How to best keep water thawed this winter for chickens

MackeybearOctober 7, 2005

Hi, everyone.

Good to be among good folk on a forum of this nature. Used to spend a little time on the Countryside forum. My son will be taking care of 50 chickens for me this year (our first year for them), and I know the water will freeze and be a pain to change. I'd rather not have to run an extension cord out there. How have you experienced folks worked this problem out?


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erinluchsinger(z4 - Upstate NY)

I sucked it up and ran an extension cord, but I buried it. I got an outside heavy duty extension cord and put it about 1/2 inch beloow the surface... used a flat faced shovel for help. Worked for years. From there, I bought a heated base for metal waterers and then used metal dog dishes as I found it a pain in the butt to try and fill my fountain type waterer in the house. Got the heated base from Tractor Supply for $40, and it was worth every penny. The first year I had chickens, I used a heated dog dish, but it didn't hold enough water for more than 10 chickens. I liked the heated base w/ 3 metal dog dishes much better. EVeryday I just carried a jug of warm water out (in a recycled milk jug), and it worked flawless. When the dishes got dirty, they were easy to bring into the house to clean them.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 8:18AM
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This is a really common question, so if someone can invent something, that would be great! :) We were trying to figure out how to make a solar-powered heated bowl, but it seems like solar power is weak and expensive.

We also use a heavy-duty extension cord & heated dog bowl (I think it holds 3 gallons) and also use black rubber bowls (3 gal) that are easy to break the ice and refill. Last year I think we just used the rubber bowls--the winter was fairly mild.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 11:16AM
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Turtle_Haven_Farm(Z5 NY)

We've fought that battle for years. Lately, we got one of those rubber buckets. We go to the barn in AM and PM. Take a hammer, take the bucket outside, hit the ice out with the hammer. Fill the bucket up. By the next time you get there, water is frozen, do it all over again. Doesn't seem to hurt them at all. They keep laying and eating right thru winter.
The other thing we noticed was they like to eat snow!! They'd all pile in around us and peck it off our boots. So I put a shallow pan in their enclosure and once a day, put a couple of shovel-fulls of clean snow in there, they all cluster around the clean up the snow. By the time I'm done with the cattle, they're all happy and back to talking about it amongst themselves. LOL - Ellen

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 2:47PM
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I just reread my post (about solar) and to keep from looking like an idiot (solar power being expensive)I meant to say that the solar panels are expensive hehe :)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 2:57PM
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I switch off waterers and bought an extra set of them for winter use. When I water in the morning, I take the frozen ones inside and put the ones I've let thaw all night out out to replace them. By the time I do my evening watering, the ones I took inside in the a.m. are thawed. They're cheap enough it's well worth not having the hassle.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 10:30PM
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There are buckets that you can plug in. You'd need 2-3 for 50 hens. I found them cheap at Princess Auto.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2005 at 1:04AM
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dunwaukin(Ontario 5b)

I use the insulated plastic picnic carriers -- like coleman coolers--. Use the smallest one, fill it every morning with warmish water. Stays thawed until after lunch (depending on how cold it gets.) When I'm feeling lazy, I just take out a bucket of really hot water, break out the ice (toss it into a second bucket I take with me) and top off with the hot water. I have 4 pens of chickens going, (differnt breeds, different hatch dates, )

Don't know what I'm going to do for my little babies though. They just hatched Sept 26. Maybe I can rig up something with the dog water heater mentioned above.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 9:42PM
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amiz5904(z8 NC)

Mountain Man,

I checked out the Princess Auto website but can't find the buckets you mentioned. I've tried plugging in everything I can think of in the search area but it keeps coming up "0 items found." Can you send a link please.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 6:58AM
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We have 10 chickens and do the old switcheroo like Calliope.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 7:39PM
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marquisella(z4 NY)

I just give them water in the am & pm when I do chores.
THey soon learn to come & take a drink while it is still water, not ice! I put the water in one of those rubber feeding pans, about 6 inches deep and a foot wide. When its frozen, I just turn it upside down, stomp on it to get ice out, and refill.

Works for me.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 10:04AM
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mommagoose(z5 NY)

I have a Taylor wood stove to heat my house. It has a hot water tap on the outside. I just fill the buckets with hot water and thaw out the waterers two three times a day.
This year I was lucky enough to acquire a heater for my chicken waterer from a guy going out of the egg business. I have two hen houses so one will have the heater one won't . We shall see which way is better. In really cold weather we switch to a plastic tray used to grow onions. The tray is 3 inches deep and about 30 x 15 inches . The shallow pan with more surface area is easier to thaw.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 12:32PM
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motherduck(Z2b MB)

Amiz, you need to download their pdf catalogue. You only need to download the farm centre section. There are heated pails, etc. on page 11. These stores are in Canada.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 12:45PM
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I have heating platforms for the automatic waterers, but that requires an extension cord, because we haven't run electric to the chicken coop yet. It's scary in winter to have extension cords in the snow. That's why I went to keeping a set of extra waterers. I have had close to 100 in my flock so watering is taken seriously.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2005 at 10:15PM
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willy807(3A Ontario)

This is an interesting subject for this time of year and am wondering if anyone has tried with any success the ice defrosting cable which attach to the roof of the house to defrost cable the ice so it doesnt back up?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 12:10AM
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Amiz- sorry I haven't been following here. The ones I bought were just last spring. I guess clearing out winter stock. They were really cheap. Might be worth calling and asking for the farm dept.
I also bought one at the local feedstore and it was $60 Canadian.
I do sware by them and it's worth the price.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 8:06PM
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Hmmm....Lots of good advice. I only have six old lap hens left and 3 darling ducks. I heat their coop/house with an infrared bulb during the cold weather. I put the water container on the floor of the coop about 2 1/2- 3 ft. below the light. It hasn't frozen yet. I refill every day. It gets pretty cold here, so the heating is an issue for us.

