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

Keeping livestock water from freezing during frigid temperatures is important. This technique of using tires, which doesn’t require electricity, can save you some worry and work come winter weather.

| December 2015/January 2016

Insulated Tires

Insulated tires allow Bubba, an Angora goat, to drink fresh water all winter.

Photo by Susan Hartz

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

11/7/2017 5:53:43 PM

I used your tip at the dog shelter where I volunteer in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The dogs live outdoors and the shelter has no electricity. Last January it got down to 7 degrees F. I couldn't find spray foam here, so I just ripped apart a few old couch cushions and filled the tires with that. I was amazed--there was still a layer of ice on the top of the bowls but they never froze solid. Thank you!

11/29/2015 9:28:11 AM

This sounds amazing. I live in northern Utah and have been searching for such an idea for years. As I've experienced, heated electric buckets are very costly to both purchase and use. Many of them still don't keep water thawed. My husband and I are trying to work towards getting our home and livestock situation 'off grid'. Your idea sounds amazing!

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