I love my chickens, I really do, but they eat and drink you out of house and home.
Every day I am down there filling up the food and water troughs (twice in the summer!) and every day I end up covered in chicken poo and overspray from the enthusiastic hose attachment.
I needed to find a better way of doing things.
I searched everywhere online for different ways of watering my chickens using rainwater collected from their coop, and nowhere could I find a suitable solution.
I looked in to using chicken nipples or drinkers, but these are either very expensive (over £5 each on Ebay!) or have very bad longevity reviews. Plus my chickens are stupid. They would NEVER figure out those little knobly bits held water.
I then looked in to a system which looked perfect. It was a tupperware tub bolted on to a tank with a bit of pipe. Hydrodynamics kept it from overflowing. However these only seemed to work with catering buckets and HAD to be airtight. Plus I don’t think it would work with such a large container as air is too stretch-able and squash-able for a good enough vacuum to be created. Overflowing and losing all the water is not good when watering 12 hens daily.
There are a few specialist products out there too; cups, drinkers, pipes, bowls… however all of these had one issue – EXPENSE.
Everything had to be cheap.
So I did some creative thinking and while I was in the bathroom one evening (TMI I know!) I had a brainwave.
I need my system to run like the toilet. A big tank full of water supplying a little bowl of water which turns off without input from opposable thumbs.
So I went to Screwfix – leading supplier of all things toilet.
Here I picked up some PTFE tape (12 rolls for £4!), a toilet float valve, some rubber washers to fit the float and 6 55mm PVC 90degree elbows (for my next project – operation food waste). I also found a large blue barrel on Gumtree going for free. The final thing I needed was a tub that could fit the float in, but wasn’t too big for the chickens to drink from and would hopefully not fill with poo and shavings (a girl can dream).
We have got an IBC that MrT helped me to collect, so if this goes well I will make another one. My hens will never have to worry about being a bit parched. As long as it doesn’t freeze but I will come to that in the autumn…
I could find nothing similar on the internet before so hopefully this will make sense, but if not feel free to message me you questions!
It is environmentally friendly, uses less water, wastes less time and also feeds my constant need to ‘upcycle’ and re-use
My first step was to clean out the old tank. From the smell of it (and experience of being a Chef Widow) this barrel used to contain some sort of veg oil. This is edible so it isn’t too big of a deal, but oil can quickly go gross so best to clean it now. The amount of times I have washed this from MrT’s work clothes has taught me that the best way of getting this out is the good old fashioned way.
- Fill the barrel with warmish water. I used a hose from the outside tap mixed with a couple of kettles just boiled!
- Add a really CHEAP dish soap. The expensive “moisturising” ones are rubbish for this. The good old 25 ones that make your hands feel like stones are perfect.
- Screw the tops on the barrel.
- Roll it on its side up and down the driveway for a few minutes. Good way of finding leaks too.
- Avoid stares from confused neighbours.
- Tip content of barrel away (safely!!).
- Stop dogs from playing in oily bubbles.
- Rinse with clean cool water.
I then drilled a hole large enough for the threads of my float valve, but not so large that it would flap about and let water leak. 20mm did it for me.
I also did the same thing in the tub that the chickens will drink from. Plastic can be quite hard to cut through, so it is worth drilling a pilot hole and then allowing the cutter to spin and melt the plastic slightly as it cuts. Don’t force it, you’ll split the drum or stab yourself with flying plastic/drill bit. And definitely don’t touch it straight away.
Remember physics; Friction=Hot
When (if!) I do this with the IBC, I will add some PVC connecting pipe between the tank and the float, just simply because the IBC has a tap already installed which I will use as an emergency cutoff for cleaning and if the valve fails.
My barrel conveniently had a screw cap at the top which was the perfect size for a click-on hose adaptor, so I added this on there for when the rains don’t come (HA! We live in the UK, so not likely!). On the other side will be my downpipe for the guttering when i have fitted it, but that will be a weekend job so ill be hose-pipe filled for now.
Next up, I screwed the float valve in to the drum. There is a nut to use on the inside, but there was no way i was getting my hand in that barrel so I just screwed it in and will use sealant to keep it watertight. Then unscrew it again when you realise you forgot the water container. I was very careful this whole time not to damage the threads but also not to strip the hole I had just drilled. This would hopefully add some extra water resistance.
Then put it all together and pray.
The order is this; Nut (if you can get it in there), washer, barrel, washer, tub, washer, float valve. The float valve sits inside the tub where the chickens will drink. Use the float valve screw to wedge all of these parts together like a big BLT.
Add some water and its time to test! Maybe put waterproof shoes on for this and don’t do it on your kitchen floor – you know, just in case.
The way it SHOULD work is that when the water flows out of the barrel and in to the tub the float rises to close the valve and shuts off the water at the correct level. When the chickens drink and lower the level the valve opens again.
You may need to have a play around to try and get the water level just right. Mine is on its lowest setting, and i will cut the plastic tub into a more “easy to drink from” shape when i know it is all working properly.
Remember that small chicks can and WILL get in the water and drown, so this should not be used for young babies. This is for my ExBatt hens for laying (about 2 years old) so if they fall in it is because they are thick.
Hopefully this will save me getting soggy shoes and poo covered hands, as well as keeping my hens hydrated in the summer months!
They love it!
I will let you know in winter how it fares with freezing, but I have a feeling that I may need to resort to some sort of heating mechanism or just fill them up daily, especially if using pipes!