Help needed w/chicken waterer "science project" : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

OK- anyone who has an opinion on this, please jump in- I'm stumped. I just spent the afternoon building a homemade chicken waterer, loosely based on one that appeared on page 49 of the Nov/Dec 1998 issue of CS (vol 82 No. 6). Basically, I took a 5 gallon bucket which I placed on top of my chicken tractor. I drilled a 1/4" hole in the side of the bucket, near the bottom. Through the hole I shoved a piece of drip irrigation hose (because I had it on hand- the instructions simply called for a piece of "small hose or copper tubing"). The hose ran through the side of the pen into a watering pan which I spent a long time building a very shmancy stand for. It should have worked perfectly, I thought, the idea being that the water would rise to the level of the end of the hose (in the pan), and then stop. Unfortunately, the water keeps running- all 5 gallons of it! I used approx 2' of hose from the bucket to the pan- maybe that is too long? Or, maybe the hose is too big? I think it is only about 1/8" ID- I know I had to really work to get it through the 1/4" hole. Bummer. I already built one waterer out of a one-gallon platic container and a plastic saucer- I just drilled a hole 3/4" from the top of the container, then put the saucer on top and inverted the entire thing. The water runs out of the hole until it covers the hole- when the chickens drink, more water comes out. It is great, except that the chickens kick litter into it even though I put it on a 6" high platform. The new waterer was supposed to replace the old one, if I could get it to work. I'm going out to look at it again, but in the meantime, any suggestions will be appreciated.

-- Elizabeth (, April 14, 2001


I can't help you with your water, but if anyone out there would like instructions on how to made an automatic chicken door opener, let me know. I didn't mind going out at the crack of dawn to let the chickens out, but would sometimes forget to close the door at night leaving the chickens easy prey for night critters. I mentioned to my (engineer/inventor) husband that I wished I had a "smart" door that would open when the sun comes up and close when it got dark. He came up with a sensor device that opens the door in the mornings and closes about dusk, after the chickens have gone back in side. No more forgetting to close the door and haven't lost a chicken to critters (at least inside the house) since.

Thanks for reading.

-- Dianne in Mass (, April 14, 2001.

Elizabeth, If you are talking about watering adult chickens, I have given up on all chicken waterers and just gone with a plain old bucket. Just got sick of trying to keep anything else clean. I have never had a chicken drown or bother it. Easy to carry a clean bucket to them, both winter and summer, twice a day.

-- diane (, April 14, 2001.

Dianne- Thanks for the offer. I might like to know more about your door opener once I have the waterer working. I think the problem is vacuum- related. The instructions are pretty vague, but I have been testing this thing with the top off the bucket. Now I'm wondering if it needs to be closed. Going back to try again.

-- Elizabeth (, April 14, 2001.

Elizebeth, I think the problem may be w/ the hose. If it's a soaker hose it maybe has more than one opening. The little pores that seep the water out slowly may prevent it from having the vacuum you need. That would cause it to keep running and drain out the whole 5 gallons. Also, it could be a leak at the juntion of the hose and bucket. Try another hose type. A piece of vacuum or fuel line hose would work. That would be cheap at the auto parts store. Take the bucket w/ you and have the guy at the counter find a good fit or a connection to thread into the bucket it'self may work. get some sealant (nontoxic?) to insure that your vacuum is maintaned at the connection.

Let me know how it works out. I was thinking of this same project the other day.

-- John in S. IN (, April 14, 2001.

Elizabeth, if I understand you project you have a container of water which is above the level of the drinking pan? The principle I have seen used for similar systems is that the water container is sealed from the air so that the only way air can get into the container is back up the output tube. Of course air can only get into the bottom end of the tube when the level of water in the pan drops. Only so much water can leave the container before the lack of incoming air stops the flow. Try a sealed lid on your water bucket. Cheers

-- john hill (, April 14, 2001.

how far up is the bucket??? sounds like you have to much gravity. when its full,, the level should be equal, pressure equal

-- stan (, April 14, 2001.

I think the problem may be w/ the hose. If it's a soaker hose it maybe has more than one opening. John- definitely NOT a leak where the hose joins the bucket- I am getting a good seal there. Also, NOT a soaker hose, but a solid piece of tubing. Try a sealed lid on your water bucket. John Hill- I tried to put a lid on the 5 gallon bucket, but I guess it did not seal well- still running over. how far up is the bucket??? sounds like you have to much gravity. when its full,, the level should be equal, pressure equal. Stan- the bucket is sitting on top of the pen, about 1 foot above the water pan.

