How to Keep Your Chicken Waterers from Freezing
If you live far north enough to get freezing air temperatures then you will need to figure out a way to provide unfrozen water to your chickens. It is really important that they have access to clean water at all times. I use a couple of techniques depending on what the weather is like.
First if we are only getting a freezing night every few days, then I just check their water in the morning. Sometimes it will not freeze solid, and I can just let it be as long as the nipple still lets water through. When the nipple freezes, I take the waterer to my utility sink and just run some warm water in it until the ice comes out. If it starts to happen more frequently, I use two waterers, just swap them out every day, and bring the frozen one in to be swapped the next day.
Another option is to keep your waterer in the coop with the chickens. The body heat of the chickens can often keep the waterer from freezing depending on how drafty the coop is and how many chickens you have versus how big the coop is.
When we get into the dead of winter, I typically bring out the heated overhead waterer. It works very much like my regular no fowl chicken waterer with the overhead nipple, but it actually has an electric coil inside the bucket that keeps the water warm. Basically, it is just a heated horse watering bucket with the overhead nipple. It also has a wood cover so the water stays clean. Now the hens can have warm water anytime they want, and I don’t have to worry about the water freezing.
The downside of the heated waterer is that it uses electricity, so you have to have a place to plug it in. I put a plug out in the chicken pasture area a couple of years ago for this issue and lighting if I wanted to encourage laying in the winter. My waterer uses 75 watt hours of electricity, or 1.8 KW per day. I have a larger one that uses 130 KW, but my flock is fine with the smaller bucket. This ends up costing me about 20 cents per day in electricity. That may not seem like much, but for the whole winter, it ends up being about $18. I justify the expense because it is partly offset by the fact that I might occasionally be using my hot water to melt my waterer. More importantly, I estimate that I save myself about 5 minutes by not having to remove ice from my waterer, or 2 minutes not having to swap out waterers. So it saves me about 3 hours of labor. I think I’m worth more than $6 per hour. Plus the chickens love the warm water. I certainly wouldn’t want try to drink cold water dripping down on me in the dead of winter.