This morning, I hope to explain how I re-purposed some items to provide water for our chickens while they are “free-ranging” in their improvised “peck and play.” Chickens require access to clean water all the time, and in the summer months, particularly when the temperatures soar, water is critical. This posed somewhat of a problem in their portable enclosure because I needed to be able to move the pen around. It was more difficult to move everything if I had to stop and move a chicken waterer from inside, move the pen, and then put the waterer back inside. It was also very difficult to keep a container of water that is on the ground clean when the chickens are scratching the dirt up all around it!
We read somewhere that some chickens will use a regular ball-style pet waterer, but ours never seemed to get the hang of it. So I came up with the idea that I might be able to convert the pet bottle into a gravity-fed style waterer by removing the metal ball. Using a dremel tool to remove the tip of the metal tube, I was able to remove the metal ball from inside it –in our case, it turned out to be two metal balls. (Do all of these things have two balls, or is this possibly why some chickens can use them and others can’t?!) Anyway, with the balls removed, the water did pour out. Now I just needed a receptacle for the water to flow into on the inside of the pen. For this, I used a pet food container that came with our pet carrier. It was never used, and it had the advantage of already having some molded hooks on the back that I could use to attach it to a corner post of the pen. A couple of zip ties and wire from an old dry-cleaning hanger were all that I required to attach both the container and the bottle holder to the pen.
The final problem that I encountered was that the metal tube was not long enough to extend far enough down into the pet container to prevent it from over-filling. The solution to this was to lengthen it with a piece of drinking straw. The only thing I have found necessary to make sure it is working properly is to give the bottle a squeeze when I first put it in the pen. This seems to kick-start the vacuum action. The bottle does not hold a great deal of water. Since we have a very small “flock” of four :), it works well as long as I check it when I move the pen about and refill it as necessary. Though these photos were taken through the open end of the enclosure, the waterer is actually attached under the end with the feed sack cover. This, in addition to the fact that the inside container is too small for a full-grown chicken to stand on, helps to keep the water clean.