Winter planning


In the Brooder
Apr 17, 2019
I live in central Illinois. It gets pretty cold here. We do not have electricity in our coop. What do others do about water and providing heat support? Planning ahead. TIA
Water doesn’t freeze instantly. I just fill water once on the morning and swap out frozen water for thawed water once in the afternoon. One bowl goes In the house to melt while the other is in the run. I also like to use rubber livestock bowls because they don’t crack/shatter in the cold and I can usually just bang out the ice chunk.
Having electricity is so helpful out there, especially in winter! A heavy duty electric cord will work, at least for your first year with chickens, if and when you get tired of managing without.
The black rubber bowls, with water taken out there at least twice daily, will work for watering the birds. They should have fresh unfrozen water when they get up at dawn, and late in the afternoon, at least.
Egg production will go way down, and supplemental lighting in the morning to provide 14 to 16 hours of light daily, makes a big difference in eggs produced per day.
Don't forget that you will need to carry water to them from the house unless you have an all weather hydrant out at the coop too.
After years of chicken keeping, and three coop rebuilds, we do have electricity, so heated waterers, lighting, and that all weather hydrant right nearby. So much better!
I do not have electricity in my coop

But you could probably add it.

My coop was built without any electrical service but I have to run fans most of the day most of the summer. I was doing it with a string of heavy duty extension cords but I had an electrician for something else and he told me I was using much more electricity through the extension cords than I would through an outdoor rated box.

He put a conduit in a shallow trench and fixed me up. And it wasn't all that expensive. Plus it's safer.

You might do it someday. Why not now? It's helpful for my fans and for supplemental lighting. If I had an automatic pop door (I don't have any) it would facilitate that. I can plug in a Mama Heating pad if I brood chicks out where the established flock gets used to them before I release them. It's useful, is what I'm sayin'...

Give it a thought.
We had an electrician check the wiring we'd already done (all in conduit) and bring everything up to code, with a buried line to the coop. It wasn't wildly expensive, and it's SAFE, and makes out farm insurance company happier too.
I jsut have extra set of rubber dishes I put out and change out as needed for water, other option is a plastic bucket with nipples and a stock tank heater designed for plastic buckets as the base one and pet bowls don't work under -20 temps. Idon't have an added heat sorce or lighting for them and they do fine, I do have one corner I add some straw for them if they for some strange reason are getting a draft on the roost, and do deep litte in the coop during the winter and they've done fine in -30 to -50 with wind chill factor. though the bigger comb ones I do put vaseline on combs and wattles to prevent frost bite
I live in central Illinois. It gets pretty cold here. We do not have electricity in our coop. What do others do about water and providing heat support? Planning ahead. TIA

You shouldn’t need to provide heat support. But you do need to provide a draft free coop that is well ventilated. So, having enough upper vents to allow the excess moisture from breathing and pooping chickens to escape, yet not have them in a draft. Some people get heavy plastic to shield the run from the winter winds, attaching it to a fence, for example. If you have any sort of south exposure, placing the black rubber bowls in the sun may aid in them taking longer to freeze.

FWIW, I have electric in my coop. We can thank the mice that chewed through barn wiring for that we tacked on the coop wiring to that project since it’s right behind the barn. Last year we had a double secured heat lamp over the middle of the roosts, for when temps dropped below 15F (attached to programmable thermostat). The lamp didn’t turn on a lot as the coop was always warmer than outside, but when it did, the birds never huddled under it... even during the nasty polar vortex last year with -18F temps (-36F windchill). So, keeping the water thawed is going to be that bigger concern for you.

A non electric and no-risk heater is a very old idea. Get your bucket/container you plan to use. Dig a hole wider and much deeper than the bucket. Fill with fresh manure, nestle the bottom 1/3 of bucket into the manure, fill in with with some dirt. Now there will be heat generated by the decomposing manure all winter. This idea was also employed long ago in “hot frames” for early season gardening or making veggie starts. The manure layer went under the dirt layer where the seeds went, then side walls and glass top to protect from wind and keep in warmth from the decomposing manure. Not a great idea for suburbia perhaps.

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