Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Self-filling chicken tractor waterer

Gutter on a chicken tractorGlenn Ingram didn't only make his coop waterer self-filling, he added the same innovation (plus some) to his chicken tractor.  I'll let him tell you about his tractor watering system in his own words:

Here is the overall chicken tractor. It has wheels that go up and down as needed. I like my tractor because I almost never have to go inside. I can pour feed in from the outside, collect eggs from a door to the outside, and water from the outside. Better yet, have the tractor collect rain water for the chickens to drink.

Bucket waterer overflowHere is a close-up of the buckets. They are not heated as I don't keep the chickens in the tractor during freezing weather. It has the same exact features as the 5-gallon bucket system for my larger non-mobile coop. The problem on the chicken tractor is the lack of vertical room for the bucket to be below the gutter yet high enough so the chickens can get under it to drink.
So I used a 2-gallon bucket. I used a piece of flexible sump pump hose for the overflow so I can have a little more control of where the overflow goes to get the water away from the tractor and yet it does not get in the way when moving it. I put a water level indicator on the outside, which works well but you have to take the slope into account. We have almost no flat spots on our hilly terrain so the buckets are never level. Depending on the slope, the indicator can make it look like there is more or less water in the buckets than reality. Just understand what the water level will look like with the slope.

Connecting bucketsTo gain more water capacity, I slaved a second 2-gallon bucket to the 1st one. This is done by simply connecting the 2 buckets with a 3/4" pipe at the bottom of the buckets. It can be a straight pipe, mine has a 45 degree turn to get around the post. This connection allows the 2 buckets to act like one larger bucket. As one bucket fills, the other bucket fills, as one empties, the other empties. Be sure to drill a small hole in the lid of the bucket without the downspout so air can escape or enter to replace the water that is moving (otherwise you create a vacuum and the water cannot move). This works great so that I have about 3.5 gallons of water capacity yet the buckets fit in the tight vertical space (a little less that 3 feet total). I never put more that 6 chickens in the tractor so they never empty these buckets before it rains again. If I ever do need to add water as after cleaning, I just pour it in the gutter. I do the same thing with the large bucket system on the main coop.

The nipple is, again on the bottom of the bucket. I only have one nipple right now but I am going to add another. I used some bent lightweight galvanized steel conduit to mount the buckets, but I just used them because they were left over from another project. I don't know that I would recommend them as they are not perfectly stable when moving the tractor, but they are pretty good.

The entire roof of the chicken tractor opens which also lifts the gutter and therefore downspout out of the bucket. I can then easily pick up both buckets at once to remove them for cleaning or to take them inside in freezing weather.

One other note, I highly recommend the use of Uniseals to connect pipes to buckets. You can order them online very affordably in pretty much any size that PVC pipe comes in. Then you just drill the appropriate-sized hole with a hole saw (they tell you which one to use) and pop the Uniseal into place. You then push a piece of PVC pipe of the appropriate size into the hole with the uniseal in place. The pipe pushes the Uniseal against the sides of the hole and seals wonderfully. There are no glues or adhesives and you don't even need access to the inside of the bucket. They work equally well on curved and flat surfaces. The best part is you can pull the pipe back out, remove the uniseal and reuse it somewhere else. I don't know how long they last, but they have been great for the past 8 months with lots of sun exposure and freezing temperatures. We'll see how they last through the summer. I use these for making rain barrels as well.

You may also notice that I have tin roofs on my coops. Asphalt/tar shingle roofs may not work well because of tar from the roof getting in the water. That may or may not affect the chickens’ health. Also, the small pieces of grit from shingles clog up the screens requiring more maintenance. Debris also seems to wash off the tin roof much faster so you don’t get as much bacteria growing on the roof. I don’t know that bacteria is really a problem when talking about a bird eating off the ground all day, but at least that is less bacteria to be growing in their water bucket.

Thanks again for sharing your inspiring system, Glenn!

Glenn's waterer is based on our do it yourself chicken waterer kit.

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I have a timer for turning driphoses or greenhouse small water aprinklers on and off at various times. I am thinking of placing the water hose on the timer into the bucket or rainsprout which would have a runoff at top of bucket and then determine the length of times and times on and off for water to come from faucet to the waterbucket equipped with these nifty chicken nipples.
Comment by DaveInNFla Tuesday afternoon, July 10th, 2012
Another solution is to use a toilet float to keep the waterer full. I'll be curious to see your system if you get it up and running!
Comment by anna Tuesday afternoon, July 17th, 2012
I will definetly try this system out.
Comment by Bill in lenoir NC Wednesday evening, February 26th, 2014

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