This is my take on a bucket fed nipple waterer. We quickly switched to a simple nipple waterer in our brooder out of necessity to keep the water clean. When we moved the chicks outside, it made sense to scale up to a larger nipple system. I don't want a water hose connected all the time as I worry about leaks. However, the system below could be easily adapted to add another hose fitting and a float valve as seen on other designs. This system works great for us, is easy to check, needs infrequent filling, and keeps the water clean. It is also very flexible in setup and reconfiguration since all of the connections are threaded and connected with hose.
**EDIT** I did later add a float valve and it worked fine. I also switched to the horizontal spring loaded nipples which I like better since they don't drip and the chickens can access then in a more natural posture. I had another similar setup that fed my rabbit nipple waterers. I used this system for 6 months without any problem. As winter came around, I decided that I needed a more robust, year around, system. The new system is a completely freeze proof system that waters my chickens and rabbits all year outdoors in northern Utah. When I write an article about it, I'll link to it here.**
Possible improvements if desired:
- Add a small (<1/8") hole near the top of the bucket as an air vent. We have had no problems with suction on this or our other bucket waterer but it could be a good idea. I just don't seat the lid tightly and it vents enough air to keep things flowing.
- Add a float valve and connection to hose bib so it is auto filling. Overkill for our setup and I worry about leaks.
- Could easily add more pipe sections with nipples in other areas of the run with additional hoses and hose wye adapters
- Add air vents by drilling and tapping the top of the pipe for a small stainless steel screw. Loosening the screw will bleed air from the system. I have the parts but have not installed them. The system is working fine.
- Use bolts or wire hooks for hanging brackets for hanging pipe to make height adjustment simpler.
- Add a window, site tube or other means for seeing water level without unscrewing lid.
Part and Tool List
I had some of these parts and was able to make some. I tried to list everything with its cost if you had to go to the store and buy it new. Please verify all of the fittings and sizes before drilling or gluing anything in case I put in a wrong part number.
1. 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket (Item #: 211826) $2.98 I like the plain gray buckets they sell
2. 1/2 in. x 1/2 in. PVC MPTxFPT bulkhead union (Store SKU # 411178) $11.97 (online shown black, the one I bought in the store was white; same model number)
3. 5-gal screw top Gamma Seal lid (Store SKU # 266050) $7.25 This one is black on the Home Depot website. I got a white one in the store.
4. 1 in. x 10 ft. PVC Schedule 40 pipe $3.93
5. 1 in. x 3/4 in. PVC Schedule 40 Reducing male adapter (Store SKU # 738549) $1.44 I could not find the exact part I used on HD online, but this should work.
6. 1 in. Schedule 40 PVC Male adapter (Store SKU # 188158) $0.67
7. 3/4 in. x. 1/2 in. Lead-free brass MGHxMIP Adapter (Store SKU # 867678) $3.95
8. 3/4 in. x 3/4 in. Lead-free brass FGH x FIP Swivel Adapter (Store SKU # 815333) $5.19
9. 1 in. PVC Schedule 40 FPT Cap (Store SKU # 536733) $0.98
10. UV resistant zip ties, screws, wire hangars, or other mounting system for brackets to run wall; I used zip ties.
11. Little Giant Poultry Nipples - 4 pack (Item # 172035) $4.99
12. Short potable water hose. Can get these anywhere that sells RV accessories. About $4.00.
13. Optional brackets or other mounting system
14. Optional rubber washers
Bit to drill slip fit hole in bucket for #3 bulkhead union
Bit to drill slip fit hole in optional bracket for #6 reducing adapter
Bit to drill slip fit for #8 male adapter
Bit for bracket mounting holes
Adj/Pliers or wrench
11/32" Bit for nipple waterers
Block of wood
Drill a hole in the side of the bucket (#1) a few inches up from the bottom, so the bulkhead (#2) does not extend past the bottom of the bucket. Size your drill bit for a slip fit for the bulkhead you buy. Attach bulkhead according to package instructions and hand tighten. Install the screw-on bucket lid (#3).
Cut the pipe (#4) to desired length. Mark a straight line along pipe so nipples will all be pointing in the same direction. Drill holes along pipe for the nipples (#11). The Little Giant brand calls for a 11/32" bit. Install nipples in drilled holes. I find them easier to install if I disassemble the nipples so that I have just the red plastic base. I use a block of wood to press the base into the drilled hole while I turn the base with a 15mm wrench. The go in without any trouble using this technique. Do not over tighten or they will break. Snug them down just until the clear o-ring is lightly compressed.
Glue the PVC adapters (#5 & #6) onto each end of the pipe. Connect the hose (#12) to the bucket using adapter #7 and to the pipe (small threaded end) using adapter #8. Screw the PVC cap #9 onto the other end of the pipe (large threaded end). Hang the pipe so the nipples are around head high for your chickens. I used homemade acrylic brackets. See attached image of the brackets above. After cutting the brackets out, I put them in a vise with wooden blocks and bent on the bend line by gently heating with a hot air gun. The pipe is connected to the brackets by inserting the PVC threaded fittings through the bracket holes and then screwing on the brass adapter and PVC cap. Depending on the thickness of your bracket, you may need washers to take up the slack so the pipe is snug and won't rotate. I cut the red homemade silicon rubber washers shown in the pictures. The bucket can be hung or placed on bricks, etc. I hung it with a tarp strap. Put water in the bucket. Bleed air from the system by pressing on the nipples with your finger until water flows from each nipple.