Chickens are delightful pets to watch, care for, and spend time with. While your chickens may be happy to see you, they can effectively keep each other company if you don’t have time to hang out, and they produce a sometimes unseemly number of eggs. Unfortunately, they’re also somewhat untidy creatures and take a reasonable amount of care and cleaning up after to keep them clean and healthy. One of the biggest challenges with chicken ownership is making sure your flock has clean water to drink, a task that is a lot harder than it sounds.
Traditional chicken feeders are essentially made of a bucket and a pan. The bucket slowly dispenses water which fills the pan from which the chickens drink. However, an open trough of water on the ground (especially near chickens) is a quick recipe for a lot of dirt, debris, grass, food bits, and other random contaminates in your chicken water. So how can you water your chickens in a way that reduces this mess and helps both you and them keep the water clean? We have six ideas to help you get started.
1) Add a Little Apple Cider Vinegar
Perhaps the most important water contaminant is one you can hardly ever see, microorganism. These tiny bacterial or other forms of microscopic life are in all water, including municipally treated tap water. To keep these from reacting to the outside environment and any corresponding microscopic life your chickens might be carrying around, pour just a little apple cider vinegar into your chicken’s water barrel which will kill most of the little crawlies.
2) Replace the Water Every Day
Water that sits outside for long periods of time is much more likely to become contaminated and dirty. Even if it seems safe inside a plastic container, we don’t advise feeding your chickens stale plastic-flavored water if you can help it. Instead, use a watering solution that holds a little more than a day’s worth of water and simply change out the water every day at the same time.
3) Clean Your Watering Devices Weekly
That said, fresh water isn’t going to do you any good in a dirty watering apparatus. Especially because you’re dealing with standing water, the waterer is likely to build up a grimy layer of dirt debris around the edges and possibly along the bottom of the trough. Wipe down your waterer daily when you change out the water and give it a good scrubbing at least once a week.
4) Put a Cage Over the Water
One interesting home-grown solution addresses the issue of debris specifically, and the fact that chickens often drop things in their own water. This clever chicken owner realized that they could simply put a little chicken wire around the water itself, which effectively keeps a lot of the larger debris from blowing in with the wind and keeps the chickens from walking over the water with the inevitable unsanitary results.
5) Implement Water Nipples
The backyard chicken community is overwhelmingly inclined toward DIY solutions and building our own chicken furniture but there is a store-bought solution that’s hard to replicate at home. A little something known as water nipples or a nipple-bucket lets the chickens to peck at a spigot which only dispenses water when they peck. This means that you can keep your water in a semi-sealed container and skip the messy trough solution.
6) Keep Water Off the Ground
Finally, and this is important with or without the water nipples, try to keep your water off the ground. Up on a small platform is better though in some cases, you can even hang your waterers from the coop ceiling. This ensures that the water isn’t down where the vast majority of the dirt is and can help you ensure that your waterer is never underneath where your chickens roost.
The best way to keep your flock healthy is to start with clean, fresh water. By perfecting your watering solution, you can make sure that your chickens never get dehydrated or pick up an illness from badly kept water.