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Save your Back and Your Money: Make an Automatic Waterer for Your Free Ranging Chickens

As a homesteader, I have a lot of experience with cooking and raising chickens, managing the various plants in my garden, and DIY.

Silver Pencilled Wyandotte and Cuckoo Marans Hens Drinking from a Home-Made Automatic Waterer

Silver Pencilled Wyandotte and Cuckoo Marans Hens Drinking from a Home-Made Automatic Waterer

Easy and Cheap to Build

These waterers save both your back and time, and that's why we love them. We have made them on a movable stand, so you can move them to a more convenient or central location whenever you need to. If you have an electric poultry netting run, these are perfect. We have three, and these waterers easily serve 100 birds daily.

What's more, they are self-filling, meaning there's less work for you and more fresh water for the birds. They have 24-hour access to fresh run water with no wait time, and you don't have to carry heavy 5-gallon waterers back and forth.

To add to all of these benefits, these are much easier to clean than a traditional waterer. There is no special water pressure reduction equipment you need to buy since this device attaches to a regular garden hose and uses no electricity.

I also like that there is a bigger reservoir of water, unlike nipple feeders. If there were ever a problem with the hose, you have more time before the birds run out of water. This way, you know that your hens will always be able to get the amount of water they need.

The Whole Automatic Waterer attached to a Garden Hose

The Whole Automatic Waterer attached to a Garden Hose

What You Will Need

  • Old piece of garden hose (approximately 1-2 feet in length)
  • Automatic animal water bowl
  • Small scraps of 2x4 or 2x6 wood (approximately 1-2 feet in length)
  • Female brass fitting hose and hose bib with clamp to attach hose to waterer
  • Hose valve and fittings to attach each end valve into the hose line (the hardware store can help you if you take in the section of hose)
  • Regular length garden hose connecting to your outdoor tap

How to Build an Automatic Waterer

  1. Build the base from the wood pieces. The base pieces should be a minimum of one foot in length, but two feet is even better for stability.
  2. Attach the automatic waterer to the wooden base with screws.
  3. Use hose clamps on each end of the short piece of scrap hose to attach fittings.
  4. Attach valve (tap) to brass fitting on the other end of the old short hose.
  5. Attach the brass female end of the small hose to galvanized waterer.
  6. Connect the valve end to a regular garden hose coming from your outdoor tap.

Step 6 can be made without the valve shut off, but we find it more convenient to do it this way if we want to switch the supply off when we move it or clean it.

Blue Laced Red Wyandottes and Black Penedesencas Enjoying a Cool Drink!

Blue Laced Red Wyandottes and Black Penedesencas Enjoying a Cool Drink!

When to Use Automatic Waterers

Automatic waterers work best for free-range chickens, but you can easily set one of these up inside a large run or hen house and save a lot of work. They are best used on level ground, and you can see in the first picture we have a piece of wood under the front as our barn entrance is very sloped.

This type of waterer doesn't work for delivering medicine, as it is impossible to get a steady concentration. Also, metal waterers should not be used with acidic liquids like apple cider vinegar, and we don't use these during the winter yet, when temperatures are below freezing.

We plan on rigging up an insulated heat trace system in the future. These are certainly usable if there is a thin skin of ice after a heavy frost. The sun will thaw the ice throughout the day.

These are certainly worth a few minutes to fabricate, and make looking after your chickens easy.

© 2011 Skeffling

Questions or comments - we can clarify if something is unclear and add it to the article too!

Pat on March 12, 2019:

Check out kijiji for the water bowl 29.00

Ralph on May 13, 2018:

Where can I find the actual water bowl?

Debbie on September 23, 2017:

Where are you finding the galvanized waterer?

Tayne Peirce on July 13, 2017:

If there is no electricity, why is there an electrical extension cord there? How does the water shut off when it's still on at the faucet?

Kevin on December 11, 2015:

Their is a float that shuts off the water when full. Tap is left on.

Matt Millar on July 14, 2013:

I'm not sure I understand how these work. Do you just leave your outside tap on all day? Or is it more so that you just don't have to lug water - so you turn the hose on, let it fill and then turn it off? They look quite a bit smaller than 5 gallons to me - I'm not sure why this would last longer than a nipple style watering system. More details would be appreciated! Thank you.