Let’s face it. It’s pretty hard to keep your chicken’s water from freezing without electricity in the winter.
When the cold arrives, I struggle to keep water from turning into a frozen block.
And without a water heater? Just that much more difficult.
I know many of you are worrying about how to keep your chicken’s water from freezing without electricity this winter, so I wanted to share some tricks that have worked for me.
These tips will also work well if you have ducks, turkeys, quail, or any other kind of poultry.
So, if you’re worried about how to keep poultry water from freezing, remember that these tips aren’t just for chicken water!
Use a big water tub
Typically, the larger the bowl is, the longer it takes to freeze. With our 40 gallon rubber water troughs, they rarely freeze in winter.
If the top freezes, below that layer of nice usually rests unfrozen water. I just use the heel of my boot (assuming there’s no cracks in them!) to break the surface ice.
You can scoop it out and refill the tub so your hens don’t run the risk of falling in as they try to drink.
Using a large waterer to keep your chickens water from freezing isn’t always realistic, especially with younger chickens (such as pullets) that can’t balance well on the edge and might fall in.
But if your flock is older and they’re able to not get themselves into deadly situations, then using a large tub is one way to prevent freezing.
Use rubber or plastic water dishes
I mentioned above that rubber waterers are best for winter, and in most cases, it’s true.
Rubber conducts cold less efficiently than stainless steel, and it will take longer for your chicken’s water to turn into a solid block of ice. Rubber bowls also tend to be less expensive than stainless steel.
Plastic is another option although in my experience, it doesn’t retain heat from the sun as efficiently as rubber.
Which brings us to….
Black water tubs
As we all know, black absorbs the sun’s rays better than any other color out there.
So, black rubber water tubs are more likely to keep your chickens water from freezing without electricity than probably anything else out there.
If you’re not 100% sure how to keep your chicken water from freezing, then relying on heat from the sun is definitely more cost efficient than buying an electric water heater (and potentially safer).
Dark blue, purple, or burgundy would work as well, but steer clear of lighter colors.
Ping Pong Balls
I’ve had marginal success with this, but other people swear by it, so I wanted to mention it.
You can grab a packet of ping pong balls at your local dollar store and float them on the top of the water.
The idea is that as the wind moves the surface of the water, the continued movement of the ping pong balls will keep your chicken’s water from freezing.
Now, you’ll be relying on the breeze to do the work for you. And if your water tub isn’t deep, the ping pong balls will get stuck as the water freezes around it.
So, it’s worth a shot, but you might want to use the ping pong balls in conjunction with a black rubber tub.
Believe it or not, if you keep ducks, they’re pretty good at keeping your chicken’s water from freezing.
Ducks automatically want to splash and play in water – keeping the surface constantly moving so it can’t turn into ice.
Again, a deep dish is required, and you will have to keep it full because your ducks will want to dunk their heads and bills into the water.
In most cases, the ducks will be fine if they get wet – they have down! And unless they’re young, they can figure out when to stop.
I’ve successfully used commercial hand warmers (the kind you don’t open until ready to use) with small stainless-steel mason jar waterers.
In this case, using stainless steel waterers works best because the metal will conduct heat from the warmers, keeping the water just above freezing temperatures.
Just stick the heater below the metal bottom, and replace as needed.
If you have quail or smaller chickens that require only a mason jar waterer, this solution works well, particularly since smaller waterers will freeze much quicker.
Starting off with hot water
If you’re going to be gone part of the day and want to make sure your flock has access to fresh water for longer, you can give them hot H20 when you fill their dish.
Just make sure it’s not boiling, otherwise your hens might burn themselves.
If, throughout the day, you notice their water turning to ice, then refill the bucket with hot water.
You can also do this at night, although chickens are less likely to drink water in the dark, since they’ll want to get some shut eye.
I’d like to hear from you!
Have you been worried about how to keep your chicken’s water from freezing without electricity this winter? Which of these ideas will you try? Leave a comment below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.