One of the many interesting dilemias you will encounter as a new backyard chicken owner is how to keep your chicks, and chickens well fed and watered. You will quickly discover that they make a mess of almost any container you attempt to store their food in. You could always buy a premade solution, but why would you want to do that when a quick, easy and nearly free solution is available?
Step 1: Gather Your Materials.
You are going to need some basic materials. This is for my version. Having made three generations of the device (a result of my need and want to improve the design not on any particular failing) I know that a lot of creative substitutions can be made.
2 2.5 Gallon Buckets
3 1.0 Gallon Buckets
2 approximately 1 inch by 1/4 inch bolts
2 corresponding nuts, washers
1 Hose Washer
2 Hole Saws (I used a 2" and a 1")
1 Utility knife
For the buckets I always raid my local bakery. With a little effort on your part they will usually set them aside for you. Just be polite and ask. (They are, by the way, great buckets for lots of other uses and projects as well.)
There might be some other incidentals things as well.
Step 2: Preparing the Inner Ring
You will first need to prepare a seat for your water bucket to sit in. This serves a lot of functions.
First it determines the level of water in your waterer. The height of your highest hole in the side of this ring will be the height of your water available to your chickens.
Secondly, it forms an air tight, and watertight, seal with your water reservoir. This is important to prevent leaking and flooding of your waterer.
Thirdly, it determines the location of, and secures, your reservoir.
Start by removing the handle. You can do this by making two slits beneath the hole in which the handle inserts. Then simply guide the wire handle out.
Then cut the bottom half of the bucket away. You only need about four inches of bucket left in order to make a water tight seal.
Now drill the holes to allow water flow. Remember the highest hole determines the height of your water later. Think ahead and make sure it is the height you want. I chose about 1 inch. I used a 1/4 inch drill bit, but any size will do. While you are at it drill a hole in the center of the bockets bottom. This will accommodate your bolt and hold the whole thing together (tip: drill the hole from the inside of the bucket, as their is almost always a small depression which will make centering your hole much easier.)
You will notice that I also drilled holes and cut slits above this. This allows you to pull the bucket free more easily, which you will need to do in order to refill it.
The holes and slits on the bottom you see here are likely superfluous, but I want to make sure that there is plenty of water access points, and that should one become clogged for any reason, the others will work.
Step 3: Making the Resevoir
This step is much easier, you simply have to make a hole big enough for your hose to fit in to refill the vessel. You drill this hole in the bottom of the bucket in the center. You will also want to drill a small secondary hole for air to escape if you hole is nearly the same as your hose diameter. The water will rush from this hole into the ring we made before. Now go ahead and put your lid on, and make sure that it is air tight (these buckets come with a black O ring that works great for this.)
Step 4: The Outer Cowling
This goes around the whole device in order to hold the water and protect against foreign matter gumming up your water. It should have holes big enough for your chicks to get access to the water but nothing bigger. Trust me, more holes, or bigger holes just means more mess later on.
Drill four holes (I used a 2" circle saw for this step) such that the bottom of the hole is 1/4 inch above your water level. These are your access holes.
Drill one more hole with a 1/4 inch bit in the bottom center for your bolt.
That's it. Now to assemble...
Step 5: Assembling the Waterer
Place a bolt through the cowling's bottom hole. Make sure you have a washer to distribute the pressure and make sure you don't pop through the plastic when you tighten later.
On the inside of the bucket place a rubber washer around the bolt. This makes a watertight seal so that you don't loose water through this point. I used one that was intended to prevent hoses from dripping.
Place the ring in the center of the cowling and push the bolt through it as well. Place a washer and nut on the bolt and tighten until the plastic of the cowling and ring touch. This will ensure your water tight fit.
Now, turn your water reservoir upside down and fill it with water. Drop it into place on the ring and if everything goes well your water level should equalize just as you expected.
If everything goes well, drain the water, clean and smooth up and any rough edges and you should be good to go.
Step 6: But Wait, There Is More!
About half way through this exercise I decided that i wanted to elevate the waterer as well, so i decided to integrate a feeder underneath -- using it to elevate. I decided to do this primarily because chick scratch is always finding it's way into the water, but they seem quite good at keeping their food picked clean.
Of course you could stop at the last step, and have a great little water, or choose to build these devices separately -- it is really up to you and your needs.
Step 7: Building the Feeder
The feeder is much simpler than the waterer. You do not need an airtight seal, and so you do not need an inner ring. You simple drill holes in the bottom of the smaller inner bucket so that food spills out into the outer. Then drill holes in the outer so that your birds can gain access to it. I used one inch holes for the inner basket, and two for the outer.
Spacing eight outer holes equally distant from each other seemed to give enough room for the chickens to get access to the hole ring. It might make a good idea to perforate the bottom of this bucket to allow any accidental moisture to leak out.
(If building your feeder separately rather than stacking like I did, you can simply cut the bucket about four inches from the bottom making just a rim for the foot to collect.)
Drill a central hole in both buckets for the bolt and assemble in much the same way you did the waterer. No need for a rubber washer this time, just nuts and washers.
I took the added step of affixing the top of the two gallon bucket to the bottom of the waterer. You won't need to use the lid of the inner bucket for this one.
Step 8: Conclusion
To clean the edges I use a deburring tool, but I have, in the past used a razor blade or propane torch to clean up.
Other than that, pour in some water, add some feed and your all set. I hope you like it, and if you would be so kind, I would love to see picture of your own version if you make one. Comments, Criticisms and constructive ideas are welcome, be kind, this is my first time.