Chickens, especially the winter-hardy breeds, acclimatize to cold weather reasonably quick. Going several hours without water is not such a big deal for them because they’re pretty resilient. If their water gets slightly iced over, they’ll peck through the top and get their fill on the rocks.
They’ll be completely fine if you can bring them fresh water every 6 hours or so. But what if you have to be away longer? Could you trust your chickens to survive without a reliable source of drinkable water? Your chickens will cope a lot better with an automatic heated chicken waterer to keep water flowing until your next visit to the coop.
We’ve checked what’s out there and found tons of options available. Cutting through the maze, we’ve come up with this guide to help you find the best heated chicken waterer for you.
First off, we will lay out what this guide does and does not include.
We will cover heated chicken waterers that use electricity directly from an outlet. This excludes solar and battery-powered heaters, as well as non-electric heaters.
We will not touch on DIY types of heated waterers, such as those using aquarium water heater or submersible heater, heated tape, and stock tank de-icers. We could perhaps experiment with those options in the future to see if they are safe and effective.
For now, we have only placed the spotlight on products that you can able to use right out of the box; no major fiddling needed.
With that out of the way, we may now discuss some factors that will help you pick the electrically heated chicken waterer that works best for you and your flock:
1. Type of heated waterer product
There are at least three types of heated chicken waterers: chicken waterers with built-in heaters, heated bases for chicken waterers, and heated chicken water bowls. We’ll differentiate more between them as we move along.
2. Type of water container and dispenser
The main types of water container and dispenser for chickens are open pans, gravity style, and automatic waterers.
- We’re not so keen on open pans or dish-type waterers for the simple reason that they don’t keep water clean for very long. Chickens leave dirt and dung inside them after drinking. They scratch the ground getting dirt into the water and roost on the pan whenever it pleases them.Anyway, if you happen to prefer this type over others, you can find ways to work around this shortcoming. Perhaps you can lift the dish off the ground to somehow discourage chickens from their undesirable drinking routines.
- Gravity-type waterers are an improvement on open pans. They consist mainly of a water jug that fills either from the top or bottom, a dish that attaches to the jug, and a heater which is either internal (built-in) or external (base).The circular dish is open, and water will still be exposed to dirt once dispensed. The advantage is that the supply of water inside the container is kept clean.
- Automatic waterers are our choice. Same as the gravity type, water is contained in a jug or bucket. The difference is in how it dispenses water, which is either with drip-catch nipples or automatic cups. This method is the most hygienic.A peck on the nipple releases water. It’s not a difficult technique for chickens to learn. Automatic water cups are also now an option – an innovation from the nipple valves. This system has gained the approval of chicken owners because it does not leave puddles on the ground.
3. Plastic or metal
Plastic heated chicken waterers are easy to clean, non-corrosive, cheap, and available in many shapes and designs. Most fountain-type waterers are made of plastic with an internal heating mechanism.
Galvanized metals are the traditional and most durable choice. Heating them usually requires external heated bases. One advantage of metal waterers is that they can be used across most heated bases, unlike the plastic versions which require a base designed specifically for them.
4. Hung or laid on the ground
You cannot hang all containers with handles. If your setup requires you to hang your chicken waterer, make sure that the product you choose is built for this.
5. Number of chickens in your coop
It will be easier to decide on the size of your waterer if you know how much water your flock needs per day. The best way to figure this out is to fill a container of known capacity and see how long it takes for your chickens to empty it.
Say you fill a half-gallon waterer. If it empties in 4 hours, then it’s safe to say that your flock consumes ½ gallon in 4 hours. Doing the math, that means 1 gallon in 8 hours or 3 gallons in 24 hours. Allow for splash and spill (like you didn’t know that already), and you get a ballpark number for the size and capacity of waterer you need.
Don’t assume right away that chickens drink less in winter. Chickens may even drink more water in winter than they do in summer, especially in areas with low humidity.
6. Water refilling frequency
How often in a day can you refill the water container? If there’s someone to replenish water every 12 hours, you may opt for half the size of what you calculated in the previous section. What’s important is that water is fresh every day, and the bowl you provide is large enough to satisfy the flock’s drinking needs.
Our Picks for the Top 5 Heated Chicken Waterers – Reviewed
We’ve picked products that fall under the three main types mentioned above. First are chicken waterers with a built-in heater. Basically, these are insulated water jugs made of plastic with an internal heating mechanism. The best designs are those that have a thermostat which turns the heater on or off at pre-designated temperatures. First on our list is Premier 1 Supplies’ Heated Poultry Nipple Waterer.
1. Premier Heated Poultry Nipple Waterer
This top fill heated chicken waterer is made from insulated plastic and holds 2.25 gallons of water. The lid is coned to discourage chickens from roosting. The handle is designed for handiness when filling up and positioning but not for hanging. Water is dispensed through three horizontal drip-catch nipples. Its 50-watt heater is thermostatically controlled to turn on at 40-deg F and off at 60-deg F.
There are three main features we loved about this heated waterer, though you will probably find even more.
- Its heater is tucked away safely, so the birds won’t have access to it. Plus, the jug is thickly insulated all around.
- It’s equipped with a smart thermostat. This helps assure you of a no-freeze water source – no more sleepless nights!