I'm worried about my pet hens. They don't look well this winter. They're almost 6 years old. My favorite, Goldie Hen, looks especially ragged. I wonder if I should keep them inside. Our high today is only 19 degrees so far.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 1:45PM
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Michaela(z6+ TN)

I'm a little like Chickinmama from Idaho. I live in east Tennessee and we've been having lows in the mid 20's. I put a regular 60 W light bulb in one of those cheap aluminum reflectors and place the reflector and bulb right next to the can which has a 5 gallon capacity. The bulb is shined directly on the can as much as possible. Not only does the water not freeze, but the extra light increases egg production. Higher wattage bulbs would give more heat, if needed.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 8:33AM
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I'm going to put my small water pail(for 4 hens) in their house with their light above it,this will keep it warm enough not to freeze.I do run an extension cord though... for the ducks,I'm going to use a large rubber pail,refill it every morning and night when I do my regular checks.Or maybe just get a heated bucket...less work!! we'll see

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 12:19PM
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ksfarmer(z5/Ks NC Kansas)

The one thing that works well for me is a birdbath water heater in one of those black rubber pans. Does require a extension cord running to the pan, either on the ground or drop down from above.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 6:18PM
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I just ordered a heated chicken water feeder from Strombergschickens on the web. I'll let you know how it works. I had an older model last year which was electric and it worked pretty well.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 11:28AM
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I just learned from some people on this site (much appreciated) to empty out the bucket when I put everyone in at night,then bring out a huge watering can with me to refill in the far it's great. Works for the ducks,hens and my rabbits! Then I always go back out in the afternoon to do my clean-up...and I refill them if I have to,no need for extension cord if you don't have one..I use mine for heat in the coop instead...I always bring the watering can back inside with me to make it even easier for the next trip...when you get into the routine it's really not such a hassle. :)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 10:28AM
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I'm thinking about trying this: we have a hanging bucket with two of the chicken nipple type waterers. I might try to put an aquarium heater inside.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 7:53PM
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We have to make a one week trip out of state come late January so we are going to do the following starting New Years weekend and hope it works for us. We are going to purchase a 16 gal. heated bucket and drill a small hole 1" from the bottom of the bucket on its side. Then, we are going to take one of those indoor heavy-duty storage tubs (it will be about 4 or 5" larger around the bottom) and we are going to cut it about 4-5" up from the bottom of it to make a water tray. We are going to set the heated bucket (with the hole drilled in it) into the tray and hopefully, as the heated bucket warms up the water in the bucket it will also warm the homemade water tray it sits in enough so the water in the tray will not freeze. A friend of ours may have to add to the water bucket, maybe once, but we think this will work for us. I'm searching for the best priced, good quality heated bucket at the current time and will have it in service the weekend of New Years. If anyone wants to know how it works, email us, in the subject of your email type in "Heated Chicken Waterer", we will let you know!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2010 at 7:26PM
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We live in Montana where the winters can get to -40. I have anywhere from 20 to 35 hens every winter. I have found that the electric metal base heaters work great with the 8 gal metal waterers. And I use two heat lamps to keep the coop warm. That is it. Usually, I have to fill the waterer every other day. I use two 4 gal cat litter buckets for this.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 11:20AM
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I live in Alaska and have about 35 hens. I purchased a car battery heating pad from the auto parts store and glued it to my 7 gallon plastic automatic waterer. Works great.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 3:55AM
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I lug 42 pounds of water in a 5 gallon water bottle that usually turns upside down on an office cooler. This is too heavy for me so watering 300 birds is too high maintainence. This year I have a second room which I hook up an electric forced air heater to blow on a faucet to which a hose is attached. After filling plastic auto waterers which sit on electric metal heaters in the adjoining coop(which may or may not keep the water from freezing) I empty the hose and curl it up near the faucet. I want to heat wrap the auto waterers so I don't even have to do this (red bowls that hang from the ceiling of plastic pex lines run from that second room that work great in other seasons).

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 10:46PM
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Easiest method...Take a 5 gallon mudbucket, insert 3 nipples into the bottom(AquaMiser...available on internet), and then stick a submersible ring heater in the bucket and hang this bucket so the hens can reach up to the nipples. Best method...just keep a lid on the bucket, and lift top to refill.
No more ice, no more poopy incredibly easy.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 10:16AM
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What size submersible ring heater did you use??? My plan was exactly what you specified..

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 7:55PM
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