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.

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36 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 : )

    weekendfarmer

    • 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.

        • kellie says:

          a rubber corkstopper would prevent that, wouldn’t it? the lid goes on, tightly, then set is back down in the dish and unstop the cork. will this not work?

  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.

    • BArleySinger says:

      In some parts of the world, ice build up (and frozen watering systems) are always an issue at the worst of the season.

      However, just as there are ways to extend a growing season using passive solar design (in ways that are dead easy) . These are the very same sorts of things that are done to raise the temperate of the SOIL to extend a growing season – but do them to your watering area.

      Now, I live in South Australia (I used to live in the USA pacific northwest with “silver thaw” ice storms every winter). In this part of the world we have very few days with much frost – and it has never frozen out here (although those antarctic winds are very cold). This means that I have no ice problems these days, although I am very familiar with them. Instead I have feral fox problems (stupid brits) . F oxes have killed most of my chickens this year (from 13 to 3) and I need to start incubating chicks in the next month – as our flock is all organic, raised by US that way as you CAN’T buy chicks or pullets that are organic out here).

      Back to the question …

      No simple low cost and low tech solution will be perfect. If you want perfect and kind to the environment, then raise the birds in a big greenhouse during the winter…along with your winter greens (the birds will keep away the bugs and turn your soil for you) – but that is an expensive prospect.

      There are however, other choices that DO reduce the chances of freezing

      Think about what makes your car into an oven when its 10 below outside. Think about your garden and how you set about raising spoil temperatures to extend your growing season for micro-climate garden growing.

      * INSULATION

      The same thing you do to keep your house pipes from freezing up in the winter
      You can insulate a bucket feeder with the stuff you use for your hot water heater (probably covering it in plastic would be a good choice – keep the rain off)

      * DARK COLORS

      using dark colors instead of WHITE (the standard plastic bucket) means that you absorb more solar energy (don’t do this in the summer or your will give your chickens VERY HOT WATER). You can make a plastic cover for your bucket in black

      * INFRARED TRANSMITTING PLASTIC

      * you can buy plastic by the roll , which lets only the infra red through. I suppose you could use this to “make a ‘condom’ “for your watering bucket, which would concentrate the heat. this might have another advantage as UV destroys *ALL* plastics given time (so does heat…it is only the poisonous softeners and plasticizers that make plastic keep its shape). And yes, even in the winter UV is a threat to plastic.

      * MICRO CLIMATE
      Make yourself a warmer “thermal absorption region:” and keep your watering there

      If you keep your general watering location the same all of the time, you can make an area that absorbs a lot of heat during the day so that it will radiate it back out at night. A thermal mass is a good help here. Even plain black plastic on the ground (over plastic or bricks or concrete) .

      * GREEN HOUSE

      A small greenhouse set up over your thermal mass region (containing stuff like old barrels willed with rocks, a thick layer of gravel, a concrete slab, layers of bricks, big tubs of water) – this will put heat into the ENTIRE slab (or gravel zone) – not just the part with the green house on it.

      Think of how much your ladies (or house cat) will like a spot that radiates heat in the winter, but absorbing it from the sun

      You might eve think about putting your watering tub ITSELF inside of a green house in the winter (winter only) and pipe the water out to them…. then and use shade cloth on the same frame for the summer.

      * COMPOST HEAT

      If you raise chickens you already have a wonderful low nitrogen fertilizer for your garden and ought to be composting. A proper compost pile make HEAT and you can trap that and use it. Run your watering pipe through the heap. Put a compost heap. a pile of raw steer manure…in a vented greenhouse (they did this to raise pineapples in the UK, in the dead of winter, in the 1800s)

      Composting properly will *ALWAYS* give you heat if the mix is right.

      You will need to experiment.

  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.

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  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).

      • BarleySinger says:

        …ahhh… now that makes more sense. You do use the top of the re-purposed food grade bucket.

        So…you are filling up a big bucket – hole at the proper location. You have the top of if off and fill it with water. Then you put the top back on. There is a small hole about 1 cm down from the edge of where the top stops (when the top is on).

        When you turn over the bucket, you place it onto your “pot base” – and then lose a bit of water out the hole…but once the water has risen past your hole it stops.

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  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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  18. nancy rothlisberger says:

    I am making one of these today!…hate spending 35$ for a metal chicken waterer,,:)

  19. Tyler says:

    I love this I tried it and it works

  20. jordan says:

    Went to make this today but was coserned that the plastic dishes are not food grade does anyone think this is a issue?

  21. ray says:

    One thing I did was drill a hole in the top and stuck a small long necked funnel in the hole. I drilled another hole at the top, also, to let the air out as the water goes in. Worked well. You can also take the funnel out and drain it when you need to clean the drinker.

  22. cecily porter says:

    Just love this!! Thank you. I’ve been searching the net all morning for a sensible, inexpensive chicken waterer. You made my day, and saved my bacon (er, chickens :) )

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