New nipple waterer for chickens

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Several months ago on the advice of a customer, I decided to make a DIY nipple waterer for our backyard chickens. Our birds were just chicks at the time, and keeping them supplied with fresh, clean water with their jar-and-saucer waterer was a frequent chore.

So I fashioned a simple waterer from a used plastic jug and a poultry nipple I bought online. The chicks took right to it, and the difference was remarkable.

No more spilled water. No more poopy water. No more worrying that their water had run dry.

When the flock graduated to the coop, their makeshift waterer went with them, and I started working on a more permanent solution for their larger space.

Here’s the nipple waterer I came up with — which I now also make to sell — and some videos showing you what you get and how it works.

An ideal waterer for The Garden Coop, The Garden Ark — or any chicken coop

While these chicken drinkers are meant for use in any chicken coop, tractor, or run, I made sure they’d fit perfectly in our DIY chicken coop designs:

  • The 3.5-gallon waterer is ideal for The Garden Coop. You can hang it from the henhouse support with a pair of ceiling hooks.
  • The 1-gallon waterer is great for The Garden Ark. You can hang it from the wall between the henhouse and run (on the outer face of that wall for the best clearance) on a pair of wall-mount hooks.

To be clear, these are not kits, but fully assembled waterers. You choose the kind of hooks you need for your setup when you order.

Of course, building a nipple waterer from scratch or from a kit is a project you could do on your own, and there are tutorials online that can guide you through it. But if you’d rather not fool with it, we now have a ready-to-use option for you.

Click here for more pictures, video, and details, and to order a nipple waterer.

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14 Responses to “New nipple waterer for chickens”

  1. Selma says:

    I just hung my DIY water bucket with the nipples and the nipples are dripping, is that normal??

    • Selma, sometimes chickens manage to miss a few drops, so it’s normal to see spots of water on the ground under the waterer or some drops sort of hanging from the nipples. It’s not normal to see a steady drip when the chickens aren’t around to activate the flow. I presume you have it level — either hanging or set on a block — and that the nipples are installed vertically.

      To check if there’s a leak: fill the waterer with water, dry the outside completely, hang or set it over a dry surface, and wait. Do you notice dripping? If so, can you tell where it’s coming from (through the seal around the nipple or from the nipple itself)? This will help you figure out what might be wrong.

      Sounds like this is a waterer you made yourself, but if you purchased it or the nipples from me, please email me directly, and we’ll figure it out.

  2. Bert says:

    We started out with a couple of 2-liter soda bottles with the nipples inserted into their bottoms in our brooding enclosure. Then went to 5-gallon pails with 4 nipples in each for the chicken coop and run — then wrapped the buckets in a self-regulating heat tape and water heater insulation for the MN winter.

    I love not having to clean poop out of the water EVER.

    Insulated Nipple Waterer

  3. Jim says:

    Thanks for the info. The first couple of days with the new nipple waterer were quite rainy so I guess they didn’t get too thirsty. By mid-afternoon of a dry, warm day they were practically begging me to show them where the water was. It took me about 10 minutes to get them to use it by tapping the nipple and letting them peck my wet fingers next to the nipple. Now they hit those nipples like there is no tomorrow. They are loving it, as am I.

  4. Jim says:

    I just got The Garden Coop done and the chickens moved in. It is just what I was looking for, and thanks for coming up with the plan. I do have a question about the nipple waterer. I had my chickens in a much smaller kit coop and watered them with a dish waterer. I put one of your nipple waterers in the new coop, and I have yet to see the chickens use it. They have been in the new coop for two days. I am watching them closely because I just want to make sure they are getting water. If they are continuing to lay, which they are, does this mean they are getting plenty of water? I am just not sure how to tell they are getting water without seeing them use it. Other than the obvious eventuality if they are not.

    • Jim, if the nipple waterer is the only one available to them, and they’re doing well after a couple days, my guess is that they are drinking from it. But like you, I’d want to see that with my own eyes just to be sure.

      They’re most likely to drink first thing in the morning and when they are eating, so if you remove the feeder and waterer at night and reintroduce them in the morning, you should be able to see what your chickens do then. It doesn’t sound like you still have the open waterer in the coop too, but if so, you’ll have to remove that one entirely to see if they’ve taken to the nipple drinker.

      Some hens take to nipple waterers quickly, but it can take a few days for others. For the most part, they all figure it out eventually. Here are some tips you can try if you need them:

      - Hang the waterer at a height just at or above eye level so your chickens catch sight of the red casing. Keep dripping some out each day to show them.

      - Try removing their open waterer at night, and introducing the nipple waterer (only) the next morning when they are thirsty. Or you can remove their open waterer for a few hours during the day or even for the whole day. If they’re thirsty when they discover how to use the nipples, the habit will “stick” better.

      - Hold a hen’s head under the waterer as you drip water onto her beak. Do this for the alpha hen, then for all the others. 

      - You can also slowly pour water over the top of the nipple waterer until it begins to trickle down the sides and off of the nipples. 

      - Put a piece of food on the nipples (peanut butter? jam? other ideas?).

      - Experiment with adding a little apple cider vinegar to the water — a teaspoon or so per gallon. They might prefer this taste, and it’s good for them. 

      - If none of this works, try again tomorrow. 

      Once one or two get it, they all will. Know that they will probably always prefer to drink from an open container when available, because it’s quicker for them. But that doesn’t mean they’re not getting just what they need from the nipple waterer. 

      Hope this helps. Congratulations on finishing your chicken coop, and glad to hear the plans worked out for you!

  5. Arwyn says:

    A year or so on, how are you, and more importantly the chickens!, liking the nipple waterers? How old were your chicks when you introduced this waterer, and when would you recommend doing so?

    • Arwyn, we introduced our chicks to the nipple waterer at a few weeks old. They took right to it and have used a nipple drinker ever since with no problems. I’ve read that you can introduce them to the nipples at day one, so I’d say any time is the right time. A nipple drinker is great when they’re chicks so they’re not tripping over, falling into, pooping in, or sleeping in their watering dish. With a full-grown flock, I love that I only have to change out their water once a week or so, and it’s always clean and poop-free. Either my daughter or I still visit the coop daily to fluff the litter, top off their food, jiggle the waterer to check how much is left, and collect the eggs. About 3 minutes total? The nipple drinker has also been great when we’re away for a few days. It takes some of the pressure off whoever is looking after our chickens. PS. I left off the second part of your comment and will reply to you directly about that.

  6. Amanda says:

    where can i get the nipples from

    • UPDATE (1/1/2012): Amanda, we now sell the poultry nipples separately for those who would rather build their own chicken drinkers. Just follow the link above for the waterer and scroll down to the bottom of that page.

  7. JMarshall says:

    I’m curious what will happen in the winter time — could the nipples freeze shut? Does anyone have any experience with this?

  8. Debra Handrich says:

    I just ordered the 1-gallon nipple waterer for my 3 girls. I was wondering… do you think it would work to insert a bird bath water heater into the bucket during the freezing winter time? I am looking for a solution during the winter when we go away for a few days and want to make sure the girls water hasn’t frozen while we are away.

    • Deb, I’ve heard of this as a possible solution, but I don’t have experience with it myself. If you try it, I’d suggest you still have someone check in on your flock once a day when you’re gone, just to be sure.

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