If you keep chickens, you know that they seem to try and make their water as dirty as possible. Typical chicken waterers depend on upside-down reservoirs that refill a trough as the birds drink the water. Chicken droppings, dirt, bedding, and other debris finds its way into the trough. Additionally, our old one held about a gallon, which was fine for two or three chickens, but now with six, we’re having to refill the water every other day. We decided to make a new waterer that solved both the size and cleanliness issues with our current model.
Instead of a trough, our new waterer will have little nipples that dispense water somewhat like a gerbil waterer. These nipples will be attached under a 5-gal bucket, which will hang from the ceiling of the coop. When the chickens are thirsty, they peck the metal rod that descends from the nipple, which releases water down from the bucket but leaves no place for grime to build up.
How To Build the Waterer
You can buy one of these waterers, but they cost $25–30. If you buy the parts and put it together yourself, it will cost you less than $10.
First, gather the following (the links are simply to illustrate the item, not an endorsement of any one retailer):
- Poultry watering nipples
- 2-, 3-, or 5-gal food-safe bucket with tight-fitting lid
- Scrap wood (1-×-2-in nominal is ideal) for footings
- Drill with 3/8-in bit, smaller bit for screw pilot holes, and bit for driving screws
- 6 ≥1-in screws
Turn the bucket upside down and drill as many holes as you have chicken nipples with the 3/8-in bit. Screw the nipples in, making a snug fit but not so tight that the little rubber gasket gets squished out from between the bucket and the nipple.
Then cut the scrap wood down to the width of the bucket base. Attach it by drilling a pilot hole through the basal ring of the bucket (do not drill through the bucket) and then driving in a screw. Now cut down two pieces that fit snugly between the central piece of wood and the bucket rim at right angles. Attach to the rim in the same way and then using an angled approach, attach the pieces to the center one. If this description makes no sense, check out the pictures, which should make it clear. This wood footing keeps the nipples from bearing weight when the waterer is set on the ground or sink for filling.
Now fill the bucket with water and attach to a rope hung from an eyelet installed in the coop ceiling. You’ll want the bottom of the bucket to be just above chicken-head height. The idea is that they crane their necks up, peck the nipple, and water flows down their little gullets. The red color encourages them to peck out of curiosity and when the other water source is removed, it should take only a few hours for them to find the new source. I was worried, so I picked up a few of my girls and taught them how to get the water out. They did not seem impressed with the lesson.
One neat innovation that I came up with is a water-level indicator. If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see that the water is attached to a 2-×-4-in board next to the 2-×-6-in rafter. It has a carriage bolt through it about 9 in from the bucket, creating a sort of see-saw. When the water bucket is full, the see-saw tips towards the bucket. When it gets down to 1 gal of water, the see-saw tips the other way, raising the bucket an inch or two, dropping the other end of the arm, and showing me that the water is getting empty. The picture below gives greater detail and shows the see-saw in the “full” position.