Best Way to Water Your Chickens

Little as they may seem, chickens actually drink huge amounts of water every day. Water, aside from being significantly every creature’s source of nutrients, is particularly important to chickens for their active yard living. Also, chickens need to be supplied with fresh and clean water, as it is crucial for their production. In fact, 24 hours without access to water would mean 24 days loss of eggs for the layers. Meat chickens, on the other hand, will also have poor growth.

Hence, it is imperative that chicken-keepers make sure that their birds are watered sufficiently every day. Furthermore, sufficient watering also means using the right waterers or drinkers suited for the kind of birds on the farm. In considering the right drinker to use, one may choose between plastic and galvanized metal as the material. Also, whether the drinker is to be hung up or to be placed statically on the floor should also be considered.

Then, after gaining knowledge about the properties, one wants their chicken waterers to have, identifying a specific design should follow. In this article, the list involves “Open drinkers, Standard Gravity Dispensers, Nipple, Cup Style, Dome, and Livestock Drinkers.” Also, all-in-one drinker units, such as Heated and Pan Style Drinkers, are also added to the list.

Chickens, especially the chicks, have the tendency to mess out in the yard. For instance, they will put poop, mud, or bedding in their feeders and drinkers. However, with the right equipment, the majority of the unnecessary mess can be avoided. Not only will chickens have constant clean water, but chicken-keepers are also saved from the labor of frequent water-changing.


Water feeders for chickens come in a variety of shapes, sizes, material, orientation, and conduct to suit the chickens’ needs. Below are properties classified for a variety of common chicken drinkers.


Plastic Drinkers

Plastic drinkers are less used for aesthetics, contrary to metal ones. However, they work better than metal drinkers in terms of being able to contain apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is usually added to the chickens’ water with the purpose of reducing the pH level in their crop. This will combat microbes and bad bacteria, which the chickens are susceptible to ingesting.

Moreover, plastic drinkers typically show the amount of water it contains. Therefore, chicken-keepers will know when to refill the containers. Also, their plastic construction allows for good temperature regulation. In other words, they maintain the water’s cool during hot weather and provide better insulation during the cold.

However, plastic drinkers can be disadvantageous when it comes to their life span. Typically, they will only last a few years. They stop working properly with cracks, breaks, and wear and tear, especially when exposed to the sun. They also are easily cracked when dropped or knocked when full.

Metal Drinkers

Galvanized metal water feeders, on the other hand, are used for aesthetics. However, more than that, they are used for their long-lasting capacities. They generally withstand knocks and frost, which plastic drinkers cannot.

However, metal drinkers cannot be used when feeding apple cider vinegar. This is due to the reason that the acid will corrode the galvanizing. In other words, the containers will end up rusting when filled with apple cider vinegar. Also, metal drinkers do not externally show the situation of the water inside them. Hence, it will be considerably difficult to tell if water refilling is needed.


Hanging Drinkers

Hanging drinkers are designed so that they cannot be knocked over. They also keep spillage minimal and contamination less likely to happen.

However, one downside is that some hanging drinkers need to be filled upside down. In other words, they have to be filled inverted and then flipped back over to use. Having to do these makes for a bit of spillage. This is especially problematic when providing for brooders as the bedding will get soaked with water. Hence, the chicks will have to walk on wet bedding, which is not good for their feet and development.

Furthermore, it will be quite a job to place the containers in just about the right height for hanging.

Static Drinkers

Static water feeders are essentially a good option, particularly for holding huge amounts of water, perhaps over a gallon. Their advantages include not having to flip them upside down to fill as they generally fill from the top. Also, setting them up is relatively easier. An elevation, perhaps a block, will just have to be added if the height of the trough is too low.

However, static drinkers may offer something for the chickens to perch on. Hence, it is susceptible to debris and poop as the chickens perch, their butts right in line with the trough.

Common Chicken Drinkers 

Open Drinkers 

Open drinkers can be in the form of buckets, containers, and troughs. The main advantages of using them are that they are very simple and cheap. Moreover, they are quite easy for the chickens to access and drink water from.

However, open drinkers are difficult to keep clean and hygienic as they are also open for debris. Size is also another significant consideration as deep containers will be quite difficult to drink from. Shallow ones, on the other hand, can easily be messed up and will need frequent cleaning and refilling. Autofill troughs can be ideal, though, placed above back height.

