Chicken Nipples and Other Surprising Things

Sometimes I wonder if there will be a point in the future where someone googles my name for something important– you know, like a potential employer who might want to hire me, or if the government ever wants to offer me top-secret security clearance, or, you know, if I guy I just started dating wants to find out if I’m crazy– and you know what they’re going to find?

Chicken nipples.

Yeah. At some point I’m going to take a good hard look at the choices I’ve made in my life, but that day is not today, and here’s why: Chicken nipples may be the best thing that has ever happened to me as a chicken-keeper, and people need to know about them.

Also, this should go without saying, but I also cannot even tell you the number of times I’ve had to explain basic biology to someone who didn’t understand how you get eggs from chickens if you don’t have a rooster, so, just to make sure we’re clear… chickens do not have nipples. What I’m talking about are these things:


I don’t know what the official name is… “poultry waterer nipples” maybe? Doesn’t matter though, because if you google “chicken nipples” you’ll find them.

Okay, so here’s why they’re important. In the summer the chickens spend fewer hours in the coop (because they free-range during daylight) and they have multiple water sources around the property. This is nice because there’s usually a water source nearby,
all of the chickens will have access to water (particularly if one is being bullied and blocked from the feeder/waterer), plus It means I have to fill up the waterers fewer times per week.

In the winter, however, the chickens don’t really leave the small barn. I have one 5 gallon waterer set up on a heater in the common area, but, even though I own a second heated waterer, any time I’ve tried to set it up inside the coop the chickens kick up bedding or drop feathers or poop into the trough and the water is contaminated within a day.



Anyway, this winter I decided to try something different and created a waterer using a 5 gallon bucket (with a lid), a bucket heater, and chicken nipples.

Installation was super easy. First, drill holes in the bucket spaced far enough apart for chickens to stand next to each other…


That’s just a standard bit, and my holes were 3-4 inches apart and probably could have been more like 5-6.

I also cleaned the holes up with a utility knife, and then screwed the nipples in by hand…


(It’s good to check the manufacturers instructions because I would have tightened them all the way down, but the instructions said to leave 2-3 threads showing.)

Then, fill the bucket, and see how long it takes the chickens to figure it out…


Chickens put all other animals on this farm to shame when it comes to being curious. Anything new (especially anything brightly colored that may be a TREAT?!) gets a thorough inspection, so it took all of 90 seconds until most of them had this figured out…


Now it sits inside the coop with a bucket heater in it (this one) and the lid on, and it’s perfect.

The water stays clean and fresh, the nipples do not ice up at all, and there haven’t been any leaks. The best part is that the nipples could be used on a much larger container, say, a 50 gallon drum, which would ensure a lot of fresh water without needing to constantly refill the bucket.

To be honest, I didn’t really expect these to work, so I was pleasantly surprised. But not as surprised as chickens were a few days ago when I let them out of the coop and they made a beeline for the door until they saw this…


It looks like winter has officially started on the farm.

7 Responses

  1. Chicken nipples are the bomb!
    The horizontal ones are the only ones worth messing with, fewer drips and work in winter much better than the vertical ones.

    I have them in all kinds of bottles, a couple different holders, and the main deal – a 3 gallon jug with an aquarium heater inside for winter.

    Did it take your birds long to catch on?
    I’ve seen some birds take just 2 minutes and others take 2 *weeks* to get it.

  2. Why’d the chicken cross the road? Do chickens have lips? I’m thinking they cross the road to find more stuff to pick up off the ground. As for lips, well…They surely have no lips because they have no NIPPLES. Mother nature knew they needed none and that places like Theisens, TSC as well as other farm stores would have them. Read your link backs always enjoy reading you and about new adventures and progress on the farm.
    nipples are the bomb…how I got my start and I ain’t afraid of anything but aunt Hilda and her rolling pin.

  3. I am dealing with this issue right now. Mine have a heated water bowl like you have for dogs, but yes they contaminate it immediately.

    Question: Do you hang the bucket? Or is it normally sitting on a step or block?

    1. That’s the beauty of the Horizontal nipples, you can hang bucket or set it on a block.
      Bear in mind tho they don’t all take to it quickly.
      Better to switch over from an open waterer to nipples when the weather is mild and dehydration is not so much of a risk.

      You can put a gallon milk jug filled with water in your heated dog bowl to help keep them from standing on it and pooping in it, this also helps to keep wattles from getting dipped. Put it up on blocks to reduce bedding getting kicked into it.

  4. OMG! Thank you! I had only seen the ones that go under the bucket, but I don’t have a good, strong spot to hang a bucket of water.

    I may try Anne’s 3-gallon one with the aquarium heater. It’s been single digits for the high here for over a week… Chickens are mighty pissed.

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