After yesterday's drama with Oyster Cracker, I decided that I needed to find a way to keep water from freezing in the coop at night. This past Fall, I made the decision that I did not want to have electricity running to my coop or attractive wires for the chickens to peck. In my opinion, the dangers of coop fire and injuries to the chickens are two things that I did not want to take a chance on. So, I decided to go to the Cape Cod Feed and Supply Store. The people that own and work there are very nice and very helpful. I was able to pick-up some vitamins and electrolytes for the chickens. I also had another idea for preventing water from freezing overnight without using electricity. So, I picked up a stainless steel dog bowl that holds eight cups of water. I left feeling confident.
Once I got home, I decided to give the chickens the vitamins and electrolytes right away. They come in a small white plastic jar in a yellow powder form. As soon as I opened the jar, it smelled just like a vitamin. I diluted it according to the package's directions. I used an empty one gallon milk jug for mixing. I filled the chickens' waterer half way with the vitamin and electrolyte mixture and then I filled the rest with plain water. Since they are not full grown, I did not want to harm them with an overdose. I put the treated waterers back in the run. The chickens loved it. Bizarre as it may seem and to my surprise, they loved the vitamin and electrolyte water. Best of all, Oyster Cracker took about 5 drinks in a row and did not vomit! Next, I moved onto my idea to prevent water from freezing in the night.
In the Northeast, we have been having nighttime temperatures dip into the low twenties. When, I open the coop up in the morning, I discover a solid block of undrinkable ice in the waterer. If Oyster Cracker was over drinking because she was so thirsty from the night, then I had to try and remedy the situation. I scoured my yard for a rock. The rock had to be about 5" round. The ground was frozen and covered with snow. Where the heck would I find a rock? Then, I remembered, I had a rock about that size under one of the gutters. I retrieved the rock. It fit perfectly inside my new stainless steel dog bowl. I brought the rock inside and placed it in a large stew pot. I added water and brought it to a boil.
I recalled watching survival shows on TV and hot potatoes from the oven. I remembered that survivalists placed rocks in the their fires and removed them at bedtime. The rocks were placed strategically around their bodies and radiated heat for them all night long. I also recalled how long potatoes keep their heat after removed from the oven. If I could heat up this rock, without burning the chickens or overheating the water, it might just prevent the water from freezing at night.
Once the water was boiling, I carefully removed the rock from the pot. It was very hot. I placed it on the counter to cool. By 2 pm, it was cool enough to add to the stainless steel bowl. I added warm water and then placed it in the coop. Optimally, I would have liked to place it in about 4pm. However, by placing it in earlier, the chickens would have a chance to explore it prior to nightfall. Five o'clock finally came and I locked the flock in for the night.
This morning I went outside, replaced the run's waterers with water, electrolytes and vitamins and scattered scratch on the ground. I let the chickens out. Everyone ran to the scratch first and ignored the water. I thought that this was a good sign. Next, I opened up the coop. To my amazement the water was not frozen. It was a little slushy, but not frozen. Given the fact that I had placed it out there early yesterday, I imagine that if I bring it out at 4pm today, then my success might be better. I think the best part of my discovery was that half of the water from the stainless steel bowl was gone. They finally were able to get an early morning drink inside the coop in the winter.