Alternate method to prevent water freezing.

By R2elk · Sep 19, 2017 · ·
  1. R2elk
    If you have ground for your coop floor or in your run you can use this method to prevent water from freezing without the use of electricity.

    Use a bucket that is appropriately sized for your flock although a bigger bucket retains heat better than a small bucket. I use either a 3 or 5 gallon flat back tapered bucket. The use of a tapered bucket makes it easier to remove the bucket from the hole for cleaning or adding more manure to the hole.

    5 gallon flat back tapered bucket

    Dig a hole that is 6" - 8" deeper and at least 9" wider in diameter than the bucket.

    Illustration of size of hole compared to size of bucket

    Put enough fresh manure (not composted) in the bottom of the hole so that the top of the bucket will sit 2" to 4" above the ground level.

    Set the bucket in the hole and finish filling the hole with fresh manure.

    Fill the bucket with water before tamping the manure in place.

    Overflow the bucket to add water to the manure to get it started composting.

    As the manure composts, it will release heat and keep the water from freezing.

    If you live in an area where the temperature does not get below zero degrees F., your water should never freeze. After the manure has composted, it will need to be replaced. I normally replace the manure annually.

    I prefer to use horse manure but since I no longer have a horse, I use the chicken droppings that I collect from under their roosts.

    At -20°F I usually get a very thin layer of ice that the poultry have no trouble pecking through to get at the water. At -30°F I may have 1/2" to 1" of ice that I remove first thing in the morning and the water in the bucket stays open until it freezes the next morning.

    As the manure composts and compacts, I pull the bucket out and add additional fresh manure to get the top of the bucket back up to where it was when I started. The whole procedure needs to be repeated annually. Once the manure is done composting, it no longer creates heat.

    For those that do not have a ground floor, you could build an insulated box around a bucket and fill it with manure.

    Good luck.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. AlderCreekFarms
    "Great Idea!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Aug 26, 2018
    If you made this up, way to think outside the box! Thanks for sharing the idea regardless!:clap:thumbsup
    R2elk likes this.
    1. R2elk
      Thank you. Yes, I made it up based on the premise of the hot beds we used to use to give plants an early start for the garden.
  2. rjohns39
    "Great way to keep water from freezing"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Aug 5, 2018
    I reference this article frequently when others are struggling to keep water unfrozen.
    R2elk likes this.
  3. ronott1
    "Use ground heat for water"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 25, 2018
    Very good article about using ground heat to keep water from freezing in a water bucket for the flock.

    An update after next winter to let us know how it worked would be nice
    R2elk likes this.
    1. R2elk
      I have been using this method for over 20 years. At temperatures down to 0°F, there is no ice that forms in the bucket. At temperatures down to -20°F, an ice layer up to 3/8" can form overnight. I remove the ice layer the first thing in the morning and the water stays open for the remainder of the day. At temperatures down to -30°F, the ice layer can get as thick as 3/4" to 1" thick overnight. Again, removing the ice layer in the morning allows the water to stay open for the rest of the day.


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  1. 3riverschick
    What a great idea!!!!
      R2elk likes this.
  2. pnwoldie
    What keeps the chickens from scratching crud into the water? How often do you change the water, do you take the bucket out to do that?
      R2elk likes this.
    1. R2elk
      The top of the bucket being up to 4" above the ground level helps prevent dirt being kicked into the bucket. I have sand for the floor in my coop and do not add any bedding which makes it less likely for anything to be kicked or scratched into the bucket.

      I typically top the bucket off daily and normally pull the bucket and rinse it out before refilling with fresh water on a weekly basis.
      Crooked Chicken and DwayneNLiz like this.
  3. N F C
    Cool idea Bob, thanks for sharing your method!
      R2elk likes this.
  4. memphis
      R2elk likes this.
  5. Molpet
    great idea.. shame I always seem to have chicks in the winter that would take a dip LOL
      R2elk and KikisGirls like this.
    1. R2elk
      You are correct that this method is for adult poultry. A person could make a cover that only allowed a small portion to be open to access thus limiting the likelihood that a chick could fall in. Building a cover like that would also improve the ability to keep the water from freezing.
      memphis, KikisGirls and Molpet like this.
  6. KikisGirls
    Great idea! Thanks for sharing!
      R2elk likes this.

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