What sun? What solar?

So, I read back through some of my chicken stuff I previously posted and I must look into that solar waterer I mentioned.  This is the second winter with the chickens and this winter it is mighty cold out there for Texas.  I really like that solar waterer, but what if the sun just isn’t shining?  That is one drawback for solar but there are really no alternatives short of hooking up electrical cords which I just will not do for safety reasons, mine and the animals.

The  chickens do have a backup plan and that is the alpaca’s five gallon buckets I have their water in.  Standing on the ground, the chickens can reach the uppermost bit of water if the bucket is 3/4 full.  Any less than that and they just hop on the bucket edge and dip down.  Works all year round for them.  So really my dilemma is keeping the alpaca’s water unfrozen for everyone to use, which I keep in the barn and are not in the sun, intentionally anyway.  The buckets are positioned near doorways and so if the sun happens to be shining in, then they are in the sun for a short time.

One thought I had  was superheating some rocks and placing them in the buckets. The danger I am reading is that they can dangerously explode when any moisture in them explodes them as it heats.  I don’t know how long they would hold their heat (based on size and mass this science flunky knows) but surely it would be of some use. I am looking into that idea (it’s free anyway). I might try the idea of using the lava rocks that are used in some outdoor grills.  Those kind of rocks can be heated safely, but can they be reheated safely after being in water?  Many questions; looking for answers.

Our record breaking cold weather will be even more so in the next few days as we get more rain (snow, ice?) and dip down into the 20’s in the DAY, and low teens at night. 

However, I must say, even in the cold, I do enjoy going out to the barn around 9 pm and tucking everyone in, filling chicken feeders, closing them in the coops, throwing hay to the alpacas and taking out chunks of ice in the water so they can have a sip as they settle in.  When the air is calm, the air cold and crisp, the sky clear and star- filled, there is nothing better than to be in the barn tending the animals.

Some links to heating water ideas:

 http://www.bird-house-bath.com/heated-bird-baths.html

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/horses/facts/info_water.htm

http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/pubnwsltr/TRIM/10003.pdf

http://cancrete.com/cdn/products-C350.asp

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex5421

http://www.solarpowerfamily.com/solar-power-livestock-water-heater.html

http://www.nelsonmfg.com/a700H_006.htm

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