Hopefully you already know how important it is to keep your chickens well-hydrated, especially when the temperatures are high. But it can be a challenge to provide enough water for them while also keeping it clean and fresh! Today I’d like to show you how to make a cheap, super easy bucket waterer for your chickens. In fact, it’s so easy you’ll wonder why you needed the tutorial! 😉
The first thing you’ll need, obviously, is a bucket with a lid. I recommend a 2 or 5 gallon size (5 gallons is really overkill for a backyard flock, but the 5 gallon size is much easier to find and even costs less than the 2 gallon ones!). I chose to get a food-grade bucket to ensure that my chickens would have safe drinking water. This one cost us only $6.
You will also need a drill, a 3/8″ drill bit, some apple cider vinegar, and a set of poultry nipples or cups. There are several different types of poultry nipples. Some are made to be placed on the bottom of the bucket, and some fit onto the sides. You only want the bottom nipples if you’re sure you’ll be hanging your waterer.
You can see in the first photo of the bucket that we originally tried using horizontal, or side-mount, nipples. They are quite a bit more expensive than standard poultry nipples, but would allow me to set the bucket on the ground or a cinder block. They are also supposed to be less likely to freeze in the winter.
Unfortunately, the side nipples didn’t work for us. Joey figured out how to use them right away, and he drank from the bucket waterer quite frequently. But Pepper used it only occasionally, and Gypsy and Bijou never touched it. The water level never seemed to go down and it grew algae quickly. With the temperatures climbing, I needed a better solution.
Enter the watering cups! These things were a lifesaver. When I saw them I knew all my girls could figure it out, even Bijou, who has bad eye-beak coordination. (I’m sure that’s a thing.) The cups also have the ability to be either side or bottom-mounted, so you can choose what works best for you.
Making Your Bucket Waterer
First you’ll want to clean the inside of your bucket with dish soap and warm water, just to be safe. Next you will drill holes into your bucket using the 3/8″ drill bit – one hole per nipple or cup. (Just like nesting boxes, you will need one nipple for every 3-4 chickens.) We placed our holes about an inch up from the bottom of the bucket.
Now you simply screw the nipples or cups into the holes you’ve made. You want them to be fairly tight, but don’t force it or you will break your seal. These cups already have the seals built in, which makes the job a lot easier.
Once the cups are tightened, fill your bucket with a few inches of water and watch for any drips (the water level needs to be higher than the cups). If it leaks, try tightening the nipples/cups one more turn. If it’s still leaking, you may have to add some plumber’s tape or caulk around the hole. We had no problems with ours leaking.
The yellow bobbers inside the cups work well. As you can see, they release water when pushed on. They allow the cup to fill up, but stop releasing water once it’s full, which prevents spills and large leaks.
The last step is not necessary, but I’ve found it to be incredibly beneficial! After you have filled your bucket waterer to the desired level, add a little bit of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). I put in about half a teaspoon per gallon. ACV promotes good gut health for your chickens, and it keeps algae from growing in your water. If I forget to put ACV in my bucket I know it within a day or two, as algae will start to grow almost immediately. With the ACV, I have no problems keeping it clean!
I also like to keep a plastic water bottle, filled with water, to use when the weather is hot. At night I pop it in the freezer, and the next afternoon I place the frozen bottle inside my bucket waterer. It melts slowly, keeping the water in the bucket cool and fresh the rest of the day. When I put the chickens in at night, I grab the water bottle and start over again!
What do the chickens think?
Incredibly, the chickens figured out how to use the new watering system within seconds of me setting it out for them. Bijou, as usual, was very curious about it; and Pepper, of course, was the first to try it out!
The water level in the bucket has actually decreased steadily now, so I know the chickens are finally using it. The water stays clean and cool, and the chickens are well-hydrated and happy. I’m so glad I gave the cups a try, and was able to make a simple bucket waterer that works for us!