As mentioned in the last chicken post, Kevin made a heater for the waterer. This came just in time as the temps declined enough to freeze the water. It's a bit of a drag to keep changing the water, especially when it's not just cold, but also windy and/or precipitating.
The idea came from this forum post on Backyard Chickens. I swear I looked through that posting for the instructions, bc I'm sure I saw them somewhere, but I never found them. I did find some instructions on another website. They used a premade lamp kit (i.e., cord with plug and socket). When I went out to get supplies, I was going to go to the big box hardware store. Then I decided that I'd probably have questions and went to Boonton Electric Supply in town; I figured they might be more able and/or more willing to help with this project.
And they were. I don't think the guy who helped me had had anyone come in looking to do this, so I think it was a kick for him. He set me up with all the stuff I needed. Here's a picture of what you need.
- low watt candelabra bulb (we used a 40w; some people have used a 25w; maybe we could, but I went w/the 40w)
- electrical tape
- flat plug
- candelabra socket
- lamp cord
- a little bit of wire and a small screw for grounding (Since everything was metal, I don't know that we needed grounding. Plus, the outlet is grounded. Put this bit in anyway.)
- a knife to scrape off some of the wraparound on the lamp cord and grounding wire
- a couple of screwdriver(s)
- a drill
- a cookie tin
- tin snips
- Split the lamp cord a few inches. Scrape away some of the wraparound on one end of the lamp cord. It will look like this:
- Take the two scraped ends and stick them into the base of the socket. Pull one end out of the hole that's about about in the middle of the whole socket. Pull the other end out of the hole on the other side of the socket. The ends need to reach the two screws that are a little further up on each side of the socket.
- Wrap the ends under the screws on either side of the socket. Using a screwdriver, tighten the screws to hold the wires in place.
- Fuzzy picture alert! The socket with the wires screwed down should look something like this, just not fuzzy.
- Drill a hole in the side of the cookie tin. Place the hole about halfway up the side. Choose a drill bit suitable for the width of the bolt on the socket.
- Use tin snips to trim away any sharp bits on the hole's edges.
- There are two nuts on the bolt part of the socket. Remove one. Place the socket in the hole.
- I forgot to take a few pictures at this point. Here you need to:
- The socket likely came with a cardboard or other tube to cover the part with the bare wires are exposed. You can see our tube in the first picture above, the picture of stuff you need; it's a short cardboard tube. Put this tube back on the socket.
- Replace the second nut on the socket bolt; leave it a little loose.
- Scrape away a bit of the wraparound at both ends of the grounding wire.
- Wrap one end around the socket bolt between the side of the tin and the second nut you just replaced.
- Tighten the nut to hold the grounding wire in place. It will look like this (ignore the black cord furthest to the right; that's the drill and is not part of the heater):
- Forgot to take pictures again, but here's what you do with the other end of the grounding wire:
- Drill another hole in the tin. Choose a drill bit suitable for the width of the grounding screw. Place this hole a little short of however far the grounding wire will reach from its secured end. It doesn't need to be a certain length; our grounding wire was about 6" so the hole is about 4" to 5" from the secured end. I suppose we could have made the grounding wire shorter than 6", but we didn't.
- Insert the grounding screw into the hole; keep it loose.
- Wrap the unsecured end of the grounding wire around the grounding screw and tighten the screw until it's holding the wire securely against the tin. It should look something like this (minus the first hole we drilled which ended up being too far):
- Forgot to take pictures yet again; here's what you do w/the other end of the lamp cord, i.e., the plug end:
- Split the lamp cord and scrape away a bit of the ends just like you did at the other end in Step 1 all the way at the beginning.
- Take apart the plug. It should unsnap and open easily.
- Similar to attaching the bare ends to two screws on the lamp socket, there are two attachment points inside the plug. Secure the bare ends to these points.
- Put the plug back together.
- You're done! Here's the inside of the tin, unlit (note the socket has the cardboard tube on it):
- The inside, lit:
- With the lid on:
- In use! We only have three chickens so we have a small waterer. I suppose we could have a larger one, but prefer to have a couple of waterers and switch them out every day so the water stays as clean and fresh as possible.
During the cold weather, we keep the eglu near enough the garage to a) offer the chooks some protection from wind and b) so the plug on the water heater can reach the outlet on the outside of the garage.
Some people put thermostats in their cookie tin water heaters so that the light goes on only when the temperature drops to or below a certain temerature. Ours does not have a thermometer. We figured we'd be happy if we get this basic model to work. It just stays plugged in all the time. And that was actually helpful when a whole mess of snow fell and some blew around the waterer. The heater melted the snow, making it easier for us to get to and the chickens had good access to water even during the snow.
The heater doesn't throw off enough heat to actually make the water hot, or even warm, for that matter. It just gives off enough heat to keep the water from freezing. It's been very effective. I don't have to run out there several times a day to replace frozen water. Also, I don't have to worry about being away while the water freezes and the chickens lack access to water.
And cheap! The cost of the electrical stuff was $8.83:
- rubber 2-wire flat plug = $3.16
- lamp cord = $1.03
- candelabra socket = $3.36
- 40w candle = $.70
- he threw in the grounding wire and screw
- plus tax
The tin was probably about $1; I got those tins a long time ago and that was a leftover. We had everything else. So the tin cost about $10.
Hope this post helps anyone who wants to make their own waterer heater. Feel free to email me with questions or corrections. When we're not using the heater, I'll try to remember to take helpful pictures of as many of the parts as I missed photographing. You can skip a bunch of steps by buying an assembled light socket and plug kit. Right now I'm off to give those girls some scratch before they head off to bed for the night.