*Open drinkers are static, can be manual or automatic, metal or plastic.

Standard Gravity Water Dispensers 

Standard gravity drinkers are self-contained water dispensers that can hold up from 500 ml to 10 liters or more. They are manually filled and have a shallow lip around the base. Because they are hung up, water contamination is not likely to happen. However, it can be quite a labor to keep refilling them manually.

Additionally, standard drinkers can either be galvanized metal or plastic. Usually, galvanized steel is used as it is durable and rustproof. The steel construction also makes it compatible with heater bases during winter. It is also rather more difficult to flip over than plastic-made ones. 

Speaking of, plastic drinkers are typically lighter than galvanized ones. They can also contain apple cider mixed in the water, which can rust metal. However, they tend to become brittle and susceptible to cracks.

*Standard gravity drinkers are hanging, manually filled, can be metal or plastic.

Nipple Drinkers

Nipples are typically small plastic valves that are screwed into a water source – could be a drum or water hose. They release water from the source as chickens peck at them. The more a chicken pecks at a nipple, the more water it gets.

Water Your Chickens

The advantages of nipple drinkers include ease of access, relatively low maintenance, and contamination, and waste proof. Also, nipples do not get frozen during the winter and can be used with a submersible water heater in conjunction.

Nipple drinkers have vertical and horizontal variations. Vertical nipples require the chickens to turn their head upright, as to how baby cows drink their mothers’ milk. Horizontally-oriented nipples, on the other hand, enable the chickens to drink without requiring them to crane their necks.

However, nipple drinkers can be disadvantageous when it comes to the placement or height. This is especially a problem for a flock with different-sized birds as some may hunch over or tiptoe to drink. Moreover, the nipples can stop working properly due to general wear and tear, as well as corrosion. Cleaning nipple drinkers can also be relatively more demanding than cleaning open drinkers.

*Nipple drinkers can be automatic or self-contained/manually filled, plastic, hanging, or static.

Cup Style Drinkers

These types of drinkers are almost the same, or perhaps an alternative to nipple drinkers. The mechanism involves a central valve that fills the cup with water when touched. The more a chicken touches the object, the more water is released. Moreover, the cups can be fitted either on the side or at the bottom of a water source.

Similarly, cup drinkers, like nipple drinkers, enable ease of access, rather low maintenance, and contamination, and waste proof. It is also relatively easier to clean compared to nipple style drinkers.

Also, similar to the nipple drinkers, cup style drinkers can be disadvantageous when it comes to the placement or height. For instance, tall birds in the flock may have to hunch over to use the drinker. On the other hand, small birds may have to tiptoe. However, the cups, unlike the nipples, will not easily stop working properly due to general wear and tear and corrosion. But cleaning cup style drinkers can be relatively less demanding than nipple drinkers.

*Cup drinkers can be automatic or self-contained/manually filled, plastic, hanging, or static.

Bell Drinkers

Apparently, these types of drinkers are called such due to their bell-like appearance. However, they also come with a rim around the base where the chickens can sip from. Their mechanism is that as the chickens drink, the more water comes out. Moreover, they can either be made of plastic or metal.

Water Your Chickens

Usually, the bells are hung up, which prevents waste and contamination. However, they are better used indoors as the outdoor wind may cause them to work incorrectly. Also, it is better that a bell drinker is auto-filled as it will be more labor-intensive to keep refilling it.

*Bell drinkers are hanging, can be automatic or manually filled, plastic or metal.

Dome Drinkers

This design is especially suited for adult chickens. Dome drinkers are typically made of strong, heavy-duty plastic. Its top-fill design makes for easy filling and minimal spillage. Moreover, it has a valve by the base that controls the flow of water. It is closed when filling and is opened for when water is to fill the base.

Dome drinkers are advantageous as they can accommodate big numbers of chickens. Its capacity is up to 5 gallons or about 18 liters of water.

Furthermore, dome drinkers are better used outdoors as they are resistant to wind and rain. However, their size and height might just be a little bit of an issue for larger fowls.

*Dome drinkers are static, manually filled, heavy-duty plastic.

Livestock Drinkers

Livestock drinkers can be made chicken drinkers that are pretty tough and can last a long time. They can be connected to a water source via a pipe or hose. Also, if needed, that can be supplied with water from a header tank. A float valve system is commonly used to maintain the water level.

