What you are about to see here will amaze and astound you. Or, possibly, bore you to tears. Either way I'm going to show you how I made an automatic hog waterer.
By nature I am lazy and, also by nature, I love bacon. Having had bacon in the not-too-distant past from a pig raised on a farm in my area, I recognized how vastly superior farm raised bacon is than the bacon available in stores. As I was sitting on my couch thinking about how much I love bacon, I had an epiphany - I could raise my own hogs!
I quickly sketched out a plan for a pen and shelter and enlisted the help of other bacon lovers and we put up a fence and shelter. I realized, though, that pigs need food and water to make bacon and, being lazy, tried to figure out the best way to deliver food and water with the least amount of effort.
Such thinking led me to make an automatic hog waterer.
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Step 1: Gather Your Materials
There are a lot of little things (and one big thing) you will need to make this waterer. Despite the number of parts involved it is not a complicated build at all. One trip a hardware store and you should be equipped with just about everything you need. I opted to make two watering stations so my parts are doubled than what you'd need if you were only doing one. (My research showed that one watering station should be sufficient for 12-15 feeder hogs. We're only getting 5-6 but I thought that two stations would be easy enough and keep them from fighting - helps save the bacon that way.)
- Brass Drain x 2 ($5.47/ea at Home Depot)
- Ball Valve x 2 ($8.86/ea at Home Depot)
- Hose Barb x 4 ($3.12/ea at Home Depot)
- Bag of hose clamps ($7.86/bag of ten at Home Depot)
- Pig nipple x 2 (approx $5/ea at local ranch store)
- Elbow adapter x 2 (approx $1/ea at local ranch store)
- Float valve ($15 on Amazon)
- 55 gallon water barrel with open lid ($25 at local survival/prep store)*
- Garden Hose ($19/ea at local hardware store)
- Various adapters to fit hoses (depends on the adapter and materials - I'd add about $15 here because I got brass adapters)
- Dremel or other rotary tool
- Crescent wrenches
*Many 55 gallon water barrels do not have an open lid, but rather two small ports for inserting a pump or filling the barrel. Unless you have amazing dexterity and very small arms, I would suggest making sure that you get a barrel that the entire top is a lid so you can easily access the inside of the barrel.
Step 2: Add Output Ports
Alright - as the great Toby Keith sang, it's time for "a little less talk and a lot more action." Let's get started.
I began by drilling holes in the bottom of the barrel for my output ports. This is where the water will flow to the pigs.
It is VERY important that when you drill into your barrel you take it nice and easy. A mistake could cost you the entire barrel so tread lightly.
I used a 3/8" drill bit to get the hole started and then used my Dremel tool to slowly enlarge the hole until it was just big enough for me to thread the drain ports into the barrel. I cannot stress enough - go slow!
Once the drain ports were threaded into the barrel, I added the nut that helps to squeeze the drain port to the side of the barrel. The drain ports also came with a rubber washer, which should go on the inside of the barrel to help make the hole watertight.
I put my drain holes at different heights for reasons that don't make a lot of sense right now. If I were to do it again I would put them at the same height.
Step 3: Add Hoses
Now that you have your drain ports installed, it's time to install the hoses that will carry the water to the pig nipples.
This step can be as simple as you'd like it to be, or you can take an additional step to add some functionality that will take your waterer to the next level. I'll explain the simple version and then show how I added the additional functionality.
Just screw the hose to the drain port. Voila!
Measure about 6"-8" from the female end of the hose and cut the hose into two pieces there. You will use two hose barbs for these next couple steps. Insert a hose barb into the shorter section of hose, making sure to really push the barbed end into the hose. Use a hose clamp to really squeeze it down to make sure there aren't any leaks. Most hose clamps can be tightened using a socket, which is significantly easier than using a screwdriver, which is also an option. After you have the barb clamped down good, cover the threaded male end with teflon tape to doubly ensure against leakages. Then screw the threaded end into your ball valve.
Using a couple couple crescent wrenches can help really get the connection good and tight.
Get another hose barb and insert it into the long length of hose, following the same steps insert this end into the other end of the ball valve, completing the connection.
Your hose is ready to go! Adding the ball valve, while not essential, really helps add additional functionality to your hose. You'll never know when you might need to turn it off. It's not a difficult thing to do and, I think, the benefits to doing it far outweigh the time/effort it takes.
Repeat this step for each output you have.
Step 4: Input/float Valve
Now that your outputs are ready, you need to get the water into your barrel somehow.
Following the same process for drilling output holes, drill a small hole for your input. Again, drill a hole and then careful expand it, being careful not to make it too large.
Once I Dremeled the hole to the right size, I threaded the male end of the float valve through the hole. Ever the observant fellow, I noticed then that the end seemed smaller than it should be. I checked it with a hose and confirmed it was indeed too small. A trip to the hardware store for an adapter made it just right and everything hooked up right.
Step 5: Attach the Pig Nipple to the Hose
I wanted my hose to run vertically down to the nipple so I picked up a couple elbow adapters that would allow the hose to be vertical and the nipple to be horizontal.
Wrap the threaded end of the nipple in teflon tape and thread it into the elbow adapter.
It was here that I (again) realized that I had two male ends (the adapter and the hose) and needed another adapter so I picked a couple up at the hardware store.
Thread the elbow adapter into the female/female adapter and then attach to the hose. Easy as pie.
Happy watering, you're finished!
Step 6: Add Vent/overfill Valve
Because the lid seals and the water comes and goes through sealed valves, I thought it might be important to add an air vent to maintain normal pressure within the barrel. I also figured it could serve as an overflow as well in the event the float valve failed and water filled continually without stopping.
I didn't want to just drill a hole, though that could certainly serve the purpose. I was concerned about bugs and dirt getting in and mucking up the water. I decided a fine mesh would prevent most of that, though I can't prevent all blowing dirt from entering.
I cut a small square of the mesh and attached it to the vent with a zip tie. Then I drilled a small hole near the very top of the barrel (above the float valve) and jammed the barbed end in. It fit nicely and, I believe, will serve its purpose nicely.
Step 7: Mount the Barrel
I chose to elevate the barrel to take advantage of gravity. The bottom of the barrel is about six feet off the ground. I'm not going to go into this step in detail as there are many ways to do this and isn't part of the construction of the waterer itself.
The important aspects:
- I mounted a stand to the back of an old grain building I have on my property
- I put in two 4x4s to assist in the support of the weight (the full barrel will weigh 550+ pounds)
Step 8: Watering Station
I pulled the hoses to their full length such that there wouldn't be a loop for the water to flow through. This determined where the station would be placed. I drove one T-post and placed a pallet over it. Then I marked where the second T-post should be driven such that by placing the pallet over both there would be a bit of tension to help hold it still. I drove the second T-post opposite the first and then placed the pallet down over both. I secured the pallet to the posts with fencing wire. Then I draped the hoses over the pallet and secured the nipples and hoses with the same fencing wire.
Step 9: Step Back and Watch
After I secured everything on the watering station, I depressed the nipples and showed the watching pigs that water would come. After doing so, I left and watched the pigs. After I was out of the pen, the pigs walked right over to the station and started drinking.