In order to keep chickens, ducks, turkeys, and quail well fed and hydrated, you’ll need a high-quality chicken waterer. These dispensers come in a variety of styles, but all serve the same purpose: to provide ample fresh, clean water to your homestead’s feathered friends.
Choosing a chicken waterer might seem like a simple decision, but there are actually a number of considerations to weigh. Before making a purchase, learn about some of the most important features to look for when shopping for a chicken waterer—and discover some of the best waterers on the market for your flock.
- BEST OVERALL: Harris Farms Double Wall Poultry Drinker
- RUNNER-UP: RentACoop 2 Gallon Chicken Waterer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Harris Farms Plastic Poultry Drinker
- BEST FOR SMALL FLOCK: Little Giant 1 Gallon Complete Plastic Poultry Fount
- BEST FOR LARGE FLOCK: Harris Farms Poultry Drinker 6.25 Gallon
- BEST AUTOMATIC: Little Giant Game Bird Automatic Poultry Fount
- BEST HEATED: Farm Innovators Model HPF-100 Heated Poultry Fountain
- BEST CUPS: RentACoop Pack of 4 – Automatic Chicken Water Cup
- HONORABLE MENTION: RentACoop 5 Gallon Water Cup Chicken Waterer
Types of Chicken Waterers
There are several different styles of chicken waterers, each of which has its advantages and benefits. Some types will work better for your coop or farm setup than others.
Gravity-style chicken waterers, also known as standard waterers, have both a tank and a dish or trough. These vessels use the power of gravity to pull water downward as the trough empties, and a float in the base measures water into the rim at a steady pace to prevent overflowing. Though the trough needs to be cleaned frequently, the water in the tank remains clean and fresh. For convenience, the tanks can typically be refilled from either the top or bottom end. Gravity-fed waterers are made from either plastic or metal and can be hung or placed on the ground.
While many chicken waterers are designed to be situated on the ground, hanging chicken waterers elevate the tank and prevent chickens from kicking dirt, food, droppings, or bedding material into the trough, and won’t be knocked over inside the coop. Hanging waterers are suspended by a sturdy strap or handle that’s made from metal or heavy-duty plastic. These vessels come equipped with either a trough, cups, or nipples and are made from plastic or metal.
Nipples and Cups
Many chicken waterers are fashioned with troughs from which the fowl drink. One problem with these troughs, however, is that chickens inevitably contaminate the water by putting their dirty beaks into it. Nipple-style attachments, which dispense water when chickens push a toggle with their beaks, are a more sanitary option. These attachments prevent contamination, but may present a learning curve for birds who aren’t used to drinking water from this type of dispenser.
Cups, like nipples, provide chickens with cleaner water than they might get from a trough. These cups are essentially miniature troughs, and they are easy for chickens to use because water is dispensed as soon as a bird touches the cup. Though the water that’s dispensed into cups is clean, it’s still important to change the water weekly to prevent it from becoming stagnant.
Automatic chicken waterers connect to a water source, like a hosepipe, and refill the water as it runs out. The upside to these models is that you’ll never have to refill a water reservoir because the whole process is automated. Most automatic models are sold in DIY kits, which include all of the supplies and tools needed for attaching the dispensers to a water source. Automatic waterers may be fitted with a trough, nipples, or cups, and they come in a variety of sizes and materials.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Chicken Waterer
While it’s easy to assume that all chicken waterers offer similar performance, a number of factors affect their functionality. Keep reading to learn about several of the most important features to consider when choosing the best chicken waterer for your yard or farm.
Metal vs. Plastic
Chicken waterers are made from either plastic or metal.
- Plastic chicken waterers are affordable and lightweight. One downside, however, is that thin plastic isn’t very durable and may crack over time, especially in colder climates. Look for a model that’s made from thick plastic and is free from Bisphenol A (BPA).
- Metal chicken waterers are more expensive, but they provide added durability. Look for a model made from galvanized metal that won’t rust or corrode over time due to moisture exposure. Another thing to bear in mind is that apple cider vinegar, a common supplement for chickens, is not compatible with metal waterers.
Flock Size and Tank Capacity
The most important number you need to know before shopping for a chicken waterer is your flock size. This figure has a lot to do with the optimal tank capacity for your waterer.
