The first nipple waterer I made was for my cattle panel hoop coop, which needed a portable watering system. I liked it so much I made another for my upcycled swingset coop which has challenging slanted walls and limited interior space. This waterer is a space saver and can be customized to any length with any number of nipples, vertical or horizontal. It can also be designed with watering cups. I use horizontal nipples which are nice for grow outs and mature chickens although not a good choice for young chicks. They do take some pecking strength to use.
Keep in mind that the more birds you have, the more they will drink. In my cattle panel coop, I currently have 12 grow outs with a three nipple waterer and a 2 gallon bucket. I top off the bucket with at least 1 gallon of water each day, and on hot days sometimes I refill twice. Although watering 12 birds with this system is doable, consider the best size and set up for your flock.
SUPPLIES & TOOLS
1/2" PVC pipe, choose your length
Nipple waterer valves, any number
1/2" x 1/2" x 1/8" PVC reducer tees, same number as your valves
1/2" PVC slip ball valve, 1
1/2" PVC female adapter, 1*
1/2" to 3/8" male plastic hose barb elbow, 1*
Water reservoir, such as a plastic bucket with handle and lid
Plastic spigot valve with 3/8" diameter spout
3/8" ID (inner diameter) 1/2" OD (outer diameter) vinyl tubing, choose your length
Pipe seal tape
Silicone gasket maker
Plastic zip ties
Saw of your choice
Optional mounting bar for hardware cloth:
Thin wooden screen molding
6mm hex bolts, 2
Round washers, 2
6mm wing nuts, 2
Paint and brush
*The male/female assignment of these adapters can be reversed as long as there is one of each. If you do not need your vinyl tubing to extend at an upward angle, you can use a straight/non-angled plastic hose barb adapter instead of an elbow.
First, determine the length of your waterer. Mine is 34" total which includes the pipe plus the length of the fittings. So, if you want a 34" waterer, you won't need a full 34" of pipe. Each fitting adds 1/2"-1" of length on its own. Take this into consideration when measuring and cutting.
Allow space between each nipple so adult birds can stand side by side without crowding. Approximately 10" between valves is ideal. I cut my pipe into 4 pieces, two longer middle pieces and two shorter ends. I used a mitre saw, although almost any type of saw can be used. During cutting, plastic saw dust collects inside the pipe pieces. Be sure to rinse this out so it doesn't clog the nipple valves.
Once your pieces are cut, use pipe seal tape on the threaded nipple valves and attach them to the reducer tees. Do the same with the hose barb elbow and attach it the female adapter. Now put the waterer together without gluing it in case you need to shorten or re-cut any of the pipe pieces. Consider which end you want the tubing on and put the ball valve on the opposite side. The ball valve is used to flush water and air out of the system as needed.
Once the waterer is assembled check the alignment of the nipples, ball valve and barb elbow. Make your final adjustments and use a sharpie to mark the top of the pipe where each piece should line up during gluing.
Start at one end, removing and gluing one fitting at a time, following the directions for your PVC primer and cement. Typically, the purple primer is brushed over the inner and outer pipe surfaces followed by the cement, and then the pieces are joined. Use your marker dots to keep the pieces aligned as you take apart and glue each section. Once complete, allow to cure overnight.
If you're using a plastic bucket as a reservoir, you'll need to install a spigot. These can be purchased from amazon, ebay or a brewery supply shop. For my spigot, a 1" hole was needed but yours may vary. File away any rough edges from drilling and rinse out the plastic shavings from the bucket. Dry completely and follow the directions on the gasket maker tube. Typically you will apply a bead of silicone to both sides of the hole before attaching the spigot and allowing the silicone to cure.
Once all pieces are cured the waterer can be installed and fully assembled. There are many ways to attach the waterer and bucket depending on the surface and location. For attaching the waterer directly to hardware cloth, I chose to make a mounting bar out of wooden screen molding. The waterer attaches to the bar with zip ties and the bar attaches to the hardware cloth with bolts and wing nuts with washers. This makes it easy to change the height anytime and puts minimal stress on the wire. A note about zip ties: they don't last forever. They will break over time, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. Keep extras on hand to replace them when they fail. I sometimes like to double them up just in case.
For this design, I chose to hang the bucket (3.5 gallons) outside the coop for easy filling. Some people prefer to set theirs on a shelf or stand, which is a good idea for large reservoirs. Once the bucket is hung, attach the vinyl tubing to the barb fittings at both ends.
After adding water, open the ball valve briefly to flush air out of the line and there you have it, the waterer is done.
Thanks for checking out my article! For other DIY waterer designs on BYC see more member articles, and for additional discussion on watering your flock feel free to visit the watering subforum.
Ms Biddy's Horizontal Nipple Waterer
This gravity fed PVC waterer can be refilled from outside the coop and is ideal for chicken tractors and locations where a faucet is out of reach.