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Chicken Water Nipples are an increasingly popular type of waterer for backyard chickens. This is because there are heaps of advantages to using nipple waterers over a standard bucket / bell waterer.

There are two main types of nipple waterers: Horizontal Nipples and Vertical Nipples. This article covers both types of water nipples, how they work, cost, pros and cons and where to buy them.

This is part of a series on the different types of waterers for chickens.

Water Nipples are the easy solution to dirty contaminated water

Providing your chickens with clean water is a critical part of keeping healthy chickens. It's an area that is often overlooked and doesn't receive the focus that it should. Most people start out with an open water trough of some kind. This can simply be a water bucket. Or one of the most popular is the gravity fed bell waterer. The problem is, open water troughs are messy, they spill water everywhere and the water quickly becomes dirty and contaminated. 

One of the best alternatives to the bell waterer and best solution to this problem, is to use chicken water nipples.

When using chicken nipples, the water container can be kept enclosed, which keeps the water clean and stops it from spilling everywhere.

Nipples are also pretty easy to setup. They can be purchased ready to go as a full waterer, or you can buy just the nipples and install them yourself. Water nipples can be used with any water container you like, such as plastic water containers, large water drums and PVC pipe.

The Downside of nipples

There are two main downsides to nipple waterers.

The main downside is that chickens prefer a pool of water to drink from. If you put an open bucket of water next to a nipple waterer, they will go for the open water source every time (even when they are used to using the nipples). I guess this is because it's a bit easier and more natural for chickens to drink from a pool of water. Which is why on really hot days it can be beneficial to add a bucket of water in the coop to keep your chickens cool.

The other downside with nipples is the learning curve. Chickens can't see the water in an enclosed container, so you need to teach them how to use the nipples. The good news is, this problem is pretty easy to solve (see the guide below).

Vertical nipples

How vertical nipples work

They are called vertical nipples, or gravity nipples because they are installed on the bottom of the water container (facing vertically / downwards) and work using gravity. When not in use, gravity keeps the metal seals closed which keeps water from leaking out of the nipple.

To use the nipples, chickens push on a metal “Push Pin” which:

  1. Pushes open the top metal seal which lets water into the nipple from the water container
  2. Breaks the inner / bottom seal near the push pin, which lets water out the bottom of the nipple.

Chickens then catch the water in their beak as its released. Because there are 2 seals, water is caught inside the nipple when not in use. This can be a problem when used in cold climates, because the water inside the nipple freezes.

How to install and use vertical nipples

Vertical nipples can be used on any type of water container such as plastic water containers, large water drums and PVC pipe.

Vertical nipples must be installed in the bottom of a container to work effectively. This means the water container must be hung above the ground, just above the chickens head so that its easy for your chickens to drink from.

To install the nipples onto the container, first you have to drill a hole (usually 11/32" however check product instructions).

You then need to screw the nipple into the hole using the thread of the nipple. Vertical nipples don't have a tapered thread, which means they are prone to leaking around the thread. The easiest way to fix this is to put some plumbers tape around the thread before screwing them in.

Cost

Vertical nipples usually come in multi packs of 10 or more and cost around 50 cents each.

Horizontal Nipples

Horizontal nipples were originally designed and created by Columbus Aqua for use in European mink farms. They later became popular for use for backyard chickens. The Columbus Aqua nipples are well designed and excellent quality. They are made in Denmark using quality materials including a stainless steel rod and food grade plastic.

Because these nipples have become popular with backyard chickens, lots of cheaper copies are being sold online. From my experience, the copies are generally a lower quality. They are often made with cheaper materials (e.g. chrome plated instead of stainless steal), they don't work as well and are more likely to be faulty and break.

So keep in mind this review is based on the original Columbus Aqua brand and not the cheaper alternatives.

How horizontal nipples work

Horizontal nipples are a relatively new type of nipple waterer for backyard chickens. They are called horizontal nipples because they are installed on the side of the water container (facing sidewards / horizontally), compared to vertical nipples which must be installed on the bottom.

There is a black o-ring on the inside (end of threaded side) which seals the water out of the nipple while it's not being used. To use the nipples, chickens push on a metal spring loaded rod. This breaks the seal and lets water out onto a very small cup for the chickens to drink from.

