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How to Keep Chicken Water from Freezing This Winter

One of the biggest challenges with raising chickens in the winter is how to keep chicken water from freezing. Learn our tips to manage frozen water (even without a heated chicken waterer!)

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One of the biggest challenges with raising chickens in the winter is how to keep chicken water from freezing. Learn our tips to manage frozen water (even without a heated chicken waterer!) #homesteading #homestead #backyardchickens #chickens #raisingchickens #poultry

Caring for chickens in winter is more challenging than raising them in other seasons. Plummeting temperatures create a whole host of problems with your flock. The most frustrating being that their water freezes over every few hours.

Not having a plan to deal with frozen water is one of the big mistakes you can make if you keep chickens in cold climates.

There are many things you can do to keep your chicken 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!

How to Keep Chicken Water From Freezing

Rotate Water Founts

The most straightforward way to keep your chickens water from freezing is to rotate water founts two 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 Heated Chicken Waterer

The most expensive but least laborious option for frozen poultry founts is to buy a heated chicken waterer. 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 heated chicken waterers on the market. Which one you purchase will depend on what type of water fount you have.

How to keep chicken water from freezing (Heated Chicken Waterer)

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 warm enough to keep water from freezing, but not so warm 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! It will hold 1.5 gallons of water. The only real downside to this heated bowl is the open top. You know there will be that one chicken who will roost on the edge and poop in the water.

How to keep chicken water from freezing (Heated Chicken Waterer)

Winterize the Chicken Coop

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to keep the chicken water from freezing sometimes winterizing the chicken coop will be just enough to keep them warm. Especially if you live in a climate where the temperatures don’t dip too far below freezing overnight. In extreme climates, however, you may need to weigh the risks and consider adding heat to the chicken coop.

Dealing with frozen water in the chicken coop can be a hassle, but hopefully some of these solutions will help you keep chicken water from freezing this winter!

Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Raising Chickens in the Winter for even more advice about making it through till the weather warms back up. 

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Sue Ellen Mobley

Monday 25th of November 2019

Years ago, I wrapped and taped down with duck tape "heat tape" (what we used on the water lines of our trailer) around a metal, chicken water can thing. That was years ago, before the internet. Work well. Due to a neighbor's dog murderer, we changed directions and stopped having chickens. Jump to winter of 2019. Got an emergency call to babysit a small flock. Wildlife Rehab mode engaged, and that old coop was gutted and refurbished in 24 hours with power! I dug out the old waterer. Tested it, good to go. We all survived four days of -3 degrees. They were here till May, They went home for a few weeks, and back they came, minus 2. {I have to say this because it makes us so mad: I hate people who "WANT" but don't go to the effort to take care of what they WANT! No matter what life form it is!!!} We had "his" now six chickens and a Roo from May to Aug. By then, I had fallen back in love with these birds. One of the Black girls started to stay on a nest so much longer than the other girls. I knew they were fertile because of River Dancer Roo. But every girl was laying eggs. So I put four eggs in with the two she had and come the next morning, she was sitting pretty. Four weeks later, we had six kids, taking five days to all hatch. Three weeks after that, he took his flock home and left "Mom" and the kids with us. (THANK YOU!!) This time we bought a heated dog water bowl, and I fill their chick waterer (For weight & being familiar) and sit it INSIDE THE DOG BOWL. It displaces h2o, so the level is close to the rim. It takes up round space!! No room to sit on the edge. Plenty of room to get 3-4 heads in at the same time. I also keep gallon jugs of water out there. I'm old and that walk in the winter lugging water is for the young. But I keep it, the jugs, two at a time in a styrofoam cooler with a good lid. It worked well through this recent cold snap. Out of the cooler, it was icing up. In the cooler, it was just water. I'm looking for a sizeable spare tote to put the cooler IN. The kids will be getting board and might find styrofoam a choking hazard. A vet told me years ago, "IF IT'S PERCEIVABLE, IT'S PREVENTABLE."

Nancy-jo White

Wednesday 1st of September 2021

@Sue Ellen Mobley, you’re awesome Sue 😊


Wednesday 6th of November 2019

Our heated waterer broke down. Looking to buy a new one as winter is coming

JoAnn Tucker-Scholes

Monday 14th of October 2019

T H A N K S !!!

JoAnn Tucker-Scholes

Monday 14th of October 2019

Please give me more information on this, I can't quite see how to do this.

Myles Rose

Sunday 9th of December 2018

I put a flood light bulb inside a cement block covered with a cookie sheet then set water on top of that. Works great. Cheap to set up.