Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"I've seen her dehydrate, sir; it's pretty gross"

Who knew that raising chickens would be such an opportunity to work on my handy-man skills.  Our first chicken project was the brooder and last weekend I undertook the project of building a new watering system for the ladies.  Why a watering system you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  While these girls are adorable, their housekeeping skills are abysmal.  They get p*#p and wood chips everywhere... including their food and water.  We have attempted to alleviate this problem by raising up the feeder and water as they grow, but the water especially was always filthy and in need of changing.  In  addition to that, they are eating and drinking a lot more now than they did initially so it was time for something with a higher capacity that would keep the water cleaner.  Enter chicken nipples (I'm not kidding. Search for it on amazon.  That's really what they are called).  Chicken nipples allow you to build a watering system similar to what you might use for a rabbit or a guinea pig.  Basically, the chickens peck at a metal piece that then releases a drop or two of water which the bird drinks.  They just keep pecking until they've had their fill.  The nipples come in two different types.  The first type has threads, so you simply drill a hole in the bottom of a bucket, screw in the nipple(s), hang your bucket where the chickens can reach it and you are done.  I opted for a slightly more complicated system.  With the nipples that I ordered you drill your holes in a length of 3/4" PVC pipe, then attach that length of pipe to a hose which eventually connects to a reservoir of some kind (5 gallon bucket).  Our finished system looks like this (the hot water heater is not part of the system):             
Finished watering system: The 5 gallon bucket feeds a 3' section of PVC containing 5 drinking stations
 I opted for the PVC pipe system because I wanted the reservoir to be located outside of the chicken enclosure.  For now, we are using it in the brooder, but once the chicken tractor is complete and the girls have moved outside, they'll be taking this watering system along with them.  I installed a 2'x2' section of pegboard along one wall of the brooder to allow for easy height adjustment as the chicks grow.  This worked like a charm.  I would love to say this was an original idea, but I totally borrowed it from somewhere on the internet.  

The pipe is zip-tied to a standard peg board hook.
Building the unit really wasn't all that difficult.  The hardest part of the whole process was chasing down all of the parts and pieces.   The nipples were ordered online, the rest ended up coming from Lowes.  I started out at Home Depot and quickly found myself lost in the plumbing section where I realized in short order that I was going to need some serious help from someone who knows what they are talking about in the plumbing world.  Unfortunately, when I began describing what I was trying to do the plumbing department associate got pretty bent out of shape.  I'm not sure why, he must have had a bad experience with others looking to do something similar or he was just having a bad day, but it made me uncomfortable enough to abort my mission and head off to the next destination on my Saturday morning errands list.  Next I tried Tractor Supply, but I didn't fare any better there.  Nobody freaked out on me, but I couldn't find what I needed.  Finally, I found myself at Lowes and the nicest older gentleman helped me work through a couple of different options until we finally settled on the design for the final product.  I have to say he did a great job helping me out because everything went together really nicely.  The only snag I hit was that the fittings leaked the first time I put them in.  The instructions say you don't have to silicon them in, but until I did I had leaks galore.  Everything is working great now though.

At first the girls were too busy eating to stop for a drink so we removed the food to see if that would help.  Within a half an hour they were all drinking away.  (we did give their food back)

First one tried it.

Then another...

And soon they all wanted to try.  In true chicken fashion they always all want to use the same one.

Now they are pros
All in all this was a great project.  They've been drinking from it for a couple of days now and it appears everyone is happy, healthy and hydrated.  It's really nice to not worry about the cleanliness of their water anymore and it's just plain fun to watch the girls figure out how to use it.  I have not added up all of the parts and pieces, but I think we're in the $30-$40 range for the whole system including things that others might already have on hand like PVC cement and silicon.  I'd highly recommend building one of these to anyone who happens to be on their own chicken adventure.


  1. Wow... impressive system! Nice work!!

  2. Nice work Jon, they sure are growing.

  3. Liked your addition - very informative and helpful to fellow chick raising novices. Chicken irrigation during the week and manure spreading on the weekend! You truly are Farmer Dale's son.