What's the best chicken waterer? This seems like a simple question, but the world of chicken waterers can be very confusing. There's lots of different types of waterers and lots of different brands. Then there's all the confusing terms used to describe a chicken watering system: Gravity fed waterers, automatic chicken waterer, bell waterers, chicken water feeder, hanging waterer.

Thats why I decided to test all the different types of chicken waterers in my own backyard. And to get a broad view of which poultry waterer is the best for different situations, I've also read hundreds of waterer reviews and forum posts

What's in this review?

This is a roundup of all the chicken waterers I've tested, where I provide a comparison of the three main types of waterer: 

I've based this comparison on six key features that are important to consider when choosing a chicken watering system. At the end, I also give you my recommendations on the best chicken waterer for your chickens. For each type of waterer listed here, there's also a separate, in-depth review available. The in-depth reviews go into more detail, comparing the different waterers available for each type. This guide won't repeat everything I cover in these separate reviews and instead I have provided a link to them.

The problem with Chicken Waterers: I found out the hard way

Providing your chickens with clean water is an important part of keeping healthy chickens. It's an area that is often overlooked and doesn't receive the focus that it should. Water is a critical nutrient for chickens and there is a strong relationship between the amount of feed and water chickens consume. Water is also important for keeping chickens cool which is why chickens drink a lot more water in hot weather.

When I first started out with backyard chickens, I simply used a bucket as a waterer for my chickens. But I quickly found out about the challenges that come with providing water to your chickens. 

Chicken love scratching dirt in waterers and pooping in them. One morning I even found a toad in the water bucket. 

After the problems I had using a bucket as a waterer, I went out and bought a chicken fount. This improved things a bit, but the water in the fount still got dirty and it was regularly knocked over from my chickens perching on it.

You don't have to learn the hard way

This guide to chicken waterers is designed to make it easier for you to choose the best waterer for your chickens, so you can avoid the mistakes I made and spend your time enjoying backyard chickens without all the hassle.

Chicken Waterer Review: 6 features compared

I have reviewed each chicken waterer based on 6 key features. Each of these features are summarised below, including a description of common issues and why it's important.

1. Clean Water

Does the waterer keep your chickens water clean? How often does it need cleaning out? How hard is it to clean?

Common Issues

  • Chickens flicking feed and dirt into the chicken waterer.
  • Rats and mice, which love to drink from and poop in chicken waterers at night, while enjoying your chicken feed buffet.
  • Algae growing in the chicken waterer when its exposed to the light.

Why it's important

Clean water is important because it is one of the keys to happy, healthy chickens.

2. Reliable and Durable

Is the chicken waterer reliable and will it last a long time? Does it work consistently without fail? How likely is it to stop working or leak everywhere and run dry.

Common Issues

  • Waterers that get knocked over or tipped by chickens
  • Waterers that drip or leak water out
  • Waterers that break or get blocked

Why it's important

If your chicken waterer is reliable, you don't have to worry about and check it as often. Leaking, dripping or spilt water will also make your coop messy and is not hygienic, which can make your chickens sick. In winter, water in the coop is a big problem, because it can cause frostbite.

3. Freeze Resistent

Is the chicken waterer resistant to freezing in cold temperatures? Can the waterer be used with a heater to prevent freezing.

Common Issues

  • Waterers that leak and drip causing them to freeze up in cold weather.
  • Waterers the freeze up in cold weather because water sits in the mechanism or parts.
  • Waterers that freeze because the water is stored outside the container and is exposed to cold weather.

Why it's important

If you are using a waterer in freezing temperatures, you need to prevent the water from freezing to ensure your chickens have a reliable water source.

4. Chicken Preference

Do chickens like to use the waterer and do they get enough water from it.

Common Issues

  • Waterers that are difficult for chickens to use or which don't provide enough water.
  • Waterers that don't allow chickens to drink from a pool of water, preventing chickens from drinking in a natural way using a 'scooping' action. Chickens also use water to keep cool on hot days, by dipping their beaks in and dunking their head in the water.

Why it's important

Keeping your chickens well hydrated and providing water in a natural way, is important for happy, healthy and productive chickens. A decrease in water intake, results in a decrease in feed intake, which can affect egg laying. Water is also important for keeping chickens cool on hot days, because chickens evaporate water through their respiratory system during panting.

5. Easy to Use

Is the chicken waterer easy to set up and get your chickens using it? How much time does it take to make and setup? Do your chickens need to learn how to use the waterer?

Common Issues

  • Waterers that are heavy, making them hard to setup and refill.
  • Waterers that are designed to be hung up, which can be difficult.
  • Waterers with containers that are difficult to clip in and seal properly, which can cause water to dump out when refilling.
  • Waterers that require chickens to learn how to use.
  • Why it's important

    A good chicken waterer needs to be practical and should not take too much time to setup and use. If you can't set it up properly, it may not work as well as it should. And if you can't get your chickens to use it, then it's no use at all.

    6. Cost

    How much does the waterer cost per chicken?

    Why it's important

    Cost will be more important if you have a large number of chickens, where the cost can really add up. But it might be less important for someone with only a few chickens and is looking for the most convenient and effective solution.

    Chicken Fount Waterer

    Founts are the chickens pick out of all the waterers. Chickens prefer drinking from them, because they provide a pool of water which is more natural and easier for chickens to drink from. They are also easy to use and provide a pretty reliable source of water for your chickens. The main downside is they get dirty easily and need regular cleaning. 

