Homemade baby chick water feeder

Homemade Chick Waterer • The Prairie Homestead

When I was meandering through the aisle of the feed store the other day, I almost grabbed one of those plastic chick waterers. I knew we were going to be needing one soon, since the coop is clean and shiny and the chicks are set to arrive in a couple weeks.

But of course, my craziness  innovative, frugal mentality won out, and I decided I would challenge myself to create my own chick waterer from materials I had at home.

After several conversations with my scientifically-minded husband regarding the laws of physics, I scrounged up various plastic containers and began to conduct experiments.

Let’s just say I should have payed more attention to our conversations, as I ended some with some flooded counters and sopping wet dish towels.

Anyway. I do believe I have mastered the elusive chick waterer. I am excited to share my findings with you, in hopes of saving you several physics lessons and wet kitchen floors.

First off, here is what I came up with after treasure hunting around my home:

My intial idea was to repurpose this old parmesan cheese container for the top portion. I then cut the bottom off of a plastic gallon jug to make a “dish” that is around 3 inches tall.

However, after some trial runs, I found that the parmesan container didn’t work because the lid did not seal securely enough.

So I found a 48 oz lemon juice bottle instead. I highly recommend using a bottle that has a small cap, since it’s important that the container holding the water be airtight.

I then poked a small hole, about the diameter of a pencil, near the bottom of the jug.

I used a hot glue gun to attach the bottle to the tray. I didn’t want to use any sort of glue that might leach into the water and harm the chicks.

And now you are ready to fill ‘er up. The tray should fill until the hole is covered, and then stop. When the chicks drink, the bottle should slowly release water to provide fresh water at all times. A self-refreshing waterer is more ideal than an open pan, since it prevents the chicks from taking a bath or drowning. And we don’t want that.

Ready to make your own?

Homemade Chick Waterer Notes

  • There are numerous options when it comes to raw materials. Dig through your recycling box, garbage can, or pantry to see what will work. The bottom tray needs to be several inches larger in diameter than your water container. Some ideas could include: milk jugs, yogurt tubs, gallon jugs, large plastic water bottles, etc.


  • Make sure to thoroughly wash everything before assembly and don’t use any container that might have had substances that would be toxic to the chicks.


  • The container that you choose to hold the water must have a lid and be air tight.


  •  Be mindful of where you place the hole. If it is too high, the tray will overflow. If it is too low, the water level might be unreachable for the chicks.


  • If the water does not want to flow, try increasing the size of your hole.


Of course, these same principles could be applied to a larger scale to make a full-sized chicken waterer. If Prairie Baby was older, this would have made a great science experiment. But as of right now, she is more interested in trying to chew on the containers. Oh well, maybe eventually. 😉

Have you ever made a homemade chicken waterer? What materials did you use?

DIY Chicken Waterer and Feeder From 5-Gallon Buckets

Published: · Modified: by Melissa · 111 Comments

Spring is in the air and that means that it’s time to start thinking and getting prepped for backyard chickens! I’m going to tell you everything you have ever wanted to know and more about Chicken Waterers and how to DIY your very own from a 5 gallon bucket.  

Providing animals with water to drink seems like a no brainer, but there are a lot of factors that go into watering chickens. For instance: how much water do chickens need, what type/material of waterer is best, how to keep the water clean and how to DIY a chicken waterer that is simple and cost efficient. Let’s dive in.

DIY chicken waterer and feeder from 5-gallon buckets

Water is essential for humans to survive and it is no different for chickens. Appropriate access to clean water drastically influences how healthy a chicken is and how well they produce. If a chicken does not have an ample supply of water they will actually stop laying eggs! Did you know that? Water also aids in the digestive process and helps a chicken eliminate waste. 

When a chicken is sufficiently hydrated they are able to regulate their body temperature more effectively.  A chicken that drinks clean, cool water also has a healthy brain. This will keep the animal in tip top shape and their mind sharper to be able to watch for predators. In short-chickens will not survive without water. 

It doesn’t seem like chickens drink very much water because they just take small sips throughout the day. However, on average chickens drink about 1 pint of water per day. They will drink more if the temperature is hot. They also like cool, fresh water. If the water has been sitting out in the sun too long, hasn’t been refreshed regularly, or starts to get dirty from the chicken’s own doing- they may stop drinking. You don’t want a chicken that isn’t drinking so remedy the issue quickly. 

