If you are raising chickens anywhere where the temperatures get below freezing during the winter months, you may be wondering how to keep chicken water from freezing. Chickens need fresh water throughout the day and it can be time consuming to be constantly thawing and changing their water. Luckily, there are a few ways to help keep chicken water from freezing.
After raising chickens for 15 years in upstate New York and currently in New Hampshire, we’ve used many different methods over the years. In this post we will share several ways to keep chicken water from freezing. While a chicken water heater is often seen as an optional item (especially if you’re trying to save money when raising chickens) we have found this item essential.
Most of these methods also work if you want to know how to keep duck water from freezing in the winter although ducks tend to make a bigger mess than chickens.
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Importance of Unfrozen Water for Chickens
Before we get into the details of how to keep chicken water from freezing, it’s important to understand how important it is that chickens have access to water throughout the day.
Chickens rely on the consumption of water to stay healthy. In addition to helping their bodies function properly, they need water for temperature regulation. This is especially important in the winter and hot summer months.
Chickens also need water for creating eggs. While chickens lay less eggs during the dark months of the winter, they need additional water any time they are laying.
When selecting the best method for keeping chicken water from freezing, there are a few considerations such as how often you need to thaw water, are you providing your chickens water at night or in the coop, and how many chickens you have. In the next section we will go into some of these details before providing practical solutions to your situation.
How to Keep Chicken Water from Freezing: Things to Consider
At the end of this article we will share specific strategeies for how to keep chicken water from freezing, but in order to select the best method for you, there are a few considerations.
Frequency of Freezing
Depending on your location and winter conditions, you may be looking at how to keep chicken water from freezing for 6 long months, or just a few days each year. If you are looking to keep water from freezing for just a few days, you may want to consider simple methods, like alternating two waterers with fresh water a few times a day.
Moisture in the Coop
One of the major problems in the winter is keeping not just your water thawed, but you chickens warm. Selecting cold hardy chickens as well as insulating the coop are both helpful methods to keeping chickens warm. One of the problems with cold chickens is frost bite on their combs. This problem is made worse by moisture in the coop. This is important to consider as several methods described below can lead to increased moisture in the coop – this is even more problematic in small coops.
Ensure that your water is heated to just over freezing to decrease evaporation and for certain situations, you may want to consider keeping your water outside your coop or far away from where your chickens roost.
Number of Chickens
The number of chickens in you coop is also a consideration when choosing a method for keeping chicken water from freezing. If you just have a few chickens and your water only freezes once or twice over the winter, you should consider simply thawing the water or rotating your chicken waterers. If you have a lot of chickens, this solution simply isn’t practical.
Access to Electricity
Many of the methods below rely on electicity to heat either the coop or water. Access to electicity is an important consideration. If you already have a permanent coop, you may want to consider how to run electricity, if you are still looking for a place to build a coop, considering access to electricity is important.
Best Options for Keeping Chicken Water Unfrozen
In this section we will share the best ways to keep chicken water from freezing with links to get more information or find the tools you will need for your coop.
Heated Waterer Base
This is the method we are currently using and it is easy and reliable. Heated electrical bases plug into an electricty source and provide heat to your chicken waterer. The heat is not enough to heat the coop, but is generally enough to keep the water in the waterer from freezing unless the temperatures get very cold.
The negatives with this type of water heater base is that depending on your chickens, the base can get messy and wet.
Below you can see several different options for a chicken waterer heater. It is worth spending a bit more on this base as the higher quality bases last several years.
Heated Chicken Waterer
Another option is to buy a separate chicken waterer for the winter months that is heated. This means you aren’t relying on a base. The only reasonable waterer I’ve seen that is heated is made by H and G Lifestyles.
This makes the winter water system easy in your coop, but we’ve never used this method sas we prefer slightly more control with the heater base.
See the suggestions on the Best chicken Water Heaters.
Build your Own Heated Water Base for Chickens
If you are getting all your supplies for you chicken coop and don’t want to spend more money on a chicken water heater, another option is to build you own. This is often cheaper and easier to repair if it breaks.
Most DIY Chicken water heaters include a heat source (usually a bulb or heat tape) under the water heater contained in something such as concrete blocks or a cookie tin. Make sure the base is sturdy enough to support the chicken waterer. Light bulbs will need to be replaced more frequently and often have more problems getting wet, so we prefer heat tape.
This is a great tutorial on how to build you own chicken water heater.
If you decide to build your own chicken water heater, keep in mind that coop fire are often caused by heating sources in chicken coops and use caution.
A deicer or water trough heater is something that goes inside a water source and heats the water directly. This is a good option if you have a lot of chickens and a big chicken waterer. You can also use heaters meant for larger livestock or for bird baths, although the smaller deicer are often best for chickens.
