 gallon plastic bucket into the rim part of old car tires which I had stuffed with straw.It usually took about 3 tires. A thin sheet of ice might form but the critters could break it. I also take warm water at least twice a day but if I couldn't get to them on time I at least knew that they had water. I live in the mountains in Montana so sometimes it can be difficult to get out.
I use the thermostatically controlled tank de-icers. They are NOT heaters, and only come on at a certain temperature to keep the water from freezing. My elec bill is not that much higher when using them. They're worth it for my peace of mind, knowing the goats have water to drink when they need / want it.
Yup, go with de-icers. Strap the de-icer to the trough using a couple zip ties so it can't be yanked out if a critter gets tangled up behind it. Also, butt the waterer up against a fence and zip tie it there (to keep it from getting unplugged if they mess with it).
You can also cage them inside metal milk crates to keep them in place
With a trough, keep it full enough so that you don't have to worry about them tipping it over.
If you don't already, plan a way to have a water supply (hose) that reaches to the troughs but is stored in a heated area (such as your basement or a small room in your barn). Much easier than carrying a billion buckets every few days.
I used to have to cart water out for 40 horses, we didn't use the heaters but we would top up their water in the mornings with HOT water, it would melt the ice and wrm the water enough to give them all a chance to drink... mind you they were big containers(oil drum size).
We don't have trough's for our water & just usually use plastic buckets and here in the dead of winter there's NO Breaking of the ice, the whole bucket would be froze & probly the bucket broken. So anyways we use the electric buckets, not any noticable difference in our electric bill & even sometimes when it's REALLY COLD here the goats will break the ice off the top of the electric buckets. I still take a small bucket of warm water everyday when I go down just because they are spoiled & they suck it right down.
I use the 50 gallon rubber tub from MFA. Depending on how many goats you have and how strong you are you might go for more smaller size tubs. The rubber tubs do freeze, however you can turn them upside down, and bust the Ice out. ( I jump on the bottom but you can use something to hit the bottom) the Ice generally all comes out. I guess I could use an electric water but I dont trust them. I would not drink outa one my luck it would develop a short!!
We keep our trough from freezing by using compost to heat/insulate it. We put about 12" below and pile it up around the sides and back. We have built a sort of box to keep the compost against the trough, the goats out of it, and compost out of the water. This is only our second season using it, but I got the idea from a farmer who had been doing this a while.
I use the buckets that are the 5 gallon size and also use a de-icer in a bigger tank for the goats and the electric bill dont change much either. I use the floating type for the bigger tank and zip-tie it to the fence and butt the tank to it also. They love it and it holds 70 gallons, My bucks get 2 5 gallon buckets and it is where they cant get to the cord either. I have well water so dont heat water to take outside as here it freezes to fast during the winter. I have enough buckets just incase I have to pen a doe up by herself and the problem is taken care of with the water. The first winter I broke so many buckets and said I wont do that again so got the electric buckets and its well worth the electric bill and time I spent lugging buckets of water.
It's cheap, and not real expensive to run. It keeps the water from freezing, but mine is also inside the one wing of the barn, so it's not hit by direct wind like it would be outside. Temps here range about 10 above zero to 30 below through the winter. Ozark Jewels is right about attaching the entire cord VERY securly. Goats just LOVE to mess with anything "new and fun looking". lol
Solar Gary made a waterer that kept his tank ice free. Search the Alternative Energy forum.
Lately I've been thinking of using the heat of the earth to keep the water open. My plan is to put an insulated box over a hole that I've dug with a posthole digger. Then I'll bank the area with straw to keep it from freezing. The high water table keeps that area from freezing most years so if I dig deep into to hit water there should be a lot of free heat. I've dug there with a shovel in the middle of the winter when the rest of my property is frozen 3-4' deep.
"Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?" Hobbs
"I'm not sure that man needs the help." Calvin
We used pallets to build a box around our trough and then we insulated it with clean, dry shavings, manure, and dry leaves (we clean it out and replace the insulation every year). Then we closed up these areas with OSB/plywood scraps. We built a floating lid out of blueboard insulation (on the bottom) and OSB/plywood on the top with a drink hole in the center. The whole box comes apart for maintenance or moving and it was pretty cheap to build. We painted it black for maximum light/heat/energy absorption.
We fill the 150-gallon trough about once a week with warm water and even when we are below 0F, it barely gets a skim of ice on it until the level drops below about half full.
This is for the horses but we wanted to do something similar for the goats. We just need to do a smaller box for a smaller set of buckets or a smaller trough. The trouble is I'm afraid they'll just climb on it and fall in or poop all over it!!!
Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 8:54 AM
Subject: [homesteadingwomen] How to keep animals water from freezing in winter
How to keep animal's water from freezing in winter
For those who are looking for a way to keep your livestock water
from freezing in the winter, here is a simple solution
Ever wonder how the early pioneers cared for their animals and
provided them with plenty of fresh water in the winter time? Well,
this is how some did it
You will need two tubs; one larger than the other, the smaller one
will hold the water. Depending on size of water dish, you could use
a tire instead of an outside tub. A tire will also help hold heat in.
A black plastic bag - or - more than one, depending on the size of
the bag and the big tub. The heavier the mill, the better.
The freshest, richest horse manure you can get.
A garden shovel or some sort of scooping device.
A pair of disposable or rubber gloves.
1. Put on the gloves.
2. Place a plastic bag inside the water tub (Dish), completely
covering the inside but not covering the outside. This will allow
for easy removal when finished and protect the inside from being
3. Inside the big tub, place and pack about two inches or
deeper of fresh horse manure. Disperse it evenly and keep it level.
If using a tire, you can just fill bags with manure and stuff them
inside the tire.
4. Place the plastic covered water dish in the center of the
big tub and check it to ensure it is level and as evenly centered as
5. Place and pack the remaining fresh horse manure tightly
around the water tub. The more manure and the tighter the better.
This will provide you with all the heat you need to keep water from
6. Cover all the horse manure with the plastic bags. Be sure to
cover well. This will trap the heat inside and also prevent the
water from getting soiled and contaminated.
7. Remove plastic covering from inside the water dish. Now it
is ready to fill with fresh water.
8. Clean up area and dispose of contaminated items.
9. When winter is ended, you can continue to use this system in
the summer months by replacing the water dish with a potted tomatoes
10. When the horse manure stops heating, use it to fertilize
your garden and just repeat the process all over again, using fresh