You could definitely go out of town with this thing. It was set up last Friday and I keep checking just to make sure it's working. It hasn't failed yet. Every time I look in the bowl, it's full of water!! The girls seem to like it much better than the traditional waterer because it's deeper and, I guess, because it doesn't fill up with litter. The bowl is spring loaded, so that when it's empty, the bowl rises and the water comes out of the brass "fount", filling the bowl. As the bowl becomes heavy with water, it lowers until the water fount shuts off at a level that you predetermine. When the chickens drink the water and lighten the bowl, it rises again, turning the fount back on, refilling the bowl. The bowl comes off easily with a 1/4 turn if you ever want to empty it out or clean it.
We built a stand for the rain barrel to keep it about 2 feet off the ground to be sure gravity feeding isn't a problem, and used a plastic strap to secure it to the hen house wall. It's not going anywhere. We wanted a system to check the amount of water in the barrel to make sure the girls don't ever run out,. So, we created a floating "dipstick" using one of those toilet tank float balls with a small pvc pipe inserted into it. We capped the pipe on the top to hold in the air, and cut a hole in the top of the barrel for the pipe to come out. As the water level lowers, the toilet float ball takes the PVC pipe down, which we've marked with 1/4 full and E (empty). It's really pretty cool.
Believing in my ex-husband's saying, "Work smarter, not harder", I've also got one of those Pullet Shut automatic chicken doors that's solar powered and photo sensitive; it opens automatically when the sun rises and closes when the sun sets, long after the girls are asleep.
I also built a drawer under their roost that I call the "Poop Deck". It's covered with a vinyl flooring remnant and holds pine shavings. When the girls roost at night, their poop lands in the drawer. When it's time to clean out the hen house, I pull the drawer out (on the outside of the house) with a handle, shovel the shavings into a bucket and carry them to the compost pile. It makes cleaning a breeze. Plus. I put a simple hook and eye lock on the outside of the drawer just to be sure no critters find their way in.
All I have to do now is figure out a way to get a gutter to deliver the eggs directly into my refrigerator without me having to go to the hen house in the cold.
I call it my automatic, self-operating chicken coop. :)
Edited by 7 Biddies - 5/23/12 at 4:44pm