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By June 19, 2012 Read More →

How To: Make Chicken Nipple Waterers

All photos by Stephanie Dayle ©2013

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.

Draw Backs: 

  • 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.

Bucket Nipple Waterer

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.
  • Silicone
  • PVC pipe glue


  • Drill.
  • 1 inch paddle bit.
  • Drill bit size 11/32 ” for PVC , CPVC or any thick plastic.
  • 15mm wrench for your drill
  • Small hand saw

All photos by Stephanie Dayle ©2013

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.

All photos by Stephanie Dayle ©2013

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.

All photos by Stephanie Dayle ©2013

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.

All photos by Stephanie Dayle ©2013

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!

About the Author:

Stephanie is a writer for the American Preppers Network, a small local paper and for her blog, The Home Front and was featured in Marie Claire UK in the October 2012 issue that featured women preppers. She is also the credited writer of "Emergency Bag Essentials (Swatchbook): Everything You Need to Bug Out" released in August 2014 and available on "I write articles based on my own experience with emergency preparedness, self-sufficiency, homesteading, food preservation and life around the farmstead. I grew up in a very rural area where I learned to garden, the art of canning, to hunt and fish, and to raise my own animals for food. I also spent 6 years volunteering for the local county Search and Rescue group where I learned a variety of survival skills and a little bit about law enforcement protocol. " "As a general rule of principle I do not write articles about information that I have only read - if I am writing about something it's because I have done it myself and gone to great lengths to provide you with the facts meshed with personal experience. My alter egos are as an full time mom, amateur photographer, and backpacker." Stephanie's past APN articles are featured below on several pages. To connect with her --> click on one of the many little square social media buttons below!

8 Comments on "How To: Make Chicken Nipple Waterers"

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  1. Doug Smith says:

    Hi Stephanie – I built a waterer with very similar nipples.  The ones i used didn’t screw in – rather, they were push-ins.  They had a translucent grey rubber grommet that you inserted first, then pushed the orange nipples in.  It was a really tight fit, thus insuring a non-leaking connection.  I used 4-inch PVC pipe (had it laying around).  I cut two two-and-a-half foot sections, joining them with an elbow. This gave me a horizontal leg, and a vertical leg. I put three nipples along the length of the horizontal leg. Capped/glued the horizontal, and left the vertical just capped.  Mounted the vertical to the outside of the tractor, with the horizontal leg going under, into the chicken coop area.  It holds over 3 gallons of water.  Works really well, and best of all – no fouling, which means no cleaning!!  I haven’t tackled the winter freezing issues yet – but i’ll be using some sort of heating element in it.  If you cap yours, make sure to drill a tiny little hole in the cap.  This breaks the vacuum – otherwise, the chickens wouldn’t be able to get the water out.

  2. Caterina says:

    Ok, I’ve got the waterer thing licked. I bought nipples and T junctions with a threaded female end that fits the valves. The Ts fit 1/2″ PVC and I found a reducer that took 1/2″ to 3/4″, then took a washer hose and attached it to my 5 gallon bucket with the male nipple, rubber washer, silicone set up. I fixed the leaks, and felt like such a successful female redneck plumber. Hey! This sucker works! Cool. The problem? The chickens apparently don’t ‘get it’. I watched videos of baby chicks drinking off these things, and here my layers and rooster would dehydrate and not have a clue what to do with this contraption. I’m thinking if I glue some fancy, shiny baubles near the valves, it will make them curious, attract them and get them to start pecking at it?? Anyone else have this issue?

    • Doug says:

      Hey Caterina. Mine didn’t have a problem – they were drinking within 5 minutes. But I did hear that if your chickens couldn’t figure it out, to take their heads and touch their beaks to the nipples several times. Supposedly the would get it fairly quickly after that. 

    • felicity says:

      haha. I had to laugh at the vision of taking my chicks heads and poking their beaks up at the nipples. I’d like to try making one as well…. as I’d like to be able to feel better about my chicks having fresh(er) and semi-cold(er) water while I am away. We’ll see.

  3. Caterina says:

    Thanks, Doug! I’ll give that a shot.