Bonafide Farm

Teaching chicks to use nipple waterers

April 25th, 2014 § 0

I set the new chicken water in the broody coop, using a block of wood to elevate it to the level of the chicks’ heads. I chained it to the coop wall, and that, combined with the weight of the water, was enough to keep the container upright even when bumped by the birds.


The chicks were wary of the new contraption at first, and reluctant to approach. So I took some dried cranberries and stuck them on the ends of the watering nipples. Once the mother hen figured out where she could get a sweet treat, she hungrily pecked the waterers, and in doing so discovered that her action produced water. And that was all it took. In about five seconds she had shown her chicks how to use the waterer, and they all crowded around to explore the new device. It was another great example of why I like using a broody hen to raise chicks—it’s fascinating to watch her teach the babies exactly what they need to know, and they learn from her instantaneously.

These horizontal watering nipples are not recommended for chicks of less than ten days old. It takes a fair amount of strength for them to manipulate the spring-loaded mechanism with their beaks, so I can see how smaller chicks wouldn’t be able to drink from them.


I had marked the starting water level on the side of the jug, just to make sure that the birds were actually getting water out of it during this transition. And I watched them carefully for the next few days to make sure no one was suffering from dehydration. But training them to use the new waterer couldn’t have been easier, and overall it is a huge improvement from the old, dirty, spilling chick fount.


While I was updating the watering system, I also introduced a new feeder to eliminate the problems I was having with the chicks, and mama hen, scratching out and wasting so much food. I drilled a few sets of holes into this plastic trough feeder and wired it to both the side and bottom of the coop. That holds in securely in place against being tipped over, and it’s easy to pop the top off to refill. The birds are wasting much less food with this design.

The birds have been using the new water and food systems for a couple of weeks now, and all is well. Especially for me, as with these simple and inexpensive upgrades I solved two of the most disgusting and wasteful problems of chicken keeping!

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