Here on the southern east coast we don’t get a ton of cold weather. Sure we like to complain that it’s freezing out, but by freezing we mean 40 degrees. BUT THIS COLD SNAP! THIS POLAR VORTEX! THIS MEET AND GREET WITH JACK FROST! That’s a whole other situation. It is as cold as a polar bear’s nose outside. And NOTHING takes the jolly out of your holly jolly Christmas like your water hose freezing up on you when you have to water the chickens. So you fill up a 5 gallon compound bucket with water and get soaked while you carry it out to the chicken run only to discover that the drinkers are frozen shut and you can’t get the bowl off of the bottom to fill. After a minor temper tantrum I poured the water into the large duck pan and that’s when genius struck (maybe it was common sense, but I’m going to call it genius). Why bother with a chicken drinker when I can just give them big pans of water and stop with all of the extra stress? Do you hear angels singing? I do!
When I got my first set of chicks I did everything by the book.. I spent way too much money on items that didn’t work well, cost more than they should have, or were “uni-taskers” (thanks Alton Brown). After trusting my instincts, gaining more confidence, and spending more time in chicken groups I have learned a lot.
Now don’t get me wrong I am NOT saying that there isn’t a time and a place for drinkers. They help keep debris out of the water and in the summer they aren’t really much trouble at all. They are also a MUST for when you’re raising baby chicks that could drown in an open pan of water. But when it came time to replace one that cracked from the cold weather I looked at the price of a new drinker compared to the price of a feed pan and decided to save the difference (about $12) and just use the feed pan. Even when the water freezes it is simple enough to just dump over the bucket (I like to stack the plugs of ice up so the chickens can calculate my dedication–the higher the stack the more times I have lovingly sacrificed my fingers to frost bite to make sure they were comfortable) and re-fill.
I’m also not being so BOLD as to say that I’ve solved a real hot button chicken issue. There are some excellent solutions to water problems. Automatic drinkers hooked to a hose, PVC systems (which I hope to build soon) etc, but in the winter when freezing is a real issue the feed pans are a nice quick solution.
Feel free to share thoughts and solutions in the comments. I’m always out to learn a new trick!