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"What to plate copper with for a poultry watering application"

December 30, 2015

Q. I wish to improve on / modify an existing product already in the market place for my application. The product is a drinking device for poultry. The poultry are taught to peck at the metal pin to get a drop of water. The metal pin is steel.


I am looking to improve the metal pin. When the temps drop, water droplets adhering to the steel pin and plastic interior space freeze the pin in place. The type of water flowing through the unit can vary in quality from city water with all its chemicals to well water with all the minerals in suspension. So here is my thought process and please let me know if I'm even close to the solution:

I was thinking of making the pin out of copper to conduct the ambient water temperature inside the container through the pin. This would keep the temp of the pin high enough to keep the water from freezing. Then I was thinking of adding a layer of either chromium or nickel for strength and durability.

1) Which finish would be better at conducting heat and holding it?
2) Which finish would hold up longer given the variable types of water it will be in contact with?
3) Some folks like to add vinegar to the water - which finish would hold up better against that acidic environment?
3) With the poultry constantly pecking at it would one finish be more durable then the other?
4) I am also thinking of adding a hydrophobic layer to keep the water from 'sticking' to the metal pin. What impact would that have on the coating decision?

If you have any other thoughts I welcome them!

Barry Chenkin
backyard inventor - Clarksburg, Maryland, USA

December 2015

A. Hi Barry. The plating will not significantly hamper the heat transfer regardless of what metal you plate the copper with. Tin is non-toxic to humans, but chickens aren't people so you might want to check with a vet or a veterinary website. Chrome probably won't hold up to acids like vinegar. Electroless nickel plating would probably be ideal.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
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