Chicken waterers are some of the most important components in your chicken-raising arsenal of tools. Without water, a chicken can only last for about 48 hours, tops. In very hot weather, far less. Your chicken waterer doesn’t have to be complicated, so there is really no reason for your feathered friends to go thirsty.
I am going to dive into some of the best chicken watering systems that you can buy, or make yourself. That’s right, homemade chicken watering systems aren’t that difficult to put together, and do not require a master certification in carpentry or plumbing.
Let’s get into it!
Chicken Hydration Benefits
Whether broilers or laying hens, chicks, pullets, or full-grown chickens, they all need water, and plenty of it.
Broilers will grow faster if well hydrated. A lack of water and the accompanying dehydration can lead to a compromised immune system, decreased appetite, lethargy, and increased mortality. Nobody wants a scrawny chicken for Sunday dinner.
Laying hens lay well and prolifically when properly hydrated. Adequate water for your laying hens will result in optimum egg production and a longer laying life. Healthy chickens live longer than sickly chickens do.
Chicks are fragile. You can do everything in your power to make them safe, warm, fed, and watered, and they will still not make it; not all of them. The first hours and days are critical, of course.
Get some electrolytes to keep on hand for your chicks to get them off to a great start if you are incubating your own fertile eggs.
Chicks and pullets need to stay hydrated and healthy so they can flourish into adulthood. Water helps keep a chicken’s body temperature regulated. This is critical in hot weather.
Types of Chicken Waterers
Automatic Chicken Waterers
- Float Switch – One of these is a system that works on a float switch similar to a float you would find on a sump pump. The chickens drink water down to a certain level and when that level is reached, the water automatically kicks on. When the float switch reaches a certain height, the water turns off. This is a low maintenance system that can be hooked up to a low pressure pump system (like your garden hose).
- Nipple Waterers – These waterers are very versatile. They can be attached to PVC pipe or to the bottom of a suspended bucket. They have a spring-loaded nipple that a chicken pecks at to get the water to come out. For some reason, chickens love these things.
- Gravity Feed – This is your standard chicken waterer that feeds into a circular trough, typically, through a small hole in the bottom of an inverted bucket. These need to be refilled anytime they are empty, which can be often in the heat of the summer, or if you have lots of chickens.
- Cups – A watering cup mounts to the side of a bucket. A spring-loaded trigger in the cup draws a chicken’s attention, and when the chicken pecks at the trigger, water is dispensed. This requires manual refilling of the water bucket.
- Bells – Watering bells are similar to cups, but they are shaped like an upside-down cereal bowl and can be hooked to a hose. These have a tendency to get dirty because of their shape.
- Plasson waterers – These are bell shaped feeders with a trough at the bottom. Water is gravity or pressure fed to the top of the bell where it runs down to the trough and shuts off when the weight of the bell pulls a valve shut at the top feed. It is commonly used in commercial poultry farms. They are easy to clean and can accommodate numerous chickens.
Trough waterers can come in two types – open and semi-open. Of course, an open trough needs no explanation and is the least practical of all the feeders because it gets dirty easily, and needs constant attention.
The semi-open trough is a long pipe with holes drilled so chickens can drink through the holes. This is hard to clean, but stays cleaner longer than an open trough.
If you live in an area where winter temperatures dip below freezing on a regular basis, you might want to consider a heated waterer.
These can really bring you peace of mind when you are away at work for 10 hours at a clip on those days when the temperatures are below freezing.
A simple DIY heater consists of a cinder block turned with holes in the vertical position with an incandescent bulb placed in one of the holes. The heat from the bulb warms the block and your waterer. Place your water on top of the bulb-hole and your water doesn’t freeze. This is not the safest option around, but it works.
Other options include waterers with built-in heating elements, immersion heaters, and base heaters.
Built-in heaters come in most of the gravity style water feeders. They are convenient and much safer than the light bulb model previously mentioned.
Immersion heaters would fit into the top of a bucket and would work well for cup, or nipple style water feeders.
A base heater is a simple hotplate that you would set your watering bucket on top of. The temperature of these plates are safe for plastic waterers.
Do It Yourself
I mentioned earlier that I would be describing DIY options for chicken waterers. The simple truth is that, with a couple of exceptions, all the options listed above can be built by you. The cups, nipples, PVC piping, buckets, and even float switches can all be purchased at a farm store near you.
Many of the cups and nipples thread into holes you drill into plastic buckets. You just have to properly match the size of the hole to the diameter of the watering mechanism.
5-gallon plastic buckets can be had for free if you look around. Restaurants, deli’s, grocery stores are all good places to look for them.
It’s important to keep your chickens well watered. They will lay better, grow better, be healthier, and live longer if you do. You could say that they will thank you for it.
Hey, thanks for reading. If you liked what you read, let me know below. I’m always appreciative of other people’s insights. See ya ’round!