Raising chickens in winter is more challenging than raising them in any other season. The plummeting temperatures create a whole host of problems with your flock, the most frustrating being that their water freezes over every few hours. There are many things you can do to keep your chickens water from freezing. Some options are more labor-intensive and some are more expensive, but you don’t have to put up with frozen water in your chicken coop.
Rotate water founts
The most straightforward way to keep your chickens water from freezing is to rotate water founts twice or three times a day. If you have two water founts, keep one inside your house or garage, and the other out in the chicken coop. When the fount in the chicken coop freezes, switch it out for the unfrozen water fount in your house. This is the most laborious of your options, but it does work, and has been working for chicken farmers for centuries.
Bust up ice as it forms
Another option is to visit your chickens several times a day and break the ice as it forms on the surface of their water. Some chicken keepers have had good luck with placing floating objects like ping pong balls on the surface of the water. As the balls blow in the wind, they disrupt the surface of the water, keeping it from freezing. This will work most of the time, but when temps are consistently well below freezing, the water will freeze regardless of what you have floating in it. This option can be time consuming but certainly isn’t difficult.
Upgrade your water fount
This concept is simple, the bigger the water fount, the slower it is to freeze. Using a large rubber tub or feed pan for water in the winter will make it less susceptible to freezing over. When temperatures are very low, the water will still freeze, but will do so slower than water in metal fount. The downside is that these tubs aren’t easy to move when full, so you’ll be carrying water to the tub instead of carrying water in the tub.
Buy a water heater:
The most expensive but least laborious option for frozen poultry founts is to buy a water heater. Poultry water heaters tend to be expensive to purchase, and they run on electricity 24/7, which will add to your electric bill. A good poultry water heater will be expensive up front but should last for many years.
There are lots of great water heaters on the market. Which one you purchase will depend on what type of water fount you have.
If you like the cleanliness of water founts with nipples, this Heated 2 gallon Poultry Drinker is a sure winner. We use a poultry drinker with nipples and the chickens love it. They got accustomed to it quickly and we love how it keeps their water free of straw, dirt, and poop.
For traditional metal water founts, this Water Heater Base works amazingly well. We’ve been using ours for over three years and it’s still going strong. The base plugs into an electrical outlet and the water fount sits on top. These get just warm enough to keep the water from freezing, but not so warm that they risk damage to your fount or coop. These water heaters are not recommended for plastic water founts.
If you only have a few chickens you can get away with the cheapest option for heating their water, using a Heated Pet Bowl. For a small flock of two or three chickens, this bowl is perfect as it will hold 1.5 gallons of water. The only real downside to this heated bowl is the open top, which encourages chickens roosting on the edge and pooping into the water.
Dealing with frozen water in the chicken coop can be a hassle, but hopefully some of these solutions will help you this winter!