Soaking feed in winter, no hot water in barn

Looking for an idea to simplify things, I don’t have hot water in the barn yet and I have a senior gelding who must have his feed soaked. Wasn’t an issue using cold water in the summer, it would soak within 10 minutes, but now with the cold temps it takes much longer and it’s so much easier to just soak with hot water for a couple minutes.

I have been hauling hot water from the house but it’d be awesome if I could make up his feed in the barn and not have to lug it back and forth.

Has anyone come up with a good solution to this? I thought an electric kettle might work, but it seems the most water they hold is a liter and he gets 1.5 gallons poured on his grain…

If you get the biggest electric kettle you can find, adding that boiling water to the rest of the (cold) gallon and a half would at least take the chill off and somewhat speed the process. Or if it’s cold enough that it doesn’t freeze solid but also doesn’t go sour, can you start the next feeding’s grain soaking when you do the previous feeding and just let it take forever to soak?


Do you heat his water? I just pull water out of whichever heated water tub feels the warmest when I put together grain. Works great. It’s not HOT water, but it’s warm enough to soak the grain without any issues.


I was just using an electric kettle when I had a senior that needed soaked feed. Fill it and plug it in when I got into the barn and by the time I did a few things it was hot and I poured it over his cubes. They expanded quickly with that boiling water. Then I added some tap water to cool it down.

1 Like

I feel your pain. I make up “soup” for my two, plus soak alfalfa cubes. I have no hot water in the barn either. I have an electric kettle but it’s only 1.7L, so about half a gallon. To meet all of my hot water needs, I have to run about 6 pots, which is a total PITA and takes more than 30 minutes.

Sorry to say, but what I have decided is easiest is what you are doing. I bought some 20L jugs (Scepter brand/the kind you might take camping). I fill two of them with hot water and carry them over to the barn using my side by side. I originally bought 4 jugs, but 2 seems to give me enough hot water for my needs along with one or two kettles.

Hot water will be installed sometime this year – I can’t do this another winter!




I was actually wondering about that! I wasn’t sure if boiling water from the kettle would be enough to heat the other gallon or so of tapwater I’d have to add. My other thought was to soak it in a heated bucket with cold water and just let it sit for the day? I have no idea how long you can leave grain soaking…?

I am fortunate that my barn barely gets below 40° when it’s closed up for the winter, so I don’t have to use heated buckets in the barn. I do have some heated tubs, but they’re down in the pasture which is further than the house LOL!

I do have some heated bucket I’m not using though. Maybe fill them and use them solely for his grain?!

You and me both!! I just told my husband a water heater and enclosing/heating the feed room is on the to do list!

One of these bucket heaters… mine is 1500 watts and I used it for heating water to scald chickens for plucking. It will get the water hotter than you really want to put your hands in.

I would not leave it unattended, (it’s supposed to shut off if it’s not submersed but still…)


Yep, that would work!

1 Like

What kind of heated buckets do you have that would actually heat the water vs. preventing it from freezing? The ones I have don’t kick on until it’s below freezing outside and they don’t make the water warm. I would love to know about ones that make the water actually warm.

For large volumes of water if an electric kettle isn’t practical, what about a crock pot? I’ve never been to a Goodwill that didn’t have at least one.

1 Like

I use the 16 gallon tubs. No, they don’t make the water hot, but they do take the chill off enough that soaking grain is much faster/easier than the ice cold water out of the well this time of year.

1 Like

A large thermos thingy - the type you’d take for a sports thing to serve a bunch of people - will keep water hot from house to barn, no problem. Small enough to carry easily and large enough to soak feed.

This sort of thing - cheap, serviceable, handy:

Or as others have said, a kettle + cold water to top it off to the correct level of soupiness will work.


I soak 10 horses’ feed at my barn with no hot water twice a day. You could buy an immersion heater, stick it in a bucket of cold water, and have hot water pretty quickly. That’s what I used to do.

Now i have a coleman cooler. I prep dinner in the morning, and breakfast in the evening. When I was only soaking one horse’s feed I would put the soaking feed in a small bucket, and put the bucket in a cooler. Next meal it was ready to go.

Now that I have 10 getting soaked feed, I use feedbags, and put them all in a very big cooler half filled with water. Next meal, I just pull the feedbags out, dump and rinse the cooler, amd repeat.

Besides preventing freezing, the coolers also keep the feed from fermenting and spoiling in the summer. Using them has been a game changer for me.

1 Like

I just use a bucket heater (the immersion type). The water doesn’t have to get hot, just not ice cold. Let it run while you do your other chores, then soak feed.

I am gathering from your post that your horses are at home. Can you bring his food up to the house and then fill with hot tap water before you head to the barn for feeding? This is always my solution at shows (I have a choker) so I can feed as soon as I get to the barn. Of course, if he gets a lot of food or the walk is very long, this might not be an attractive option.

Alternatively, you could get a bucket with a lid and let it soak between meals (ie set up his dinner soaking when you feed breakfast). It should be fine to soak that long in the cold weather, although you may have to add a little extra water to loosen it up right before feeding. Depending on your temps, it may also freeze.

1 Like

I soak my horse’s alfalfa pellets using cold water in the morning. The evening feed is soaked in time and his morning bucket is in a cooler so that it doesn’t freeze overnight. It has to get pretty cold before it freezes. If it does get that cold, I stick the morning bucket in a Smartpak water bucket cozy and then stuff that into my cooler. Been doing this for years now.

1 Like

You guys are AWESOME! Those immersion heaters seem like they would be perfect. Thank you!

And just for my knowledge, how long can grain (and in what temps) be soaked in advance? TC Senior, in particular.

I soak a small amount of Purina (Canada) Senior 12 and 24 hours in advance for medicated snacks in little lidded thermos style soup cups like you’d send to school with a small child. Apparently my horse thinks she is a small child who needs special snacks*. So far, no freezing and no fermenting in freaking cold and slightly above freezing temps. I have not yet played with this method in hot weather, but I’m guessing it will be fine and not get disgusting but I might switch to cold water in the summer to hedge my bets.

*tiny pills that I don’t want to get lost or not eaten in a larger meal

A mini water heater (point of use water heater) like those installed under sinks and plugged into a 110V outlet is an option. As an example, a 2.5 gallon version on Amazon is around $150.

Here are some more immersible bucket heaters in a variety of styles and prices.

I measured temp tonight on my heated tubs that felt “warmish” after being outside doing stalls.

66 & 61. Temp straight from the hose was 44.

That 20° difference makes soaking grain mucho easier, with just the stuff I’m using anyway. :grin: