Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How We Made Our Chickens' Water Poop-Free

I've learned a lot about chickens in these last three months. Like how chickens have personalities. They're also good at weed control (my baby loves to feed them dandelion leaves). Beaks can get cracked (freaked me out at first, but it has since healed). Pecking order squabbles are kind of funny to watch. Chickens like to take dust baths (at least that's what I've heard -- mine won't go near the one I made for them).  Even yesterday, I learned that chickens love yogurt. Since the temperatures were in the 90s yesterday, I put some cold, plain yogurt in a bowl and they gobbled it up (and got it all over their faces -- Max thought it was hilarious).

One other thing I've learned in the three short months I've been keeping chickens:  they have terrible manners when it comes to food and water. Given the chance, chickens will poop in their food and water without a second thought.

This was my chickens' water on a good day, not too long after it had been changed.  It never took too long for the ladies to get poop (either fresh or kicked up from a spot nearby) into the waterer.  I changed their water frequently mostly because I just felt bad for them. They might not know better, but I knew they were drinking poopy water. Ew. Plus, it doesn't take an expert to know that drinking contaminated water isn't healthy for them.

I elevated their waterer for a while and that kept it poop-free, but before long, the ladies started tipping the thing over. I can't tell you how many times I'd be in the kitchen and look out the window to see their waterer on its side, completely empty. Max got pretty tired of being sent to refill the chickens' water again and again.

Realizing that this problem would only get worse as the chickens got bigger and the days got hotter, I decided to look into different methods of keeping hens hydrated. I don't know how I found the site, but I came across the Avian Aqua Miser. After a little bit of reading, I was sold. I had to get a kit. It might just save my sanity (at least when it comes to the chickens).  {Quick sidenote: I think I should mention that I'm not being paid or given free stuff to sing the praises of the Avian Aqua Miser. This is all just my happy, not-endorsed opinion on it!}

The Aqua Miser is different than other waterers because it is completely enclosed and doesn't touch the ground, thereby removing any chance at all of poop getting into the water. It couldn't be simpler to make -- all you need is a plastic container that can hold at least one cup of water per chicken and the kit.

The kit I ordered is enough to water up to five chickens and it includes a chicken nipple (or, as Kevin and I call it, a 'chipple'), a wire for hanging, tons of information about waterers (like how to make a heated one -- something I'm sure we'll need to make), and a drill bit. The drill bit costs an extra $5. The drill bit size you need to have to make the waterer (this makes the nipple fit best so it won't leak)  is an odd size and isn't in most kits, so I figured we'd save ourselves a trip to the hardware store and order it from them.

The day after the kit arrived, I got a container we didn't use very much and the husband and I went to work on it.

Easy peasy.

And then we came across a problem. In my haste, I didn't take into account that the end of the container, where the nipple is, is supposed to hang 18 inches from the ground so the birds can access it easily. The bottom of ours was maybe only a foot or so above the ground. Oops. I was ready to head to the store to buy another container (I was feeling pretty dumb for missing that instruction), but my ever-creative husband took over and made it work.

Kevin got some scrap wood (probably leftover from building the chicken tractor), some strips of aluminum, some washers, and screws, and made this cool little mount for it. It's even better this way because it's so easy to change the chickens' water. I don't even need to open the tractor to fill it. That guy I married is awesome.

Once the waterer (and the necessary mount) was assembled only one question remained: would the ladies know how to drink from it?

"What is this thing??"

Betsy wasn't so receptive of it. I'd say she even looks a little suspicious, what with that sideways glance and all.

Foxy was a little more open-minded.


Once Foxy drank from it, the other two soon followed suit.  This whole process of getting them to drink took only a few minutes. The chickens are drawn to the color red naturally and once I tapped the 'chipple' to get some water dripping, the ladies soon figured it all out. They've been using it for over a week now with no problems.

Let me tell you, this simple project has saved us a lot of hassle and makes keeping chickens even easier. No repeat trips to change or fill the water -- just a check and refill in the mornings. I wish I had done this sooner. Although the ladies might not fully or consciously appreciate having poop-free water, they seem to like the new waterer. So really, in this instance, the humans and the chickens win.

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.

{This post is linked up to Homestead Barn Hop and Little House Friday}


Ten Things Farm said...

Hi, I was wondering about the size of the 'special' drill bit? They never mention the size on the site, and if I already have one, I'd hate to buy another. I'm interested in trying this system though - thanks! :)

Heather said...

I took a gamble when I ordered the drill bit. It paid off since didn't have it -- it's 11/32. Being not so handy with tools, this number meant nothing to me, but my husband commented about it being a weird size. I would recommend getting the drill bit in that size because it makes the nipple fit perfectly -- we haven't had any problems with it leaking at all. Hope that helps!

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I'm trying to overlook the fact that you named one of your chickens "Betsy."

Heather said...

hahahahaha -- If it's any consolation, she's our favorite! Definitely the nicest of the three. She's our Ameraucana, so we gave her the all-American name of Betsy Ross.

Lisa/Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl said...

Please come visit our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FreshEggsDaily and blog http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/2012/03/beating-heat.html.

I share some good tips on keeping your chickens cool. Misters can be deadly in areas of high humidity.Nipple waterers often cause dehydration in the chickens lower in the pecking order. And yogurt can cause diarrhea which dehydrates.

So three things you DON'T want to do in the summer. Check us out ! You'll be glad you did.

Heather said...

Hmmm... We have super-low humidity here in the Western U.S. (I think the weather said we're around 10% humidity right now -- not so great for the wildfires), so that's definitely not a concern for us, but something others might want to look into. Thanks for the heads-up.

I haven't seen any pecking order squabbles -- all three of our chickens are drinking regularly from the waterer, from our big and bossy Ameraucana to the smallest-of-the-bunch Rhode Island Red. I'll have to keep a closer eye on them and make sure they're sharing, though.

As for the yogurt, I've done some research (I always check online or in my chicken keeping book before trying anything new) and I've read that a little yogurt now and then isn't a bad thing. In some cases, the probiotics can actually be beneficial. My chickens have only had it once as a treat and I didn't notice any diarrhea going on. All I saw was that they loved the cold yogurt since it was particularly hot that day.

Here's just a few of the links I read regarding yogurt:




Probiotics helping chickens with diarrhea: http://www.ehow.com/how_6528499_treat-chicken-diarrhea.html

Lisa/Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl said...

With just 3 chickens you're right not as much danger of one getting shut out, just a consideration. As for the yogurt, chickens can't digest dairy, so cheese, milk, yogurt all give them diarrhea. Not an issue as an occasional treat, but I give mine probiotic powder in their feed every day which has the benefits of yogurt without the diarrhea issues.

Just an FYI, there is a TON of misinformation on backyardchickens. I used to be a member but got tired of correcting all the wrong stuff that people post. Just a thought - check other sources also.

Amy @ Homestead Revival said...

Great post! I've featured it on the Homestead Revival for Barn Hop #67!! Yahoo!

Providence Acres Farm said...

I love it! I had chickens for a couple of years fighting with the poopy waterer problem. Now we are getting a few chickens again, in a small tractor like yours and I'm making this for them! What a great time and water saver! Thank you for this!

I like your blog!

Anne Kimball said...

Hi, I'm Anne, and I'm here from the Barn Hop. Love your blog! And I just ordered some "chipples" for my own chickens. Thanks for the pro tip!

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