In addition to making a small feeder for them (I am making a bigger one for them since they are getting larger), I needed to come up with a way to keep clean water accessible to them. Chickens are notoriously bad about fouling any water that is left in an open dish or bowl so keeping clean water available is normally achieved by means of poultry sippers or waterers that work with gravity and a vacuum. Since the sippers involved having a special poultry “nipple,” I began playing around with how make a waterer similar to those in the latter group. This is the model that seems to be working. It requires two gallon-sized milk or water jugs. On the first jug, I made a four-inch cut in the corner opposite the handle following the line that runs along the bottom of the jug, two inches on either side of the corner seam line. I made two very small v-shaped openings in the top section of this cut and pressed the upper corner section of the jug back in on itself as shown in the above photo. On the second jug, I removed the bottom leaving the sides one inch above the line that comes molded along the bottom. Making sure that the ridges on the bottoms of the jugs matched up, I slid the first jug into the bottom portion of the second one, pressing it down to fit snugly. I used some duct tape to attach the two jug pieces together. (I may try PVC glue on one just to see if that works better.) The two pieces should look like the photo to the left. The lid must be in place for this waterer to work, so to fill the jug with water, I hold it on its back (the handle side) under the stream of water and allow the water to flow into it through the open hole on the front until I can’t add any more. When the jug is placed upright, the water is available through the opening.
In addition to being cheap (yea!) there are several other useful features to this waterer in that the opening is large enough for the chickens to get their heads in to get the water, but is not really large enough for them to stand in. The slick sloping plastic on the top to the bottle makes it difficult for the chickens to perch on top of the bottle. It is probably not a long-term solution to keeping them in clean water, but it is great for providing extra water if you are going to be out-of-town for a couple of days and want to ensure that they will have plenty!
Update 8/25/14 – We tried hanging this waterer in the corner of the coop by its handle and discovered that it really must be placed on a flat surface like the concrete block in the photo. Hanging the jug distorted its shape and allowed the water to flow freely.