Winter Chicken Care In The Mid-West


7 Years
Jul 29, 2012
Hello Fellow Chicken Farmers!
I was wondering about keeping my hens warm in the winter time here in the Mid-West, I know they can go into the below temperatures, but I want to know how to keep their water un-frozen, how long to keep the heat lamp on, where I can find a heat lamp timer, etc.
This is going to be my first winter with my hens, so it should be a good one!
Thanks So Much!



In the Brooder
7 Years
Sep 15, 2012
Aylesbury England
]We were having the same thoughts and were told to either take the water holder in at night and put back during the day as they don't need it when sleeping or to add glycerine to the water as this prevents freezing
My husband suggested adding alcohol but not sure on that lol
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Life is Good!

9 Years
Apr 14, 2011
suburbia Chicagoland
I agree - draft-free but well ventilated coop (so vents near the roof but not near roost bars). There is so much humidity in breathing and off-gassing of poo - that is what causes the most problems for chickens in winter. And a heat lamp only if you've got chicks under 2mo. Remember, bodies acclimate to whatever conditions they are used if you've acclimated your chickens to have heat, they'll get chilled outside in the run and/or if you loose power!

For the run, I did put up a wind-barrier on the north and west side of their run (a tarp). Seemed to help cut down the direct Canadian drafts we get here in Chicagoland.

As for water...Search on this site for 'cookie tin water heater'. (I think it's in the coop design section, but don't hold me to that....)

Last winter was a mild one, but we still had negative temps every now and then. I made 2 cookie-tin water heaters and NEVER had frozen water. I think I used a 12watt lightbulb inside it. This year, I'm going to see how low of a watt bulb I can go and still have un-frozen water. The waterer in the run would have the slightest film of ice on the coldest mornings, but the film was thin enough to be broken by my fingernail. The waterer in the coop would actually be warm enough to melt the snow on the compost bins!

Hope this helps!


Crossing the Road
11 Years
Sep 19, 2009
Holts Summit, Missouri
I am in central Missouri and during coldest part of winter the birds have access to liquid water for only about an hour during early morning about dawn. Most of their water needs are ingested then but they also pick at ice during balance of day. You can also slip in additional water by feeding with wet grain like oats or even sunflower seeds. Birds will also consume snow quite well. I avoid using any heat sources in coop setting as that raises fire risk.


Oct 14, 2020
Near Goldendale Washington
Hi, this is an absolutely ancient thread but I've got question... a friend suggested a few drops of Brandy in the chicken's water to slow down freezing... does anyone have any idea whether this would work and how many drops per gallon or quart it would take?

Sally PB

Premium Feather Member
Aug 7, 2020
Belding, MI
a friend suggested a few drops of Brandy in the chicken's water to slow down freezing... does anyone have any idea whether this would work and how many drops per gallon or quart it would take?

Chickens should never have alcohol. I don't know if a few drops would do anything to hurt them, but I don't think it would do enough to keep the water thawed, either. There are a lot of threads on BYC about watering in the winter.

They do not need water at night, so I bring my waterer inside at sundown when I lock them in. I take out fresh, warm-ish water every morning, and check it a few times during the day. I can take out warm water if I need to.

I am seriously considering buying a heated waterer. I figure if I do, then the winter will be warmer. If I don't, it'll be cold and blustery just to spite me. (Not a fan of winter. Sigh.)

Folly's place

9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
southern Michigan
Heated bases for waterers are wonderful!
Without electricity out there, the black rubber pans work well, as the ice can be knocked out and fresh water added two or three times daily.
Chickens drink when they get up in the morning, so fresh water first thing is important.
Here we have a light on 3am to 8am every morning, so the birds are up then, and I'm not. Their water is unfrozen because of the heated bases, so never a problem.

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
western South Dakota
Mine get unfrozen water once a day, and for those of you who heat your water, I hate to tell you what they really love... is the ice chips, I will be pouring warm water, and they will be devouring the ice chips.

With the black rubber bowls, I have two. One is frozen, I turn that one upside down. The black absorbs enough heat during the day, that the ice block will fall out by the next day. The second bowl, I fill. Unless you get bitter cold, with very cloudy days...then frozen solid, and you have to stomp. But here in SD, we get a lot of dang cold, but sunny days.

I have taken and used the advice above from Centrachid - soaked grains. Even if it is very cold, the grains can be pecked apart easily, not so with chicken feed. It will freeze in a pretty solid lump.

Mrs K

Folly's place

9 Years
Sep 13, 2011
southern Michigan
It's not as cold here as in SD, but it's cloudy a lot! Sunny days are special, not ordinary, and it makes a difference.
Having electricity at the coop is really a plus for us. This winter we are down to forty birds, so two heated waterers, and a black rubber bowl outside too when they are free ranging.
Having horses, who really do better with unfrozen water, we pay the winter electric bills, remembering that the total winter cost to heat those waterers is less than ONE impaction colic in one horse!
Chickens are cheap entertainment, compared to the other critters.

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