Update- tried several other configurations- it seems as if I do need to have a sealed container for this to work, and it works best if the hole is drilled at the TOP of the container, just under the lid. The container is then filled with water, then inverted, so that it sits upside down on the lid. The best thing I could find laying around the shop tonight was a 2 pound coffee can- plastic containers, even with good seals on the lids, did not work because they were not rigid enough- the sides caved in due to the pressure. So, the coffee can worked, sort of- I cannot get a good seal at the lid, so, I finally stuck THAT into a pan of water, to see if that would stop the air from getting in. It works! So, tomorrow I will get a glass one-gallon pickle jar and drill a hole in the lid itself. Then, I will have to build a little stand for THAT. Yikes, I should have spent the $18 on a commercial waterer! One thing is for sure- either I am really dumb, and/or the article/picture were very misleading and lacking in detail. Fine for folks who know what they are doing, but rough on those of us who try to follow directions. After all, if I could figure it out for myself, I would not have NEEDED the article.

-- Elizabeth (, April 14, 2001.

The top of the bucket definitely has to be sealed AIR TITE for it to work. Then all you have to do is submerge the end of the hose in a pan or whatever and it will self fill when it gets air from being empty.

-- john (, April 15, 2001.

I have store bought automatic waterers. One thing you failed to mention is a float, which is what stops the water at a certain level.

-- ~Rogo (, April 15, 2001.

Rogo- there is no float. The point of this waterer is that it is supposed to rely on gravity and pressure.

Going to try a new container today- wish me luck!

-- Elizabeth (, April 15, 2001.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you're arranging things so water runs downhill, and then expecting it to just stop before the level in the two containers has equalised. If that's the case, then it's just not going to work unless - as others have said - you arrange for a vacuum (airtight container, water has run out creating suction) to balance the force of gravity.

-- Don Armstrong (, April 16, 2001.

Here is what I did with a barrel last week and works great. No more worrying about water running out if I leave for a day or two. I bought two of the auto. waterers that work off off a gravity feed. I used a 3/4 inch drill bit and sealed up the hose bib with bathtub calk. Bought a cheap 50ft hose and 3 female hose fittings. Also 2 1/2-male hose adapters so I could screw the hose to the waterers. I ran one hose into the chicken coop and the other along the fence. I did have a problem adjusting the valve on the inside coop. It flooded out the chicken coop on Friday, but is working fine now. Only takes a second to pop off the bowl to clean it and reinstall. I used scrap wood and cut a couple pallets in half for the stand. There is room for another barrel and I might install a gutter and feed the water into the barrel. I was also going to add some strapping for that next big earthquake we're suppose to be getting. Here are a couple pics.

-- Kent in WA (, April 17, 2001.

I forgot to add that I installed a 2 hose y adapter. Here is the other pic that I messed up on my previous post.

-- Kent in WA (, April 17, 2001.

peoople seem to have answered the original question - the holding container MUST be air-tight and the air has to go up the hose to let out more water. I solved the problem by using a 5 gallon bucket that has a tight lid and a small spout (closable with a cap) and putting it upside down outside the pen with the spout in a rabbit waterer trough running through the fence. That way the trough is up off the ground so out of the way of litter being thrown about and small enough to not waste much.

-- kirby johnson (, April 20, 2001.

Thanks for the inspiration Kirby. How about plastic gasoline containers (new from '*mart' of course)? They are quite cheap, fairly sturdy and come with good seals and a spout. Just mount the container on a stool or something outside the run with the spout going inside. The only important thing is that the end of the spout must be below the level of the water in the drinking dish. You will have to close the little air breather hole.

-- john hill (, April 20, 2001.

The answer to your problem is pretty straightforward and easily remedied. Effectively, what you have currently is a five-gallon bucket with a hole in it. Of course the water is going to drain out- that's what buckets with holes do. The top of the five-gallon bucket simply needs to be sealed completely air-tight. The difference between the five-gallon pail and your earlier one- gallon set-up is that the one-gallon system was CLOSED. Water would not drip out of the one-gallon container because air could not enter the container. Within the container, the water is being forced down due to gravitational pull (head pressure). With a sealed container, this creates a vacuum. The head pressure of the elevated water column is compensated by the force exerted on the rigid walls of the bucket. Water will leak out of the small hole near the bucket bottom because as the water level in the containment pan decreases below the level of the bucket outlet, small amounts of air can enter the bucket until the system once again reaches equilibrium.

-- john s (, August 23, 2001.

The *mart* makes a dog waterer type dill for a 2liter bottle on gravity. It screws into the pan, and stops letting water out of the bottle when the level rises to the rim of the bottle.


-- Thomas (, January 15, 2002.

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