Last winter, I discovered the Farm Innovators heated poultry fount HPF-100. While this works OK (it only uses 100W of power which is quite low) this device does have a number of significant drawbacks:
- having to flip the fount over to fill is a pain, especially in cold weather when you need to use it
- you can get shocked if you don't raise it above the (wet) litter (any ideas regarding how I found that out?)
- the design is a pain in that the unit must be very close to level, otherwise it will rapidly drain
During the summer season that just flew by, I was very interested in automating my brooder watering system and tried a number of systems that didn't work for me (GQF cup waterers, automated round drinker) until I discovered nipple waterers. So I purchased qty/50 nipple waterers and attempted to build my own pipe based nipple watering system. However, I couldn't get the nipple seals to not leak on the PVC pipe, so I abandoned the idea and purchased the Farmtek pre-manufactured nipple watering systems but ran out of time to install them before the end of the summer season.
Back when I was researching nipple waterers, I discovered folks who put the nipple waterers in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket for their layers. While I don't like that idea for the brooder during non-cold weather operations, I thought it might work well in my chicken coops with a 5-gallon bucket de-icer during the winter.
So during the first bout of cold weather this winter, my dear wife built two (one for each coop) 5-gallon nipple waterer units out of buckets and the leftover nipple waterers with a lid and a 5-gal bucket de-icer in it. To my surprise, they don't freeze! But they have one little problem: our layers have not been trained to use the nipple waterers and refuse to use them. to date. It seems the layers must be brought up on nipple waterers from chicks in order to use them when they are older. I do plan to give them some time to figure them out by leaving the 5-gal nipple waterers in place. Perhaps the birds will eventually figure out how to use them on their own as adults, and not have to learn as chicks.
The benefits of the 5-gallon bucket nipple waterer with a de-icer are as follows:
- no need to get oneself wet filling waterers
- easy to fill -- just bring the hose into the coop and fill the waterers
- no leveling problems
- no risk of shock
- larger capacity (5-gallon buckets vs 3-gallon HPF 100)
The obvious negative is the additional 150W of power, and the higher price ($40 for the bucket de-icer plus nipple waterers, vs $35 for the HPF-100) but in my opinion, that is a small price to pay. We'll train our next batch of layer pullets to use the nipple waterers when we brood them from day old chicks, so hopefully, next winter we'll be in better shape watering wise with our laying flock.