Heated water buckets

jennybog(zone 5)November 1, 2008

I have two mini donks and need some info on heated water buckets.

Should I buy the heated buckets or put a heating device in a lage container. What do you all use? Thankyou Jenny

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How cold do you expect it to get and how much water are you talking about (5 gal bucket, 50 gal tub)?


    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 9:46PM
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For my 2 mini goats I use a heated water bucket I think it's 10 gallons,that I hang in their house. Works great for them..would think it should be about the same for mini donkeys.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 10:29AM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

You want to make sure that any equine drinks well in winter. Not enough water is the leading cause of colic, which still kills a lot of animals each year.

Heated water can help them drink more. Heated can be really warm or just above freezing. Studies have shown that horses drink best with cooled water, not warm water.

Options for heating can vary, and the cost of each can make a huge difference in choices. Heated buckets, 5 gallon, run about $40 each, plus cost of electric. They have also got heated muck tubs now, hold about 12-15 gallons. Not cheap but nice for water quantity held. Not sure what they would cost to run outside, not insulated. Water tank heaters, floaters, sinkers, and screw-in the plug hole. All pricy to run because they draw a lot of power to heat the water. An uninsulated tank adds to the cost, pull the heat off the water, so heater runs more.

We use wood boxes with sheet styrofoam layered around the inside tank. They have covers for night, hold the heat in well. We run heaters only at night for cheaper electric, tanks stay unfrozen pretty well even on very cold days and wind blowing.

Since we have always used the insulated boxes with our tanks, I don't know how much cost difference is with using uninsulated tanks, Rubbermaid plastic tanks. I think it would be a significant savings, using insulated tanks. We build the boxes ourselves, drop the tank inside.

Another reason we don't run heaters during the day is in case there is an electric problem with heater. We have found horses EXTREMELY sensitive to any electric leakage, stray voltage, and they refuse to drink from the tank after a couple of shocks like that. I can't FEEL the leakage myself, but horse can. Could be a heater crack, something broken or electric fence not grounding well. Not drinking is serious, don't want them afraid to drink from tanks, actually punished for drinking, so leaving heaters unplugged is a safety step.

Heaters seem to often have a VERY short working life, or even bad out of the box. Using long extension cords REALLY shortens their life, along with being a fire hazard. Get the biggest gauge wire electric cord possible so electric is strong enough for heater. Too small gauge of wire restricts power available, heaters NEED LOTS of power to run well. Or run conduit, a buried power wire out to put up an outlet to plug heater into, on the fence.

Run heater cord out the back of insulated box, thru fence so animals can't reach it to chew on. Some folks run cord thru PVC pipe and out, to protect it. Some equines are extremely destructive with heaters and cords. Pull the heaters out, throw them around. Even the drain screw-in ones!! That gets EXPENSIVE fast.

Our insulated boxes have a screwed down cover on half the tank, with a sunken heater under it in the far-away corners. Tanks are kept topped off daily. Horse can't get near the tank heater, even diving. These are the 2ft deep tanks for big horses, might be too tall for small donkeys.

You can put hot water with some cool in the stall for night, usually stays unfrozen for me till down to 20F, with horses stalled in the barn. One poor-drinking horse, does get a heated bucket at night, with a second bucket that is not heated. She usually drinks half of each bucket.

I bumped up an old post, covers a lot on winter equine keeping, some tips for help. Title is Horses and Winter Water.

I am changing our tanks to insulated ones tomorrow. We have already started adding extra salt and hot water to the wet beet pulp dinners. Everyone likes warm dinners, even without grain!

Good luck with your little guys.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 8:05PM
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jennybog(zone 5)

Thankyou everyone that is helpful. I am going to buy the 16 gallon heated buckt I think I will insulate around it also. What is beet pulp?Thanks Jenny out of my gourd farm

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 7:15AM
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nhsuzanne(z5 SW-NH)

Jenny, I use two of the 16 gallon heated water buckets for my horses, donkeys, and goats. The buckets that I am currently using I have had for 4 years and still work just fine. They have a thermostat that shuts off if the bucket is empty or the temps get above a certain temperature. 16 gals will be more than enough for your mini donkeys. The water does not get too warm either. I keep these buckets outside near the stall doors. My animals have free range in and out of there stalls 24/7 unless we are having a nor'easter!

When I bought my buckets four years ago the cost was $60 now at my local Agway they are up to $99!! Ridiculous.

I also have heated water buckets that I use in the stall only if we are having a bad storm and I want to lock everyone in the barn for the night. I bit the bullet and had outlets installed into each stall in a safe place. It has worked out very well. I do not think you should insulate them they are designed quite well and I fear the insulation may compromise something.

If you are planning on going to Equine Affaire later this month in Springfield, MA you might be able to get a really good deal on those buckets.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 8:51AM
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Depending on your temps you can make a good variation of these with a 5 gallon bucket (or igloo water can) and a piece of styrofoam. No running costs and risk of fire. A little creativity goes a long way. It doesn't get far below freezing here, so I just have (2) 5 gal buckets for each stall. One stays in the utility room where they are filled and one goes to the stall at feeding time (rotated). The couple of hours that the water may freeze between feedings isn't going to kill anything.

As for beet pulp (by pruduct of extracting sugar from sugar beets), you'll get mixed opinions. IMO, it's the best thing since sliced bread. But, NEVER FEED IT DRY. Soak it at least overnight so that is completely expanded, otherwise your horses can choke. Had that happen once on the coldest day of the year and it wasn't pretty (vet sure earned his money and title that day). I don't know about donkeys, you may want to google it.

Good Luck,


    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 7:10AM
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jennybog(zone 5)

Thankyou everyone. I purchased a 16 gallon one. My husband is running a electic plug as we speak.Jenny

    Bookmark   November 5, 2008 at 10:02AM
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Jenny, I have a heated water bucket in each stall for each of my 3 mini-donks. I had an electrician install a plug on a "whip" that hangs from the ceiling of the barn, for each stall.

I bought a 5 gal heated bucket for around $40 last year, and have had most of them quite a few years with no problems. They have thermostats in them, so only heat when the temp reaches a certain point.

I keep thinking I need to hook them up, but it's been quite warm.. Will have to pretty shortly.

I originally had the heating element that went into their normal buckets, but found that didn't last very long, and then we'd have frozen water.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 1:42PM
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