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November 13, 2016

Winterizing the Chicken Coop 2016 - Waterers

We've enjoyed a very warm and almost over-warm autumn so far which has afforded us an opportunity to be very lax in completing end of the year tasks such as putting the garden to bed and yard clean up. Another necessary *task* or chore has been to winterize our chicken coop.  There's been nothing like seeing the neighbors shake their heads at us while we're out hollering at each other to hold down the plastic tarp and grab the proper sized bits and screws to make you think twice about whether or not we've lost our ever loving minds with this venture.  Of course we pick the windiest days and the oddest hours....
They ask us "What are you doing now, we thought your were done building the coop". Our answer is "Yes, we're done building the coop, but we need to make sure their house is buttoned up and prepared for the winter just like ours." This assuredly garners much side eye and breathy OK's from the neighbors perspectives and ours too. I mean, these four ladies already have a deluxe piece of real-estate. And I really do have to say so myself [pats self on the back]... Yep, this was a labor of love and friendship which I've already spoken at length about. But more specifically in terms of us being prepared for our girls first winter when they enjoy a double walled and insulated luxury home, with a *fancy stairway leading to a large and distinguished arborvitae stump inside of their run that measures around 8x8x13 feet? I know we are ahead of the game! It only took us what, five years to plan for this?

Well, what they haven't had until today though despite all of our planning is a way to keep their water from freezing during the winter which could be solved in a multitude of ways. Which is also a project that I personally have been putting off since April. The hub and I have bored holes in buckets, the kids and I have picked up many lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe, couplings, 90's, and 45's for a heated gravity waterer complete with poultry nipples wrapped in heated tape, etc.etc... I mean we were dreaming and planning BIGTIME!  All of this in preparation for an automated system that would keep us from running in and out to chip away ice, carrying buckets of unfrozen H20 daily during the long winter months. Guess what, none of this was put together and installed because we were robbed... Well not really, but #TimeGotAwayFromUs

Seriously, this part has been the least exciting portion of our Chicken Farming Adventures. It surely hasn't been as fun as getting our first eggs, or watching them hunt in a pack capturing their first mouse.  Plus the family has been at odds about this issue because as I mentioned before there are so many varying opinions out there about how to keep fresh water fresh and unfrozen. Few without a hefty price tag mind you...  There are heated dog bowls (almost did this), big heated poultry waterers that are not designed with refilling them in mind, bird bath heaters and the like to consider. Honestly, I don't mean to beat this into the ground, but as with many families where there are more pressing issues and responsibilities this labor of love went by the wayside and that piggy bank started to squeal from too few meals and a forced diet. 

Barring this, it was more than time to get inventive! Not just to save some $$ but to save my nerves. I don't like to see animals suffer and I don't want to see my kids suffer as they'd be frozen more than me going back and forth to refill that water dish. So in the case of our preconceived mega poultry watering project, we put this aside. As in we literally shoved the parts of this from one location inside our home, backyard, and garage over several months into a safe location until next spring. However, my incessant obsessing over when we'd get our first "hard frost" of the season [which was yesterday], is what really stopped me dragging my feet around through the crunchy russet and orange fall leaves with my little ladies and my/our 4-legged friend. Panicking, I referred back to a post from a Facebook friend at the Twin Cities Chicken Group and called upon Grandpa Google to find a plan post haste that I'd been eying for quite some time. After pitching my final argument I decided to threaten, I mean convince my handsome assistant with the suffering sigh to help. TODAY! 

[NOTE: No teenagers were harmed in the making of this heated chicken waterer....Well, maybe their friends from CSGO were from lack of tactical blah blah blah...but I assure you only valuable family time was had with little to no curse words]

Here is a list of the supplies we used and pictures of the final design for our heated water base that cost us less than $5 bucks:

1 - Key-less Porcelain Lamp Holder $0.98
1 - Extension Cord $0.97
1 - 1/2 8x8x8 Cinder Block  $0.97
1 - Scrap Wood over 8x8x8 $0.00
1 - Light bulb 75W $0.25
2 - Wood Screws Free 99
You'll also need a screw driver, a hammer, a drill and drill bits, and wire cutters/strippers

Using Wire Cutters, cut off the plug in portion of the extension cord and strip 1/2 inch of coating off of the wire. Next seperate the wires and attach to the lamp holder base.

Here is what the lamp base looks like when wires are attached. Screw the lamp base to the scrap wood and make sure you it fits into the cinder-block without constriction. The smoothest side is generally the top which we labeled on ours.

Using an old screwdriver as a chisel we removed a tiny section at the base of the cinder-block so the cord would not rub against the electrical cord. 
Test your connections to make sure you have light.

It's time to install your heated base into the chicken run.

Our finished heated poultry water base
It feels so nice having this off of my mind, and today has been so sunny and beautiful. By consensus we decided that we'll be leaving this unit unplugged. At least until we really get bitterly cold for at least a few consecutive days. For now the girls seem to be happy about having their water higher up and they are all very particular with their likes and dislikes. (dirty water with floaties falls majorly into the latter) There is more to winterizing chickens besides frozen water for us Northerners which I will highlight in the days to come. The biggest pre-post tip I will give to you right now though is Save Those Leaves! Bag them, blow them into the run, toss some into the litter bed, but do not throw them out for the city until spring! They are valuable and they are FREE! You can't see in these photos, but some of our bagged leaves are lining the base of our run covered in tarp for a barrier from the wind. The girls loved exploring this and spent more time inside their run because of it...I could go on and on but need to stop and clean up from all of the days goings on.

Until next time, keep that water wet and clean, and keep the eggs a'coming!

Happy Farming,