I’ve had laying hens on a small farm for about 10 years now — usually having anywhere from eight to 14 birds at any given time. It’s enough to keep me busy and to spend time looking for ways to make our little flock better and happier. This means good shelter and bedding, as well as effective feeding and watering systems. Especially in the summer months, having the best chicken watering system for your setup isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity.
There are lots of ways to approach this, and most of it depends on where you want to place the watering system, including whether it could easily get any pine shavings, grass, or straw in it. The last thing you need is for water to get all mucked up with bedding, or for the bedding to soak up water on a 90+ degree July afternoon.
We’re going to explore six options that have worked very well at various times for us in the past. Mind you, this is for backyard chicken farmers — commercial operations are another level entirely and have much more intricate chicken watering systems than what your average small-acreage or hobby farmer would have. Plus, if you’re creative and pretty handy, there are some video guides and other resources to show you how to do piping to include in your coop so that you won’t even have to go inside the coop to give your birds fresh water (and feed)!
Here, we’re zeroing in on the kinds of chicken watering systems that you’d pick up at a local farm-supply store. They’re inexpensive, so no sweat if you chip the plastic rim on one or it doesn’t screw shut anymore. They’re very replaceable.
Producer’s Pride 1-Gallon Poultry Waterer
This is the waterer that we have in our coop right now. We use pine shavings as bedding, and this waterer has removable plastic legs that keep it a couple of inches off the ground — and keep the debris from clogging up the water around the rim. It also has a handle, which makes moving it between the coop and the hose (or even swapping it out with another waterer during the icy months) so much easier.
Flock Party 5-Quart Poultry Drinker
Yes, yes, I know, Flock Party is an absolutely adorable brand name for this kind of product line. But moving beyond that, if you don’t have shavings or other bedding to contend with (or if you can perch your chicken waterer on bricks or a cinderblock), a watering system doesn’t get any simpler than setting this inside the coop. The handle makes it easy to transport, and the base stays securely on, without any fear of it being jostled loose. And unlike waterers that stand on legs, there’s almost zero chance of rambunctious hens knocking it over and spilling the water.
However, if you do have a way to hang your waterer, this item has a notch in the handle that makes it easy to suspend inside the coop.
Flock Party Cup-A-Water Poultry Drinker
A little different approach from the first two waterers presented here, the Cup-A-Water Poultry Drinker delivers a constant supply of liquid into the two attached cups, and the 4-gallon fount minimizes refills. The hinged lid makes it easy to replenish this poultry waterer. The manufacturer bills this as accommodating up to 24 birds, however, unlike the first two waterers we listed, there’s only so much room for a hen to squeeze in and get a drink. It’s great for small flocks or when all the birds aren’t clamoring for water at once, but if you have a particularly hot day or you’ve had to fill up an empty jug, some thirsty birds could create a good bit of chaos fighting for such a small space.
OverEZ Chicken Waterer
This chicken watering device is functional for both indoor and outdoor use and holds around 12 gallons of water. The OverEZ chicken waterer is intended to eliminate daily maintenance by providing clean water for up to a month. However, there’s a catch — the chickens have to be trained on how to use it. It involves removing all other water sources and gathering the chickens around the OverEZ waterer. Then you have to tap the nipples until the water fills up the cups. Essentially, the goal is to teach the chickens what they have to do to fill up the cups themselves. It does keep water cleaner than just about any other system available for backyard poultry, but there’s extra effort involved in making it work.
Rugged Ranch Poultry Waterer
Remember that do-it-yourself piping I mentioned in the intro? Well, this is pretty close to one of those possibilities, and it’s affordable to buy as a premade and easily installable unit. This chicken water feeder, which holds two gallons of water, mounts inside or outside to any style chicken coop and is is kept elevated and out of reach from rodents and their dangerous diseases that can contaminate the water. The German-made float helps to keep the water clean and fresh by keeping the dirt and bedding out that is naturally scratched into waterers that are set on the ground.
Farm-Tuff 7-Gallon Top Fill Poultry Fountain
This is the giant jug you probably never knew you needed — or wanted! The overall best part of this is that it opens from the top, unlike most similarly styled waterers that unscrew from the bottom. That means pouring water in is a breeze, and the wide mouth makes for easy filling and cleaning. If you have a lot of birds and live in a particularly hot area, this could be exactly what you need.
How much water does a hen drink?
Most estimates show that a typical full-grown laying hen consumes a pint of water each day — meaning, if you have eight hens, expect them to go through a gallon of water daily (assuming they don’t scratch any grass or bedding into the water and make some of it unusable.
Of course, that’s just a general guideline. Hotter weather will certainly increase that intake, even doubling it. And messy, debris-filled water is going to be left undrunk more often than fresh, clean water is.
How often do I clean a chicken waterer?
Chicken waterers should be thoroughly cleaned at least once a week. That’s a minimum. During the hotter summer months, you’ll be refreshing it more often, so there’s less chance for bacteria and other unpleasantness to grow inside them. In spring and fall, when the weather is cooler and birds drink less (but it’s still warm enough for bacterial growth), there’s less changeover in the water, so I recommend cleaning out the chicken waterer twice a week. It’s best to let it air-dry as well, if possible, to help rid it of any lingering contaminants.
Here’s some suggested reading for people interested in raising backyard chickens.
- Backyard chickens gained popularity in 2020. Here’s why
- You want backyard chickens? Here’s what you need in your coop
- No significant nutritional differences in eggs with different shell & yolk colors
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