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Water is one of the main things chickens (and every other living thing) need constant access to. Beyond just water, they need access to CLEAN water. Clean, liquid water if you’re keeping chickens during the winter when it freezes.
Chickens, however, don’t respect keeping the water clean. They will happily use it as a washroom and kick dirt or bedding into it. When we first got our chickens, we got a waterer off of Amazon and I was changing the water twice a day to try to keep it clean for them.
We tried getting a waterer that was a metal ball affair, like what you’d use for a hamster water bottle, which screwed onto a pop bottle. You could hang this on the side of the run and they could get water from it without the reservoir getting dirty.
Our chickens didn’t really like this system and kept drinking from the original waterer whenever it was available – even when it was dirty. I keep the water bottle on the coop and full of water as a backup.
One DIY Solution with a Plastic Jug
I was reading about an idea to make a waterer that chickens could get their heads into, but nothing else. The basic idea is to use a large plastic container, like a laundry detergent jug, cut a couple of holes big enough for a chicken to stick her head through, clean it out, then fill it with water. Chickens will lean into the jug to drink and won’t be able to make a mess in the water. You need to keep the jug filled high enough for them to reach the water.
Simple Fix That Finally Worked For Me
I was gearing up to give this a try, as I was getting frustrated with the waterer we had when I came up with the simple solution. I’m still kicking myself for not thinking about it earlier.
Chickens’ heads are higher than their cloaca (where the waste comes out). If I got the waterer higher, they would be able to drink but not use it as a toilet. I imagine it would have been possible to rig up a way to hang the waterer, but this would have involved anchoring it to the coop somehow and was a bigger project than I felt capable of taking on.
For some reason, the previous owners of our house had buried bricks in the backyard. We suspect it was the border of a garden that has since been overgrown. I’ve been digging up the bricks, so we have a bunch of them in a heap behind the garage. I used these bricks to make a platform – putting two bricks side-by-side as the first level, then 2 more side-by-side in the opposite direction as the second level. I then put the waterer on top of this.
This has worked GREAT! The chickens haven’t knocked over the waterer, so it seems to be stable. The water now stays clean for a number of days – it is pretty well until it needs to be refilled. It’s less work for me, and cleaner water for the chickens.
Many chicken owners use nipples as part of their watering system. They’re a little piece of plastic that you screw into a hole you’ve drilled in a plastic container – many people use buckets or PVC pipes for this. The nipple has a piece of metal running through it, that lets water drip out when it’s pushed. Chickens will quickly learn to peck at it for water, and this will give you a very clean, contained watering system. You can see a video of a man constructing such a system, or browse a variety of such systems on Pinterest. One option for winterizing a chicken coop is to build a PVC pipe watering system with insulation around the pipe – to prevent freezing.
There is also a plastic nipple system that screws onto pop bottles, similar to what I detailed above, which I suspect would work better.
How do you water your chickens? What have you found works? What doesn’t?