If you’ve been raising chickens for any amount of time, you’ll know that your flock can do just fine with their water being placed in the chicken water feeder when the weather is warm. But when cold weather rolls around, that’s a completely different story. And if you haven’t been raising chickens for that long yet, I’m glad I caught you at the right time.
Now you can make arrangements before things get serious.
Remember, just like you, your chickens also need proper hydration or they will get ill and god forgive, die. You want to avoid that and make sure that they have a source of clean, warm water available at all times. That’s when a chicken water heater comes in.
Because during winter, if it’s too cold where you live and the water gets frozen, your flock won’t be able to peck through the ice to drink the water. Having a water heater comes in handy during those times.
And while these heated chicken waterers have been around for a while, they do keep improving day by day. That means you get to use the top of the line waterers without having to spend a lot of money. But before you go off and do that, I want you to read through the rest of the article and see why having a heated chicken waterer is a good thing and which one should you invest in.
How Do You Choose the Best Chicken Water Heater?
There’s no official list to this, but there are some simple things that we should all look for:
- Should be non-corrosive or plastic
- Can be thermostatically controlled
- Must be easy to fill and clean
- Must have a long electric cord
Main thing you want to make sure of, is that it should be made out of non-corrosive material. If it’s corrosive, then you aren’t doing your flock any good. They’ll get ill anyway. Plastic is the best material for that.
All the other things are usually available in most water heaters. So you don’t have to worry about that. But I still can’t understand why the manufacturers of these products still do not provide an electric cord that is longer than 3-4 feet?
I mean, if it cuts into the margins, at least there should be able option where a customer can choose to pay extra to have a longer cord.
Different Types of Heated Chicken Waterers
Depending on your requirements, there are several chicken water heaters available on the market.
- Plastic Fountain Water Heater
This is the dream of chicken owners out there. If you get this, you’ll never have to walk back and forth to your chicken coop carrying warm water during winter. I know it’s such a pain in the behind.
This water heater is fully made out of plastic, so you don’t have to worry about it getting rusty. And all you have to do is fill it up with water and plug it in.
Interesting thing about this heater is that it automatically detects the temperature of its surroundings. Once it falls below 300F, the heater activates itself and will start heating the water, preventing it from freezing.
But make sure that there’s some sort of heating around this water heater because I’ve noticed that if the temperature falls into single digits, the water starts to freeze from the inside. You want to be aware of that.
- The Heated Bowl
You’ll notice that most of these heaters are very similar. That’s because they are.
This one keeps the water from freezing even when the temperature falls to around 100F.
But the main drawback for using this one is that it has a huge open surface. Which means that your chicken will spare no time before they start bringing in dirt, bedding and poop into the water.
The electric cord is good. It’s made out of anti-chew material so the predators won’t be able to mess around with it.
But make no mistake, this bowl does look big in the pictures but in reality it’s pretty small. Appropriate for 3-4 chickens to have enough water. But if you have more than that, then you should be looking at some other solutions or you’ll end up refilling this bowl several times each day.
If you sit in front of a computer all day then that’s great. But if you have a busy life, which I’m assuming it is, then you want something that you can fill once and it will last you all day.
- Heater Plate
This is probably the best solution you can have.
This is a heated plate that will keep the water from freezing. But you also have to make sure that your drinker is made out of steel as well for the transfer of heat. If the drinker is made out of plastic, don’t use it on this because this plate will cause it to melt and will start a fire.
The plate does get pretty hot so be aware of that. Also try to get one that has some kind of cover on it because it is quite dangerous to have a stainless steel heated plate sitting like that on the ground. Having a base that is completely covered is the best way to go about it.
Advantages of Having a Heated Chicken Waterers
If you live in a place where the weather is moderately warm all year long, then you don’t even need to continue reading this article. Usually your water is warm and is drinkable for your chickens.
But for those of us that live in colder climates when it starts to snow when December rolls around, we know how tough it gets to have to carry water for the chickens 3-4 days everyday. Even during days when the snow is just brutal, blowing through the air and the temperature is in single digits or in minus!
Sure, if you’re just starting to raise chickens it might sound adventurous to do that (provided that you have installed appropriate heating in the chicken coop itself as well or your chicken themselves will freeze lol).
But trust me when I say that it gets old pretty quick. You will enjoy carrying that water for the first 5-6 days at most. After that you’ll just dread every time you see that waterer empty.
That’s the reason why there’s so much fuss around chicken water heaters. These things allow us to ensure that there’s warm water available for our flock at all times of the day which also not having to carry water multiple times each day.
That’s the reason why the chicken water heater fountain is so popular. It doesn’t let the water get dirty because it is a fountain. It only lets out a limited amount of water at specific intervals. That way, even though your chickens will make the surface dirty, their entire water supply doesn’t get dirty. Which means you don’t have to refill it with fresh, clean water as often.
Also, depending on the size of this fountain, you might only have to refill it once or twice a day with fresh water and your chickens will be good.
Are There Any Alternatives To Chicken Water Heaters?
The one’s I covered above are some of the most popular solutions. But if you are interested in a more DIY type, or lesser known type of solutions, here are some alternatives you can check out:
Solar Chicken Water Heater
This is a great solution if you already have solar power at your house. But even then, I don’t recommend going with this because if you live in an area where it snows pretty heavily, the chances of you being able to harness the solar energy and have enough power to heat up the water is pretty low.
