Chickens are pretty fantastic to have on the ole' homestead. They are great bug munchers, eggcellent egg layers, relatively easy to care for, capable of handling cold New England weather, and, when wanted, fantastic lawn aerators. They do have their downsides of course, they can be total jerks to each other (kind of like humans), they sometimes eat their own eggs (definitely not like humans... I think), and they always seem to kick dirt, bedding, and whatnot into their water.
With this instructable I am going to show you our super simple watering fix. We have used a number of different ideas from the simple bowl to the more complex water fount. The humble bowl works great for the holding of the water but really stinks for keeping out the debris and magically refilling itself (our magic wands are currently on the fritz). The water fount works great in the winter with a heating apparatus underneath but the darn thing runs out of water on a daily basis during the summer. I have checked out a number of great ideas on instructables such as this one and this one but there were a couple of aspects I just didn't like with both of them. With the first one I loved the 3 gallon jug to refill the bowls but I didn't like all of the piping that I know would end up getting algae growing everywhere (think about cleaning a humidifier with the stupidly small opening, oi!). I also didn't like the bowls used on it since the chickens had to be "trained" (training a chicken, that makes me laugh) to peck at the little tab to let water out. As for the second one, I loved the simplicity of a bucket to be cleaned but I didn't like the big tray of water that would once again allow dirt debris and other kickings in.
What I wanted was:
- A big bucket that holds a lot of water and can be very easily cleaned
- A bowl or bowls that will not easily get covered in debris and chicken kickens'
- Something inexpensive but effective
So.. here is what I did, and, as a bonus I included a couple of other chicken builds we did (but didn't record the process of building) that I think you will find handy. One is the chicken chunnels we built to selectively transport our birds around the yard and the other is a big, and inexpensive, feeder that I made that holds fifty pounds of feed (one full bag).
Step 1: Super Simple Chicken Waterer - Step #1 - Prepare the Bucket
What you are going to need:
- Oasis chicken watering cups (we bought four and we have 18 birds and the number seems to work perfect) - these little cups fill up automatically with a simple spring loaded mechanism that stops the water flow into the cup once the cup reaches a certain weight. This makes it so you don't need to train chickens nor worry about things getting jammed up at any point.
- A bucket (we used a retired brewing bucket so it was 6 gallons)
- A drill and drill bit for the cup's stems (the set we ordered came with the drill bit)
- Some 120 sand paper
We first started with drilling the four holes in the bucket to receive the little spouts of the watering cups. We oriented it was with the handle facing forward since we planned on using the handle to hang the bucket up. We placed the holes on the outside hemisphere of the bucket with two holes drilled directly across from each other on opposite sides of the bucket and then two more holes drilled spaced out between the first two holes. Drill the holes about 1" from the bottom of the bucket so that you can still turn the wing nuts on the inside when the time comes.
After you are done drilling with the bit use the sandpaper to smooth the hole and remove any plastic bits.
Finally, remove the wing nuts and then carefully screw in the little spouts until the gasket is snug up against the bucket and use the wing nuts on the inside of the buckets to tighten the whole thing up.
Now you are ready to mount it in your coop!
Step 2: Super Simple Chicken Waterer - Step #2 - Install the Hook
Our coop is relatively narrow and long (4' x 20'). One half is open and acts as a run for the birds when the weather is not optimal for them to go out while the other half holds the actual coop which is elevated and has the run continued underneath. We wanted to install the watering system in the run-side of the coop since they will be using it during the non-frozen months (I think we get at least two of those per year here in NE :)
To install the bucket we used a ladder hanging hook we had kicking around the house. These are robust hooks made out of tempered steel. We added an extra block of 2x4 to move out the depth of the hook so that the bucket would fit properly.
After a close inspection by Buddy (the big white dog) it was decided that we needed a little catch at the end of the hook since the bucket would likely slip off. I had an old smaller hose clamp to fit on there and did the trick.
NOTE* Make sure to set the bucket up so that the bowls are at the right height for your birds. My bowls are about 8" off the ground for the birds since we have larger birds.
Step 3: Super Simple Chicken Waterer - Step #3 - Mount the Bucket!
Now that you have your hook set up. You can fill up your bucket right to the top, put on the lid, seal it up, and hook it onto the hook. You could drill a hold in the lid and put a stopper or something so you can just fill it up with a hose with no problem but we left the lid on so that we can take a look at the inside and see if it needs a scrub every now and then. So far, so good, but on some hot days we might see some necessity to take it down and clean it.
The birds use it easily and there is no problem with all 18 of them using it (not at once of course) and if the cups get a bit of debris in them it is super easy to give them a squirt with the hose instead of dumping the entire bowl or water fount.
Step 4: Chicken Chunnels
Pre and post gardening season the chickens have free reign to anywhere on our property but once the little seedlings are put into the ground we need to wrangle the birds into a somewhat enclosed space. As mentioned earlier we have a run built into our coop enclosure but the birds get spoiled by their gallivanting days and need more room than that when there are bugs to chomp and grass the mow down. We fenced off a 20' x 15' area for them and then ran what we call a chicken chunnel to the enclosure.
The little tunnels are about 18" tall and about 18" wide. The long skids are made from small logs, old 2x4s, old pallet stock, and pretty much anything else that can last for a good five years unprotected. Those long skids are connected to each other with short 2x4 pieces or pallet pieces and then an arch is made using old 2x4 fencing that we scored on Craigslist. The fencing is stapled to the skids making a nice arch shape. If you let the fencing run a little bit (say 6") off one end you can then overlap one tunnel over another making a little tunnel network. We have had this set up for five years and have not had to replace a thing. There is the occasional escape from the open run but overall this system has been extremely successful.
Step 5: 50# Feeder Made From Free Stuff
To help alleviate the constant need to refill a typical store-bought feeder I built a super simple and cheap (read *free*) feeder that can hold an entire fifty pound bag of feed. I made the entire thing out of scrap wood I had around the house, mostly 1/2" pine stock (for the tray at the bottom), 1/2" plywood (for the slanted lid and sides), and 1/4" plywood (for the back and the face of the entire thing). I used a couple of hasps as hinges since I could shove a dowel in the loops to hold the top in place but pull the dowel out to remove the lid and fill it easily. I also used part of the hasp as a hold down to keep the lid in place. The whole thing is screwed right to the coop's door and has been attached since I built the coop six years ago.
I attached a couple of other pics inside the coop just in case you wanted to see the layout. If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to ask. The whole coop runs like a smooth machine, no predators can get in, water and food are always available, it's easy to clean out, and the chickens seem comfortable (then again they are little dinosaurs so who really knows).
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