DIY Water Thawer.
Keep Your Chicken’s Water Thawed this Winter!


Last year was my first winter with backyard chickens.  Now, my chickens are illegal so I don’t know if it makes them any different than legal chickens or not, but these things just couldn’t get enough drinking in.

You’d think being illegal, and kind of on the down low, they’d want to abide by all the rules.  Fly under the radar and all that.  But no, all they wanted to do was drink and they were LOUD about their desires.

Every time I turned around one of them was screaming that they wanted a drink.  Straight up.  No ice.

Which in the middle of winter in Canada is a difficult thing to serve.  Ice kindda comes naturally to us.

Every morning I’d have to go outside and replace their frozen water.   Every morning I cursed about this to the chickens, the neighbours, the fella and some of my more sympathetic indoor plants.

Then someone, somewhere mentioned something that sparked an idea.  I can’t remember who it was or what they said, but I thank them because  now I have water for my chickens that never freezes and always stays in it’s original liquid form.

FOR FREE! There was absolutely NO cost at all to this homemade water thawer.

Just take a look at this snappy, 30 second video to see the breaking news about how you can do it too.



You can buy heated chicken waterers but they aren’t cheap. Plus it’s another thing to have to store. When you live in a house built in an era where closets weren’t actually invented yet, storage is a high priority.
Up until World War 2 the only thing the gays had to come out of was the root cellar. It was a difficult time.

The only precautions you have to take are making sure the lights and the extension cord you use, are specifically for outdoor use.
Also, don’t use a heated base like this with a plastic waterer. Only the galvanized steel type.

Now fly, be free of the shackles of ice this winter.

Your chickens, neighbours and indoor plants will thank you for it.


  1. Suesan says:

    Great idea. My husband just made a heated, automatic refilling water bucket for the chickens. It’s plugged into a thermostatic outlet that turns on when it gets to 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat lamp in their coop is also plugged in there. We are just trying to figure out how to keep the hose to the bucket from freezing. It’s our first winter with chickens so we’ll see how it goes.

  2. Jake says:

    Can I ask a ????. what is a chickens waddle, I know I could ‘google’ it but your answer will be funnier I sure.

    • Karen says:

      Oop. It’s actually a wattle, not a waddle. It’s the wiggly thing that that grows under their beak. It’s what their Auntie Chickens grab and say “ohhhhh you’re such a cute chicken! Just look at that big fat wattle!”. ~ karen

  3. Amy in StL says:

    My parents always had an outdoor dog and my dad (tinkerer of all things) made a waterer for the dog. His was a similar idea but he used a regular incandescent lightbulb and put it under an old metal dishpan on on the ground with a galvanized pan (like the type that you caught the used oil in when you changed your oil) on top. Then he put mulch all around the lower pan. Then he had to make a second one for the songbirds. (He was an old softie.)

  4. Auntiepatch says:


  5. Nicola says:

    Genius! Thanks!

  6. Shana says:

    I need to see how I can do this for my rabbit hutches. We have to change their water 2 or more times a day here in Montana. In the summer I put frozen water bottles in their cages to help keep them cool.

  7. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    This is a great idea for anyone with outside animals!!

  8. Melissa says:

    oh, and I’ve also heard of people putting Christmas lights around their raised beds to prevent frost damage. Might not work in dead-of-Canada winter, but to perhaps extend the season a bit.

  9. Melissa says:

    the root cellar. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    that just made me laugh so much!

    I’m always kinda impressed that people made do with so little clothes that they didn’t need closets. It makes me think of the “Little House” Books (do you have those in Canada?), how they had their “good dress” and their “chore dress”, which hung on a hook. How easy it must have been to get dressed in the morning!

    • Karen says:

      Melissa – LOL, you must be new around here! I kind of have an obsession with the Little House series, and in fact a relative of Laura Ingalls (whose name is Laura Ingalls Gunn) occasionally comments on my site. :) ~ karen!

    • Michelle says:

      I love Little House too, I’m actually kind of “lazy” in picking what to wear on my daughter on Sunday’s so I just went with a “sunday outfit” ;) easy. (Although, I watched the show). Karen, would an eves trough heating cable be more expensive to run, or possibly dangerous as well?

      • Karen says:

        The little twinkle lights hardly use any power at all I expect the trough heating cable would use more. Plus it’d be a lot bigger I suspect. But … use whatever you have! ~ karen

  10. Allison says:

    Brilliant idea.

