Keep Your Chickens’ Water From Freezing- No Electricity Needed!

How To Keep Your Chickens' Water From Freezing | areturntosimplicity.comThere are few things more annoying and frustrating to me than having to trudge out to the chicken coop, and dig a block of ice out of a traditional chicken water dispenser multiple times a day.

All the while, freezing my butt off because I don’t want to put full winter gear on that many times a day.

While we may not have sub arctic temperatures here in Virginia, we definitely have a lot of winter days below freezing.

How To Keep Your Chickens' Water From Freezing |

Here are some methods I have learned to keep our chickens’ water from freezing repeatedly during the winter days.

Work With Me!

1.Use a large black rubber water bowl. The dark color will absorb heat all day, and release it at night. Really, any dark colored container will work. I have an old canner that works beautifully.

How To Keep Your Chickens' Water From Freezing |

2. Float a ping pong ball in the water. Any slight wind will move the ball around, and help keep your chickens’ water from freezing.

3. Start off with warm water. I take the water kettle out to the chickens every morning, and add the leftover hot water (from making my morning cup of decaf) to their water bowls. They love the lukewarm water it creates, and it gives the water a nice warm head start to the day.

Of course, in extremely cold areas of the world, even these measures will not keep the water from freezing, and you will probably need to dump out a block of ice, and refill with fresh water a couple times a day, or get an electric heated waterer.

However, here in Virginia, if I follow these methods, I can keep my chickens’ water from freezing almost all winter!

How To Keep Your Chickens' Water From Freezing |


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29 responses to “Keep Your Chickens’ Water From Freezing- No Electricity Needed!”

  1. I just found your blog from the Simple Saturdays hop! I’m in Virginia as well and also use ping pong balls and black rubber tubs and it is usually enough to keep the water from freezing, except on extremely cold days. We also have ducks and they play in the water nearly all day, so that helps keep the water unfrozen for the chickens too!
    Fresh Eggs Daily

  2. Mark says:

    We just started our homestead this year, also in central VA (Amherst), and I’ve been having lots of freezing water. This article is very timely. Thanks!

  3. Deborah says:

    Hey Angi, we use a large black rubber tub and ping pong balls as well. During the coldest 4 months of the year, our ping pong balls just get frozen into the ice blocks, so we have to pull them out. I keep a clean shovel by the animals’ waters and just break the tops off a couple of times a day.
    I can’t believe I’ve never thought to use hot water from the house. I may start employing that technique. Thanks for the tip! (I feel a little out of place…I’m so far away from Virginia)

    • Jamie says:

      Hot water freezes faster than cold water. It’s called the mpemba effect. Stick with cold water if you don’t want it to freeze fast. But, animals may enjoy the warmer water to drink .you will just have to replace it more often when it freezes.

      • Angi says:

        Hi Jamie! Ok, so I have been getting a lot of comments about the warm water freezing faster and the Mpemba effect. Here are my personal (non scientific) observations.
        When we have really cold nights like we have had these past few days, (negative F) the water in the black rubber will freeze overnight. No matter what. However, when the temp comes up above zero F the next day, if I add hot water to the frozen block, the water will melt part of the block and stay liquid almost all day, even when temp is below freezing. When I add cold water, no ice melts and the water is back to frozen way more quickly.

        Also, the Mpemba effect is not something that occurs all the time. Only under some circumstances that scientists have not been able to consistently replicate. Modern research (according to the wikipedia article cited by another commenter) says-
        “In 2016, Burridge and Linden defined the criterion as the time to reach 0 °C (32 °F), carried out experiments and reviewed published work to date.[13] They noted that the large difference originally claimed had not been replicated, and that studies showing a small effect could be influenced by variations in the positioning of thermometers. They say ‘ We conclude, somewhat sadly, that there is no evidence to support meaningful observations of the Mpemba effect’.”

        So, while I completely believe that if I were to make ice cream from a hot mix, it might freeze faster than a cold mix, I do not believe (and neither do modern scientists) that the blanket statement can be made that “hot water freezes faster than cold”. Sometimes, yes. Always? No. Plus, the issue of chickens’ water has many more variables such as a black rubber tub, varying temperatures, and varying sunlight every day.
        Overall, I have found that beginning with hot water mixed with the original cold water or ice creates a longer period of “Non-frozen” water for my chickens.

        Does that make sense?

  4. Annie Kate says:

    Yes, those poor chickens. I feel sorry for ours, and was so hoping to find a solution that would work in Ontario! But we’ll stick with the warm water, the heat lamp, and changing it regularly. It also helps to have two waterers. We are always letting one thaw inside while the other one is with the chickens.