A deicer is meant to keep the water just above freezing.
We’ve used this method in the past to keep our goats water from freezing. Below you can see a few options.
Heat the Entire Coop
Another method is to heat the entire coop instead of just the water. This works well if you are in an area that rarely gets below freezing and you can add some supplemental heat on cold nights, but in general, chickens do not need their coop heated except on rare occassions.
Before you add a heat source to your coop, ensure that your coop is draft free, the correct size for your hens and insulated.
The best use of this method is to add a small heat source to the area right near your waterer. This will heat this area and keep the water from freezing when the temperatures are just below freezing. This method will not work to keep water from freezing when the temperatures are more extreme.
This winter we are going to be using this heater from Chick Cozy to heat our coop on exceptionally cold nights.
Heating a chicken coop can cause a fire and many coops burn down due to heat lamps. Please use caution and do you research if you plan to heat your coop with a heat lamp.
See more about how to keep your chickens warm in winter.
Use a Large and/or Black Container or Base or Insulation
Another solution to how to keep water from freezing in chicken coop that works well in mild areas is to use a large container as your water or a black container that absorbs sun and heat.
The larger the container, the longer it will take the water to freeze. I have seen a large black barrel using in the coop placed near a window in the winter successfully. If you do use this method, you can also have a small water source on hand in case of a cold spell that freezes the large barrel.
You can also use something to insulate the outside of your water heater, just remember your chickens may enjoy pecking this material so avoid more traditional insulation.
Circulate the Water
Just like the last method that uses a large amount of water to avoid freezing, circulating the that can help stop chicken water freezing.
Adding a filter to the water, even without the filter cartridge can keep the water moving. Another option is to add something to the water, such as a ping pong ball that bobs in the water and slows down the freezing process.
This method is best for areas that only drop below freezing occasionally. Try a filter or aeration pump like this one.
Another good option for how to keep chicken water from freezing in winter is to place your chicken waterer where it is protected from the cold and recieves natural heat from the sun. If your water is normally kept outside the coop in the summer, consider putting the waterer in the coop during the cold season.
You can also place the waterer directly in front of a south faceing window where it will get heat from the sunlight.
Electric Heat Tape
One great option for heating your chicken water directly, is to wrap it in electric heat tape. We use this method to keep several pipies in our barn from freezing, but it also works well in a chicken coop as well.
Move Water Indoors Overnight
One final solution to how to keep chicken water from freezing is to have two chicken waterers that you rotate between the chicken coop and a heated area (like an entryway in your house). We did this for the first winter we had chickens to avoid purchasing a water heater.
If we found the chicken waterer frozen at the end of the day we would bring it in the house overnight, or add a small amount of warm water to break up the frozen section. Since chickens don’t need water at night, this is a good method if you have the time.
This is a good solution if you only get a few nights below freezing, but is labor intensive, messy and take regular montoring to ensure your chickens get enough water.
Ensuring your chickens have access to unfrozen water in winter is vital for their health. To prevent water from freezing, start by selecting the right water container. Opt for well-designed waterers that minimize exposure to cold air and sunlight. Placing them in sheltered locations away from drafts and extreme temperatures is key. Regularly check and maintain the water containers, removing ice and refilling with fresh water multiple times a day. Employing insulation techniques, such as wrapping containers with materials like foam or blankets, can also help prevent freezing.
Consider investing in heated waterers as a reliable solution. These come in various types, from heated base units to heated nipples, providing consistent access to liquid water. Ensure proper wattage and size based on your flock’s needs. If seeking DIY options, adding floating objects to containers can keep water moving, discouraging freezing. Solar-powered heaters and thermal mass solutions are other inventive ways to maintain water in its liquid state. During power outages, having backup containers and a plan to prevent freezing is crucial. By following these practical strategies, you’ll keep your chickens hydrated and thriving even in the coldest months.
Common Questions about How to Keep Chicken Water from Freezing
Can I use open dishes for water in winter?
Open dishes are not recommended as they freeze quickly; consider using insulated waterers or heated options.
How do heated waterers work?
Heated waterers use electricity to keep water warm, preventing freezing in cold temperatures. Most heaters plug directly into electricity sources.
What’s the benefit of using insulation for water containers?
Insulation, like foam or blankets, helps retain heat and prevents freezing in the container.
Are there non-electric solutions to keep water from freezing?
Yes, adding floating objects to the water or utilizing solar-powered heaters can help maintain liquid water.
How often should I check and refill the water containers?
Check and refill water containers multiple times a day to ensure chickens have access to unfrozen water.