Chicken Watering System

August 19, 2013 · Posted in Chickens, Engineering, Photography 

After having the chicks for a while I needed a way for them to have fresh water for a few days at a time so we could go on vacation.  I used a 5 gallon bucket, inverted and placed in a planter base.  I put a few small holes for air/water to pass through just where I wanted the water level.  This worked for a while.  I didn’t mind the splashing, nor the cleaning it out every few days.  Then something red and nasty started to grow on the bucket, so I bleached it and it stayed clean for a while.  But it came back. I went through the cycle a few times of bleaching it, but that red stuff got thick and nasty pretty quickly.  So I decided something else needed to happen.  The chickens needed water and I needed to not have to deal with that nasty red stuff.  Besides growing tired of the drudgery of cleaning out the bucket every few days.

The solution was watering nipples.  Small little pieces of red plastic over a metal swivel valve.  I put some in a piece of 3/4 inch pvc pipe and attached them to a 5 gallon bucket.  A valve at one end of the pipe allowed me to drain the tank every few days and refill it with fresh water.  This worked wonderfully.  My solution to most everything involves 5 gallon buckets and pvc pipe.

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Even with the improved watering system, manual labor was required and this became drudgery.  Not because I dislike being outside, but mostly because summer came.  In Mesa, summer is the worst time of the year.  In addition to this, the water in the bucket became so hot it would almost cook an egg. That isn’t fair to the chickens.

So I purchased a swamp cooler float and some pvc pipe and ran a new water line to the coop , put the float valve into the bucket and attached the new waterline.  Of course I don’t enjoy being outside in the summer, so I decided to replace the manual valve with an automatic one.  I decided that since the garden always wanted more water, and the chickens wanted cooler water the valve could release the hot water a couple times per day  staying open until cool water flowed into the bucket.  The hot water being expelled into the garden.

Here is the new pvc piping complete with a shutoff valve, these are invaluable when things go wrong at the automatic valve.

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Here is the automatic water valve and the float valve.

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I learned the hard way that the automatic sprinkler valves need to have back pressure to open or close depending on the valve design. with only 2 feet of head the valve didn’t work.  I looked all over the place and couldn’t find a reasonably priced valve that would work with very low pressure/flow.  The other option was a pump.  I found a cheap inline sump pump at Homegrown Hydroponics (I think hydroponics/aquaponics will be my next adventure).

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Pumping the hot water to a tank that either goes to the garden or the sewer depending on how I have things set up.  So now I have a timer running the pump twice a day, once in the early afternoon and another at sunset, giving the chickens cool water all night and during the hottest time of day.  They seem happy with this setup.  Summer in the desert is all about survival, for myself and for the hens.  Once fall comes again I think the extra time I have not dealing with feeding and watering tasks can be spent in the garden, growing yummy treats for my family and of course the hens will get some as well.  Maybe I will even have some time to get a hydroponics system setup, using the hot chicken water to grow veggies.

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