Heater bases are the most effective way to keep your chicken waterers from freezing. There are two types – commercial and homemade.
Since we’re all about frugal living here, we’ll address the commercial type, but focus more on the homemade versions of the same product.
There are many types of commercial heaters, but the standard base heater is most common and readily available.
I’ve used them with acceptable results.
Commercial heater bases are relatively simple.
They consist of something that looks like an round galvanized deep pan turned upside-down with a heating element and thermostat adhered to the underside.
They work by heating the round flat surface that the chicken waterers sit on. The heat is transferred to the water in the fount, and there you have it, water that doesn’t freeze solid.
The drawback of these type of heater bases is their life expectancy.
Even the folks at the ranch store know that the life of these heaters is limited, sometimes operating only for a single season.
They’re about $60, so this isn’t cost-effective in my eyes.
They also must be used on metal founts only, unless they’re specifically designed to operate with plastic water containers.
Homemade to the Rescue
If you bought a commercial heater for your chicken waterers, and it’s failed on you, the easy solution is to place a couple of 25 watt light bulbs under there to keep the base warm, but not hot.
You’ll have to keep the bulbs off of the ground as well to prevent them from breaking.
I use this on one of my chicken waterers, and it works fine. If you’re in a very cold environment, placing a couple of 40 watt bulbs in there will help.
The idea behind two bulbs is if one goes out, you still have some source of heat.
At 10 cents a kilowatt hour, burning two light bulbs gives you the following per day costs:
Two 25 watt bulbs = 12 cents
Two 40 watt bulbs = 19 cents
I think that’s relatively inexpensive for heating water for your chickens.
You can also purchase low wattage adhesive heating strips and apply them to the bottom of large flat pans or bowls and use them as heater bases for your chicken waterers.
Kat’s silicone heater pads can do the job just fine. Take a look at what they have for water tank and oil pan heaters at this auto parts provider.
I’d stick with the 100 watt heater. It will cost you about 24 cents a day to operate if your electric rates are 10 cents a kilowatt hour.
If you look around, you can also find 50 watt and 25 watt versions of the same self-adhesive heater strips. When using these in an outdoor environment, I’d clean the surface, mount the heater strip, run it for 5 minutes, let it cool for 5 minutes and then silicone seal the entire unit to eliminate the possibility of condensation from entering the heating pad.
So, there you have a few alternatives for heater bases to keep your chicken waterers from freezing.