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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    Dillychick, CanadaEh, Aceoky and 10 others like this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. Brahmachicken240
    "Great information, will try this out!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Feb 8, 2019
    R2elk likes this.
  2. Shadrach
    "Natural and it works."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Nov 12, 2018
    And I thought I was the only person that did this.:)
    Here it gets quite warm and I have to remember to wet the composting soil once in a while but otherwise the system works fine.
    R2elk likes this.
  3. 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.


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  1. CanadaEh
    Any issues with litter being scratched into the bucket? Also any way to make it less deep to prevent chickens accidentally stepping into it and getting soaking wet or drowning? Would it work as to composting and heating if I used 6.5 gal for manure with a shallow dish on top of it that would be may be 5" above the litter level? We have raised floor in the coop filled with about 1 ft of deep litter.
      R2elk likes this.
    1. R2elk
      Since I don't use any litter, there is none to get scratched into the bucket. The only thing that really ends up in the bucket are feathers which are easily skimmed off.

      I use a 5 gallon flat bucket for my convenience but I also have a 2 gallon flat bucket that I use in the same manner for a small pen of chickens in late winter. It works fine.

      Even with the 5 gallon bucket, I have seen the rare case of when an adult full size chicken missteps and gets into the bucket and it usually takes less than a second for the chicken to get back out.

      Unless the chicken went in head first and something prevented it from getting its head above the water, it isn't going to drown. Chickens fall into the prey category. Prey animals go into shock and die very quickly. The other thing that can happen is that hypothermia can happen and cause a quick death.

      I have been doing this for over thirty years and the only losses to the water bucket have been from little ones (chicks or poults). I now only use this for adults and have never had any losses of the adults. I used this method even with bantams when I first started it and never lost any to the water bucket.

      Your thought to just set a shallow dish on top is not likely to work unless your winter temperatures don't get much lower than 20°F because the higher above the ground level your container is, the bigger is the effect of the air temperature on the water.
  2. BorealRanch
    If you keep adding fresh stuff to it and turning it would it keep heating continuously?
      R2elk likes this.
    1. R2elk
      I think it is easier to just replace the manure. I do an annual replacement where I dig out the previous year's manure (now well composted) and replace it with fresh manure.
  3. 3riverschick
    What a great idea!!!!
      R2elk likes this.
  4. 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.
  5. N F C
    Cool idea Bob, thanks for sharing your method!
      R2elk likes this.
  6. memphis
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  7. 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.
      CanadaEh, TCCL, memphis and 2 others like this.
    2. CanadaEh
      cover is a great idea - that should also greatly reduce amount of bedding and poop falling into the water
      R2elk likes this.
  8. Texas Kiki
    Great idea! Thanks for sharing!
      R2elk likes this.

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