Watering the chickens is more complicated than you think

We got chickens as soon as we moved to Pearl Creek Farm. After several iterations of pen material, we settled on a sturdy fencing structure with netting and an electric fence border. But, that’s a topic for another time.

Now, I want to talk about getting water to the chickens. If you take a look at the map, you’ll see the shed is quite a distance from the house and a reliable water source. Shortly after we moved in, I bought a large water tank and, with the help of friends and family, we installed guttering all around the shed to harvest rainwater to fill the tank. With the ability to harvest 1000 gallons, we were fairly certain we could weather most drought conditions throughout the summer and keep the chickens and the garden happy. It turns out that it works quite well and we ran out only during the hottest and driest parts of the last two droughty summers.

This 1000-gallon tank harvests rainwater from our shed.
This 1000-gallon tank harvests rainwater from our shed.

Anyone who lives north of the Gulf can see right away the problem we’re going to have with this setup. Once November rolls around, we run the risk of freezing the tank, hose, spigot, or all of them. As soon as the temperatures drop below freezing for more than a few hours, we’re forced to drain the tank and carry water over to the chickens until it warms up again in the spring. If cold temperatures persist (as they’ve done this winter), keeping the chickens in fresh water is a challenge. Many days do not exceed freezing and the water quickly ices over, leaving the chickens with nothing to drink for much of the day.

There’s another problem with chickens: they’re messy. They scratch incessantly and chase each other around, filling water and food containers with dirt and feathers or knocking them over completely. So, this winter, I bought an electric waterer that can be suspended from the ceiling. We’re still on the hook to fill this by carrying water from the house, but it stays warm and we can fill it with several gallons at a time, which lasts for several days. We also suspended the feeder from the ceiling, which prevents it from getting filled with dirt and getting knocked over. I’d like to think that it helps keep the mice and rats out, but I’m not willing to bet anything on that.

A feeder and waterer (warmed by an electric heater) hangs suspended from the shed rafters.
A feeder and waterer (with electric heater) hangs suspended from the rafters.

2 thoughts on “Watering the chickens is more complicated than you think

  1. I’m sure it is obvious to anyone who has kept chickens. We’ve thought about it before, but I never realized how much better it would make everything. I cannot believe we went so long without doing this!

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