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Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Jackie Clay

How do you keep livestock water from freezing solid off-grid?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Obviously, we can’t use an electric stock tank heater. Propane heaters are expensive to buy — and to run! Will remembered his dad telling him about his chore, as a kid, of having to fill his grandpa’s wood-fired stock tank heater every day and that got Will to thinking. We have two big tanks for the horses that we fill with hoses, chopping ice out in-between. But, sooner or later, the ice gets thicker and thicker until there’s only a five-gallon basin left unfrozen in the top. Will looked online at some wood-fired heaters and thought he could manufacture one. A trip to the dump brought back a couple of small hot water heaters, which he dismantled for the tank inside. Then he welded an air vent pipe on (square one in photo), cutting a hole in the lower side and putting a chimney on top to vent the smoke. Then he added a piece of 8-inch pipe, welded on top to load the wood, with a flat swinging cap to close after the fire is going.

He tried it yesterday, first in the cow’s tank, which was also frozen pretty badly. By evening, the tank was half unthawed! So this morning, he took it down to the horse pasture and set it in a chopped basin on top of the ice, and fired it up. Now, two hours later, there is a wide basin of water around the heater and all the afternoon to go. (And because it’s forty degrees today, that should help a lot!)

It’s amazing what can be done with very little money to make homesteading on a shoestring much more enjoyable! Thank you, Will! — Jackie

8 Responses to “How do you keep livestock water from freezing solid off-grid?”

  1. Jay Says:

    Wow! This could be the answer to our perennial winter water hauling. I have a ton of questions, but mostly I hope your write up an article for BWH w/more details to build one & about how you use it. Thanks!

  2. Wanda Says:

    Outstanding Will! You get several Attaboys for that creativeness.

  3. Sandy Says:

    Congrats, Will. Another innovation to make every homesteader’s life easier. Blessings.

  4. nancy Says:

    He needs to print the instructions for it for the rest of us who need to get some thing like that.

  5. ralph Says:

    Repeat after me. – Arizona! It’s 72 here today with a low of 42. I do have to break ice in the tanks most winters, but its usually thin on the surface.

    Actually I am very jealous of your seasons and greenery and water. But the winter temps are one nice thing about my home state (at least in our desert area)

  6. nancy Says:

    My granddaughter lives in
    Arizona. She misses Vermont..

  7. jackie clay Says:


    Sounds great! But when we lived in New Mexico, we missed the lakes, rivers and green. Seriously missed! We loved New Mexico, the people and warmer weather (zone 6!), but the water and green won out. Maybe we’ll come to visit some day.


  8. jackie clay Says:


    I’ll ask Annie about doing a shorter article on building a wood fired stock tank heater, complete with plans. It IS a wonderful addition to cold-weather homesteading!


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