The process of chickens drinking water is actually really fun to watch. Chickens use their tongue to push food to the back of their mouth to be swallowed but that method doesn’t work for drinking. If a chicken wants to drink water you will see them dip their beak into the water and rapidly tilt their head back to let the water drip down their throat. So you can imagine they can’t drink a whole bunch of water at once.

Keeping the water you feed your chickens clean is essential. Ideally, you should refresh their water every single day to prevent bacteria build up and algae forming. Along with changing their water every single day, I suggest sanitizing the waterer at least weekly. You can use dish soap and a brush to clean the waterer or a diluted bleach solution.  

Chicken waterers can come in various shapes, sizes, dollar amounts and can be constructed from a myriad of materials. In my experience, you don’t need to break the bank providing water for chickens. As long as they have clean, fresh water and lots of it your chickens will thrive. We have used this DIY version for chicken waterers for years and have found great success with them. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do chickens need water in their coop at night?

Chickens typically do not need water during the night. At night, they usually sleep on their roost until morning. 

Where should I place my waterers?

You want to place your waterers in a place without direct sunlight in order to keep the water as cool as possible.  

How many waterers do I need for my chickens?

I plan for 1 large waterer per 6-8 chickens. Remember that they drink about 1 pint a day so plan accordingly. 

Can chickens drink tap water?

The general rule is if it is safe enough for you to drink then your chickens can drink it too. 

What happens if chickens run out of water?

If a chicken is dehydrated you will want to remedy the situation quickly. When a chicken isn’t getting enough water their egg laying will slow down or could stop completely,  they will become lethargic, you many notice them panting or a pale comb as well. 



  • Two 5-gallon buckets with lids (free - they are everywhere! Really! Just ask your local sandwich shop to save you a few that the pickles come in).
  • Drill
  • 1-inch standard drill bit or paddle drill bit
  • Two large foil roasting pans ($2 - pick them up at the Dollar Store) OR these large feed pans 



Clean and empty your 5-gallon bucket. Along the bottom edge of the bucket drill 1-inch holes all the way around the bottom, spacing the holes about 2 inches apart. Place the bucket inside the foil roasting pan, right-side-up (holes in the pan), and then fill it with chicken feed. The feed will pour through the holes into the pan and as they eat, more will come out. Replace the lid to the bucket so that the chickens can't get to the food from the top (and poo in it). Easy!


Clean and empty your 5-gallon bucket. Along the bottom edge of the bucket, drill two 1-inch holes, holes opposite of each other. Place the bucket inside the foil roasting pan, right-side-up (holes in the pan), and then fill it with chicken water. Quickly replace the lid and make sure that it has an airtight seal. This seal is key!! The water will stop coming out of the holes once the water covers the holes completely if the lid is airtight. The water will keep running out of the bucket and over flow the roasting pan if there isn't a good seal. It's a hydrodynamics thing....just ask my water engineer husband; he'd gladly explain it to you.

Here's how all that looks in pictures:

What you need:

Drill some holes:

Completed DIY chicken feeder:

Completed DIY chicken water with lid (see, it's not leaking!)

UPDATE OCTOBER 2017: I've now been using these same buckets as a DIY chicken waterer and feeder for over 4 years. I have upgraded from the tin foil turkey roaster pans though. Those pans lasted about 6 weeks but I was in it for the long haul. I picked up some large (about 16 inches wide and 4 inches deep) round metal pans from our hardware store to replace the pans in these pictures. Here are similar pans on Amazon. They cost me less than $10 each and have lasted 4 years. So for $20 total, instead of $2, I have a large feeder and waterer that I've been using for years. They work great and I still highly recommend making these.

Not everyone needs a post on a DIY chicken waterer and feeder from 5-gallon buckets, but someone out there does need it! Even if you don't have your own hens yet, this might be something to store away in your "someday" file because you just never know when you might need some great info that will save you a dollar or two!

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About Melissa

Melissa is dedicated to helping parents figure out the nightly questions, "What's for Dinner?!" with her no-fuss approach to cooking. Read more...

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model overview and step-by-step instructions