Five Easy Ways to Keep your Chickens Water from Freezing this Winter




One of the most-often asked questions we get from readers is how to keep their chickens' water from freezing in the winter.

Chickens - like all living things - need access to unfrozen water every day in order to stay alive and healthy, not to mention to continue laying eggs, so it's very important to keep their water from freezing.





We had horses for many years, and carrying 5 gallon water buckets to the barn from the house because our water line froze wasn't fun. 

But at least once we had the electric horse water buckets plugged in at each stall, we knew our horses had access to water all day long. 

And I've figured out how to adapt that method for our chickens.

So here's my best advice to keep your chickens water from freezing this winter.




Feed and Water Outside



It might surprise you don't leave any feed or water in the coop. 

My chickens and ducks eat outside every day, year round.  


Once chickens go to roost, they stay there until morning. 

They can't see well in the dark - so that means once they hop up on the roosting bar, they settle in for the night. They aren't eating or drinking.


Feed and water attracts bugs and rodents, increases moisture levels inside the coop, and just plain makes a mess. 

Therefore, I always leave my chickens' feed and water outside in the run (in the sun in the winter, in the shade in summer).

So that means I only have to keep the water temperatures above freezing during day - which makes things a lot easier. 




Easy Ways to Keep your Chickens Water from Freezing


Here are my simple, inexpensive suggestions to keep water unfrozen through the winter months - I even have three suggestions that work without the use of electricity.



If You Don't Have Electricity


1. Large Black Rubber Tub 

The first and easiest way to keep water unfrozen longer is to switch from a traditional metal waterer to a wide, deep black rubber tub set in the sun. 

These metal waterers freeze up so fast because the metal gets cold and there's so little surface area. 

Conversely the black rubber tub absorbs the heat from the sun to keep the water warmer. 

Even more importantly, the larger surface area will help keep the water from freezing as fast.

To keep your water unfrozen even longer, check out this easy hack using an old car tire and your rubber tub!


2. Ping Pong Balls 

Float a few ping pong balls in your water tub. The slightest breeze will create waves in the water and keep a layer of ice from forming. 

Give it a try - this is probably the easiest way to keep your water from freezing.







3. Make a "Sunroom"

To make the black rubber tub even more efficient, rig up a "solar sunroom" like this one with a set of old paned windows and let the sun help to keep the water from freezing.

Your chickens will also love lounging in the warm sunny area out of the wind as long as the snow isn't too deep.



If You Do Have Electricity


If you DO have electricity to your coop and run area, you have a few more options.

Heated waterer bases are available commercially, but they are expensive and don't seem to last more than one or two seasons.

There are also plastic waterers that can be plugged in to keep water from freezing, but once or twice trying to fill these and getting drenched when you flip it over, is enough for me!

There are tons of instructions online on how to make your own heated base out of a cookie tin, but the waterer can easily slide off the slick metal surface of the tin.

Even scarier, we've had several people tell us theirs caught on fire, and one guy, in the comments below this post actually had a chicken electrocuted by his DIY electric hack.

Not good.

I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT RECOMMEND TRYING THE COOKIE TIN HACK.

And anyway, I prefer to store cookies in my cookie tins!

So just say NO to the DIY cookie tin heater. Instead why not try....

4. Light bulb in a Cinder Block

This idea is brilliant. I found it HERE. You clamp a light bulb inside a cinder block and cover it with a stepping stone. Your waterer sets on top of it.

The rough surface prevents slipping and this couldn't be easier or safer in your run in winter.

I wouldn't recommend rigging this up inside your coop because of the fire hazard with all the wood, shavings, other bedding, chicken feathers, etc. but outside on hard, frozen ground - yes! I say give it a try.






5. Heated Electric Dog Water Bowl 

If you have an electricity source, the easiest way to provide water in the winter is to just plug in an electric dog water bowl.

I have been using this one for nearly four years and it's still going strong. It's durable, safe and easy to clean and refill.

This is my preferred method for providing fresh unfrozen water to my chickens in the winter.




Busting Some Myths

Every winter these same myths float around the internet and I'm sad to say that they don't actually work.

So save your time and skip the salt water... but of course adding apple cider vinegar to your chickens' water provides such wonderful health benefits, so keep doing that... just don't expect it to keep your water from freezing! 

But I DO Have a Bonus Suggestion for you! 


Get Some Ducks 

Since ducks will dabble and play in the water pretty much all day, a nice deep tub set in the sun where the ducks can get at it will almost ensure the water won't freeze except on the coldest of days. 





Of course it will be full of mud and debris within minutes, but at least it won't be frozen!


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11 comments

  1. I have a heat lamp over my chicken water pan.

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  2. We built a heater from a metal cookie tin with a low watt light bulb, with a plastic waterer on top. Worked great! We switched to a heated dog bowl, as it's faster to refill...

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  3. In the winter, I switch from a plastic waterer to a rubber tub (learned that from you last year). It rarely froze over last winter, but I will add some ping pong balls this year as an extra precaution, plus it will be super cute!! Thank you for all the help you send out to us everyday.

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  4. Thank you!!! This is a super useful post! I think the debate going on is interesting, but it just adds more information for the newbie. Great post! :)

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  5. Hi
    Will be changing to a rubber tub as of tomorrow.
    This maybe a very stupid question but I'm in the alps and it's get very cold here, because of our position close to the mountain we have 6 full weeks without sunshine, and then it comes back for just a few minutes per day for a few more weeks - thus I am worried about the chickens being cold! and was thinking of putting a hot water bottle inside the coop at night! also perhaps a hot stone in the water that I could change regularly during the day went it gets cold.

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    1. Hi there! Wow. Yes at least if its sunny by day, they can warm up and then retain that heat for overnight! I would for sure line the walls of your coop with straw bales, take up the dead air space as much as possible. You could put a hot stone in the water, that's a good idea actually.

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  6. Love these ideas! I always have to go pour hot water on our metal waterer every morning in the winter time. Going to implement the deep water with the ping pong balls!

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  7. I'm not sure any of those would work for us. It's -16C tonight. Like you, I realized that they don't drink (or eat) anything once they've roosted in the evening, so when I go in to lock them up, I bring the (now frozen) waterer inside and place it by the wood stove. Same for the goat's water. One thing I've noticed, though, chickens are tough. Mine don't seem to mind the cold much at all.

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    Replies
    1. What do you think about an electric aquarium water heater? I use a 5 gallon bucket with water nipples.

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