How to Keep Chicken Waterers from Freezing this Winter

Reader Contribution by Shelby Devore and Farminence
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Do you keep chickens and live in an area where you’ll get freezing temperatures this winter?  Have you started to dread making numerous trips each day back and forth to the coop to make sure that your flock has drinkable water?

For more in depth information about chicken water in the winter, check out 20+ tips for keeping chicken water from freezing this winter here.

Waterer Design Matters

When you’re thinking about waterers, remember that the larger waterers will stay thawed much longer than the smaller ones.  The more water there is in the waterer, the longer it takes it to freeze.  If you have a small waterer, like a mason jar waterer, you might want to up grade to a larger one.  (You can also heat a small mason jar waterer using Hothands or other handwarmers, but keep in mind that this will only give you heat for about four hours.)

Plastic and metal waters will freeze much faster than rubber waterers or bowls.  Galvanized metal waterers will freeze exceptionally fast.  If you’ve got a plastic or metal waterer, you might want to put it inside of the coop so that it will last longer.  Keep the waterers out of any bedding that may be in the floor of the coop.  The chickens will get shavings in it almost immediately if it’s close to the bedding.  Then you’ll have a big slushy mess to clean up.

If your coop isn’t heated, it may be a good idea for you to get a large black rubber water tub and place it in an area of the coop that gets sun.  The black rubber will absorb sunlight and warm the water up.  The rubber will hold the heat longer, helping to keep the water from freezing. 

Cheap Ways to Keep Water Thawed

You can use a little ingenuity to keep your chicken’s water unfrozen longer. 

Do you put shavings down in your chicken coop?  Take a few sealed bags of shavings and use them to circle your waterer.  They will act like insulation and keep the air around the waterer warmer.  Don’t use loose shavings; your chickens will make a mess of this and won’t be able to drink the water, even if it isn’t frozen.

Use an old tire to hold a water bucket.  Lay the tire on the ground and drop the water bucket down into the hole.  The air inside of the tire acts as a layer of insulation for the water.  Place the tire waterer in the sun so that the rubber on the tire can absorb sunlight and warm up the water in the bucket.

Fill up an empty plastic bottle with salt water.  Use a 2-liter bottle or gallon jug for larger waterers.  Put the salt water-filled bottle into the waterer.  Salt water has a lower freezing point than fresh water and will help to keep the water in the waterer unfrozen longer.  A word of caution though- make sure that you don’t put the salt water directly into the waterer.  If your chickens drink salt water, it will dehydrate them and can lead to serious illness, even death.  Check the lid of the bottle before you put it into the waterer.

It’s easier with electricity

It’s much easier to keep your chicken’s water drinkable if you have electricity at your coop.  If you don’t have electricity at your coop, don’t worry!  There are so many ways that you can keep your chicken’s water from freezing.

Shelby DeVore is an agricultural enthusiast that enjoys writing about gardening, raising livestock and simple living. You can read her most recent posts on or follow Farminence onPinterest andTwitter. Read all of Shelby’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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