Tank capacities range from 1 to 8 gallons. The average chicken drinks approximately 16 ounces of water each day. A 1-gallon chicken waterer will therefore provide enough water for eight chickens for one day. Before you purchase a watering vessel for your flock, consider how frequently you want to refill the water and choose your tank capacity accordingly.
As strange as it may sound, a flock’s behavior also has a lot to do with the size and type of waterer that’s best for your property. While a larger water tank can accommodate a bigger flock, it may still behoove you to purchase one waterer for every eight to 10 chickens. Some hens may act territorially and prevent others from accessing the water source, and having multiple waterers ensures all your birds have access.
Ease of Use
A number of factors affect a chicken waterer’s ease of use, including quality of construction and whether it requires assembly.
- The best chicken waterers are easy to fill and clean. Look for a model with a removable top that leaves a wide opening in which to pour fresh water.
- While some models come fully assembled, others may require some additional tools and supplies to put together.
- Waterers with sturdy handles are preferable, because they can be easily maneuvered.
- “Ease of use” doesn’t just apply to the humans refilling and cleaning the chicken waterer—think about which dispensers will be easiest for your chickens to use. While some birds may easily learn how to drink water from a nipple, others may prefer a cup or trough.
- Heated chicken waterers benefit farmers and homesteaders who live in colder climates. These heaters prevent drinking water from freezing when temperatures dip.
- A waterer with a flat top will encourage chickens to roost on top of it. Tops that are pointed or otherwise inconvenient to sit on, on the other hand, prevent roosting and therefore reduce the chances that dirt, excrement, and other contaminants will get into the water.
- Though sturdiness isn’t exactly a special feature, it’s an important quality to look for in a chicken waterer and will serve your flock well over the long term. It’s a good idea to look for a chicken waterer sturdy enough that it can’t easily be knocked over.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve learned more about chicken waterers, it’s time to start shopping. The following are the top picks for the best chicken waterers for your flock. These recommendations for the best chicken waterers were selected because of their quality construction, capacity, ease of use, and other helpful features. Whether you’re looking for a plastic or metal vessel, or one that hangs or sits on the ground, there’s sure to be a good solution here for your chickens.
Made from heavy-duty galvanized steel, this poultry drinker from Harris Farms is super sturdy and is meant to be placed on the floor of the coop. Its metal handle makes the waterer easy to carry and also prevents roosting. The vessel’s gravity-fed design ensures chickens and other fowl have access to fresh water all day long.
Harris Farms’ drinker is available in 2- or 5-gallon models, and the right one for your needs depends on the size of your brood. The manufacturer recommends the 2-gallon version for flocks of up to 51 poultry or game chicks, and the 5-gallon for flocks of up to 80. Pair this poultry drinker with the Harris Farms Heated Poultry Drinker Base to prevent the water from freezing in the colder months.
RentACoop’s BPA-free plastic chicken waterer has four horizontal nipples that dispense water without making a mess. The nipples are positioned on two sides of the water reservoir, meaning it can be tucked away in a corner and accessed by four birds simultaneously. Its 2-gallon capacity is perfect for small- to midsize flocks. One of this model’s handiest features is that it can be hung or placed directly on the ground. Other thoughtful details that make RentACoop’s product worth considering is that it comes with a no-roost cone, which p
revents hens from sitting on top of the reservoir. Though the waterer’s lid can be removed completely for cleaning or refilling, flock tenders can quickly refill the water by inserting a garden hose into the capped opening on the lid.
With a 1.25-quart capacity and an affordable price tag, this plastic poultry waterer is an excellent choice for providing water to your brood without spending a lot. Harris Farms’ gravity-fed model can be hung by its sturdy handle or placed on the ground, and it has a reservoir that automatically refills water into the trough. Water is released slowly to prevent overflowing, and it’s easy to keep tabs on how much is in the drinker by peering through the semi-opaque plastic material.
Despite its plastic construction, this waterer is compatible with the brand’s Heated Poultry Drinker Base, which comes in handy in cold climates.