Aside from toughness and durability, livestock drinkers are resistant to freezing. However, they might be a little expensive. Also, size and height can be hindrances to access. The chickens might even fall down into the water and drown.

*Livestock drinkers are static, can be plastic or metal, automatic or manually filled.

Heated Drinkers

Heated drinkers are specially made to accommodate the cold during the winter. They can be bought as an all-in-one unit in durable plastic. The only thing needed to operate with them is to plug them, and the thermostat is on. 

However, if drinkers or waterers are already available at home, one can just buy a heating plate. This heating plate though, is tailored only for metal drinkers. If used for plastic drinkers, the drinkers will melt and will start a fire.

*Heated drinkers can be all-in-one durable plastic unit or metal drinker with a durable plastic heating platform.

Pan Drinker Units

A relatively new design, pan water feeders apparently are comprised of a pan that contains a float valve in the middle. The float valve is responsible for regulating the water level.

Water Your Chickens

Automatic pan drinker units, furthermore, are connected to a water source by pipe or hose. Also, these units may come with a magnetic lid that prevents debris and muck from getting in and contaminating the water. The lid prevents the chickens, as well from perching above the water and pooping in it.

Pan drinkers’ advantages also include easy assemblage. Moreover, it is also relatively easier to clean due to its uncomplicated structure. Speaking of structure, it also keeps the drinker difficult to tip over.

However, automatic pan drinker units are only designed for adult birds. Their size or depth is, in fact, enough to drown young, small chicks. Also, its top can relatively be easy to knock off by the birds. Lastly, as a pan style design, their height is not adjustable. They might be needed to be placed on blocks or bricks to keep it clean, especially when used for tall chickens.

*Pan drinker units are static, sold as an automatic unit, in durable plastic.

Related Questions

How much water do chickens generally consume every day?

Usually, people who ask this question get the answer of about half a liter for every chicken every day. It may rise up to one whole liter during the warmer seasons. Thus, chicken-keepers are briefed with the rule of thumb to provide at least a liter of water for every flock member per day. However, the amount is just an estimate as the chickens may need more, on a case by case basis. For instance, aside from warm temperature, more water will be needed by large fowls, especially the meat fowls.

Therefore, in order not to compromise, one liter per bird should not be a limit. To do this, fresh and clean extra water should be made available in different locations. This will help ensure that the birds will not run out of the water should something happen to the regular waterer, such as tip over. Also, it is important that chicken-keepers monitor the drinkers throughout the day. Upon doing so, they will be able to tell when the drinkers need refilling or cleaning.

Which part of the yard or the chicken coop should waterers or drinkers be placed?

Simple. Chicken waterers or drinkers should be placed in an area that is cool, shady, and protected. These are necessary for keeping the water free from the elements of possible contamination with debris or muck. Also, it will keep the water cool, which the chickens will like, to get them refreshed, especially during hot weather. 

However, it is imperative that drinkers, if there are many, are placed not only in a single uniform location. Apparently, is it better to have an extra supply of water elsewhere in case the regular drinker is tipped over. Thus, one should have another cool, shady, and protected area to place extra water supply.

How can winter freeze be dealt with?

For chicken-keepers that are raising chickens in areas that experience below-freezing temperatures during the winter, few considerations can be made. First, as mentioned in the article, for waterers, putting metal ones on heating platforms will help provide warm water. Otherwise, all-in-one heated drinker units can be bought and used. The chickens should be refreshed with warm water at least twice per day or until they are full. Also, inevitably, the chickens should be able to drink up to their fill until the water gets frozen.

To add, hanging a red heat lamp directly over a metal galvanized container shall also work well. The heat over the container conducts onto the metal, which will allow the drinker to maintain a stable temperature. Also, the red heat lamp will help keep the flock warm during cold winter nights. However, despite the beast measures, extremely cold temperatures will still get the chicken water frozen. If it happens, one may use a plant’s watering can be filled with scalding water. The scalding water will then be poured over the frozen drinker, which will thaw out the ice.

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Eni Gordove

is a freelance writer that covers several niches like digital marketing, book publishing and marketing, travel, home improvements, and backyard gardening and farming. Also, she's a strong advocate of eco-farming and home gardening.

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