A Cool Use for Tires: How to Keep Livestock Water from Freezing

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Photo by Susan Hartz
Insulated tires allow Bubba, an Angora goat, to drink fresh water all winter.

The past few winters have been brutally cold on our homestead in northeastern Pennsylvania. The frigid temperatures have caused my goats’ water buckets to freeze solid in just a few hours. I don’t have electricity in the pasture to supply heated buckets for the animals, so I needed a low-tech, inexpensive way to keep the water from freezing so fast.

My husband stacked two 14-inch tires together, drilled holes through the sidewalls, and connected them with bolts. He used large washers to prevent the bolts from pulling through. We had some leftover spray foam insulation from a previous project, so we used it to fill the tires to the edge of the top bead. After the foam cured, we trimmed it flush to allow our 4-1⁄2-gallon water bucket to sit securely inside the protective tires. The rim of the water bucket, being a little wider than the tire opening, allowed the bucket to stay suspended within the tires. A small amount of space remained between the ground and the bucket, so I filled it with a piece of leftover Styrofoam packing material for additional insulation.

The insulated tires have worked wonderfully. The black tires and bucket absorb the sun’s warmth during the day. Even on frigid days, only a thin layer of ice forms on top of the water, which isn’t enough to prevent the goats (or birds!) from drinking. This season, I plan to place a buoyant object into the bucket — such as some kind of thick ball that the goats won’t be able to bite — to cause enough agitation on the water’s surface to prevent ice from forming altogether.

Susan Hartz
Zion Grove, Pennsylvania