How to install and use horizontal nipples

Horizontal nipples are installed on the side of water containers. This means the water container can be placed directly on the ground. This is a big advantage because you can use large water containers without having to worry about hanging them up (like you do with vertical nipples).

To install the nipples onto the container, first you have to drill a hole (usually 11/32" however check product instructions).

You then need to screw the nipple into the hole using the thread of the nipple. It has a tapered thread which makes it easy to install without drips.

Cost

They cost about $3 each and u

Vertical nipples usually come in multi packs of 5 or more and cost around $3 each.

Vertical vs horizontal Nipples

[side by side comparison] - more summarised version

Vertical

Pros

  • Lets out lots of water for chickens to drink from
  • Cheaper than horizontal nipples which can be an important factor if you are using lots of them.

Cons

  • They must be used on the bottom of containers, which means the water container must be hung up.
  • They are more prone to leaking
  • They freeze more easily than horizontal nipples, because water sits in the nipple
  • More prone to sticking open, but that depends on the quality of the nipples you buy

Horizontal

Pros

  • The original Aqua Columbus nipples are excellent quality, which means they last ages and are reliable.
  • No water sits in the nipple, which means they are more freeze resistant.
  • Less drips and leaks, with a lip which catches water as it comes out.
  • can be placed on the side of containers, which means the container can be placed on the floor. This makes them more versatile and easier to use

Cons

  • Release smaller amounts of water at one time.
  • Are more expensive than vertical nipples

Which nipple waterer do I recommend?

My personal preference personally find horizontal nipples to be the best - especially in a backyard situation where a no fuss, time efficient solution is what you are after. To share the design that has worked best for me, I have created a detailed instruction manual on how to make and use PVC waterer using horizontal nipples.

Check out the FREE DIY Manual here:


Where to buy water nipples

Chicken waterer nipples can be tough to find in local pet or produce stores. I've found the easiest place to buy them is online, especially because they are small and easy to ship.

Here is a list of places to buy them from:

Horizontal Nipples

When buying horizontal nipples, you need to be aware that the quality can vary a lot, depending on the brand and where they are made. As mentioned above, the original Columbus Aqua brand is the safest bet (To make sure you are getting what you pay for, look for the Columbus Aqua mark on the back of the nipples). They are more expensive, but at least you know you are getting a quality product. 

That's not to say there aren't good quality copies out there. If you decide to go for an alternative brand you should look closely to compare the quality of the product and the feedback they get. Look for nipples that are made with stainless steel (rather than "quality steel" or "chrome plated"). It's also important to check customer reviews for complaints about the quality of nipples. 

USA

Amazon

mypetchicken.com

Australia

Amazon

RoyalRooster.com

Aussiechooksupplies.com.au

Vertical Nipples

The quality of vertical nipples can vary a lot. Look for nipples that are stainless steel

USA

Amazon.com

Australia

Dineachook.com.au

Getting chickens to use nipples

One of the challenges with nipple waterers, is that you have to teach chickens how to use them. Chicken can't see the water because it is stored in an enclosed container, which means chicken have to learn to recognise the nipples as a water source.

Luckily chickens are super smart animals that can easily be trained. And once you have one chicken using the nipples, the rest of the flock will quickly join in.

Here are a few tips for teaching your chickens how to use nipples.

Eliminate other sources of water

The first step is to eliminate other sources of water. Chickens always prefer to drink from an open water source, which means they will never use the nipples.

When you take other water sources away, it's important that you then spend some training your chickens how to use the nipples. It's also a good idea to monitor their water intake in the first couple of days. To do this, you can make note / draw a line to mark the water levels to begin with, so that you can easily tell if they are drinking water from the nipples. 

Keep the nipples flowing

To start with, you can leave the waterer nipples dripping constantly. To do this, use a rubber band or wedge something in the nipple to keep the nipple pushed in. This will help your chickens to identify the nipples as a source of water. When the water stops flowing, they will instinctively peck at the nipple looking for water.

Use bait

Use some food to attract your chickens to the waterer. Then you can jam some food into the nipple. This will encourage your chickens to peck at the nipple, so that they get some food and at the same time water comes out. Do this a few times and they will get the hang of it pretty quickly.

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