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The Rookie Homesteader: Chicken Coop Water and Food Systems

The Rookie Homesteader: Chicken Coop Water and Food Systems

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This installment of the chicken series (that started here if you’re missing the start of this crazy journey) is specific to how we’re handling food and water at our coop. Of course, once we’re getting freezing temps, I’ll probably have to do an update article. But I’m pretty proud of this little rain collection thing, and we’ve already had to make one chicken-caused repair!

As mentioned in previous articles, one of the reasons for the metal roof is specifically rain collection. We get plenty for most of the year, though it is easy enough to fill from a hose, too. My biggest issues were: how to make gutters without using full-blown house gutters? How to direct it to the collection barrel? And which type of watering cups or nipples we wanted to try? This is all “gravity powered” so we’ll start at the cups and reverse engineer it for you.

Ultimately there are pros and cons to all watering cups and nipples. We opted for the 5-pack from Worley-X. There are YouTubers out there  who will advise you to not install these on PVC pipe smaller than 3/4”. We used 1”, and we’ve still had to mess with getting them to stop dripping around the gasket with just the right twist of pressure. Of course, it has to face your chickens in the right position, so you don’t have a lot of wiggle room here. The cups pinch off their filling feature with the weight of the water itself. As a bird drinks, the cup raises back up with just a hair of spring pressure, and it refills just a small amount.

The only real issue we’ve had so far is that my wife went out one morning and found one broken off. In my short stint as a chicken owner, I’ve deduced two things: they’re inquisitive; and they’re stupid. 🤣 I’m sure one of them tried to perch on the thing, as it broke off exactly where the fitting exits the pipe I installed it on. We’d only installed four, so we had the spare to fix it up without needing to rework the piping itself. But that 5-pack was about 19 bucks, so as long as they don't break off another, I’ll feel like the things paid for themselves by the time I drain for winter.

I plugged two cups each into a left and right branch of piping which is fed directly from the barrel just on the other side of the run’s wire-cage wall. We’ve had this unused barrel for several years. It is the model that has a lock-ring clamp holding a lid on; but the lid still has standard barrel bungs, one large and one small. I build a sturdy wood stand to hold the barrel, remembering the physics of hydraulics from the old firefighting days. The water's exit on the barrel needed to be higher than the cups; while the bung that receives the rain water needed to be below my rain collecting gutters and distribution pipes.

For filtering, we have a primary and secondary approach. The entire barrel lid is covered by a mesh screen cover (not in this pic). It works great! But, should any craftier fir needles make it past that, there is a standard bathroom sink/tub strainer in the hole that the system feeds into.

The piping itself is pretty simple. I used a larger diameter layout to carry as much volume as possible. In the likely fall or spring events of collecting wayyyy too much rain, I’ve installed another fitting and pipe at the top of the barrel. It aims away (downhill) from the coop/run and will drain the barrel from the top on those heavy days. My thought is to take as much off the runoff away from the coop as possible, reducing the soupy mire the open dirt around here becomes on those days where we get four to eight inches from the “Pineapple Express” systems.

The gutters I made by placing two standard drip-edge corner flashings together to form a three-sided square. We used an industrial double-sided tape to secure them together, and I ran a bead of silicon on the interior seam. I used 2” pieces of PVC as spacers where I screwed it to the board just below the metal roof panels. I angled the gutters a bit to assist gravity. The gutters on the taller coop both wind up dumping their water onto the roof of the run, just above its own gutter. The run gutter on the side opposite of the barrel (near our run door) dumps into a pipe that crosses sides in the small gap between the run and coop. I hung it from the cage with several pieces of wire. The main challenge after measuring, cutting and installing has been to secure it so that it will keep the funnels in the exact spot they need to be under the gutters.

Hopefully these pix help all that narrative make sense. The food is easy comparatively! We are using paracord and hooks to hang the buckets from the roof to stay off the ground. There is a No Waste Feeder system we installed. The kit comes with six ports and a large bit for drilling into a bucket. (We now have a second 3-port bucket hanging out there.) It works just fine on the round buckets. It has a shroud that keeps the food from filling the port directly. This keeps a cavity wide open for the chickens to stick their head into. It works exactly as promised, keeping the bulk of the food above the shroud. It simply drops a little into the pocket as the chicks remove what is in front of them. We’re using gamma lids on top of the buckets for easy refilling. They have a gasket ring that pounds onto the bucket permanently, and the lid screws on and off like a jar.

As always, thanks for joining along! I hope you found some inspiration. It is quite nice to only have to “check on them” in the morning and evening (as long as dumb-dumb doesn’t break off another cup!) Next week we’ll talk about the four breeds we’ve started with, and the things we did to get raise them while in the house as babies!

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