  5. Julie says:

    I live in Canada and the chicken’s water freezes every night. What I do is this. I have two black rubber buckets (for feeding calves). It’s very important that the bucket is flexible and black.
    In the morning I fill one with water from my hot tap – as hot as will go. I haul it out to the chicken coop and replace it with the completely frozen bucket. The chicken seem to enjoy their morning hot drink. The frozen bucket gets tipped up-side-down and I bang on it with my 8 lb sledge hammer until the ice comes free. Once the ice pops out, I take the bucket to the deck for the next day’s water.
    I keep their water inside the coop out of the wind. There are 4 concrete blocks propping the bucket up so the chickens can’t accidentally knock it over by perching on the edge.
    At night when I go to check on the hens, the top of the bucket is just barely beginning to skim over with ice if it is around -40 C. I just kick the edge of the bucket to make the water slosh a bit, but not hard enough to spill any. If water spills, the bucket will be stuck in the coop until things warm up.
    I enjoyed reading your article. Julie

  6. Marci says:

    We just hang a red tinted heat lamp over the large rubber dish. Raise and lower as needed. Always keeps the water from freezing and the girls love the extra light.

  7. Cindy says:

    I run an outdoor extension cord from the house to the coop n the winter. Then I plug in a light and a heated dog dish for the water. When it is super cold, I put the light on a timer so they have a little heat source for the evening hours and then I can see when I go out there as well! I am in Michigan. If you would like to read about my family’s transition from suburban to country life, you can check out my blog at I wrote quite a lot the first three years and then took a break for awhile and am getting back to it.

  8. SarahN says:

    I live in Montana, where winter temps go down to -20 at night for weeks at a time and rarely get above -0 during the day. We use a heated dog water pan for our chickens as well. It works beautifully.

  9. Anne Hall says:

    I use microwaveable heat pads under the drinkers with hot water morning and evening. The heat pads are really useful. If it’s going to drop below zero (Celsius) then I pop a couple directly under the roosting bars. They stay warm for up to 8 hours.

  10. CorvetteLover02 says:

    I am a country person too, I live in the mountains and have many chickens (And an annoying rooster :P) today we found our chickens water frozen, because you know its that time of the year where it gets cold up here in the country but my point is, we have fancy electrical heaters below the chickens water and we aren’t sure it works yet, we think it does but we just plugged it in today but I guess we will find out tomorrow. I love your blog Angi BTW!


  11. April says:

    My hens live in new can get pretty cold here sometimes…I use a red lamp to keep my hens warm during the winter it keeps the water from frozen and come to find out I get more eggs! ..the gjrls r happy im happy! It’s a win win situation for all:)!

    • Charlie says:

      Hi April I was just wondering if your egg production has dropped, since the lesser light hours?

      • April Cornelius says:

        Normally they do a my girls r getting older too so that puts a damper on it as well..supposedly the more comfy they r = less stress=more eggs.. My youngest hen has been giving me almost an egg a day lately…the older ones r stalling.. We r in a big cold snap who knows what it will bring..

  12. Tim Daniels says:

    You might not believe this but with idea 3 – Starting off with warm water, this will cause the water to freeze faster.

    This is known as the Mpemba effect named after Tanzanian Erasto Mpemba. It’s not completely understood. Wikipedia has more information than I can possibly try to explain:

    I remember this fact from my school science days. Recently I wrote an article for offering 8 tips for keeping chickens over winter I researched it again and came across the Wikipedia article!

  13. Misty says:

    Great article except, warm water will freeze faster.

  14. christin says:

    Hot water seems to freeze faster than cold water, known as the Mpemba effect. The effect was named after the Tanzanian student who in 1963 noticed that hot ice cream mix freezes faster than a cold one. The effect was first observed by Aristotle in the 4th century BC, then later Francis Bacon and René Descartes.Nov 1, 2013

  15. Jenny says:

    If you live in a climate where you have a lot of snow (I’m in Ontario) chickens will eat snow (as all birds do) if my chickens are in for the day (I usually let them out except in extreme cold/wind) I will give them a pile of snow in the corner of the coop and they peck away at it when there water freezes (usually is frozen solid within the hour during winter months here.)

  16. Barb says:

    I live in Saskatchewan Canada and use electric heated waterers and when we get snow
    Chickens do great on snow only ,I have found and it gets plenty cold here but if we have enough
    Chickens in the coop their body heat will also keep coop quite warm

  17. allison says:

    personally.. cookie tin 4inch deep. x 10 inch diameter. 40 waty lightbulb. however much exterior electric cord needed to reach from outlet to warterer. light socket. electrical coupling to attach to hole in side of cookie tin. male plug. drill hole in tin. insert coupling. attach light socket. attach electrical cord to socket. attach male end to electric cord. plug in when temps will drop below 32. place waterer on top. water never freezes. if you dont want to have to keep track…. buy a thermostadt controlled outlet. plug in tin can heater. thermostadt will turn on when temps drop and off when they rise.

  18. Confidential info says:

    How deep is your black rubber tub???
    Also how many ping pong balls do I need??
    I don’t have chickens yet but ima gonna get em this spring. I live in central Texas and do you think these techniques will work for me?

  19. WV Mama says:

    WV transplant from Florida….first year with temps below 0….was wondering if using a fish bucket aerator that adds air and bubbles for water movement might prevent freezing? Might be silly question but worked in Florida’s mild winters for my chickens. Any suggestions appreciated.

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