    I know that there is often a little slip of paper in x-mas lights that warns of lead and recommends handling them with gloves. I’ve always wondered about that. But with your setup I assume there is no direct contact with lights and chickens. Although if there is a cord out of the back I’d probably cover it with something if chickens are the kind of animal to nibble or something on it. Because I’m that paranoid. No experience with chicken behavior but I’ve had a dog or three that would lick anything around food or water containers. Do chickens even have tongues? :)

  11. Leslie says:

    Thanks, Karen! You’re the best! It’s my first year with chickens, so of course I worry about all of this stuff and am always looking for (affordable) solutions.

  12. Ellen says:

    Wow!!! my dog & the wild creatures in my yard will bless you all winter. Monster Dog loves being outside, but I think eating snow (even white snow) won’t give her enough water. Thank you so much…

  13. ruth says:

    hmmmm. I may try a version of this to keep my palm tree warm this winter.

  14. Spokangela says:

    The root cellar!! HA!

  15. Lisa says:

    You must mean the regular lights, not the energy saving LED lights, right?

    Because my LED lights don’t even get warm to the touch. I’ve been checking because the lights are running through a flower bed mulched with dry leaves and I was afraid there would be a fire.

    • Karen says:

      Lisa – Yes. The old fashioned mini lights. They just get warm enough to keep the water thawed, especially when the waterer is metal because it conducts the heat well. ~ karen!

  16. AmieM says:

    When I read the title this morning, I thought you said “Keep Your Children’s Water Thawed This Winter!” And I didn’t think much of it.

  17. Brie says:

    This is exactly the post I needed! My husband and I were just discussing how to keep the chicken’s water from freezing! It has already begun here in Ohio! Thanks Karen! Oh, and did I miss the post naming the winners of the great Christmas giveaway?

  18. Nan Tee says:

    Wow, that is truly genius! Could the lights be rainbow-colored (as the daughter says) or could they be white? Almost like Christmas deco for the chicks. :)

    • Karen says:

      Nan – Last year I used white, this year I’m using “rainbow”. I believe they give off the same amount of heat. And if it doesn’t keep the water thawed, just change to a larger string of lights. From say 25 to 50 or 100. ~ karen!

  19. Sandy says:


    This is the best idea ever!! My winter problem solved. You saved me from spending money on an expensive waterer. Even my husband was impressed. Thank you.

  20. Cindy Marlow says:

    I had no idea those little lights put off so much heat! I hope people heed the warning, “making sure the lights and the extension cord you use, are specifically for outdoor use” and nobody (especially the chickens) gets a shock. Great idea. Makes me wish I hadn’t invested in my expensive heated bird waterer.

  21. christine says:

    If you were Martha there would be some hole drilling and light sparkles coming through.Just saying.You are still a genius and way funnier than that ex-con.

  22. Mary Werner says:

    Wonderful and it got me thinking, I could wrap our white Christmas lights on a fireplace screen that is wired around our porch rails to keep the few potted plants safe during the infrequent freezes we get here in Florida. Beats moving the plants into the garage or house and could also work for the tomato plants in the garden. YOU ARE A WEALTH OF IDEAS to make our life easier. The outside cats will love it also!

  23. Alixandra Key Bouchard says:

    The video isn’t working for me… It’s still a mystery

  24. arlene says:

    So Karen –I take it there is no heat in your hen house… no little heat lamp for sub-sub zero nights.. and if not.. how cold do you think it gets inside – while they are roosting at night? I realize that they generate some chicky heat just by being alive and trying to stay warm – What is the conventional wisdom on this question?

    • Karen says:

      Arlene – Both my run and roosting area have a heat lamp. But it definitely isn’t enough to keep their water from freezing. This particular breed of chicken, a Rhode Island Red Cross is much more comfortable in the cold than the heat of summer, so they’re fine all winter long. If it gets really cold you can put vaseline on their combs and waddles to prevent frostbite. A lot of people don’t even use heat lamps, but it makes me feel better. They do crowd together to sleep when it’s really cold. ~ karen!

    • Edith says:

      Feathers and down keep them warm. They are virtually immune to cold. Animals are not humans that need blankies…..LOL

    • Gayle says:

      Also, feed your chicks cracked corn along with their regular feed. The cracked corn makes them warmer.

  25. Brenda Watts says:

    This is great Karen, I am going to pass it on to the caretakers of the feral cat colonies here. It is always hard to keep water available for the cats..something made like this might work for them..funds are always hard to come by to buy heated waterers…free is good

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