The Little Giant poultry fount has a 1-gallon capacity ideal for smaller farms and homesteads with just a few chickens. A vessel this size should provide ample water for four chickens for two days.
The water reservoir is made from a durable transparent polyethylene, so the water level is always visible. Its gravity-fed water dispensing system ensures fresh water is always available to the flock, and its housing is designed to resist cracking and withstand extremely high and low temperatures.
One of the Little Giant’s only real downsides is its flat roof—buyers may need to take steps to prevent hens from roosting on top of the reservoir.
This gravity-fed chicken waterer from Harris Farms has a capacity of 6.25 gallons which, according to the manufacturer, is enough for up to 100 chickens. A float in the base allocates water to the trough, providing a stream of fresh water to your whole brood all day long.
Made from BPA-free plastic, this poultry drinker has a removable lid that makes refilling the water a breeze. Its sturdy carrying handle allows users to transport the tank easily and, paired with the domed lid, prevents hens from roosting.
Supply your brood with a constant stream of fresh, cold water with this automatic poultry fountain from Little Giant. The non-rusting brass fountain stem hooks up to any standard half-inch pipe and provides a strong water flow, and it works safely at a flow rate of 20 to 50 pounds per square inch (PSI).
The fount’s heavy-duty plastic trough measures 6.5 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches deep, and it holds 2 pints of water at a time. Those who plan to connect the poultry fountain to a garden hose rather than a pipe will also need to purchase a garden hose fitting adapter (sold separately).
A heated chicken waterer is a must-have for cold-weather poultry care—it prevents the flock’s drinking water from freezing. This model from Farm Innovators has a 3-gallon capacity and functions in temperatures as cold as 0 degrees Fahrenheit. What’s more, it’s energy efficient and uses just 100 watts of power, warming water only when its thermostatic controls deem it necessary. To refill the fountain, simply flip it over and insert a hose into its base—there’s no need to take the waterer apart.
The All Seasons poultry fountain can be placed flat on the ground or hung from its handle, which also prevents chickens from roosting. It measures 16 inches tall by 12 inches wide.
RentACoop’s water cups allow chicken keepers to design their own automatic or gravity-fed poultry watering systems. The cups can be drilled into a bucket or pail or even paired with half-inch PVC piping that’s connected to a water source.
What’s nice about RentACoop’s cups is that they’re more straightforward for hens to use than nipples are, and they’re wide enough that birds can also dip their waddles in the water while drinking. With built-in valves that keep the cups at least half full, fowl will always have easy access to fresh water.
Sold in packs of two, four, or six to accommodate flocks of varying sizes, RentACoop’s chicken water cups are BPA-free.
Chickens that just can’t get used to drinking from nipples may prefer to sip from the four easy-to-use cups on RentACoop’s plastic 5-gallon waterer. There are no tabs for the birds to push, and the cups remain half full at all times.
To accommodate coops of various designs, this chicken waterer is available in center placement or corner placement configurations, which either have cups on two parallel sides or two adjoining sides of the waterer. A cone-shaped cap on the vessel prevents roosting.
Though this vessel is equipped with a carrying handle, it’s not a good idea to hang it by its handle—the waterer weighs over 40 pounds when filled, and the handle cannot support the weight. Those who want to suspend this poultry waterer should instead consider purchasing RentACoop’s hanging strap (sold separately).
FAQs About Chicken Waterers
Though you now know more about chicken waterers, you might still have questions about how to use them. The following are answers to some of the most common questions about how to select and maintain chicken waterers for your flock.
Q. How many waterers will my flock need?
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to have one waterer for every eight to 10 chickens. Each chicken drinks about 16 ounces of water each day, so your needs will depend on how many chickens you have and how often you plan to change the water.
Q. Where should I place my waterers?
Waterers should ideally be placed outside the coop in a low-traffic area that’s out of direct sunlight.
Q. How high should a chicken waterer be?
Ideally, the water access point—the cup, nipple, or trough—should be placed at the chicken’s shoulder height.
Q. How do I clean a chicken waterer?
How, and how often, you clean a chicken waterer depends on the type you have. Generally speaking, troughs and cups should be cleaned with soap and water on a weekly basis, while water reservoirs should be cleaned every 3 to 6 months.