Homemade Chicken Waterer

Last week we began preparing for the 50 meat chickens we were about to get in the mail. We hit the farm supply store to get two new feed troughs and waterers. As I was looking at the metal waterers, I noticed the price tag. $32 each! Yikes! I had two at home for the laying chickens. Had I, in my new-chicken-owner stupor in February, really bought two of these things for $64?!?!

Well, being smarter (hah!) and wiser (um, right), I decided to try to make waterers myself. I mean, how hard can it be?

It turns out, not hard at all.

First, I grabbed a few old 5 gallon buckets we had laying around. I had gotten them for free from a restaurant in Colorado. Now, for this to work, they must have a lid which, thankfully, mine did. I measured the diameter of the top of the bucket (with the lid on) and found it to be around 10 inches.

Next, I bought a flower pot base bigger than the bucket diameter. You know, the little dishes that sit under the pot to catch the excess water? The only size I could find was about 12 inches. I really wanted 16 inches but after looking at two different stores, I took what I could find. Each base cost me $3.88.

Creating a homemade chicken waterer from a 5 gallon bucket and plant base

Those are all the supplies you need! Now, here’s how we made it.

1) Put the lid on the bucket and turn the bucket upside down in the base. Mark a spot on the bucket that is under the rim of the base but high enough to fill the base so the chickens have enough to drink.

2) Using a 1/2 drill bit, drill the hole where you marked.

Drilling a hole in a 5 gallon bucket to make a homemade chicken waterer

3) Fill the bucket with water and put the lid on.

4) Turn the bucket upside down in the dish. The water will fill the dish until it covers the hole and then it will stop.

Creating a homemade chicken waterer from a 5 gallon bucket and plant base

5) That’s all – you’re done! Stand back and congratulate yourself on saving $60!

Creating a homemade chicken waterer from a 5 gallon bucket and plant base

I test-drove it on my laying hens and they love it. It’s funny that, even with their two $64 waterers, they go to this one first every time.

The only thing I would still like to do is get the handle up out of the way. It doesn’t stop the chickens from drinking but my slightly perfectionist persona can’t handle it not being finished properly. I’m thinking a bungee cord would keep it up nicely and still let me easily get to the handle to use it when I fill the waterer.

Creating a homemade chicken waterer from a 5 gallon bucket and plant base

And just a side note: When I was researching how to do this, I wondered, “Do I REALLY need to have a lid and put the bucket upside down?” For once in my life, I decided to just follow directions because I only have a few buckets and I’d hate to waste even one. (Who knew that buckets were such a useful homestead tool??) The reason is this: You need the air pocket that the bottom of the bucket provides when turned upside down to create a vacuum for the water to automatically refill when it gets below the hole. And that’s the extent of my knowledge on the subject. I figured as long as it works I’m not too worried about why and how.

So there you have it. A $32 waterer for $3.88. Not bad for ten minutes worth of work. With as much money as I’ve been spending on this money pit homestead lately, I’ll gladly take savings wherever I can, especially when it is as simple and straightforward as this was.


This post was linked to the Homestead Barn Hop. For links to some other great homesteading blogs, click on the button below!

Other posts that might be of interest:

  1. Building A Portable Chicken House
  2. Arrgggg: Water in My Basement
  3. Things I Didn’t Know a Year Ago: Chicken Edition
  4. Rule #4
  5. Arrival of the BLIZZARD
This entry was posted in Chickens, Frugal, Homesteading. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Homemade Chicken Waterer

  1. farmgal says:

    Ok, that is just awesome and I am going to make one or two this week, thanks so much for this! I have been needing a new one but didn’t want to pay the big bucks.

  2. Alana says:

    Thank you for this post! I am excited to try it.

  3. hafiz says:

    Bravo! This is brilliant!

    I was wondering myself if I could avoid spending more money at the Co-op. This seems much better than dangling one of those waterers and trying to get it to the chickens without stepping on them.

    I guess it wont work with the handle side up…becasue you need that air -pocket. I have to try one this weekend. Glad I found your blog : )


    • Mandy says:

      Weekendfarmer – you’re right – we have one of the $32 hanging waterers in the coop and it is such a pain to get up without stepping on a chicken or spilling water everywhere! Hope it works for you too!

