The problem with metal watering founts and how to fix it

Anyone that raises chickens has seen the 5 gallon galvanized founts available at places such as Tractor Supply, Amazon, and other places. They are very popular and I prefer using them over the plastic ones. Why? A few reasons.

  1. I personally think the water stays cleaner because sunlight cannot enter the fount. The clear plastic founts allow sunlight in which in my opinion cause the water to smell bad much sooner. This requires more frequent cleaning.
  2. Some plastic founts are not built very well at all. case in point: A few years ago our galvanized fount started leaking during the winter and we could not find one anywhere to replace it. We already owned a heated base but was concerned the plastic would melt or the heat would not actually transfer through the plastic to keep the water from freezing. We ended up getting this heated one from Amazon:

    Notice two things here: 1. The fill is not on the top of the fount. This means you must turn it completely over to fill it. Not a big deal, until…2. The top does not sit into the base very well. The top has a few tabs that must connect with the base to keep it all together. The top gets twisted so the tabs get locked into place. Unfortunately, when you turn the fount over after filling it, the top usually twists and the whole thing falls apart and you take a bath. Not a big deal in summer, but in winter it just sucks.
  3. Being the cheapskate I am, I can usually fix stuff made from metal, plastic; not so much.

That being said, I have discovered an irritating problem with the metal founts, but I also have a fix that can buy some time.

Galvanized water fount handle

One big problem with the metal founts is the handle that is spot welded to the top that the red arrow points to. When the fount is full you CANNOT put the top on and carry it. The spotwelds will just not take the weight. The handle will rip right off the top and leave large holes. Many people do, I used to until I tore the top right out of the cover.  Unfortunately, the top cannot have holes, otherwise the atmospheric pressure on the water forces all the water out at the base. The whole fount works because it is completely sealed. A hole in the top will just drain the water all over the floor.

You may think that simply not carrying it by the handle is all that is required. So did I after the first one I destroyed. However, because of the poor quality of every product built since the 1950’s, the spot welds will corrode and cause a leak. You will notice the fount seeming to need to be filled more often. You may notice the level of water in the base seems to be higher than normal. I discovered a huge ice patch during a terrible cold spell (-18F). I looked closely and saw water slowly trickle out of the base and onto the floor. I knew what the problem was and verified it by taking the cover inside, turning it upside down, and putting some water in it. I saw water dripping from where the handle attaches to the top.

Of course, buying a new fount is expensive and impossible to find in the dead of winter. So I improvised. Because the metal is thin, it is nearly impossible to weld. Because it is galvanized, it is very resistant to any weld, braze, solder, etc, from bonding to the metal. Also because it is galvanized, heating it with a torch will produce toxic fumes from the zinc being heated. Trust me, DO NOT INHALE ZINC FUMES! It can be deadly.

The solution I used was to sandblast the inside where the spotwelds are. If you don’t have a sandblaster, course sandpaper can be used. Clean up the area very well, trying to get an area all around the spot welds free of the galvanized coating. Make sure you have let the top dry out so no moisture is trapped. I set mine beside the woodstove for a few hours. I then took some automotive seam sealer and spread a thin coat over the entire area where the handle is spotwelded to the top. Wait a few hours as per the directions on the seamsealer, and test the top for leaks like you did earlier. If it leaks, dry it completely and put on another thin coat of sealer. If it doesn’t leak you are in business. Wash the top out with soap and water before putting it back in use.

Temporary repair on galvanized poultry waterer

Temporary repair on galvanized poultry waterer using automotive seam sealer

I know, I know, is the seamsealer safe to come in contact with the water and safe for the poultry to drink it? I decided yes, here is why; the very top of the fount is at least 4-5 inches away from the water. The water in the fount does not come in contact with it. Condensation may collect and eventually drip into the water itself but this isn’t a permanent fix; it is a quick fix that buys me time to afford and find a replacement.

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