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Safe waterers for baby chicks (and big chooks too!)

We hatched some chick from eggs put under a broody hen - which was soooooo much fun a while back and I have a friend who is about to do the same thing. We were discussing how to make sure thee chicks have access to water that lasts all day while she is at work but isn't deep enough for them to drown in.

The biggest problem is that chicks need water, but for some reason they think they are ducks and leap right on in. Their feathers aren't waterproof and they get waterlogged and cant get out. If its deep enough, bad things can happen. Shallow dishes are fine unless the water evaporates too quickly or the chicks stand on the edge and tip them up... (who would have thought that giving water to chicks was so hard!?)

We found a couple of solutions that worked well for us. Once you have seen a couple of these ideas, you'll have a light bulb moment and be able to rush out and make you own at no cost!

Here's what we did...

The first idea that we came up with was to put some clean rocks in a takeaway container and fill it with water for the chicks to drink out of the gaps.

This works well as if the babies decide to run across the rocks they get wet feet and a few wet feathers but its not deep enough for them to drown in. There is plenty of space for them all to drink at the same time and they cant tip it up. Its cheap, easy and replicable. Obviously any shallow-ish container and any kind of larger rocks and stones will work for this.

The big downside was that once the mama chook got outside she started to scratch around to eat and inevitably filled the container with dirt that turned into mud. If you are home when your chicks are very little then you can just empty and clean out the container two (three or four) times a day.

Another alternative is to put the chicks water in a sheltered place where mum wont be digging or to put a cover, like an ice cream container with on side cut out like a door over the top to protect it from the worst of the dirt flinging.

You might be able to put the waterer inside the coop - where they are sleeping. As long as the chicks have 24 hour access to it they will find it when they need to drink.

This paver and ice cream container version came together randomly one afternoon and works well. It has the same benefits and issues as the one above and really, its the same thing; a shallow container with a rock in it!

The ice cream container was cut down to the same height as the paver giving a solid base that wont tip and plenty of deep pockets to scoop the water up from. Chickens don't have a swallowing action like you and I. Have you watched them drink and noticed that they scoop up the water and then lift their head right up and nod their head so gravity does the rest?

That means that it can be easy to make a chicken "vomit" too. If you have a chook with a full crop and you press against it and hold the chicken upside down, their stomach contents will just fall out. I don't think they have one way valves like we do.

When your babies are a bit bigger like my Brahmas (about 3 months in this photo) then any container that they cant tip up is ok for water. This is the dogs bowl being repurposed as a chook water bowl while these girls were in quarantine when they first arrived. Its good because its wider than it is high are harder to tip over . Don't use something like this for chicks. They will fall in and not be able to get out...

This is a two litre bucket is fine for big chooks but again - don't do this for your babies. They cant get out if they fall in. This one isn't so good for this size chook either. They will hop onto the side if the water level is low and tip the water out. If its a hot day and you aren't home or don't notice, they can dehydrate and get quite sick quite quickly or even die depending on the temperature.

This red waterer is the one we have the best results from. It self fills from the pipe that is connected to a larger container that hold 5 litres. They can't fling dirt into it and they can't tip it out. The dirt and food from their beaks drops into the cup and each morning I use my finger to scoop out any debris that I can see. When I'm refilling the reservoir I use the watering can to "water blast" any hard to get debris out. I also use a toothbrush to give the cup a bit of a scrub out now and again when it needs it.
These cup waters are available online for around $12. They are good for chicks but need to be close to the ground for the chicks to get to. The log is there for the bantams who cant quite reach it as it was set for full size chooks at about their chest height. (That's a teenage Barnevelder in the photo)

The curved tube holds grain and again stops them from tipping it out and I can put a cap on it at night to stop any rodents from getting a free feed!

When I have sick chooks and they are inside in a box or in the hospital pen, I use a jar jammed into a corner for them to drink out of. Its high and close enough to a sitting chook so they can reach over for a drink without having to move. If I have them in a cardboard box I often tie (or cable tie) the jar in the corner so it stays there. The advantage of the jar is that it doesn't take up much room and I can see exactly how much they are drinking by measuring the remains when I change the water each day. Its easy to clean and sterilise if I need to. Its small enough to medicate the water accurately without too much waste, free and easily available too! If the chook does manage to tip it over you can always pop some rocks in the bottom to stabilise it. But I find sick chooks aren't romping around and the jar is usually fine jammed against the corner with the blanket and hot water bottle against the other side to stabilise it.

This small enamelled container is great for keeping clean but no good for water. Its too light (easy to tip) and too low for a sick chook to scoop water out of. I like tall skinny jars for sick chooks. This one is good for medicated food for all chooks. Small enough to medicate accurately and to see how much they are eating. It will fit on my kitchen scales and is easy to clean and sterilise if I need to. Its no good for baby chicks, they will flip it in about .00056 of a second as they explore their world!

Water is one of the necessities of owning chooks and they must have access to it at all times. From 24 hours old to the end of their lives, chooks will drink about half to a litre EACH a day depending on your daily temperatures. They drink a sip here and there but all that sipping adds up. It is imperative that they have 24/7 access to cool fresh water.

I have pots of water in various places around the garden so that no matter what time of the day it is there is a pot of water in the shade for the chooks (cat, dog) to drink out of.

Do you have chicken waterers that you want to share? Post a link in the comment section so we can all see!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for raising chooks and knowing where your eggs/meat comes from 
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not spending a fortune on the latest gadget every time you read a the latest chook magazine!
Time cost: a few minutes to set up any kind of chicken water at the most!
Skill level: Pretty basic really! :)
Fun-ness: Great fun to set something up that works for you and your chooks!


Baby chickens! So cute! <3 It's so nice that you are able to upkeep this blog :) Perfect way to follow your everyday life in there far away! Happy Easter for both of you!
-Janika from snowy Finland :)
Practical Frog said…
Hey Janika!
You would have loved to see the babies we just hatched! Lots of fun!
Hope life is good in Finland for you! - Love to you and your family! - K x
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