- The drip-catch nipple valves (insulated, of course) are great for keeping the water dirt-free.
You might be worried that your chickens won’t understand how to use the nipples. They tend to adapt as soon as you’ve figured it out yourself and shown them how water drips with a slight touch or peck.
To improve future versions, we suggest a screw-type lid to make the bucket more secure and spill-free. The 6-ft electrical cord is protected with coiled wire.
We’d like to compare our first item with a very similar heated water bucket from Farm Innovators – it features the same drip-style nipple.
2. Farm Innovators HB-60P Heated 2 gallon Poultry Drinker
These two waterers are more similar than you think. Both buckets have thermostatically-controlled heaters, no-drip, and no-freeze nipples, sturdy plastic build, thickly insulated walls, and a top-fillable design.
The difference is in the minor details. This bucket can be hung or placed on a stand. It has a 60-watt heater versus the other’s 50-watt heater. This means that Premier’s model will be cheaper in terms of electricity cost. Unlike Premier’s wrapped cord, this has no coiled wire to provide extra protection. The top of the lid tends toward going flat. For this, we deduct one point as it makes for a nice perch. Trust chickens to get the idea.
Overall, this heated chicken water bucket can keep the water flowing and clean, even at -10-deg F, and that’s what’s important.
Next is another plastic, heated chicken water container, but this one’s distinct from the first two in how it dispenses water.
3. K&H Pet Products Thermo-Poultry Waterer
The sleek design of this waterer’s reservoir allows it to hold 2.5 gallons of water, discourages hens to roost on its top, and provides a nifty handle all at the same time. The heater is built into the base, consumes 60 watts per hour, and is controlled by a thermostat. It can keep the temperature above freezing and ensure free-flowing water for your fowls.
You’ll have to fill this waterer from the bottom, which may seem like a pain compared with how easy it is to fill the first two products. Water dispenses into an open ring that goes around the circumference of the base. We’ve belabored enough about open-type dispensing, yet some situations still call for it: chicks often find nipples difficult; some chickens don’t find them intuitive; and if your flock includes ducks (believe us, this is quite common) nipple valves are a no-go.
While this waterer isn’t ideal for keeping the water free from debris, it has a water filter ring that makes cleaning fast. It involves lifting the ring and throwing out the dirty water – can’t get simpler than that. The heater works great, and there are no freezing issues whatsoever.
Plastics rule when it comes to versatility in design, but metals will always be an option. Metal bases can be used with steel, aluminum, and other metal waterers. The metal heating base and waterer are usually bought separately. This often accounts for their popularity among chicken raisers.
When and if the waterer becomes unusable, you’ll only need to buy the waterer. The base can be used with other buckets. It can also be stashed away during warm weather to lessen wear and tear. Needless to say, metals are hardier than plastics. All things considered, this option very cost effective.
Below is a metal heating base from Harris Farms followed by a metal waterer from the same maker. We take them together as number 4 on our list, although they can be matched with other brands of compatible specs.
4. Harris Farm’s Heated Poultry Drinker Base
Harris Farm’s Heated Poultry Drinker Base is a 125-watt, thermostatically-controlled, heated chicken waterer base where you can set your galvanized metal or aluminum chicken fountains. It works well with either the 2-gallon or 5-gallon double-wall galvanized steel poultry waterer. Some people even use it with plastic waterers and find that it works well! This is very versatile for a heated metal base. Still, we don’t recommend using it with materials other than those for which it was designed.
It starts working at around 30-deg F and keeps water unfrozen at temperatures as low as -20-deg F. Be aware that the heater radiates heat inside the coop, which is both good and bad depending on how you look at it.
5. Harris Farms’ Double Wall Poultry Drinker
This heavy-duty fountain is available in two sizes. Both sizes sit well (literally) on the base. The smaller size (2 gallons) is easier to carry but if you have a large flock to hydrate, say 80 chickens, the larger size (5 gallons) will save you from repeated visits to the coop.
The handle is not designed for hanging, so don’t insist on disappointing yourself. Again, this waterer is designed to sit on the base or the ground when heating is not needed. It’s made of steel, so expect it to rust over time.
As we said, open dishes are not high on our list, but we can’t leave you without recommending at least one item for this type.
6. Farm Innovators Model D-19 1-1/4-Gallon Heated Water Bowl for Chickens, 60-Watt
If you’ve used heated dog drinking bowls before, then you’ll be familiar with this. It’s a square container that’s 12” x 12” along the sides and 4.8” deep. It has a 3-ft cord protected by coiled wire.
As heated chicken water dishes go, this one is quite large at 1.25-gal capacity, which is a good thing. The built-in 60-watt heater is thermostatically controlled like all of the options in this list. You may fashion an anti-perch wire guard over the dish to discourage chickens from roosting and pooping in the bowl. The wire guard will also be useful for preventing the waterer from tipping over.
Our top 5 picks were carefully chosen so that all 3 main types of heated chicken waterer are represented. For us, the deciding factors are:
- The heater’s ability to work smartly by using a thermostat
- The reservoir’s feature that keeps stored water clean
- The mechanism that ensures the cleanliness of dispensed water
- The ease of refilling
Cost, size, and ease of cleaning are important considerations as well. Ultimately, it will be your decision, but knowing considered these factors will help narrow down your choices.