Winter weather brings freezing temperatures that threaten the health of your chickens. Chickens do well in cold weather when shelter is provided but frozen water leads to dehydration and illness. Heating the water in your coop is possible using several simple systems. Experiment with each until you find the one that works best in your coop.
Elevated Light Bulb
A simple light bulb is an inexpensive heat source for your water. The primary concern is preventing the bulb from sparking a fire in the bedding and burning down the coop. Never leave an exposed bulb in coop for this reason. Make a tray with bricks and set the bulb on the bricks. Set the water on the bricks and the bulb will heat the bottom. You can also manipulate a tin pan and set the bulb in the pan. However, bricks provide more support for the weight of the water.
Insulation is sufficient for moderate climates that experience only occasional freezing conditions. Foil style insulation is thin and easy to wrap around the water container. Do not use a foam or bubble style insulator because the chickens will peck the material and make a mess. Wrap the insulation around the heater and wrap tape around the insulation for security. Add a second layer of painters' plastic for extra protection and to prevent the chickens from damaging the insulation.
Several commercial heaters are available for chicken water. Metal heating bases are common and easy to add or subtract from your current waterer. You can also find waterers with a built-in heating element. The integrated systems are nice but any failures in the heating element are difficult to fix. Commercial heaters are available through feed and livestock supply stores.
Bird Bath Heaters
Bird bath heaters are flat heating elements specifically designed for water sources. You can build a brick base that matches the light bulb concept or use a pie tin to house the heater. Place the heater as close to the bottom of the water container as possible. Do not use any plastic water containers because the element will melt the material.
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Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.