One of the things that is vitally important for the overall health of your chickens is an unlimited supply of fresh water. It sounds simple enough right? I mean just put out a small trough and fill it with fresh water periodically.
I wish it were that easy…chickens are messy! Before you know it, they have trampled through it, dropping in poop and whatever else is clinging to their feet.
I have researched and tried a few products and they all have their pros and cons. After a lot of trial and error I came up with my own watering system for my messy chickens.
It involves a 5 gallon bucket, a garden hose, and 3 or 4 small poultry nipples I purchased through Amazon. Below is a picture of it.
There are two different types of nipples that can be used for your bucket waterer. One is threaded and the other is a snap in.
I have only used the snap in kind and they worked great. However, I purchased those a few years ago and it looks like they are harder to find now. Also, I found them rather challenging to install. Overall I have no complaints though. Once I got them in, they’ve worked great with no leaks!
The threaded types will work the same and can likely be installed much easier. I have read that some people used Teflon tape over the threads of these as an added step against leaks. Teflon tape is used over threaded plumbing connections.
What’s similar with both types of nipples is the size of the holes drilled into the bottom of the bucket. A 11/32 drill bit works for either style nipple, and can be bought at the hardware store or online.
The nipples can be bought at most farm stores or purchased online at Amazon or at Green Garden Chicken. I did not find the snap-on kind online but there are many places to purchase the threaded types.
It holds 5 gallons of water and should be hung so that the bottom of the bucket/nipples hang about 2-3 inches above the top of their head. That’s the ideal height since if it’s lower they have to really stoop to get at the nipples; and if it’s too high, they simply can’t reach it.
It also helps to put a lid on top since they always like to fly on top of things and I didn’t want them either landing in the water and drowning or soiling the water when they perch on the lip of the bucket.
Depending on how many chickens you have, this amount of water will last a long time. In my situation, we had about 60 chickens so I made two of them. They worked like a champ.
The chickens quickly learned how to use the nipples. I think their natural instinct to pick at things made the bright orange color just too tempting to pass up and they quickly discovered the water.
The automatic waterer mounted on top (called the Little Giant Rubber Trough-o-matic stock tank float valve )is actually designed to be used for cattle watering troughs. But it worked great in the 5 gallon set up too.
It’s a very common type of automatic watering device can be bought at any farm store and is quite affordable. It can also be bought online here.
A hose is attached to it which in turn is attached to a stock tank. I simply turn on the water and it fills to bottom of the red float and then automatically shuts off. As they drink down below the level of the float, it lets more water in until it reaches the appropriate level again.
It’s the same concept as how a toilet fills up after flushing. Below is a picture of it. As you can see, it’s not new. I’ve gotten years of use from it for both cattle and chickens.
I wasn’t sure if the waterer would fit securely to the bucket but it fit nicely!
Below is the final product. It works great and now its on autopilot – I just continue to to make sure the connections aren’t leaking and that all continues working smoothly. I like this set up because they always have fresh cool water and I don’t have to mess with it…a “win win”!
How To Hang It: I used a tripod arrangement using 3 T-Posts and some chain and wire to hold the bucket up.
Both Automatic Poultry nipples and Little Giant Rubber Trough-O-Matic Stock Tank Float Valve TM825can be found at Amazon. I hope this set up, or your own variation of it, works as well for you as it did for my little coop!
Something else to consider…since 5 gallons is a lot of water, the use of the Little Giant Float Valve may not truly be necessary. The automation the Little Giant provides is nice, but it doesn’t take a lot of extra work to simply pry the lid off the bucket and fill it with a hose once in a while either 😊.