Chicken Health / Chickens / Management

Chicken Nipple Waterers and Reusing Plastic Bottles

Chickens drink 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups (.3-.5 liters) of water each day.  I usually provide two waterers: one hanging waterer with a chicken nipple in the coop and one basin in the run.  While the chickens seem to enjoy drinking out of the basin, the water is much more easily contaminated or spilled.  The hanging waterer with the nipple ensures that they have access to clean, fresh water 24/7.

All of my chickens are hatched at home and raised with a hamster water bottle because traditional waterers fill far too quickly with shavings and poops in the brooder.  (You can read more about brooding here.)  When they move outside, they transition to the chicken nipple, which they master quickly, being already used to the hamster bottle.

In the big coop, I use a 5-gallon bucket with only about 1-2 gallons of water in it.  If I use more, they never get a chance to drink it before I change out the water.  However, I can add more water when it serves my purpose.  In the winter, I sometimes use up to three gallons of water.  I bring the waterer in each night to prevent freezing.  In the morning, I add a kettle of near boiling water to the room-temperature water in the bucket and bring it out to the coop.  The large thermal mass of the water and insulation from the warm air also trapped in the bucket keep the water unfrozen longer.

However, all of my other small and temporary coops have smaller waterers made from chicken nipples and reused plastic bottles.  Vinegar bottles, juice bottles, and plastic milk containers all work equally well.  Select a bottle with a good handle to use when hanging.  I simply drill a hole, insert a nipple wrapped in teflon tape and smeared with silicone, and screw the nipple in.  After letting the silicone set for at least four hours, I fill the bottle with water and hang it up in the coop.

Teflon tape, silicone; Use socket to screw into the container.

I hang the bottles from a hook screwed into a beam across the ceiling of the coop.  From this hook, I hang a metal chain.  I loop the chain through the arm of the bottle and adjust to the height I want.  Finally, I secure the end of the chain to a link on the chain above with an S-hook (just as I hung my feeder in the picture below).  Put the lid on the bottle.  Then, open the lid slightly or poke a few small holes in the lid.  If the bottle can’t draw air in, then there will be a vacuum and your chickens won’t be able to get any water out!

Using an S-hook to adjust the height. Loop through handle of container and attach to chain above at the desired level.

Ready materials to reuse the nipple in a newly-repurposed plastic bottle.

When the bottle is dirty or you are cleaning the coop thoroughly for new residents, replace the plastic bottle.  Remove the chicken nipple with a socket on your screwdriver.  Remove the teflon tape using tweezers if necessary.  Give the chicken nipple a soak in soapy, warm water, disassembling if possible.  If not, be sure to wiggle all of the parts around to work the soapy water through.  Then, disinfect with a dilution of bleach or Oxine if desired, rinse, and dry.

Remove the nipple from the old bottle

Drill a new hole in a washed-out bottle.  Again, wrap the nipple in teflon tape.  Just like when you are plumbing, you want the tape to tighten as you screw it in, so hold the threaded end pointed towards you and wrap the tape around a few times in a clockwise direction.  Then, add a thin ring of silicon.  Insert the nipple into the socket attachment for your screw driver, with the sticky side out, and screw it into the hole in the bottle.  Let it cure for a few hours, and it’s ready to fill and hang for your new residents.  The old, dirty bottle can be rinsed and recycled.

Remove the old tape with tweezers.

Wash, and the nipple is ready to reuse.

As I said in my previous post on chicken nipple bucket waterers, there are a number of different types of chicken nipples available.  I used these nipples purchased on Amazon.   These are the screw-in style and are recommended for use in thicker plastics.  They have worked well so far.  Recommendations vary from 1 nipple for every 3 chickens to 1 nipple for every 17.   If the nipple is used too infrequently by the chickens, it can clog more easily.  I use one per coop, which all have less than 15 chickens, and there is never a line at the waterer.

Drill a hole in the new container.

All done! Let the new bottle cure for a few hours, rinse and recycle the old bottle, and pack up your tools for next time.

Because I rarely use this particular bit and socket for anything else, I keep them in the bag with my directions, extra nipples, teflon tape, and small tube of silicone.

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9 thoughts on “Chicken Nipple Waterers and Reusing Plastic Bottles

  1. I was reading again the other day from Mother Earth that you should not reuse plastic bottles like soda bottles, etc. as it has toxins that leach out. Just wondering since you are primarily organic, what is you view on reusing the plastics? I have been checking the numbers on the bottom and some are safer than others. I picked up a small container for my husband to take tea in at work. After I read the article I took it back to the store because it was one of the numbers that causes cancer. I could not believe it was still even on the market.

    • You’re totally right. I don’t use most plastics for things which directly touch my husband’s and my food. We have Pyrex containers for food storage and stainless steel or glass for travel containers, but I do have the BPA-free plastic Nalgene water bottles which we reuse. As far as the chickens, there is definitely a possibility that some of those chemicals make their way into the eggs or meat, but it would be in such trace amounts in comparison to what we’ve been exposed to over our lives that I don’t worry too much about it. I think that changing the plastic bottles, rather than leaving the same bottle for months to break down with exposure to the sunlight and such, probably limits some of the contamination. I know that plastic leaches more when warm, so maybe avoiding plastics in the coop during the summer would be worthwhile. It’s a really good point to consider, Barbara. Thanks!

  2. So interesting! I just recently heard about nipple waterers and I’m intrigued. We use the traditional waterers and basins in the run but I might just have to introduce one of these nipple waterers and see how it goes. Thanks for the tutorial!

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  4. Hi there—thanks for the tutorial. I really need to get one of these made for my girls, all I’ve got is a poultry waterer, and you’re right, it does get dirty. I’m emptying it 2-3x per day.

    I’d like to invite you to share this post and up to two others at Farm Girl Blog Fest #17, which is live right now. You would be a great addition to the wonderful posts that are shared!

    Hope to see you there!
    Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

  5. I’d like to know what size drill bit please! I have chicks in rubbermaid totes in my closet and seems like the totes never have nice flat bottoms and the water often leaches out into the shavings, necessitating them to be changed more frequently. Great post, thanks!

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  7. Pingback: Ideas creativas para reciclar o reutilizar botellas de plástico /

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