DIY Chicken Waterer and Feeder from 5-gallon Buckets


Not everyone needs a post on a DIY chicken waterer and feeder from 5-gallon buckets, but someone out there does need it! Is it you? Even if you don’t have your own hens yet, this might be something to store away in your “someday” file because you just never know when you might need some great info that will save you a dollar or two!

Now onto the tutorial.

DIY Chicken Waterer and Feeder From 5-Gallon Buckets

DIY chicken waterer and feeder from 5-gallon buckets

What you’ll need:

  • Two 5-gallon buckets with lids (free – they are everywhere! Really! Just ask your local sandwich shop to save you a few that the pickles come in).
  • Drill
  • 1-inch standard drill bit or paddle drill bit
  • Two large foil roasting pans ($2 – pick them up at the Dollar Store) OR these large feed pans 

How to:

For the DIY chicken feeder:

Clean and empty your 5-gallon bucket. Along the bottom edge of the bucket drill 1-inch holes all the way around the bottom, spacing the holes about 2 inches apart. Place the bucket inside the foil roasting pan, right-side-up (holes in the pan), and then fill it with chicken feed. The feed will pour through the holes into the pan and as they eat, more will come out. Replace the lid to the bucket so that the chickens can’t get to the food from the top (and poo in it…). Easy!

For the DIY chicken waterer:

Clean and empty your 5-gallon bucket. Along the bottom edge of the bucket, drill two 1-inch holes, holes opposite of each other. Place the bucket inside the foil roasting pan, right-side-up (holes in the pan), and then fill it with chicken water. Quickly replace the lid and make sure that it has an airtight seal. This seal is key!! The water will stop coming out of the holes once the water covers the holes completely if the lid is airtight. The water will keep running out of the bucket and over flow the roasting pan if there isn’t a good seal. It’s a hydrodynamics thing….just ask my water engineer husband; he’d gladly explain it to you.

Here’s how all that looks in pictures:

What you need:
DIY Chicken Water and Feeder From 5-Gallon Buckets

Drill some holes:
chicken feeder how to

chicken feed and and buckets

Completed DIY chicken feeder:
chicken feeder from 5 gallon bucket

Completed DIY chicken water with lid (see, it’s not leaking!)
chicken water from 5 gallon bucket

The ladies enjoying their new housewares:
chicken feeder from bucket with top perch

I stuck a board on top of them both so that the chickens could stand on top and poop wouldn’t fall into the pans. The goal with such large food and water supplies was to cut down on chicken maintenance and poo in the water is not maintenance free. I’d rather prevent than clean.

The idea behind using the heavy duty aluminum pans was that they are cheap and easy to find. It really cuts down on the cost. I’ve been using mine for about three weeks now and things are looking great. I’ll keep you updated though on how well the foil roasters hold up. Five-gallon feeders and waterers at the feed store cost between $50 and $60 (EACH!), so being able to make your own is a much cheaper option and the hens sure don’t know the difference. It only cost me $2 total to make both the DIY chicken waterer and feeder and maybe 30 minutes worth of work. You really can’t beat those numbers!

Thanks for reading and happy backyard chickens to you. 🙂

(Psst… If you are new, you can meet my newest chicks here and check out my backyard chicken history here. Enjoy!)

UPDATE OCTOBER 2017: I’ve now been using these same buckets as a DIY chicken waterer and feeder for over 4 years. I have upgraded from the tin foil turkey roaster pans though. Those pans lasted about 6 weeks but I was in it for the long haul. I picked up some large (about 16 inches wide and 4 inches deep) round metal pans from our hardware store to replace the pans in these pictures. Here are similar pans on Amazon. They cost me less than $10 each and have lasted 4 years. So for $20 total, instead of $2, I have a large feeder and waterer that I’ve been using for years. They work great and I still highly recommend making these.

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74 Responses
  1. Cindy

    This is great. I have a new house that came with chickens and rabbits and mini pigs. I am going to make this for my animals so the pigs will not eat there food.

    1. Melissa

      I’m still using mine all these years later, you’ll love it. And how fun to have an instant mini farm! I just love it! Send me some pictures!

  2. Jess

    Great ideas! For the water, how do you fill the bucket without it running over the sides since the water only stops when the lid is on

    1. Melissa

      We just flip them over never to the metal pan, stick a hose in one of the holes, fill it up, and then flip it back down into the pan. It’s not perfect but I don’t mess with the lid either…

    2. Jeanayia

      I drilled my holes on the opposite end (about an inch or two) to prevent water spilling out when I filled it. Make sure you dont drill the holes too high because they should be submerged under the water in the pan. Worked great for me 🙂

  3. Bobbie

    Do you mind if I ask how long each fill lasts? I know that would depend largely on the number of chickens you have, but that would be helpful to know. Great job – thanks for sharing your expertise!!!

