Backyard chickens need fresh and clean water all year round.
Water not only helps them to remain healthy, but it also means they keep providing you with a regular flow of fresh eggs.
During those harsh winter days waterers often freeze and your chickens cannot peck through the thick layer of ice.
You will need to stop your chickens’ water from freezing.
Those with electricity near the coop have the easiest time as they can use electric water heaters. But not every backyard chicken coop has electricity, so what are you supposed to do?
This is where our tips are useful!
Below we share the 10 best ways to keep chicken water from freezing…
Top 10 Best Ways To Keep Chicken Water From Freezing
Before going into the methods and tricks to keep your chickens’ water from freezing over in the colder months, it is important you know that the waterer should always be kept outside of their coop.
This is especially true in the winter.
Keeping their waterer outside will help keep your chicken coop clean and dry. This reduces bacterial growth and helps to keep your flock healthy.
1. Black Rubber Tubs
One of the easiest ways to keep chicken water from freezing is to use a black rubber tub for their drinker.
Black naturally absorbs heat from the sun better than any other color, while the rubber retains the heat longer. These two things combined help to slow down the freezing process of your flock’s water supply.
Placing your black rubber tub in a sunny spot helps too.
As an added tip try to place your rubber tub on a dark surface as well, like gravel. This will also help the waterer absorb the sun’s heat.
If your water is still freezing then try stuffing the inside of an old tire with insulating material such as Styrofoam and place your rubber tub in the center before filling it with water.
The sun’s heat will be absorbed by both the black tire and your rubber waterer.
It is important to note that galvanized metal waterers freeze quite quickly and will freeze your chickens’ water as soon as the metal becomes cold. The small surface area of these waterers certainly does not help either. Switching from a traditional metal water trough to a black rubber tub is a sure-fire way to keep your water unfrozen for longer.
2. Ping Pong Balls
On the days that are especially cold you can try using a few ping pong balls.
A few ping pong balls left to float on the surface of your chicken’s water will agitate the water’s surface enough to prevent ice from forming for quite some time. The smallest movement, whether a cool breeze or your chickens taking a drink will disturb the balls and keep them moving.
Your chickens will also probably curiously peck at the ping pong balls which helps to agitate the water surface and increases the time before the water will freeze over.
Just make sure that your waterer is not placed in a sheltered location.
In order for this method to work, the ping pong balls need to be moving around.
3. Saltwater Bottles
Adding a water bottle filled with saltwater is another great way of keeping your backyard flock’s water supply from freezing over.
Saltwater has a much lower freezing point than freshwater. Because of this, floating a bottle of saltwater in your chickens’ drinker will help slow down how long it takes for the water to freeze.
To make your own saltwater bottle, use a regular soda bottle and fill it with water as well as ¼ cup of regular table salt. Like the ping pong ball method, this method will slow down the freezing process. Keep in mind that you will have to change your water or break up ice eventually.
It is important to mention here that no salt is being added to your chickens’ actual water. Salt intoxication is very dangerous.
4. Build A Greenhouse
Creating a sunroom or greenhouse is an effective way of keeping chicken water from freezing.
This method is more for the DIY backyard chicken enthusiasts.
You can use greenhouse plastic or plexiglass, but old windows will do just fine too.
Arrange your plastic in an A-frame house in an area that gets a good amount of sunlight. Your small greenhouse will magnify the sun’s rays and in no time you will see this area increase in temperature significantly compared to its surroundings.
Next, just place the waterer inside the greenhouse.
As an added bonus this method prevents a lot of the wind that would usually pass over your chickens.
Try combining this method with the black rubber tub option and watch the time it takes your chickens’ water to freeze significantly increase.
5. Heated Waterer
If you have electricity near your coop, then consider using a heated chicken waterer.
They can rack up quite the electric bill but it is up to you whether you are willing to prioritize convenience over cost.
Most heated chicken waterers use a thermostat and will turn on when temperatures reach close to freezing.
Cheaper ones tend to run all the time and keep your chickens’ water at a constant temperature.
There are also less technically advanced electric heated water bowls often advertised as dog water bowls. This is also a cheap and safe way to keep your chickens’ water at a constant temperature above freezing.
If you do decide to use a heated waterer then remember to keep it outside of your chickens’ coop, especially at night, to avoid fires.
Do not worry about your chickens being without water at night. They will be fine throughout the night without a water source.
6. Using Bigger Waterers
Another simple way to keep the chickens’ water from freezing is to change the size of the waterer.
Water kept in larger containers will take longer to freeze compared to water with smaller surface areas. This goes for the depth of the waterer too. Water in deep waterers will take longer to freeze than water in shallow waterers.
Although larger waterers are more expensive they do mean you don’t need to refill the water as often too.
As a rule of thumb your waterer should be around the same height as your smallest chicken’s shoulder. This will mean that all of your chickens can access the water; it also stops dirt getting inside.
By combining the above ping pong ball and/or saltwater bottle methods with a larger drinker, you can massively increase the time it takes for your chickens’ water to freeze over.
7. Breaking Up Ice
Although chickens are capable of breaking through thin ice themselves, ice can become too thick for chickens to peck through at times.
This is unhealthy as your flock won’t have any water.
That is where you step in to assist.
You will need to break up any ice that has formed on the surface. This can be done with a hammer. Removing the larger pieces of ice that you have just broken up will help to prevent the remaining water from refreezing quickly.
8. Using Boiling Water
Consider bringing a pot of water to boil and adding the hot water to your frozen waterers a few times a day. This will thaw the thin surface layer of ice that may have formed.
It is important that the water inside of the waterer is not too hot. Not only can boiling water melt rubber, but you certainly do not want to burn any of your chickens by accident.
Once you have added the boiling water you should mix it with the freezing water to prevent this.
Use any utensil available to mix and combine the boiling and freezing water together. Once mixed it should be lukewarm to warm at most.
You can test the temperature with your hand but be careful not to burn yourself in the process.
9. Heated Waterer Base
Heated bases work in the same way as heated waterers.
The best part about heated waterer bases is that you do not need to swap your traditional metal waterer for anything rubber or plastic.
Most heated bases will come with a thermostat that will turn the heater on when the temperature drops below freezing. Simply place your heated waterer base underneath your current waterer and turn it on. Although heated water bases are on the more expensive side they are very convenient.
Remember to leave your heated waterer base outside to coop. Place it on top of cement or stone and away from any shavings.
10. Keeping A Few Ducks
It may seem farfetched but introducing ducks to your backyard will help keep the water from freezing.
Your ducks will play and swim in the water all day which will stop it from freezing. Do not worry about your ducks getting too cold as they have down feathering to keep them warm. Your chickens can withstand freezing temperatures too.
All you need is a waterer large enough for ducks to swim in.
Yes, this means that your chickens’ water will be full of debris and feed within seconds of introducing it to your ducks. However it will not disturb your hens much and they will still drink the water.
Determining the right method to stop your chickens’ water supply from freezing over is a process of trial and error.
While some options require electricity, there are many that do not. It is all about preference and compromise and, ultimately, what works best for your flock.
Hopefully our extensive list has helped you find out which method works best for you.
As a backyard flock owner, you alone are responsible for the care and wellbeing of your chickens and that can sometimes mean going the extra mile to ensure they are well taken care of in the gruelling winter months!
How do you keep your chickens’ water from freezing? Let us know in the comments section below…