When temperatures plummet, making sure your homestead livestock has water to drink can be a challenge. Here are a few on-grid and off-grid ways to keep your chickens’ water from freezing in the winter…
Most chickens aren’t bothered by a reasonable amount of cold weather. After all, they wear thick feather coats at all times! However, one of the main challenges of raising chickens (or other poultry) in cold climates is making sure they have water to drink in the winter. In very cold weather, your chickens’ water dishes and pans can freeze over quite quickly, making it necessary to make frequent trips to the chicken coop to bring fresh water or break the ice so they can get a drink.
I was inspired to share this post with you this week, as our temperatures are in the negative numbers every night lately, which left me wondering how we would handle this issue when our chickens arrive… Fortunately, this article provides some helpful and creative solutions to the problem of keeping your chickens’ water from freezing in the winter. Below are 3 ideas for those who are able to run electricity to your chicken coop, as well as 3 “off-grid” solutions for those who can’t:
3 On-Grid Solutions:
The Heated Coop
If you are giving your chickens supplemental heat and light to keep them laying in winter, and you have an insulated coop, then you likely just need to keep your water bowl close to your heat source.
If you are thinking about going this route, brooder lamps are a classic go-to for winter heat. But newer technologies like chicken-safe heat walls may require less maintenance, and are definitely better from a fire-safety perspective.
Heating Units That Work With Your Existing Watering Devices
If you have a lot of chicken-watering devices and just want to find a solution that works with what you’ve already got in place, consider these.
Fount heaters, which are basically heated pedestals, can be used with your existing self-watering founts and poultry waterers. They can also work well with the nipple-style bucket watering devices. They often look like an upside down pie tin with an electric cord. A high-quality unit will usually cost around $50.
Submersible Water Heaters
In addition to pedestal heaters, you can also modify your existing watering systems using a submersible de-icer. These work particularly well for watering systems that have easy-access openings at the top. They can range in price from $15-$50 depending on design and quality. Many chicken keepers who live in extreme cold opt for higher-end heating models because they tend to last longer and end up costing less over time. …Make sure the device you choose is rated for the number of gallons you plan to heat.
3 Off-Grid Ideas:
Insulation & Placement
Depending on your conditions, you may be able to keep water from freezing longer with a few easy fixes.
Metal, double-walled chicken waterers have better insulation and may keep water from freezing a bit longer than your standard single-walled waterers…
By using a dark-colored waterer and placing it in sunlight, it will absorb more heat and be less likely to freeze even in cold temperatures. I like to use blue or black buckets or black rubber concrete mixer containers set against a south-facing wall on top of dark-gray gravel. The dark containers draw the sunlight. The wall and gravel act as heat sinks, absorbing heat and releasing it back to my water container even when the sun slips behind the clouds or horizon.
Create an insulated water area in your coop, such as by making a bagged wood-shaving igloo. If you use wood chips in your coop anyway, just stock up and use the box-shaped bags as building blocks. Or, create a permanent insulated watering nook inside your coop to buy you lots of time between waterings. Similarly to protecting your pipes, buying appropriate insulation and creating a more weatherproof space for water access might even get you through extended subfreezing conditions…
Use Large, Deep Containers Filled With Warm Water
In cold weather, I give my chickens warm water. I do this because they love it, and because I discovered that it actually buys me time in bitter cold before I have to bring out fresh water again…
Even during a string of single-digit days, this little trick meant I only needed to water once in the morning when I let my chickens out and once again in the afternoon when they were doing their heavy pre-roost eating…
Keep in mind that chickens are not designed to be water animals. So make sure whatever container you give them can be easily accessed from the ground and does not create a risk for drowning…
Offer Constant Drip Water Sources
…Even if you don’t have a spring-fed water source, you can use this idea to keep water flowing in your coop. By using a bit of grit, you can jam up a nipple feeder to keep it dripping. Make sure to put some kind of collection receptacle below it to collect the constant flow so you don’t get ice patches in your coop.
Similarly, if you set up your watering system with ball valves, you can create a small wedge with a pebble in your valve suction so that the water keeps flowing in… If chickens don’t keep up with the flow, then you may need to set your water bucket or bowl in an overflow box full of absorbent material like wood shavings or sawdust.
In both of these scenarios, water will be constantly dripping, so you will need to keep a close eye on it to make sure your watering system doesn’t run out of water or overflow your collection areas.