Step 11: Watering system
The watering system for the coop uses chicken nipples. It's impossible to find these at Tractor Supply (they've never heard of them). When the chicks were small, I had a terrible experience with the watering cup I bought from Tractor Supply. I would provide clean water and within five minutes it would be filled with droppings and pine shavings.
Chicken nipples are small red valves that screw into a bottle or pipe and have a shiny lever at the other end. When a chicken pecks at the lever, a drop of water forms. Initially, I screwed one of these into the bottom of a bicycle water bottle. The fear is that chickens will not learn to use it. Within 30 seconds of me putting it in the brooder, the first curious chick pecked at it and got a drop of water. Within two minutes, all 14 chicks were getting the water.
The system in the coop involves putting a kitty litter bucket on the roof of the coop. I installed an adapter to the lower side of the bucket that is made to fit a vinyl tube. The vinyl tube feeds down into PVC pipe setup. The vinyl tube connects to a barbed connector that screws into a tee fitting for the PVC pipe. Two short sections of PVC are inserted horizontally the tee and each of these sections are then capped. Each of these small sections have two chicken nipples screwed into it.
This system works very well. This is the only source of water for 14 chickens. If they are roaming around the yard and get thirsty, you will see them jump/fly into the coop and get a drink and then leave again. This is much better than any watering bucket that has be be cleaned out regularly.
There are a few issues with this system but they far out weigh a watering trough. The bucket on the roof splashes water when we move the coop. It doesn't slide off because it is wedged in with wooden cleats, however. Another issue is that it is very difficult to get a leak proof fit with the chicken nipples, especially into the rounded side of a PVC pipe. However, the occasional drip just goes straight through the floor to the ground. It's also hard to fill the bucket on top. You don't want to keep disconnecting the tube so you have to fill it with another bucket. Even for an adult this is a little difficult. Finally, this system has only been used during non-freezing weather. I'll come up with another arrangement in the winter.
It took several trips to Lowe's with consultations with the plumbing people to come up with this system. i was originally going to go with garden hose connectors but they were all so bulky. Lowe's and stores like that care a wide range of connectors that will do the job. Make sure you pick a diameter of vinyl tubing that works with the connectors they have.
You don't have to use a bucket like I did. It could have been a smaller bottle or jug but it's better to find something with a flat side or bottom for a tight fit. This bottle could be mounted on the end of the coop just above the height of the chicken nipples. This is all gravity flow and you don't need much of an elevation difference. Instead of using a tee-shaped arrangement of PVC pipe, it might be simpler to use an L-shaped arrangement.