Arts & Life, Columns

Spill the Beans: Waiting for water

When I moved to the farm after 13 years of living in the city, my grandmother suggested I start small. You know, small garden, only a few chickens, don’t bite off more than you can chew…I didn’t really listen. Maybe I should have. But now, almost three years into my prairie farm life, I think it might be too late to heed her wise advice…

Spill the beans is a weekly column chronicling my attempts at a self-sufficient life on this small prairie farm.


Winterized Chicken Coop
photo credit: Toban Dyck

Last week, I went to the local feed store (you know I love those guys) to ask if they had heated water bowls.

“Sure do.” The proprieter said. “What kind of animal did you need it for?”

“I need it for my chickens.” Said I, looking around, hoping that there would be one within arm’s reach (one of the perks of this place is that EVERYTHING is within arm’s reach – it’s jammed full of every single thing you need for any kind of livestock you have or wish to have).

“I don’t have those in stock right now, but we should be getting a shipment tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’ll check back tomorrow.”

I was pretty disappointed. The forecast was calling for dropping temperatures and the Tupperware bowl that I was currently using was in no way sufficient for the colder weather, nor big enough to serve all ten chickens all day long. Something needed to change.

So I went back the next day:

“I’m looking for a heated waterer for my chickens.”

The reply was unhurried and in no way apologetic. “They didn’t come in on the truck today. We’re hoping to have them here by Monday.”

And in my head, I’m thinking: what I am supposed to do until then? But there really wasn’t another option. So I told them I’d check back on Monday and hoped for the best.

I survived the weekend. I developed a system for keeping the water from freezing by filling a stainless steel pitcher with warm water and bringing it out to melt the frozen water. The chickens kept on laying eggs and even kept pecking at the ice on the top of the dish to get at the liquid underneath. Don’t ever say a chicken is stupid. They always get what they want in one way, shape or form.

Instead of actually going to the feed store on Monday, I thought I would call ahead.

“I’m calling to see if you got the heated poultry waterers in yet?”

“Nope. Sorry. Still don’t have them in.” I hung up, feeling a bit frantic. So I called the other farm supply store. This one is a large chain. I figured they would have them for sure.

“Hi. I’m calling to see if you have heated poultry waterers?”

“Let me put you through to customer service. They can help you with that.”

So I waited on hold for about ten minutes. Which is hilarious, because I know that this particular store is NEVER busy.

The customer service representative comes on the line: “Sorry. We are all sold of that particular item.” With no comment on whether they would be getting any more.

“Ok. Thanks.” I knew then why I hadn’t gone there in the first place.

The next day, T went to the feed store to check in on the waterer situation. There were still none in stock. But now, we finally knew why this was all taking so long. Apparently, the waterers were stuck at the Canada/US border (only minutes away from where we live), but nobody had the correct paperwork, so they were stuck there until the proper paperwork could be procured. Evidently, I had not appeared to be a farmer in the winter (which basically means said farmer has all the time in the world to shoot the breeze with anyone who will listen at the feed store – or wherever the farmer happens to be) which is why they hadn’t said anything to me about it when I called on Monday. Did I sound to business-like? T got them to put one aside for him and we decided we would check back the next day.

And finally, yesterday, I was vindicated.

Warm digs
photo credit: Toban Dyck

I walked into the feed store and there on the floor, underneath the rubber boots and salt licks, were heated chicken waterers. And I did employ the winter farmer thing where I hung around and chatted for a bit, and sure enough, I got more of the story. Turns out, the proprieter had also ordered the waterers later than he wanted to or felt he should have and was now experiencing a bit more pressure than he normally would. I couldn’t really blame the guy. We’ve had a gorgeous, long-lasting, warm fall. The temperature turned quickly, with little warning (even though we knew it was coming). It left many of us scrambling to bring in the last of our garden harvest (or leave it to freeze in the shed as happened at my place, sadly) and find ways to keep our livestock warm and cozy.

But now, all is well. The chickens are continuing to lay lovely eggs. The water is not turning to ice. Now if we could just keep the eggs from freezing…

Chickens up close
photo credit: Toban Dyck


Jamie Dyck is waiting for some snow. Follow her on twitter, @jndyck.