Will Salt Water Keep my Chickens Water from Freezing?

January 9, 2018

During the cold winter months, I think we all struggle to find ways to keep our chickens' water from freezing. You may have seen on Pinterest a trick that supposedly will keep water from freezing - filling a plastic soda bottle with salt water and the setting it in your chickens' water tub. I had never tried it, but set out to see if it would work.

Since we don't drink soda nor buy bottled water (the joys of living in the country and having a well!), I used a large plastic vitamin bottle. I filled it with a mixture of 1/4 cup regular table salt and a cup of tap water and made sure the top was screwed on tightly and that the bottle didn't leak. Salt isn't good for chickens, so putting out a tub of salt water for them in the winter would ensure that they had unfrozen water all winter - but nothing they could drink! So the salt water goes in a small bottle that goes in the water tub.

So in the name of "scientific" research, I filled two identical pails with water. I put the bottle of salt water in one and set them outside. When I came back an hour or so later (okay, so it wasn't totally scientific!), the water in the bucket WITH the salt water  had already frozen over. The other bucket was still liquid. So the bucket with the salt water bottle in it froze FIRST!

I left both pails and when I returned the next time, but were frozen. I tried again, switching the pails, in case they were a tiny bit different. I put the salt water bottle in the other bucket, and waited a bit longer and this time both froze. The salt water inside the bottle remained unfrozen, but there was no water for the chickens to drink that remained unfrozen.

So I'm saying that putting a bottle of salt water in your bucket isn't going to keep your chickens' water from freezing. True, it was only about 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside; maybe it would work in slightly warmer temperatures, but I have seen people claim it will keep their water from freezing overnight in temps down below zero. I'm just not buying it.

I think that if your temps are hovering around freezing, floating a few ping pong balls is actually a better way to keep a bit of a ripple on the surface of the water to keep it from freezing solid, and if it gets really cold where you are, run an extension cord and put a heated dog water bowl out for your chickens.

As an aside, adding some apple cider vinegar to your chickens' water, while healthy for them, won't keep their water from freezing either! 

But if anyone has tried the salt water trick and it has worked for them, I would love to hear about it. Maybe I was doing something wrong? It seems pretty straightforward though...

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