I have always found that reading a “How To” articles on the internet and actually doing them can be a challenge especially if the person writing the article hasn’t actually done it themselves, which often seems to be the case. So I want to start off by assuring you that I have, in fact, made these and that I will be truthful about the process. Chicken “nipple” waterers are handy devices once you get them working right but I didn’t find them to be the miracle cure for watering needs some people make them out to be.
- Chickens can’t foul up their water with poop, bedding and other debris.
- Conserve water.
- Takes them longer to get a satisfying drink but also gives them something to do.
- They are way easier to refill.
- If you have mounted your nipples on the bottom of a bucket you can easily add an aquarium heater or an equine bucket heater to it to keep the water thawed through the winter. This is not only cleaner than tradition poultry base heaters but it draws less power too.
- They are prone to leaking.
- You should check them often.
- They are not as cheap to make as they seem.
- They are tricky to clean.
There are two main ways to do a nipple waterer. Mount the nipples on the bottom of a bucket (cheaper to make, faster to assemble, easier to clean, less prone to leaking, but requires the bucket to be hung from something). Mount the nipples on vinyl tubing or PVC pipe (as shown in the process below), this is helpful if you want to use a large capacity container like a 5 gallon bucket, and don’t have anything sturdy enough to hang it from. Or if you need to add more than 4 nipples to it and don’t want to add an additional container.
Here is how you would do a PVC pipe one.
- 3-4 screw-in poultry watering nipples (one nipple per 3-4 birds, check with the MFG of your watering nipples – I used CC Only’s heavy duty watering nipples)
- 1 10 ft length of 3/4 inch schedule 40 pvc pipe (cut to three inch, five inch, twelve inch and thirty two inch lengths).
- 1 PVC male fitting and 1 PVC female fitting (the set from the hardware store I got had a gasket for each fitting).
- 1 shut off valve
- 2 3/4 inch pvc elbow connectors.
- 1 3/4 pvc end cap.
- Enough cinder blocks that you can adjust the height to what is appropriate for your chickens.
- 1 five gallon plastic bucket with lid.
- PVC pipe glue
- 1 inch paddle bit.
- Drill bit size 11/32 ” for PVC , CPVC or any thick plastic.
- 15mm wrench for your drill
- Small hand saw
You start with a hole in the bucket, it doesn’t have to be pretty the gaskets will cover that all up. If you have a one inch fancy paddle use that , I did not, so I started the hole with the 11/32 bit and used a little hand saw to hack away at it.
Next attach the male and female fittings over the hole in the bucket – they screw into each other (yes, I said it, all the men can stop laughing now, LOL!) with a gasket on either side of the bucket. Next apply some silicone around each of the fittings and allow time to dry completely.
Next while that dries, cut your PVC pipe – feel free to change the lengths to suit your individual set up. You want the nipples to sit at about the top of the chicken’s breast. Studies have shown that chickens will drink more if they don’t have to reach up for the water or reach down.
Then mark out on your pipe with a ruler or chalk line and pencil where you want your nipples to go. If you want to place a union in your pipe, you’ll want to cut for that now too. I did not do that this time, but the next time I did use a union and find them very helpful for cleaning purposes. A union will allow you to disconnect one section of pipe from the other, if you have glued everything together this can be very helpful.
Take the parts out to your coop and assemble it sans the glue. Make sure everything is the length you want it. Then go install the nipples.
Drill the holes, clean the pieces of plastic you just knocked into your pipe out (these will only clog the nipples) and use the wrench to screw in the nipples. Don’t try using your hands – it sucks and you’ll only end up mad at me! Use a wrench on your drill to get it done, it helps if someone holds the pipe or if you gently clamp it while working. Don’t forget to wrap the threads on the nipples with teflon tape (to reduce leaking) no matter what the MFG says USE TEFLON TAPE on the nipples. Silicone the connection of each nipple and allow to dry.
Glue on your end cap.
After everything is dry, take your PVC glue and all your parts out to the coop and assemble your waterer using glue at all the junctions. Zip tie your PVC pipe to the chicken wire or coop to secure it from moving around. Also this will protect your whole set-up if one ingenious chicken decides to try to perch on your PVC pipe.
Fill up your bucket, and watch for leaks. If nothing is leaking on your first try, you’re far more brilliant than I. This took me several tries on each one I have done. If something is leaking trouble shoot it. If everything has teflon tape, silicone, the nipples are lined up and pointing down, AND it still leaks – you may have a faulty or clogged nipple. Take it off replace it and try again.
Don’t connect this directly to a garden hose !! Water nipples work under low pressure ( 6psi or less ). House water pressure can be around 30 to 80 psi.
Remove, clean out and dry waterer for the winter season. It has been suggested to me that in milder climates one may be able to make use of heat tape to keep a waterer like this from freezing up. Since I do not live in a milder climate I have not tried this out. I use this waterer for my meat birds which I only have in the summer time.
To mount the nipples on the bottom of a bucket, just drill your 11/32 sized holes into the bottom of a bucket. Again use the teflon tape on the nipple threads, and seal the connections with silicone. When it is dry, simply fill the bucket up with water. You should not have as many leakage problems with this design.
You can also put nipples on the bottoms or tops of plastic water bottles, two liter pop bottles or just about any container that has a flat surface and can hold water will work.
Things I wish I would’ve done in the first place.
- Used 1 inch PVC pipe and NOT 3/4 inch.
- Put pipe glue on EVERY junction, they like to leak.
- Put teflon tape AND silicone on EVERY nipple.
- Made sure, with a ruler, that all the nipples were in a straight line (if one is sitting at a slight angle it will leak, doesn’t matter how much silicone you use.)
- Enlarging or trying to tap the holes was not the way to go.
Please respond with your comments and trials & errors!