Liquid water in winter?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Ohhhdear, Aug 19, 2010.

  1. Ohhhdear

    Ohhhdear Songster

    Aug 15, 2010
    West Michigan
    Not something I would normally think about when it's 90 degrees in Michigan in the summer, but I was at TSC yesterday talking to the guy who knows more about chickens there than anyone else. He said last winter his ISA Brown's combs all froze off and he just kindof shrugged it off. He said they got wet from the waterer and there wasn't anything he could do about it. I've talked to several other chicken owners here and they all just dismiss combs freezing off as normal and to expect it. Yikes!

    Then I read an old OLD Mother Earth News article that said to not give chickens liquid water if you have cold snowy winters, that they'll get enough water eating snow.
    Even if I use a water heater, the liquid water will still freeze on their combs. I've had frostbite... it hurts. I'd hate to see their combs all freeze off if there's a simpler way.

    Comments? Suggestions?
  2. scarter

    scarter Songster

    Aug 22, 2008
    Roberts, WI
    I would never withhold water from my birds and expect them to eat the snow for liquid personally. You can rub some vaseline on them a few times a day to help if you want. Try to get small combed birds.
  3. JMPE

    JMPE Songster

    Aug 1, 2009
    Western Wisconsin
    I use a bucket with nipple waterers. In the winter I throw in a bird bath heater (do birds really take baths when a heater is needed?). It works great. No wet combs.
  4. wpalmisano

    wpalmisano Songster

    Aug 11, 2010
    I don't know about eating snow, this could cause hypothermia. I think you could probably cut back on the amount of water, but I know eating snow drops their internal body temperature.
  5. jeb251

    jeb251 Songster

    Mar 24, 2009
    Fort Wayne
    I have just 3 words for you, nipples nipples nipples
  6. emys

    emys Songster

    Nov 19, 2008
    I just give my birds a small pail of warm water every morning when they go outside in the run and if it's really cold switch it with another pail of warm water late afternoon. They drink lots while its warm, then ignore it and it freezes over. I pick up the pail when I lock the door at night and bring it back in the house to defrost. Just create a little wind free area in the run and they will go there for warm water no matter how cold it is.

    The birds stay hydrated this way and with no warm water in the coop, there is no unwanted and dangerous humidity in the coop and no frost bite.

    Birds don't dip their combs when they drink, their wattles maybe but, not their combs. Comb loss is most likely to occur when the animals go from moist heated areas into cold dry areas very quickly. I didn't heat my coop last year and had no problems with frost bite despite some bitter cold temps. (The year before last, I had tried a heated water bowl in the coop and wound up with too much moisture with not enough ventilation and all my poor hens had frostbite.)
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  7. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I'm gonna' have to find that article, because that's rubbish!! I wouldn't expect my chickens to eat snow for hydration any more than I would expect my dogs or my son to. Mammals and birds bodies are similar enough to experience the effects of lowered body temperature. You'd have to eat a LOT of snow to compare to the same amount of liquid H2O...not good.
    Like you, I would be horrified if one of my chickens ended up with frostbite or part of a comb missing; it wouldn't be a mere shoulder shrug from me. My girls were pretty wimpy about the cold last year, but nobody ended up with frozen combs, and some of them have very prominant combs/wattles... As someone else said, if you're concerned, coat the combs in vasc., but don't withhold fresh water.
  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I use a black rubber bowl in the winter. When it is frozen in the morning, I turn it over and stomp the ice out and refill it. If it is in the sun, it stays thawed at pretty cold temperatures, at least down to 20*F. Just for kicks, here is my set-up. It was 8*F when I took this picture. None of mine had frostbite of the wattles. Mine don't mind the cold but they do not like wind or snow.

  9. lengel

    lengel Songster

    Apr 30, 2008
    I have seen my birds eating snow but don't rely on it. I use stainless steel buckets that I hang from the insides of the tractors. The water can freeze pretty quickly so I pour hot water on top. It melts the water around the edges and the birds drink from there. I do this a few times a day when it's really cold. It works really well and I haven't had a bird with a frozen comb yet.
  10. OregonChickenGal

    OregonChickenGal Songster

    Jul 26, 2010
    Central Oregon
    My chickens have never had frozen combs either. It gets below zero here in the winter. I wouldn't rely to much on some feed store employees. Some act as though they know everything, but they really don't know noth'n. [​IMG]

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