6 Steps to DIY a Winter Chicken Watering System

For years when I was a kid my least favorite part about having chickens was that I had to go out in the cold and clean out their water dispenser and even though we had it on a hot plate it seemed to freeze anyway.

I’m gonna show you how to turn this cooler and aquarium heater into a simple winterproof chicken watering system.

Check out this watering system that addresses these issues and saves money on energy.

DIY your own winter chicken watering system

How do you winterize a chicken coop

I have tried different things with other watering systems for the chickens and had mixed results. Although I am probably not done experimenting with different ideas, this is the latest.

This system is made of a small 2 gallon Coleman cooler and a few PVC fittings and small sections of pipe.

I got it on Amazon for only 10 dollars at the end of season sale! This is just a 2 gallon basic little cooler. We’re going to convert this into a storage tank for the watering system and we’re using a very low powered 50 watt aquarium heater.

This heats the water to about 78 degrees, which is a little warmer than we need to keep it, but I think with things being insulated in here. It will work just fine.

I’m also gonna use the poultry drippers that I’ve used in previous watering systems as the means of delivery to the chickens.  

What you need to create a winter-proof chicken watering system

  • 2 gallon Coleman cooler
  • PVC fittings
  • 50-watt aquarium heater
  • Male 1/2” to 3/4“ fitting
  • 3/4” pipe
  • T adapter
  • 11/32 drill bit
  • Electrical tape (or duct tape)

Now, let’s get down to brass tacks and learn what steps I took to build this simple winter chicken waterer:

Step 1: Prepare the water tank

The first thing we’re gonna do is get the handle off, we don’t need it. Then we’re going to remove the little spigot, it unthreads from the inside and just pulls out.

What I found with this cooler is that the spigot is basically a half-inch hole and works perfectly. So, I’m just gonna make my own bulkhead adapter out of a threaded coupler fitting and a threaded male adapter.

These will screw together on the inside of the cooler where they can be inserted against the rubber seal that’s already in there.

I’m going to use a little silicone sealant against it just to make sure there are no leaks. 

Pro Tip: Use thread sealant tape on the plastic fittings as it helps seal the threads and lubricates the fitting when you’re screwing them together. 

Step 2: Prepare the pipe fittings

On the inside of the cooler spigot, I’m going to put in a 90 degree fitting to make sure the water level never drops below the level of the heater which lays flat inside the cooler.

This will always keep a few inches of water inside the cooler. These aquarium heaters can’t be unsubmerged or they burn up.

On the outside, I put a threaded male ½” to 3/4“ fitting and got a ¾” pipe to add in a T adapter.

This is going to extend off the side and we’re going to install the chicken drippers into the pipe.  

Use a 11/32 drill bit to put the holes into the bottom of the pipe, and use a bolt that fits the hole to thread the pipe. 

I put a little bit of silicone sealer on the threaded hole and got the dripper screwed into the pipe.

I want to be sure they seal right since they are being reused. I’ve never had a leak with new ones.

I added the next pipe into the T to act as the fill pipe, that way I don’t have to add any other holes into anything. 

This is gonna head out the side of the chicken coop, and once I fill it, this other pipe will work as an overflow. 

The next thing you want to do is make a notch just below the threads of the cooler lid so we can pull the heater cord out through the side. 

Step 3: Install the aquarium heater

The heater also has a little suction cup to keep it in place at the bottom of the cooler.

So, I’m gonna add a dab of silicone there in the hopes it will hold better than with suction alone. I don’t want it floating around.  

I’m gonna use  3/4” pipe insulation, cut a few holes on the bottom to accommodate the chicken drippers, and I’m going to insulate the pipe as much as possible. 

It’s a good idea to use electrical or duct tape to seal this stuff up.  

Step 4: Find a spot to place the watering system in the coop

Next, I’m gonna make a little shelf for the watering system to sit on.

I’m just going to use some scrap 2×4 pieces and notch one piece onto the other like a T shape and screw it in. This will go between one of the joists on the inside wall of the chicken coop.

Once I have the system installed and in place, there are a few attachments I’m gonna use so that I can fill the system easily.

Step 5: Fix the external pipe funnel

I’ve got a 2” coupler on top of a bushing, and this kind of makes a funnel on the inside, which goes down to a threaded 3/4” fitting, which goes into a threaded 90.

This will screw onto the exit pipe and I can use it to fill the system. When I’m done, I can screw a small cap on the end which will keep debris out.

It’s a good idea to make a little mount to hang the fittings next to the fill pipe so they are easy to access. 

My only worry is that the chickens may perch on the fittings, but they seem to like the lower perch so hopefully they won’t make a mess of it.

The nice thing is that the chicken drippers are over the clean-out pan so it’s less messy. 

Step 6: Attach the wires to the power outlet

At the back of the coop, I have the plugs and thermostatically controlled outlets.

These are very popular and they only allow the outlets to become active when the temperature drops down to 32 degrees and shuts off when the temperature climbs above 44 degrees. 

I don’t really care about heating the water if it’s 55 degrees, that’s just not necessary.  This saves a lot of energy and keeps your water from freezing. 

Last year the cost to run the heat lamps and heater in the coop was high, so we are really looking at ways to cut those costs this year.  

People always ask me how high off the ground I set the chicken drippers.  I have them between 22” and 24” off the floor because I have adult chickens.

If they are too low, the chickens will press them all the way up and create more drips. The current height reduces drips, they just tap them and the water goes straight into their mouths. That’s a lot less clean up. 

Final Thoughts

I think this project is gonna work out really well.  Last year’s system did really well until the deep winter but I had to discontinue use then.

I think this updated system is going to work a lot better and I’m really happy with how it turned out.