Homemade Chicken Nipple Waterer
I have spent alot of time perfecting my rainwater chicken watering system which you can find here.However, the time has come for me to get rid of my traditional “open water” chicken waterer and convert to something more professional. Firstly, I wanted to make a cover for my 150 gallon water reservoir. I am still a big fan of using stock tanks as a water tank/reservoir for various reasons. These include ease of cleaning, relative cheap cost, multiple different heaters available for the winter, etc. However, without a cover it is impossible to keep clean (leaves, etc.) and they quickly become mosquito breeding ponds. Next, I am trying to move away from any type of “open water” drinking area. No matter how much I try, the chickens continually foul the water and thus the actual drinking area is also difficult to keep clean. So, I decided to give poultry nipple waterers a try to see if that could remedy that issue. So basically, I am rebuilding my entire system.
First step was to make a cover for stock tank. I opted for ½” plywood. Simply cutting off the last three feet of a standard sheet will yield a 5’ by 4” foot piece that is just a bit larger than a 150 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank. I wanted to make the lid a bit larger to act as its own rain catching area as well as funneling rainwater from the gutters.
Next step was to cut a 21/8” hole through the center of the board and a lined it with a double layer of nylon window screening stapled to the back to keep out the leaves and other debris. I am a bit nervous the hole may be too small, but that is the largest hole saw I happened to have! At any rate, I can always enlarge later if it looks like it is backing up.
Next, I wanted to build up the sides a bit to catch the water and give it time to percolate through the screen. For this I used standard 2X4 lumber. I put polyurethane construction adhesive down prior to screwing this together. My hope was that would help waterproof the joints. I also caulked the inside with silicone. This should make the water catching area relatively water tight.
Next, I wanted to redesign the spigot on my tank. I am trying to move away from using garden hose components as they are constantly kinking up. Instead, I am using all PVC with a standard brass boiler spigot. My Rubbermaid tank has a 11/4” bulkhead fitting. I am pretty sure they are all the same size, but if I were you I would take the factory plug out of the fitting and take it with you to the plumbing department to ensure you get the right size. The parts I used were as follows:
- 11/4” PVC Male Adapter
- 11/4” to ½” Reducer Coupling
- Small section of ½” pipe
- ½” female adapter
- ½” brass boiler spigot
- PVC Piper Primer and PVC Pipe Glue
- Teflon tape
I glued this all together (and don’t forget the Teflon tape for the spigot) and it works just great without the kinked hose of my last model.
Next step was to build a pedestal for the stock tank. I want to get this up a bit of the ground to generate just a bit of water pressure. 150 gallons of water weighs about 1,250 pounds so this is going to have to be a relatively strong pedestal. For this, I opted for concrete blocks. I didn’t bother to cement them together as I am only going up three tiers (if it was more than this, it would probably get a bit unstable). But I did make sure they were perfectly level. I simply cut an 8 foot 2×8 I had laying around in half in order to make two four foot sections to support the entire tank.
Next, it was simply a matter of screwing in the spigot (don’t forget the Teflon tape again!), putting the stock tank on the stand, and putting on the cover. I was easily able to put my downspout from the chicken coop gutter to aid in water gathering. So now, it was just a matter of making the nipple waterer to attach to my new reservoir.
Okay, there are multiple schools of thought on homemade nipple waterers. The more simple designs use a 5 gallon bucket, the more complex almost always use PVC pipe. The most common way to attach the actual watering nipple to a PVC pipe usually includes drilling a 3/8” hole in the pipe (this seems to be the standard size for the ubiquitous red nipple) and slathering it with silicon. This method looks a little leak prone to me. So instead, I drilled a hole at 11/32” and then used a 3/8” pipe tap to actually thread the PVC so that you could literally screw the nipple in with just some Teflon tape. I tried this and it worked great with no leaks. However, for this particular model, I upgraded to factory made PVC “Tee” sections with a dedicated 3/8” female adapter built in. I got 10 of these off of Amazon for less than 2 dollars each. So the complete parts list for my new waterer includes:
- One ¾” male adapter
- One ¾” to ½” reducer bushing
- Two 6” pieces of ½” pipe
- One ½” elbow
- Five 1’ sections of ½” pipe
- Five PVC “Tee” sections
- One 1/2’” female adapter
- One ½” brass boiler spigot
- PVC Pipe Primer and PVC Pipe Glue
- Teflon tape
- 5 Nipples
So basically, I primed and glued this together like in the picture. After I built it, I ended up moving the elbow to point down rather than up, but really there is no hard and fast methodology here. Basically, you need to position the hose end in such a way you minimize kinking of the hose. I suppose you could also use straight PVC pipe, but I like a bit of flexibility in positioning. Even with the purpose build “Tee” sections, I still used Teflon tape on each and every nipple. I hand tightened these, and then gave them a turn and half with a wrench. I want just enough pressure to gently squeeze the silicon gasket but not so much that it bulges out of place. The boiler spigot will make it easier to drain the waterer for maintenance or winter (freezing water will easily crack the pipe). Also, I could also daisy chain another waterer using this spigot and another short hose.
Normally, I use washing machine connector hoses, as these seem to kink alot less than standard garden hoses, and I like the female to female connections better, because it is a bit simpler for me to try to standardize the connections a bit (male on pipe, female on hose). However, for this particular installation I ended up using a 12 foot piece of garden hose.
To make a stand for the waterer, I used three 4’ sections of rebar and just simple zip ties. It holds it firm, but it is still just wobbly enough to prevent the chickens from roosting on it. So far so good! It only took a couple days for all the chickens to get used to this. They seem to learn from each other. Also our free range turkeys seemed to learn how to use this from the chickens! They are a bit too tall, but they still seem to prefer this over their water bowl, or drinking from the pond. I will build a taller model for them.