Yup, betcha can't say that out loud without giggling. They're my new obsession, and I guess its a bit odd since I don't even have the chickens yet. I realize that hens do NOT lactate, although I did see a cooked egg sprout feathers on the sidewalk the other day... and I digress.
Chicken Nipples. Yes, Chicken Nipples. I just can't stop saying it! Ok, what's so great about CHICKEN NIPPLES (last time, sorry...) is that they eliminate the nasty goo and keep the poop, shavings and hens out of their water supply. My parents got fed up with the girls roosting on their waterer and opted for the open bucket which was easier to clean every day - which is what they were doing with the vacuum style. I'll be the first to admit that I'm laaaaaaaazy, and scrubbing a bucket daily was starting to grate on my nerves during a week-long farm-sitting gig.
Chicken Nipples to the rescue! These babies are attached to a water source (pvc pipe, bucket, drum, etc - google for ideas!) and when the bird pecks the nipple a drop of water comes out. Sounds great in theory, so I ordered two styles (screw-in and push-in) from QC Supply Company for under $2 each. Actually, I got 8 nipples and a free pair of gloves shipped for around $16.
Instructions say to use an 11/32" drill bit, and that was fine for the milk jug and the screw-in style, but the push-ins needed a slightly larger hole plus a bit of vegetable oil for lube. It took a whole whopping 10 minutes and I'd made two bucket waterers and a chick drinker. Just drill a hole, insert nipple (I said stop giggling!) and screw or push in with a pair of pliers. These will not work with a sealed unit, so be sure to drill a hole in the lid of the water container. It seems the thin plastic of the milk jug works best with the push-in style, and both types worked well in the 5 gallon bucket. Neither are leaking and both let water flow equally well.
I removed the nasty scuz water in the evening and hung the bucket high enough they would have to stretch for the nipples. Chickens can not swallow, so when its nice and high the water just drips down their throats. In the late morning I checked on them and saw several birds take a drink. Just to be on the safe side I put the open bucket back in for the day and the flock rushed it. #1 I don't think all the ladies had figured the nipples out yet, and #2 - chickens will ALWAYS prefer an open source of water, even a mud puddle or pooped-in scuz. In this instance I"m willing to bypass their preferences for their health...
So now mom's girls will have clean, fresh water for about a week at a time... probably longer but even my lazy butt can handle scrubbing a bucket once a week. One word of caution - do not set the nipples on the ground. Either hang the bucket when you're cleaning or set the edges on something sturdy. My grand idea of using a cat litter bucket with the ridges failed - the ridges are not deep enough to allow the nipples to clear. Sully happily destroyed the rejected container - while I liked the square for ease of hanging in the coop, I preferred the metal hangers of the round buckets. One more bit of advice - a full 5 gallon bucket of water plus hanging hardware will weigh nearly 50lbs - be sure your rope/chain/clips/beams etc are sturdy enough to handle the weight.
Update: After 3 days I stopped putting in the open water bucket in the late morning, having seen most, if not all the hens drink from the nipples (the majority of mom's girls are Barred Rocks - can't tell them apart!). Although I did not see the rooster drink, I was pretty certain he'd be ok. They've been on the bucket for over a week in the middle of July and everyone (and egg production) is fine.