Tubing Water System *Updated

Poop-free, space saving, waterer!
By Shuttergirl · Jun 8, 2017 · Updated Jun 26, 2017 · ·
  1. Shuttergirl

    I have scoured and scoured the interwebs for a watering system that suited my needs. Or rather the needs of my chickens! We were looking for something that was spill proof, poop free, would hold a minimum of a weeks's water, AND the BIG one--took up no space in their run. I know, I don't ask for much, right?

    The closest I could find was the PVC pipe with nipples. I really didn't want that as I felt I would have to cut into my hardware cloth, at least a little bit, to install it and I figured it would just be something else to poop on.

    I did find that a couple of rabbit farmers were using a tubing system with rabbit nipples attached to the mesh with brackets, the tubes running outside to the water source--a rain barrel or 5 gallon bucket. We were getting closer to what I was looking for, but the rabbit nipples (almost identical to the vertical chicken nipples) were less than desirable because I wanted to minimize dripping as much as possible and, for that reason, I wanted horizontal chicken nipples.

    I wondered if I could just swap out the nipples and use the tubing and brackets sold for rabbits. Strangely, but not surprisingly--since the man is always trying to stick it to us--rabbit nipples are a standard 1/4" on the back fitting whereas chicken nipples are 3/8". Such a small difference, but I wanted everything to fit tight to avoid drippage. I saw I was on my own to put this together.



    I started with the water container. I looked around Craigslist and such for cheap food grade water barrels and such, but couldn't find anything I trusted. I ended up getting the Aqua-tainer from Wal-Mart for just under $15. It holds 7 gallons, the perfect size for my girls! Bonus, it had a screw on ring collar with removable dispenser spout (like on a lemonade dispenser). I removed the cheap spout and my 3/4" rain barrel spout (Amazon) screwed right in. I then used a metal bushing to step down to the 1/2" I needed for a 90 degree elbow that adapted down to 3/8" to attach my tubing. I ran this down to a barbed "T" and then to 2 horizontal nipples. By placing them against my 1/4" mesh, I screwed the nipples right in. I did pre-wrap the nipple threads in plumber's tape for good measure.


    The girls were super excited to see the little red nipples when they came back in the run and started drinking from them immediately. I could have gotten away with 1 nipple, but I did 2 for good measure--after all, waiting in line is for the DMV!

    I am test driving it this and the coming week as I am going to be out of town for a week soon and want to give the chicken checker in on (that's a thing, right?) less to do. I will come back and update with the results.

    Now to find the perfect feeding setup...

    *Update 7/25/17
    So, I said I would update after test driving. I was able to try it out for over a week before going on vacation. I left up a standard size rabbit bottle during this time in case of a failure. During that time the only issue I had was when the girls were out and about and one portly lady decided to roost on the tubing while I was inside the coop doing some cleanup. I tried to shew her off from inside, but failed and the tubing ended up slipping off the nipple. I cleaned the nipple and reapplied teflon tape before reattaching it to the nipple. I considered applying a clamp for extra security, but haven't found it necessary yet. I did just return from a 9 day vacation and my chickens were supplied with plentiful, clean water the entire time. My neighbor checked in on them periodically but had no work to do other than giving them some nightly treats. They didn't even touch the water in the rabbit bottle, so I know the nipples are their preference now. I am thrilled to report there is no leaking or dripping! The only changes I would make/might make in the future are 1) to run the tubing against the coop/run structure (held in place with clamps or such) to keep curious chickens off of it and 2) I could add an easy connect valve to the spout for ease in connecting and disconnecting OR more likely, drill a hole and add a bulkhead on the top side of the container to be able to stick the hose in to refill.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. AlderCreekFarms
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Aug 23, 2018
    Thank you for posting this!!
  2. mrs_organized_chaos
    "Nice watering system"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Aug 3, 2018
    My husband really wanted to do something similar to this but hadn’t found anyone who had done it in the past. Our coop is a little bit of a walk fro. The house so we have to haul water out to the coop. This would make life a little easier.
  3. ronott1
    "Nice water system!"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jul 25, 2018
    Love the setup!


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  1. ironcladlou
    I observed the following things during construction/testing which warrant further experimentation:
    • The connection between the tank cap and the valve had a slow drip leak. I tried applying some teflon tape to the valve threads and also backed off the connection so maybe 2 or 3 threads remain exposed, which reduced the leak to a drip so slow I decided to stop messing with it for the day, but I would like to revisit the problem at a later time.
    • One of the chicken nipples popped out of the tubing while being pecked. I notice the hose was protruding slightly from the hole in the wall (maybe 1/4") such that the nipples were suspended in air, which may have made them susceptible to movement and wiggling free. I pushed the nipples as tightly as I could into the holes in attempt to stabilize them from repeated pecking abuse. So far so good. I did wrap the threads of the nipples with teflon tape, but as they aren't actually screwing into the tubing it's not clear to me whether the tape is helpful.
    Shuttergirl suggested to me that it would be possible to drill a hole in the top of the tank and use the bulkhead provided with the valve to allow refilling the tank without disassembling the main valve component; that sounds like a great idea, and I'll be trying it myself. Any thoughts there would be appreciated.

    Thanks for the detailed write-up of this design! Affordable and effective. Changing that little mason jar watering dish 3 times a day was becoming quite a chore for all of us here...
      Shuttergirl likes this.
    1. Shuttergirl
      I love the way you have your water inside with the nipples on the outside. I imagine it keeps it cooler. As to the pecking and dislodging, I haven't experienced that-probably because my tubing and nipples connected up at my hardware cloth which was miraculously the perfect size to hold them sturdy. When I ordered the nipples and wasn't sure of their exact size, I thought I would have to ziptie them to the hardware cloth, but didn't end up needing to.
  2. ironcladlou
    1. AlderCreekFarms
      Thanks for the exact list, as I am not good at figuring this kind of stuff out.
  3. FlyingNunFarm
    Do you think this would have worked with the original spout that came with the container? Or does it not have enough control over the flow? I have an old water container I think I can convert....hhhmmmm
      Shuttergirl likes this.
    1. Shuttergirl
      I didn't try it because the spout that came with it was just the flimsy beverage dispenser type. I preferred a threaded fitting to connect adapters to.

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