The first winter here at Wild Heaven Farms was pretty mild for us and the freezing water bowls weren’t that big of an issue. We did only have the 2 coops that we were maintaining at that time.
The next two winters were horribly cold! We broke records for so many days with the coldest temperatures in a row. We had also grown each year so being able to keep the chickens in water was quite a challenge.
We are always learning as we go, as many people who have started a farmstead do. The first really cold year we ran an extension cord out of the barn and plugged in 2 of the heated dog water bowls as shown below.
We used this method in 2 coops that were side by side. The mistake I made with these was putting them at the backside of the coop and not right by the access door. One of the coops that this heated water bowl was in I had to crunch down to get all the way to the back to clean the bowl out. If you’ve got an angry rooster in a small space, LOOK OUT! (Especially if you can’t stand all the way up) Lesson learned!! The next year, we used these inside the barn with our laying flock.
They work perfectly for a small flock. Our birds really enjoyed having warm water all winter, so much so that they emptied it regularly. I had to check it more than 2x a day on most days to make sure it wasn’t heating up without water in it to keep unfrozen.
So without these in our outside breeder coops anymore, I had to come up with some easier way to make sure everyone had access to clean fresh water every day.
This is the part where if I could, I would have confetti falling out of the ceiling, lights flashing, sirens going off and a big group of cheerleaders saying Give me a F…give me an O…give me a R…give me a T…E…X…what does that spell?
FORTEX bowls are my answer to having animals outside in the cold weather. I know, I know it doesn’t keep water from freezing solid, but it is the easiest bowl I have ever had to turn over and stomp on it to release the whole bowl of ice. It’s a rubbery feeling material that won’t crack or break like some of the plastic bowls we had tried in the past. (We had to stop eating tubs of ice cream when we found out that for water bowls, they only last through one freeze before they break up in shards of glass all over the coop. (OK maybe it doesn’t break into glass, but you get the idea)
Amazon has some great deals on these Fortex bowls right now, you can get a 2 gallon Fortex Bowl for under $11 with shipping! Now that is something to cheer about. This size bowl will not tip over and spill water all over your chicken’s feet. I cannot guarantee that on some days they will use it as a foot soak, especially in the summer months. My golden comets will ofter perch on it while drinking and it is wide enough to hold the weight of them without tipping.
On the really cold days when I know that the water is going to freeze soon anyway, I only add a bit of water and I place a piece of 2×4 or a brick under one side to have all the water on one side of the bowl making a small amount of water deeper in the bowl so they can get their beaks all the way into it.
If you have a smaller flock, you can benefit from the Fortex 1 gallon water bowl I found. I found them for under $10 shipped right to your door. I use a lot of this size as well. They also make awesome feed bowls if you feed a fermented feed like I do.
At Wild Heaven Farms, we have found that as long as you feed a good mix of grains and seeds and keep the ladies in plenty of fresh clean water, they will lay eggs all winter long. It may not be as many eggs as when the days are long, but you will get your fair share of eggs from them as long as they are not going through a molt period.
I’ve shown you 2 great methods for battling the cold weather and making sure your chickens always have fresh water. One was the electric dog water bowl but we know this can’t work for everyone or every circumstance. The second was the FORTEX bowls, whether you go to Amazon from this page and buy one or if you pick one up at your local farm store, you will be glad you did!
Do you have some tips for dealing with freezing water in your coop? Let us know in the comments below.