Hey guys, Corey (aka: Mr TLB Farm) here
I’m taking over the TLB blog today to talk about clean and efficient chicken water solutions.
No, really…this is cool stuff. If you are like me and are always trying to find better ways to make your farm work more efficiently, then I hope this can be of use to you and your flock too. I have tried many different waterers since we have been in the chicken game…correction, I have literally tried them all. Most do the job they’re intended to do, but with different limitations. Plus, we all get real sick and tired of constantly cleaning and refilling the ground style watering devices. I know you do too!
Over the years I have built many different waterers and I always come up short in one area. WHAT ABOUT THE BABIES AND THE YOUNGIN’S? I sat down and began to think about how we can devise a system that not only works for the adult birds, but for the wee ones too (Erin calls them “tinies”). In the past, I would just build multiple ones and place them at different heights, but that was more work upfront and more maintenance overall. And as I always say, “work smarter not harder”…usually followed up with “go big or go home” and then I like to throw in a “negative Ghost rider, the pattern is full” just for fun really, and to marvel in the skill my wife and kids have to perfectly synchronize their eye rolls.
I’m livin’ my best life in those moments guys…
BUT, I digress…
Just look how happy these nuggets are with their fresh water.
Okay, so the truth is, anyone with a few simple tools can build these waterers and in any variation you need to fit your flock size. When it comes to nipple waterers the rule of thumb is one nippler will feed enough water for 10-12 chickens. We have a lot of chickens, so I built ours pretty big. Yours can be much smaller, if you like that sort of thing.
So lets get to it! Let’s build a Chicken Nipple Watering System.
What you will need to complete this project
- Miter Saw (size depends on how big you will make your system. I use my 12″ as I build using 4″ PVC
- 15MM wrench
- Ruler/Tape Measure
- Utility knife
- PVC Cement/PVC Primer if needed
Supplies: (PVC should come in 2 ft segments at your local hardware store like Home Depot/Lowes, saves on $$):
- (2) Poultry Watering Nipples from Harris Farms (pack of 4)
- (1) 2 ft. 4″ PVC
- (2) 2 ft. 2″ PV
- (2) 4 in. PVC Hangers
- (1) 4 in. PVC DWV Hub x FIPT Female Adapter
- (1) 4 in. PVC DWV MIPT Cleanout Plug
- (1) 4 in. PVC Hub x Hub Coupling
- (1) 4 in. PVC DWV Hub x Hub Tee
- (2) 4 in. -> 2 in. PVC reducer
- (2) 2 in. PVC end caps
- (2) 2 in. PVC 90 degree elbow
- String/Cord (to hold the top of the system in place)
- (2) 1 in. to 1 in 1/2 screw
One of the first things you need to do is determine the size of the waterer you want to create. If you have 6 birds, you will not need to create a system anywhere near the size I need. Based on that, you can decide if you can do this with 4″ vs. 3″ vs. 2″ PVC for the main reservoir. Hint: Where the nippler will connect to the PVC you will want at least the 2″.
Start by drawing your layout and that way you can see how big you want to make your system.
Start with the main reservoir. Place the hub tee in front of you. Identify how much vertical pipe you need for the main body. Take into consideration the amount of water needed and the amount of body you will need to attach the coupling and fitting for your top of the reservoir. Once you have that measurement you will need to measure the side mounts (use the same PVC as the vertical) to allow you to attach the 4 in. -> 2 in. PVC reducers to each side. The side mounts only need to be about 2″ wide AFTER you connect the Tee to the reducer. Example if you cut the PVC at 6″ you will expose 2″ once connected to the Tee and Reducer as each insert is 2″ deep. So 2″ inserted to each fitting leaves 2″ exposed. You need this accommodate the 4″ hangers when setting up your final system permanently.
Now that you have measured your lengths, you are ready to cut your main body pieces. Pay close attention and make good straight cuts, always important when attaching PVC.
You will notice sometimes you will get little tags left after you have cut the PVC. Take a utility knife and trim accordingly.
Let’s dry fit to this point just to see if the measurements will work.
(Note: do not put to together too tight as you will have difficultly separating for the glue up.)
Now that you have determined what you have will work or have made the proper adjustments let’s work on the reducer connections. Cut your 2″ PVC to your desired size and dry fit. Now place the 2″ end caps and you almost have your system. It’s satisfying at this point to see your work actually look like something.
(OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL STEPS)
We have a large range size of birds and needed to solve an ongoing issue to our waterers to feed the multiple sized birds. So I have added 2 90 degree elbows and split up one side of the 2″ pipe to lower the system for the younger birds.
We are now at the point where we need to mark the holes for the water nipplers to attach to the water system.
With a ruler, find your spacing you will need for your size waterer. Rule of thumb is space a minimum of 2 to 3 inches apart. I went longer here due to size of our system.
You will need to drill your holes accordingly once your points are marked.
STOP: This key point is very important. When you are getting ready to place the Nipplers you need to make sure the rubber washer is seated correctly or you will have a water leaking issue. You do not want to mess with that after the watering system is installed.
Now that you have seated the washers correctly you are now ready for installation.
Using your fingers screw in the nippler as far as you can. I then use my 15MM wrench, it’s faster and I can watch the washer seal and seat flush to the PVC. DO NOT over tighten; you can potentially ruin the washer.
Now that your nipplers are all set, it’s time to put it all together.