    There are two main types:

    1. Top filled: These founts have a lid, so that they can be filled from the top.

    2. Bottom filled: To fill these up, the trough is removed from the container and the container is filled from the bottom. 

    1. Clean Water

    A fount provides a large open water source for chickens to drink from. Because of this, the water gets dirty easily and needs regular cleaning. The amount of dirt that gets flicked into them can be reduced by raising the drinking trough to head height using a block or by hanging them up. 

    2. Reliable & Durable

    A fount has a simple design which makes them pretty durable and reliable. The downside is that when free standing, they more likely to be tipped or knocked over by chickens. Hanging them up will prevent them from being knocked over, but they can still spill or drip when knocked. 

    3. Freeze Resistent

    In cold temperatures founts freeze up easily because the water is exposed to the open air. However water heaters can be used to prevent freezing.

    4. Chicken Preference

    Founts provide chickens with a pool of water which is the natural way for chickens to drink, making it easy for chickens to get plenty of water and to stay cool in hot weather.

    5. Easy to Use

    Founts are the most simple waterer to setup and use. Just fill them up with water and they are ready to go. 

    6. Cost

    Founts are the cheapest waterer (based on cost per chicken), especially if you have a large flock of chickens.

    Chicken Watering Cups

    Watering Cups do a reasonable job of providing clean water and are easy for chickens to drink from. The downside is their reliability and durability, because they have a complicated and flimsy design. They also don't work in freezing temperatures, even if used with a water heater.

    There are three different types :

     1. Trigger filled watering cups

     2. Automatic watering cups with floats

     3. Automatic watering cups (no floats or triggers)

    1. Clean Water

    Cups are installed on a fully enclosed water container, which prevents dirty water. However, the water that sits in the cup gets dirty and needs regular cleaning.

    2. Reliable & Durable

    Cups have a more complicated and flimsy design than other waterers. They have small plastic parts which stick out from the water container, making them more likely to break or fail. They can also fail if they get clogged up with dirt.

    3. Freeze Resistent

    Watering cups are not suitable for freezing temperatures. Water in the cup freezes up, even if you use a water heater in the container.

    4. Chicken Preference

    Cups provide chickens will a small pool of water, which is more natural and easier for chickens to drink from compared to nipples. 

    5. Easy to Use

    You can buy cups as a pre-made waterer, however most are DIY. This means you need to install them onto a water container. 

    6. Cost

    Good quality watering cups are generally the most expensive type of waterer (based on cost per chicken), when the cost of a container is included in the price.

    Chicken Water Nipples

    Nipples are the best solution for a reliable source of clean water. That's why nipples are the standard waterer used in commercial poultry farms.

    There are two types and the main difference is where they're installed:

    1. Horizontal Nipples: Installed on the side of water containers.

    2. Vertical Nipples: Installed on the bottom of water containers.

    Horizontal nipples are more expensive. However they are easier for chickens to use, more reliable and the best watering solution for freezing temperatures.

    1. Clean Water

    Nipples are installed on a fully enclosed water container, which prevents dirty water. And unlike watering cups, the nipple itself does not get dirty. Because of this, nipple waterers stay clean and rarely need cleaning.

    2. Reliable & Durable

    Nipples are generally very durable, because they are small and sturdy. Vertical nipples can be prone to dripping depending on the quality of the nipple and how well they're installed. This is not a problem with horizontal nipples.

    3. Freeze Resistent

    Vertical nipples are vulnerable to freezing up in cold weather, because water gets caught inside the nipple. Horizontal nipples are resistant to freezing up, because water doesn't sit inside the nipple when it's not being used.

    4. Chicken Preference

    The main downside with nipples is that they don't provide water in natural way and are a bit harder for chickens to drink from. Because of this, chickens may not get enough water from nipples, especially in hot weather.

    5. Easy to Use

    Most nipples are DIY, which means you need to install them onto a water container. When you first introduce nipples, chicken need to lean how to use them.

    6. Cost

    Good quality nipples have a moderate price when the cost of a container is included in the price (based on cost per chicken). Nipples are more expensive than founts but cheaper than watering cups.

    How many waterers do you need?

    I recommend using at least two waterers, even if you only have a couple of chickens. The reality is, all waterers can fail and it's a good idea to have a backup.

    Otherwise follow the guidelines provided for the type of waterer you get. Because water is so important, my main advice here is the err on the side of caution and get more waterers than the minimum recommended.

    What's the Best type of Waterer? Here's what I recommend

    Generally I recommend horizontal nipples because they are reliable, keep water clean and don't need regular cleaning. 

    However the best type of waterer will really depend on your situation and your preference.

    In hot weather, I recommend you use a chicken fount. They are not as convenient as nipple waterers (because they need more regular cleaning), however they will make sure your chickens get plenty of water and will help your chickens stay cool.

    A good middle ground can be to use horizontal nipples and only bring out a chicken fount in summer or for especially hot days.

    Good quality watering cups could also be a good option in summer, if you still want some convenience and are less worried about cost and durability.

    And if you know that your waterer is not going to be cleaned out regularly (despite best intentions), then Horizontal nipples are probably the best option for you.

  • Cindy Loos says:

    My chickens roam the pasture with larger animals, so use the same water troughs. Most of them are bathtubs with a board on top, so the chickens can easily hop up & reach the water. The deeper trough has a cement block for them to hop up on to drink. There is also block a few inches under the water surface for a chicken to stand on until I see them & lift them out, if they happen (on a very rare occasion) to fall in.

    • Thanks for sharing Cindy! Sounds like a great system that suits your situation.

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