Winter Water SOLVED!


11 Years
Sep 27, 2008
North Idaho
First some background. My experiences with frozen founts go back to when I was in high school, and I worked for dog kennel that kept all kinds of birds for dog training purposes. Every night when we were expecting sub-freezing temps I'd have to go out and pull all the founts, empty them, and then stack them in the office. In the morning I'd have to reverse that. Always seemed like a HUGE pain in the butt.

So fast forward about 10 years ago when we started keeping chickens I built this


With a 100 watt light bulb inside this worked pretty well as a heated base. But there were a couple problems. First and most importantly there was no thermostatic control, so it was on and burning 100 watts 24/7. Second it turned out that the area underneath the base made for some apparently awesome mouse housing.

So in an attempt to resolve these short comings I installed a heat lamp directly over my water, and regulated it with a thermostat mounted to the wall. Worked pretty well, but there's still some problems. First of all heating the water indirectly with a heat lamp is inefficient to say the least, secondly in order to trigger the thermostat off the entire coop has to come up over the thermostats set point. In other words I was heating the whole coop in an attempt to keep the water liquid.

I stumbled on a website where a guy was using one of these glued to the bottom of a pan with high temperature ATV sealant:

Now we're on to something. Directly heating the water via the bottom of the fount worked VERY VERY well. Too well actually. I was watching most of my water in the fount evaporate off in less than a week so obviously I'm closer but what I really need is some sort of thermostat that has a submersible remote probe with a fairly low temperature range. I dug, and dug, and dug through the internet looking for a solution in amongst the folks that keep reptiles (shudder), and the folks the keep aquariums.

I finally found this:

Ohhhh yeah, as they say this is the bee's knees. Friday night/Saturday morning we got down to about -15f outside, interior coop temps were about 8 degrees all night long, and the water in my fount was still a liquid. I've been watching the water temps pretty closely all weekend long and they've been hovering right around 70 degrees with this thermostat set at it's absolute lowest setting. If I could set it lower say down to as low as about 40f I'd be even happier, but right now I can't complain about an additional 30 degrees of water temp. Still beats everything else I've tried.
My one concern with the water being that hot is the chickens may not drink as much. Here in FL our waterers can get hot in summer weather. The water was warm to the touch. I noticed my girls were not drinking as much and egg production dropped. I began putting ice in them to get the temp down and they began drinking alot more and egg production came back so you might want to monitor in case yours are as picky.
Oddly enough my water temps are almost exactly the same as they were with the 100 watt light bulb in the home made base, but this solution isn't pulling 100 watts 24/7.
You figure out how to drill a hole in a vacuum fount, and then seal it so it's doesn't pull air and leak all over, and I'm all ears
I solved my freezing water problem really cheap. I went online and ordered a 1 gallon heated water bowl for dogs. $9.95. Yes' it's open and the chickens get shavings in the water, but I change their water every evening and never had it freeze up yet even when it was 20 below in January. It is electric, so you will need power in your coop.
Sorry if I had to intervene and change water out every day it'd be far easier for me to just dump the ice and refill every morning with hot water. Been there done that. Not what I'm interested in.

Now have you measured your power usage on that dog bowl? Just curious as to it's power usage.
I decided to be super-clever and filled my heated dog-bowl with sand, so the 1 gallon fount sits just below the lip of the dog bowl on a lovely silica heat-sink.

It works like a charm!! If the power goes out, it even stays warm overnight enough to keep it thawed for some hours.

$15 and worth every penny.

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