    1. Melissa

      I have 18 hens with one right now and it lasts 3-4 days, so I fill it about twice a week. If we are going out of town I’ll fill up a second one and it’ll last a week or so for my hens in the desert.

      1. This is a GREAT idea!!! This will help me get to my goal faster as I am on a tight budget and kept crying each time I saw the cost of a waterer and feeder!!!
        I live in Arco Idaho… I am concerned with this freezing and making a terrible mess with the bucket busting???
        Curious if you know how the chicken nipples would work in a similar set up but hanging up instead of on the floor??? Maybe making two buckets so I can rotate them during freezing temps???

        I have just enough experience to get myself into trouble!!! and second guess myself way more than I should>>>

        Thank you for this great idea!!!

        1. Melissa

          I could never get my chickens to use a chicken nipple bucket, I tried for weeks… so no experience their. My buckets haven’t frozen and cracked in the winter but they water does freeze and make the bucket unusable. I normally just pack out a few milk jugs with steaming hot tap water in them in the winter and dump them on the ice so that it can melt some. Most of the time I end up not using the bucket and just keep the pan filled with the hot water one or two times a day. That being said, we did use incandescent light bulbs in homemade wood boxes under the pans one year (because the light bulbs produce heat) and that worked really well to keep them from freezing. If you have power to your chicken lot, that’s what I’d do!

    1. Melissa

      It really is a big help on the farm. Running out of water is the worst, and not having to worry about it too much is the best!

  4. Nazia

    I used your idea but modified it by replacing the foil pan with one of those plastic pans that go with planters. I bolted it with 3/8 bolt and washers (rubber) to prevent leaks and now the buckets hang with the base attached. No water has leaked yet. Fingers crossed.

  5. Leah

    how do you fill the homemade waterers? The commercial ones have a rubber stopper that prevents water from flowing out while you’re filling it, how does this one work best to fill?

    1. Melissa

      I got ones from a restaurant that were for oil or pickles and they have a screw on and off spot on the lid. I have others that I just tip to fill and then tip back in to the pan, not the easiest but it works!

  6. Tina

    Be sure to remove the wire handle on the bucket, chickens or other foul can get caught (legs,beaks,necks) and die. Otherwise this is a really great feeder.

  7. Heike B Sullivan

    hi! This is a great idea! my husband and I decided to make our own. However, we changed the design of the water bucket, instead of 2 drilled holes we decided to put a valve in that we can lock when we need to refill the water. It works great! Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Dina

      I would love to see this in pictures. Curious if the chicken nipples would work with this and then it could hang instead of taking up space on the floor???

  8. Robin

    This did not work for me! Did exactly as Instructed..drilled the two holes and the water keeps coming out! I have the metal pan higher than the said the seal on the lid is very what happens when you dump in a bucket of runs out..just above the holes in the bucket and container…if the seal is so important, what about the openings where the handle is? There is air getting in there…I don’t understand what I did wrong as I followed your instructions and this will not work

    1. Melissa

      You essentially need a closed bucket with holes around the bottom. If you have an holes at the top the air will not make a vacuum and your water will run out. There shouldn’t be any holes near the handle. I’d try it again, once you get it to work it’s the best thing ever.

  9. Evageline C. Villaruz

    Thank you for your great ideas.. I am always in trouble to see the poos of my chicken in the waterer and it was very small container..Now I got this and hoping yo make one…God bless you always…

  10. caryn

    HELP, everytime I make one of these bucket waterers it does not stop filling ip the pan, it just runs over until the bucket is empty dow. to the hole.
    What am I doin wrong?

    1. If that is happening then the lid isn’t airtight and it’s not making a vacuum seal so the water will all leak out. I’d try a different bucket or a little caulk around the top before you pound the lid on! Good luck Caryn because once you get it to work you will LOVE IT!

      1. Vesper

        Mine will stop flowing when I get the lid on but its hard to fill it up and get the lid on before the water is over flowing the tub. I can’t carry five gallons of water and neither can my kids. Suggestions?

        1. We just keep the lid on and stick a hose in the hole to fill them up (while they are sitting upside down). I normally back them to and from the water with a wagon! Then all I have to do is flip them over into the pan.

      2. shannon

        I know this is an old post but was hoping for some help. I’m using new gamma seal lids and it still overflows until the bucket is empty. Any ideas?

