I wanted to keep using my nipple bucket since the water stays so clean for the birds, yet couldn't have the nipples freezing. #1 its bad for the device, #2 not having water is bad for the girls. I broke out all the stops and went super high tech, there's a total of 2 gadgets, one flower pot and a grand total of less than $30... and no more frozen water worries.
The first gadget is a thermo cube that you can pick up for about $12 from Amazon, Tractor Supply, or possibly your parent's garage. It has a temperature switch that allows power to flow from the outlet once the air reaches 35 degrees, it switches off at 45 degrees. So whatever I chose to be my heater will only come on when it reaches near freezing. Brilliant invention.
The second gadget is a 100 watt Tetra aquarium heater from WalMart. This little guy will heat a 30 gallon aquarium to 75 degrees - a bit overkill for my 5 gallon bucket but I do expect some days into single digits this winter. I attached the suction cup on the heater to a smooth ceramic planter I had laying around to keep the element near the nipples. If I wanted, I'd splurge and spend the 50 cents on a small ceramic time the next time we're at Lowes... just hasn't happened yet.
The result? An unsightly mess of wires that keeps the water flowing without me having to scrub.... thus keeping me (and the chickens) from mutiny. Hummm, maybe I need to scrub afterall, but you get the point!