How do I teach my pullets to drink from nipples?


Feb 26, 2015
East Tennessee
Over the last week I’ve picked up 7 pullets (2 Easter Eggers, One Red Blue Lace Wyandotte, One Light Wyandotte, One Lavender Olive Egger, one buff Ameracauna, and one mutt.) for my starter flock of backyard chickens. The custom coop and run I ordered for them was supposed to be delivered yesterday but there’s been a delay and now their coop won’t be ready until day after tomorrow. In the meantime I have all 7 pullets housed in dog crates, and to water them I’m using traditional metal chicken waterers.

But when I move the girls to their new coop when it arrives on Saturday I’ll be hanging a horizontal chicken nipple waterer in it, which both my Americauna breeder and the local Tractor Supply chicken expert recommended to me. But even after having it explained to me plus watching several videos on You Tube, I can’t figure out how my pullets will learn how to use the nipple waterer to get drinks. Some people seem to recommend leaving another water source in the coop until the hens get the knack of drinking from the nipples while other chicken experts recommend removing all other water sources until the hens get the hang of the nipples. Some people recommend focusing on teaching one or two hens to use the nipples and then letting those hens teach their flockmates, while other experts say that each pullet must be taught to use them the nipples individually.

If you’ve been successful in teaching pullets or young hens how to transition from a traditional waterer to a nipple watering system, how did you do it? Do you think pullets or young hens are much harder to teach to use the nipples than baby chicks are? How can I be sure that my hens are getting enough water while we’re in the process of teaching them to use the nipple system? Also, do the vertical, hanging nipple watering systems prove to be a problem in very cold weather? All input and feedback appreciated.


11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
Generally, if you remove original forms of watering the flock, once the chickens begin to get thirsty, they quickly find the nipple system.

The vertical nipples have no resistance and are easier to learn, especially baby chicks that have limited strength to peck hard enough on the horizontal spring loaded nipple. But most learn it in less than a day.

No need to teach any particular chicken to then instruct the others. There is always one bold one that is much more curious than the others and will be the example and lead the way.

Nipple watering systems can be a problem in sub-freezing temps. There are many different ways chicken folk have conquered this problem. I use small 9" x 9" heating pads over the vertical nipples to keep them from freezing and it's worked just splendidly for many years. Submersible heaters inside the water tank work best for horizontal nipple systems.


7 Years
Jul 18, 2013
Kalispell MT
You do not teach them. Remove all other sources of water. Within an hour or so and they will be using the nipples. Chickens are curious. They are also attracted to the color red and shiny things. They'll be checking out those nipples. Just did that a few weeks ago with chickens that were using an open waterer. Put the horizonal nipple waterer in there. No one has died. They must have figured it out. Chickens are not as stupid as some think they are. I've done the same thing with 4 or 5 or 6 other batches of chickens. Never had a problem. Had some pullets I put into a coop after dark. When I went to check on them at 7 am they were all getting drinks.

If your birds are not constantly poking at the nipples, they are getting enough water.

Vertical nipples freeze up more than the horizontal nipples. There is a little bit of water left in the vertical nipple whereas the horizontal nipple actually has a tiny o ring to keep water out. My system is a 10 gallon semi clear plastic tote with lid, horizontal nipples, and a stock tank deicer that is okay to use in plastic. Water has stayed thawed down to -22 F. That is as cold as it has gotten here in 3 years.

The best part of the whole system is that I only have to fill the water once a week for a dozen birds. That is great when it is so very snowy, icy, and cold.


Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
Removing all other water sources is the way to go, do not do this during extreme temps when dehydration can become a health issue more quickly.

I found it helpful to know about how much water my birds were drinking daily before switching over to nipples from open waterers. Pretty easy if you water daily at same time of day. With very young chicks I put the open waterer out 30 minutes before roost time to make sure they go to roost hydrated.

Some birds will pick it up in minutes, others have taken a couple weeks to really 'get it'.

Vertical Nipples are more likely to leak and harder to keep thawed in winter.
Horizontal Nipples are the only way to go IMO.

Here's my heated waterer, I have other articles on HN's too.


May 20, 2015
Chickens are very curious and will peck at about anything. Activate the nipple when they are watching so that they can see some water there. They'll learn.


May 20, 2015
Get a $2.00 laser pointer from the dollar store or gas station check out line. The hens chase the red dot around. I used one for about 2 minutes shining it on the nipple of my waterer and they were pecking at it in no time.

That's fun to know. I'll have to try that now. Walmart has them in the cat section.


Jan 16, 2017
I smeared some hard boiled egg (their favorite!) on the nipple parts, while tapping the dispenser with my finger. Once one pullet gives it a try, the rest will follow. Removing the other water source is important also. I did this on a weekend when I was able to monitor them throughout the day, because it's usually very hot where I live and I didn't want any to get dehydrated.


May 20, 2015
Also, do the vertical, hanging nipple watering systems prove to be a problem in very cold weather?

They will freeze even with heated water because the activation mechanism is exposed. The horizontal kind is much less likely to freeze because the mechanism is internal to the container. The place where they will freeze in very cold weather, which keeps them from working, is the little depression that collects a drop or two of water. Heat the water enough and that shouldn't become a problem.


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