We are in for a big storm here in the northeast, and this is my first winter with chickens. I've been struggling to keep unfrozen water for them for over a week now, having to go out there at least 3 times during the day to replace the water because it is freezing within 2 hours during the day. We have a blizzard arriving tonight, with 8-12 inches and blizzard conditions all day tomorrow. I got a gallon gravity waterer and a bigger rubber bowl to set it in to keep water in the coop for the storm, and I will put the feed in there too (I have 50 square feet inside the coop for 5 hens). I normally leave the door open all the time (they have a secure, spacious run), but I think I am going to close them in the coop tonight and keep them in there during the storm.
We have no heat source in the coop, but I was wondering.....do you think it's safe or a good idea to heat a few rocks in the oven, cover them with foil, and lay them inside the coop, maybe in a towel, to keep it a little warmer in there? Or maybe lay them around the waterer to keep it from freezing? We did that once when we went tailgating to keep our food warm, and I'm wondering how it would work during the storm.
Also, someone suggested I put a few drops of salted water in the waterer to keep it from freezing, but this seems like a bad idea to me.....can't that make them sick?