And if you do get sun pretty frequently or at least predictably, then you could set up a small greenhouse area for your flock. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It just need a window and a couple of supports so that you can keep your water under that window and keep it from freezing.
That way, once the sun does shine through the greenhouse, the water will get warm and the sunlight will keep it from freezing. But you also have to take into account the wind. If the wind is too cold and brisk, the water won’t be warm enough.
Ping Pong Balls To Prevent Freezing?
I tested out this idea that if there are enough ping pong balls floating on the water, and if the wind is too brisk, then the wind won’t be able to make contact with the water. Only the balls will move around and also disrupt the water enough so that it doesn’t get frozen just by staying still.
It didn’t work out well but if you do give it a shot let me know.
Are There Any Useful Alternatives?
I know based on the alternatives I mentioned above it might sound like there’s nothing you can do besides buying the heaters I recommended.
That’s not true though. You have several ideas you can test out and see what works for you. But if you are like me, you want something that is proven to work and just start using it. You don’t want to go through a lot of trial and error.
You just want to make sure that your chickens will stay healthy through the winter while they keep laying as many eggs as they can. You want to focus on having a great chicken coop for them, and maybe even adding a state of the art heating system in the coop.
So rather than trying out different ideas for water heaters, you’d focus on heating for the chicken coop because that’s more important (can’t bring those chickens into your house during winter lol. They’d cause all sorts of problems).
That’s the reason why I recommend just going with something that just works, so you can focus on more important things at hand.
How Many Chicken Heaters Will You Need?
It depends on how many birds you have. Ideally though, you should have one waterer for every 9-11 birds. You should also use a variety of waterers so things don’t get boring for your flock.
Remember, winter months can get pretty long for them just like they do for you.
Also, make sure each waterer has enough distance between each other or your birds will start guarding the water supply and not let other chickens drink from it. Having each of them far apart ensures that even if one is being guarded, there are other waterers where the chickens can go and drink from.
Do the same thing with your feeder. If you have chickens that are more aggressive, you have to keep that in mind.
Also, you don’t want to keep your water heater inside the coop. Never do that.
Once the water is heated sufficiently, it starts giving out moisture. And we want to keep the coop as dry as possible. If there’s moisture in the coop during winter months, your birds will start having frostbites along with other issues like parasites and stuff.
You don’t want that.
At the end of the day, it all depends on which heater you think would work best for your flock and go with it. My recommendation is to go with the plastic water heaters because they are usually the most reliable and they are also non-corrosive.
Not only that, the plastic ones will also last you a long time. You gotta take that into consideration as well.
But you also have to consider other factors, like having an open bowl like a rubber pan or a dog bowl, that will make it easy for your chicken to throw in dirt, poop and whatnot. Not only that, if you have small chicks, they might even fall into the open bowl and drown or freeze to death.
Make sure you’re keeping that in mind as well.
If all of your chickens are big enough where even if they fall into it they can just get out, then you can consider an open bowl. If not, just get the fountain.
What is the best chicken water heater?
You can go with any of the heated waterers I mentioned above and you’ll be all set.
How to keep my chickens water clean?
You want to make sure that the water source of your chickens is absolutely clean. Have the same water standards for them as you. Once you start doing that, you’ll notice that they start to drink more water. Interesting right?
That’s a good sign because you want to them to drink enough water so that they are happy. And here’s how you can make sure that their waterers are always clean.
- Try to use hanging nipple waterers. I know it’s not the natural drinking position for your chickens, but it’s way better than having them dip their beaks into the water and making it nasty for every other chicken.
- Make sure you keep the waterer up on a platform. Keep it high enough so that the chickens aren’t able to scratch it with poop or debris.
- Clean the waterer every day. I can’t stress this enough. This is the most important part of having clean water for your chickens. If your waterer itself is dirty, you can follow all the tips in this answer and you’ll still have dirty water.
How do you water your chickens in the winter?
Use a heated waterer. If the water is frozen or is very cold, your chickens won’t be able to hydrate themselves with it. You want to make sure that they have warm liquid water available to them at all times. The heated waterer helps making sure that the water doesn’t freeze.
Can chickens freeze to death?
Short answer. Yes. The main reason why they freeze to death might be that they’re not in good health or you didn’t take into consideration how cold it will get during winter. And so you didn’t prepare the chicken coop for that.
Having a chicken coop that can withstand a lot of cold is important because it won’t matter how good your water heater is if it’s too cold in the coop itself. The chickens won’t be able to survive the cold.
If you see that one of your chickens aren’t doing very well, then you should immediately remove them from the coop, but them in a crate and take them inside your house. Take extra care of it so it gets better. The warm surroundings of your garage or your room will make things better for that chicken.
If it snows a lot where you live, and you are just thinking about making changes to your coop to make it “winter-proof”, now is not the time for it. Best thing to do would be to improvise it by covering the big open areas with plastic and making sure that the plastic doesn’t fly away.
You still want to keep things a bit open so there’s fresh air coming in. But since this will be really cold air, the less that comes in the better. For now, the coop will be warm enough because chickens are really good at keeping their bodies warm. Especially with their double feathers.