Using your PVC Primer and cement, glue all your joints together and let it set making sure to not miss any joints. After the glue up and set time, you are ready to test out your new waterer. You will notice a smell from the PVC cement. This is normal. What I do is run water through the system swish it back and forth and drain – a couple of times through. I do this at the same time I’m testing to make sure all the nipplers and joints are sealed and ready. Nipplers by design will have droplets of water form on them; this is what will encourage the chickens to drink from the water.
Now it’s time to install your watering system.
Make sure you have a board to fasten your PVC hangers too. We use one of our support posts to attach our boards. Specifically ensure its wide enough for the base of the system to cover. You will need to make sure the height is set to accommodate your chickens, make sure you know the height of your tallest and shortest chicken and find the middle ground. Chickens are very good at stretching to drink for water, and they seem to prefer it.
After the hangers are set at the correct height you can now set your water system on the hangers.
Once the system is set within the hangers, you will need to fasten a string or wire to hold the system vertical. I take 2 screws and vertically set them 1/2 way in. I then take a string with loops at the end and secure them on either side to keep the system from spinning forward in the hangers. You can see this in the previous picture. The reason you do this, and any chicken owner knows, your chickens will jump on it and even roost on it. You need to make sure it’s secure.
That’s it and now you can fill the system with water and screw on the top (Cleanout Plug) and your chickens are all set with fresh clean water!
**Winterizing for cold weather.
Every year when the temperature starts to drop you will need to winterize your water system depending on your seasonal climate. Even here in Texas we get freezing temperatures. There are many ways to accomplish this and I will cover 2 of them. Always keep in mind that none of them are truly fool proof as the nipples themselves are exposed to the elements and of course they have water droplets on them. Option 1 is buy a pipe heating cable/tape with a built-in thermostat. Depending on the size of your system, you will need to buy a long enough heat cable/tape to wrap the unit with about 1’ spacing with a spiral pattern. We use the 18’ length for our system. Find what length will work for yours.
Tip: One way to measure this is to use a piece of string or rope and test wrap to see how long you will need. Once you have wrapped from one end to the other with no overlap with about a 1’ spacing – mark rope, remove and measure for your length.
*note when wrapping your system DO NOT overlap your tape to ensure you do not over heat or short the tape. Possible melting of the PVC may occur if overlapped.
When you start to wrap your Heat cable/tape secure it first at one end with standard electrical tape. As I wrap, I will take the electrical tape and secure the cable/tape every 6 inches or so to make sure it holds in place and then one final time at the other end. Once that is done, I will take Rubber Self-Seal Pipe Wrap Insulation and attach that over the water system extensions. Making sure not to cover the nipples completely. I cut little slits in the insulation to expose the nipple and just remove enough material, but not too much. I couldn’t find 2” pipe insulation so I married two 1” insulations together. Some trimming may be needed.
You can purchase the API-250D-200-Watt Deicer from Amazon. This de-icer can be slid right into the main reservoir, make sure you make a notch in your cap (basically make a second cap for this use) to allow for the cord to extend out the top. Plug it in and you are in business. I also will take Rubber Self-Seal Pipe Wrap Insulation and attach that over the water system extensions. Just as I did in the other option to give myself more peace of mind in colder temps.
Dan Davis says
Thanks for chiming in on this frustrating topic.i like the design, dimensions, and tips during setup. My initial question deals with the insulation, how to keep the birds from eating the stuff.
I can honestly say we personally have not experienced this as the red colored nipple is what draws them to drink near the waterer. At first they get a little interested but soon realize there is nothing exciting about the black insulation.
However I can tell you we have had an issue with normal housing insulation (around the base of our old house, about 2″ to 3″ exposed) in the past whether it was white or pink colored insulation. This one perplexed me for a bit as I tried to prevent the chickens from pecking and making it look like we had a woodpecker attack. I had tried spraying different harmless animal and environmental friendly sprays etc. to see if it was an odor/taste deal. No such luck with that! Then I started to block the surface of the base and it quickly became and eye sore of diff rocks and landscape materials. That was a no go, it looked awful. Then it hit me, I saw a pattern in the areas where they were pecking the insulation. Where it was exposed and raw was the worst of it. Then I noticed that where paint from the house happened to be on the insulation had no pecking.
I had an AH HA moment. ‘The Paint!’
I found some left over paint from the painters and began to test my theory and apply paint to the area that was already pecked by the chickens. Waited a few days. The chickens always had their daily ritual of how they went about their business/grazing patterns and always ended up around the house. So I would watch and would you know it, no pecking on the newly painted exposed insulation.
Now I know this doesn’t truly answer your question about the pipe insulation for the waterer but it may be something you can play with. Possibly paint the foam insulation? I recommend applying it to one area to see if that would even work. Thank goodness pipe foam insulation is cheap.
I hope this helps!
Dan Davis says
Actually, that completely answered my questions! After your comment about the “other” colors, I knew that was the culprit. I used pink foam with aluminum tape to secure it all. Your answer completely nailed it. I will use the black on our new coop and will let you know how it goes.
Truly glad I could help! Yes please let me know how it goes, I would be interested to see how you made out.
Craig Cowan says
Did you use a “ toilet fill valve in your reservoir tank ?
Hi Craig, The answer to your question is no, not on this particular one. I have used them before which work very well and I recommend them. I used what’s called a “Low Profile” value. The reason we do not use them here is we have well water that can affect the values here in Texas. So the original ones I made I was able to use when we first moved to Texas, however I ended up replacing the values. So that led me to making waters with out them. We have water close by so it works for us.
I hope this helps you!