Yes indeed, there is something out there called a chicken nipple. I was surprised when I found out the name of this little contraption, but very interested in its purpose.
My very least favorite part of chickens is dealing with their water. It seems like no matter what set-up we use it is constantly full of poop and shavings and any manner of gunk. Which means daily clean-outs and frustration. So when I saw this opportunity to use something similar to a pet rodent water bottle for my chicken’s water I jumped right on it.
From what I read it is easier for the chickens to learn it if they are younger, so I wanted to get them set-up for the chicks asap once we got them through the first rocky weeks of life. We ordered them at amazon.com. The recommendation is one nipple per 3-4 chickens, so we got 10 just to be safe as we weren’t sure exactly what our set-up was going to look like. If you search “chicken nipple waterer” at backyard chickens you can find many pictures of different set-ups.
When they arrived I was surprised at how small they were. For some reason after seeing all the pictures online I was picturing them bigger.
For the brooder chicks:
We decided the best set-up for our brooder situation at this point would be to put them on juice and soda 2 liter jugs. We might change that later with the new coop and all. So my husband used the very easy to follow directions that came with them (you can also see step-by-step directions at BYC) to install one on a juice jug lid, one on a soda jug lid, and two on a juice jug bottom. He decided to bend a metal clothing hanger to make a hanger for one juice jug to hang from the side of the brooder. And he used duct tape to make a hanger for the other two that he then hung from a little hook attached to our brooder lid’s frame.
We did not silicone any of our “nipples” into place like the instructions suggest. The reason is that we aren’t sure that these jugs will be where we permanently want them attached when we move the chicks to the coop. So we just used the thread tape suggested and once we decide our final set up we will add the silicone for a more permanent fit. A couple of ours leak around the edge because of this, but the leak is very slow and not making a major mess or problem. And I don’t believe that they would leak if we had used the silicone as suggested.
As you can see in the second photo, the chicks were very curious about it right away. And, as is true with all things chick related, once one of them started pecking at it everyone else had to check it out too. Some were surprised in a negative way about the water coming out and would shake their heads like they were startled, while others immediately swallowed and went back for more.
We left the fount waterer, which they were used to drinking from, in the brooder for about 12 hours after putting the new water bottles in, just to be sure everyone had a chance to check out the new water. Then we let that fount go dry and watched to see what was going to happen. I must admit I was really worried that some of the chicks wouldn’t figure out the new water and might get ill, but we didn’t know any other way to force them to figure it out besides taking away their normal water source so that they would have to find the new water.
To ease my worry, we took turns keeping an eye on the chicks and making sure every one of them drank. We can’t tell all of them apart, so we couldn’t make sure EVERY one drank, but we wanted to be sure that the ones we could tell apart had each tried it and that we had seen several of the matching breeds at them at one time. It took awhile, but finally we had seen them all drink.
The next day, again wondering and worrying about whether they were all drinking enough, I decided to put the fount in and see what happened. I filled it with water and put it in. Immediately almost all the chicks ran to it and started gulping water like crazy and fighting with each other over it. Uh-oh. Seems to me that means that they weren’t getting enough water. What now?
I discussed it with hubby and he said he really thought we needed to just give them more time. So we let the fount dry out again and left it for 24 hours with just the water bottles. Then we put the fount back in again full. about half the chicks came over to drink a little bit and there was not fighting. Repeat the process of letting it be dry for 24 hours and then replacing it full and only a couple came over to it to get a little drink and then go about their day. By then I was pretty convinced they were drinking enough from the new water bottles and my worries subsided.
I am REALLY enjoying not having to clean poopy water founts. Time will tell for sure, but so far we are extremely pleased with the “chicken nipples.” Now that we have them set up for the chicks, we will be working on getting them set-up for our hens and training them to it. I will post again about how that goes after we do it.