        1. Melissa

          I don’t think the gamma seal lids provide enough airtight suction for this. I have the best luck when I get pickle buckets from a restaurant that have a little screw on lid at the top (don’t pop off the whole top) they seem to work best. The gamma seal will work great for food though (and it will keep them sitting on the edge of a open bucket top and pooping in the food)!

  11. Ellen

    Can those waterers be made warm in winter by the addition of a bird bath heater with the cord sticking out the lid or would that cause all of the water to leak out?

    1. The water would leak. You can stick the bottom pan on bricks (use 4, one on each corner) and place a 45 watt bulb underneath it. The heat from the bulb will keep it from freezing!

  12. randy

    Maybe you already covered this option and I missed it, but for the waterer, if you drill the holes at the top, you can carry the water and turn it upside down to create the waterer……….

  13. tabatha

    I cannot get the food to pour out of my holes. I ended up drilling a extra holes but it still isn’t working. Do they need to just be bigger holes, you think

  14. Instead of foil containers which the chickens can peck holes in I just used very large glass roasting dishes, they’re way too thick and heavy for chickens to break, are relatively cheap to buy second hand, and best of all can be bleached/disinfected without any worries about tainting for future use. And if you have chicks, you only need put a small amt in the bottom (water) and the chicks and drink (with mum) with no worries about them being tipped over or chicks drowning.

    1. I ended up just keeping a board with a big flat-bottomed rock on top of both the food and the water. It really helps to keep the food and water clean and the hens like to perch on the rock 🙂

    2. Joe

      You can also modify the board with a couple of magnets (I use the ones I salvage out of old computer hard drives and a piece of steel (like a bean can cut open and laid out flat. The magnets hold the board on to the top of the bucket, but can be easily removed to clean the board and refill the bucket. E-Z-CHEEZ-E

  15. I just have a quick question… How do you refill the waterer without losing the proper seal? As I am picturing it in my head… The water would go all over, and I wasn’t sure if I was misunderstanding the design? My husband attempted to make one of them for me using an old milk can, but we couldn’t get the seal correct so we scrapped it for ice cream pails until I came up with another option.

    These look really good! I plan to make them up as soon as I convince my hubby to come out from his nice warm blankets! LOL

    Have a good day & congratulations on the new baby!

    1. You can hammer the lid back on or I just stick the end of the hose in the hole that I drilled (with the bucket upside down), fill it up and then flip it over into the water container when I get it to the coop. Does that make sense? It is SO nice to have a full 5 gallons of water for the hens and I think you’ll love it!

      1. Meri-Lynn

        Can you drill a hole in bottom for filling, or I wonder about drilling hole around top so you still have use of the handle, would I still need lid if open end is in pan. And how hard would it be to flip over without getting wet.

        1. We just stick the hose in the holes at the bottom and then flip it over… not super easy but we can do it fine. If you drip holes in the top though it won’t make the suction that it needs to hold the water in the pan. Those crazy hydrodynamics!

  16. Amber

    I love your baby blue eggs! Reminds me of grandma’s. .. You are awesome at what you do Melissa, keep it up! I love reading what cool things you are up to!

    1. Melissa


      So glad you found me (and left your blog too so I can check you out!!) just so you know… I ended up buying big metal pans to replace the turkey roasters after about 6 weeks. The pans were $6 each at the farm supply store (near the buckets) so my price is now at $12 for the two. Still great but not as cheap as $2. I need to update that on the post! Thanks for stopping by. M.

      1. Bill

        yes that is right. when the chickens get older they drink more and the metal pan holds up better. Could you drill less holes? The bucket is hard to turn over for my daughter. Do you have any other ideas >

  17. Alison

    This is awesome and totally timely for me since my flock went from 9 to 23 and those gals are drinking more than my waterer will hold! You can buy steel feed pans @ Murdoch’s for $6. I’m going to make the waterer this weekend. Thanks!

          1. Melissa

            Hydrodynamics! You haven’t created a vacuum seal which means that there is air coming in the top of your bucket. So you’ll need that top lid to be airtight or it won’t work and the water will just keep coming out. Hope that helps!

          2. Colleen

            I’m planning on making these tomorrow after I go get the plastic pans from the dollar tree. Instead of turning the bucket over to fill I’m going to try putting a cork in the holes, then fill the bucket replace the lid and then remove the corks. We’ll see how it works.

          3. Melissa

            I’d LOVE to hear how the cork goes, that sounds like a great idea! Keep us posted! I’m years in using my buckets and still love them.

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Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.

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