Spring is in the air and that means that it’s time to start thinking and getting prepped for backyard chickens! I’m going to tell you everything you have ever wanted to know and more about Chicken Waterers and how to DIY your very own from a 5 gallon bucket.
Providing animals with water to drink seems like a no brainer, but there are a lot of factors that go into watering chickens. For instance: how much water do chickens need, what type/material of waterer is best, how to keep the water clean and how to DIY a chicken waterer that is simple and cost efficient. Let’s dive in.
DIY chicken waterer and feeder from 5-gallon buckets
Water is essential for humans to survive and it is no different for chickens. Appropriate access to clean water drastically influences how healthy a chicken is and how well they produce. If a chicken does not have an ample supply of water they will actually stop laying eggs! Did you know that? Water also aids in the digestive process and helps a chicken eliminate waste.
When a chicken is sufficiently hydrated they are able to regulate their body temperature more effectively. A chicken that drinks clean, cool water also has a healthy brain. This will keep the animal in tip top shape and their mind sharper to be able to watch for predators. In short-chickens will not survive without water.
It doesn’t seem like chickens drink very much water because they just take small sips throughout the day. However, on average chickens drink about 1 pint of water per day. They will drink more if the temperature is hot. They also like cool, fresh water. If the water has been sitting out in the sun too long, hasn’t been refreshed regularly, or starts to get dirty from the chicken’s own doing- they may stop drinking. You don’t want a chicken that isn’t drinking so remedy the issue quickly.
The process of chickens drinking water is actually really fun to watch. Chickens use their tongue to push food to the back of their mouth to be swallowed but that method doesn’t work for drinking. If a chicken wants to drink water you will see them dip their beak into the water and rapidly tilt their head back to let the water drip down their throat. So you can imagine they can’t drink a whole bunch of water at once.
Keeping the water you feed your chickens clean is essential. Ideally, you should refresh their water every single day to prevent bacteria build up and algae forming. Along with changing their water every single day, I suggest sanitizing the waterer at least weekly. You can use dish soap and a brush to clean the waterer or a diluted bleach solution.
Chicken waterers can come in various shapes, sizes, dollar amounts and can be constructed from a myriad of materials. In my experience, you don’t need to break the bank providing water for chickens. As long as they have clean, fresh water and lots of it your chickens will thrive. We have used this DIY version for chicken waterers for years and have found great success with them.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Chickens typically do not need water during the night. At night, they usually sleep on their roost until morning.
You want to place your waterers in a place without direct sunlight in order to keep the water as cool as possible.
I plan for 1 large waterer per 6-8 chickens. Remember that they drink about 1 pint a day so plan accordingly.
The general rule is if it is safe enough for you to drink then your chickens can drink it too.
If a chicken is dehydrated you will want to remedy the situation quickly. When a chicken isn’t getting enough water their egg laying will slow down or could stop completely, they will become lethargic, you many notice them panting or a pale comb as well.
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).
- 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
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:
Drill some holes:
Completed DIY chicken feeder:
Completed DIY chicken water with lid (see, it's not leaking!)
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.
Not everyone needs a post on a DIY chicken waterer and feeder from 5-gallon buckets, but someone out there does need it! 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!
I set the buckets n the round metal pans sold for oil changes. In winter i set the bucket and pan on top of round metal cookie container with a few holes punched in the sides and 3-4 tea lights burning inside. It warms the water enough to keep it from freezing. Works well in 6300 ft elevation high mountain desert country. Just 2 tea lights on below zero days work nicely. Old style electric light bulbs work well but I don't have power out there. I ke we p some little solar light around the edges so I can see whats happening if predators get too close. I can see to shoot if needed.
Esther M Huchel
Thank you for the tip on the tea lights. I use solar yard lights around my plants just to give them some extra light and warmth. I live in 5300 elevation, with a zone 7a/7b in AZ. I do have property in a zone 9a and 9b that I will retire to. I will be able to have my meat rabbits and hens again out there. Any other insights you all could give for my area is appreciated. I may have to live out there sooner if the Covid or other continues to be a problem economically.
How do you fill them fast enough??? The water runs out so fast when trying to fill because you can't fill with airtight.
I fill it upside down through the holes that you drilled then flip it over. It won't work if you open the top.
I hate the problem with the water feeder is you literally have to have the bucket full of water upside down and then flip it over completely full with the lid on sealed in order for this to work it did not work the way that you described it
Really? I clean mine fill the pan with water sit the bucket in it fill it quickly with water and put the lid on!! Of course turning it upside down would not work...duh
Drill some holes under the lid easier to carry and fill
Thanks,it's a great idea I'll try it out. The pyiscs behind is that the partial vacuum prevents water from following , when the hole are above the water level air gets in, permitting some more water to follow our .
Since am a Christian please permit me also to tell you guys that Jesus saves
Thanks much Melissa
Hi Melissa we are a mission here in Zambia your ideas are helpful stay blessed.
So which is better for a waterer? Drill holes at the bottom of bucket or at the top below the lid?
I don't think it matters as long as the bucket is air tight.
I would seem to think the bottom for 2 reasons. 1) filling it would be way easier 2) you can hang it . Just my thinking.
I did one with the holes at the top just above the lip on the bucket. I fill it up put the lid on it and then flip it over into their drinking tub.
At the top, I have been doing this for years. Feeder is fine with holes on the bottom but waterer holes have to be on top and then flip it over, easy to carry also.
Hmm - Drill the water holes a half inch below the lid closure edge, fill the bucket, seal it and gently turn it over into the bucket. Going out to try my modification!
This sounds genius.....I’m on my way to try it too thanks for this idea!
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.
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!
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
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...
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 🙂
Thank you for the tip!!
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!!!
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.
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!!!
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!
Excellent info. I like it.
GREAT CREATIVE WORK, COULD NOT IMAGINE THE ''THROW-AWAY'' COULD BE OF SUCH GREAT USE IN MY FARM.
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!
Anthony Joseph Falante
Great info,I set mine on a cinder block so they don't scratch bedding into it
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.
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?
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!
You could use a plug or tape and remove after your lid is placed..
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.
Excellent idea...my chickens may need these at some point.
what about pellet feed and water holes seem too large maybe 1/4 inch holes
I got plastic drain pans from Dollar Tree for the bottoms of my feeder/waterer. They are just barely larger in diameter than the buckets. $1 each, sturdy and won't corrode. They work great!
Like your idea.
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!
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???
Thanks for the tips!