    • Lisa says:

      I still don’t understand why there wouldn’t be an air pocket if you put the lid on the bucket and kept the bucket right-side up, drilling the hole near the bottom of the bucket?

      • John says:

        Bucket lids are not air tight and all the water will run out on the ground.

        • Mandy says:

          Hmmm. I’m not sure if all bucket lids are air tight or not, but we’ve made several of these now and haven’t had a single problem with water running out onto the ground. We used food grade buckets with lids that have rubber seals around them so I assume that type of bucket (versus one you buy at a home improvement store for example) has an air tight seal. They have all worked just like they are supposed to. Hopefully it will work just as well for other people as it has for us.

      • Crys says:

        Still works, but the water runs out the hole at the bottom until you finish filling the bucket and put the lid on.

  4. MommySetFree (Pamela) says:

    Nicely done. I will remember this, because we are increasing our flock this summer!

    • Mandy says:

      That was why we needed it to. I guess when I first got the chickens I was just so excited to have them it didn’t matter how much I spent on their things.

  5. SUPER AWESOME!! Your such a smarty, I LOVE IT!! I’m totally sharing this brilliant idea with my hubby! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Matty says:

    Great idea! Plus using anything used is already a win for the environment! I have layers in Colorado and we deal with cold/snow as well (although not as bad as you!) Any suggestions for keeping the water from freezing? Boy, talk about having to drop cash on a metal waterer and heated base…ouch! Thanks!

    • Crys says:

      One site suggested setting the waterer on a cinder block and putting a simple light on a cord underneath. You can buy a cord with a bulb socket on the end for about $3, and a half cinder block for $1.50. So much cheaper than the heating element option for the $32 metal waterer, and this way watering pan is at a better heght for the chickens.

  7. nikki says:

    maybe you didn’t pay $32 for them originally. They probably cost more in the spring when people are buying a lot of chicks for Easter and what not.

  8. Greg says:

    I imaging you could wire up a submersible aquarium heater in it for y’all living in the great white north.
    I live in Hawaii so, not an issue.

  9. Pingback: How to Keep Chickens Cool in Hot Weather | Chicken Scratch Ranch

  10. Lou says:

    You might wrap a piece of adhesive velcro loop to the handle and stick a piece of adhesive velcro hook to the side of the bucket in order to keep it up and out of the way when you don’t need to carry it. Might be a little simpler than wrestling a bungee cord around it each time. I can’t wait to make one myself. Thanks for the innovative idea!

  11. spatzli says:

    so how do you get the bucket full of water without it all gurgling out the bottom hole, before you get the lid back on?

    • Mandy says:

      There is actually only one hole at the upper part of the bucket right under where the lid goes on. You just fill the bucket with water up to the hole at the top and put the lid on. When you flip the bucket over, the water comes out the hole until the vacuum is created that stops it from overflowing the catch pan (flower pot saucer in this case).

  12. Pingback: Chicken Waterer | Five Gallon Ideas

  13. Pingback: Homemade Chicken Waterer - Modified

  14. Joan Ruk says:

    I had made a chicken waterer like this before and it worked great….. Until I learned about chicken nipples! You take the 5 gallon bucket (or any size bucket) drill holes in the bottom and screw the nipples in. Then just hang the bucket and when the chickens peck the nipples they get water! Its awesome because the water stays clean and fresh for much much longer! you can purchase 5 of the nipples for about $10 all over the place. I got from here: http://bafxpro.com/5-Pack-Chicken-Poultry-water-nipples-5.htm

    Hope this helps somebody out, I highly recommend them ;)

  15. Beth says:

    I love this idea. As my husband is a carpenter and there are many buckets laying around everywhere it will be a good use for them, plus, I have learned in this hot weather the more waterers the better.

    I am working on a waterer today that is pvc pipe with the nipples spaced out along it and hooked to a 5 gallon bucket that is placed on cinder blocks to keep it higher than the pvc pipe. The nice thing is the bucket will be outside the run and easy to access. During this terribly hot weather I can fill easily from the outside and place frozen water bottles in it to keep there water kind of cool.

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