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  • erinlester4

Baby, it's cold outside!

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

I woke up at work this morning and I could already feel the cold. Our house at work is a trailer house and, let's just say, the windows are not the most energy efficient. I checked the weather before crawling out of bed... yep, shouldn't have done that. It just made me want to stay in bed just a little bit longer. Even my car protested getting going and refused to autostart as if it was also saying, "Just a little bit longer."

Alas, time to get going, get the kids off to school, and head to the barn to check the animals. On days like today, I end up bundling up and going to the barn a handful of times, just to make sure everyone is doing okay. A small problem can turn into a big problem very quickly in weather like this.

Outside of just trying to keep everyone warm and keeping food in constant supply, water is always a concern. Water is important to animals year round and, in temps like today, it will freeze over in a couple of hours.

The horses, cats, dogs, and even the chickens, on occasion, use a JUG waterer. While it does have a small heater in it, it's mostly the physical design that actually keeps the water from freezing. There is a small amount of water in the waterer, which also contains two copper tubes and one PVC tube. As the water on the surface gets cold, it sinks down the PVC tube and the warmer water on the bottom gets pushed up the copper tubes. This keeps the water in constant motion, and, of course, water in constant motion has a harder time freezing. Clever, right?!?

In 2019 was the winter of the Minnesota "Polar Vortex". During this time we had actual temperatures of -33 with wind chill records of -60. This intense cold spell spanned from January 27th through the 31st. Every day, I diligently checked the JUG to see if I would need to defrost it. Every day, I was pleasantly surprised to see that our JUG did not even have a frozen layer on the top.

When it is below zero with a significant wind chill, the chickens stay in the coop all day. While they don't enjoy being cooped up (tee hee), it is in their best interest. Chickens are actually little heaters, but the wind really can affect them. If I keep the coop door closed, it keeps as much heat in as possible. Many people will say that they don't keep water in their coop because moisture is dangerous in the cold, and I don't disagree, but in cold spells, my chickens might be locked up for a week at a time so they need access to water.

We use a bucket waterer in the coop. This keeps as much humidity out of the air as possible. It also has the advantage of keeping the water cleaner. John drilled a hole in the lid so we could use a stock tank heater to keep it from freezing. This one came with nipples on the bottom and, for the most part, this set up worked well. However, on the coldest of cold days, the bottom nipples would freeze solid. After some searching online, we were able to find freeze free nipples and we added three of them to the bucket. This way, if the bottom nipples freeze, the birds still have access to water through the upper freeze free nipples.

This year, with adding puppies, we have had another water challenge to overcome. Luckily, this one was easily fixed. After a few days of rotating frozen water buckets in and out of the barn, up to the garage to defrost, we decided to invest in a heated water bowl. I stopped at the farm store on my way home from work and they had a large, heated water bowl, perfect for the puppies. So far it has kept up well and I have not noticed any ice forming. Not only do the puppies approve, the cats are happy as well because they don't have to venture out to the JUG to find water.

When we built our house, we were planning out water lines, and my dad suggested putting in a hydrant. To be honest, I didn't know what he was talking about. Thankfully, John looked into it and bought one so that when the JUG line was put in, we could add it near the barn. A hydrant brings water up, only when on and when it is off, the water clears from the pipe. Regular water spigots will freeze and burst in the winter because the water stays in the pipe. Hydrants can be used all winter long without risk of freezing. Our hydrant gives us access to fresh water for the animals year round.

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