How to keep clean water in the coop September 8, 2013

Keep clean water in the coop! My son helps out.

My son helps fill the waterer.

How do you keep clean water in the coop? Having clean water in the coop at all times is important for keeping healthy chickens, but achieving this can be a challenge.   I don’t know about you, but for me, litter and poop in the water is the main problem I encounter.  It seems that no matter where I put their waterer, they find a way to scratch poop in it!

With my first coop, I used a homemade waterer constructed from a large vinegar bottle and a cut bucket. As soon as I placed it in the coop, I quickly realized that it was too close to the roost, making it a poop target!  Next, I placed it in the run so they wouldn’t roost over it.  But they did try to roost ON it, often tipping the bottle over and leaving them waterless.  Also, somehow just in walking around it they managed to get poop in it!

Poor food and water placement.--- keep clean water in the coop

Poor food and water placement.




DIY waterer

This DIY waterer design of mine didn’t help keep clean water in the coop


I tried a few other designs making the saucer smaller so they had less area to soil, but most of my DIY waterer designs still needed to be cleaned out daily, negating the low maintenance benefits of a  self-filling waterer.  Eventually, we bought some commercial waterers including a traditional galvanized waterer.  The larger volume made it nice because I had to fill it less… but I still needed to clean out the saucer daily as they would stand around close to it and poop.   The design of the commerical waterer is made to prevent roosting on top, but  they still occasionally managed to stay on top long enough to poop in the water.  Elevating it with metal base helped some, but it was still an issue.

The solution I finally came up with to keep clean water in the coop was to cage in the water! It was such a simple solution.  The chickens can put their heads through the 2″x4″ opening, but can’t fit their back ends through to poop in the water!  Using just a scrap of welded wire, I made a semicircle to the side of the cage that the waterer would fit in.



This has been a great solution for us.  It works with all our different waterers (commercial and homemade), and the wire can easily be bent for a custom fit.  It keeps the chickens from roosting on top of the waterer.  In addtion to keeping their butt away from the water it also limits how much they can scratch dirt and food into the water, keeping clean water in the coop longer!

Although this has worked great I am always looking to improve.  Future blog post spoiler alert: I am currently working on modifying my current coop so it will become coop 2.1!  These modifications may require the waterer placement be changed.  Since I have to change it anyway, I have been looking into trying chicken nipple waterers, which I was investigating  before I came up with this wire fence solution.   We will see—maybe I will just stick with what works.

What solutions have you came up with to keep clean water in the coop?

Happy chickens with clean caged water.

Happy chickens with clean caged water.



Erin September 8th, 2013

Nipple waterers are awesome! I drilled 5 of them into the bottom of a 5 gal bucket, and it works great.

Garnet Brooks September 8th, 2013

I hang my water buckets from a chain with a painters ladder clip on the end for easy removal and I keep it fairly high off the ground, only problem is the girls like to shake off their dust bath leftovers and it gets in it at times!!

Cheryl Lindsay September 8th, 2013

I set the gallon sized plastic waterer on a pallet in the chicken yard. Even our ducks and Silkie can jump up on the pallet, but nothing to scratch into the water. I do find the ducks manage to carry dirt (becomes mud) to the waterer. Saving for the Chicken Fountain, which works using nipples!

Kristen E. Martin September 8th, 2013

Clean water isn’t really my issue. It’s boiling water I deal with most with the humid, hot summer. By noon *maybe 10*, the waterers are hot, and the water is bathwater. Anybody have ideas on hot water?

Lissa September 9th, 2013

Sure, Kristin. You can read our advice for keeping your water cool right here in this blog post, Backyard chickens: 5 tips for beating the heat.

Matt September 8th, 2013

I like to have my water container up on bricks so that it is level with their chest , up off the ground about 6 to 8 inches. Low enough to see and drink high enough to avoid debris when they scratch around and make sure they can’t roost on top of it.

dawn sarver September 8th, 2013

i hang my waters on chains, works pretty good for all but “crumbs” on beaks., i have put in some nipple waters ( 5 gal bucket with 5 nipples ) but girls werent raised to this and not every one will use them…….but they do work really well if you can get them started with it

Jamie September 9th, 2013

I don’t keep water in the coop, only the run, the water always spilled in the coop bedding for some reason, soaked it. I use a hanging plastic gravity waterer. For winter I will need to keep some in there that won’t spill and won’t be hard to change out or break up to keep from freezing

Leslie September 9th, 2013

I believe waterers have to be cleaned every day to get rid of bio-film and algae and “flush” the system.

I’m using automatic poultry founts. These did require some set-up, but even with zero previous plumbing experience that was easy enough and not as expensive as I thought it would be. As there is no water stored in the founts they are much easier to transport, and they are a simple bowl design so very easy to clean. We plumed the system so we could open the end of the line to “flush” the system outside in the pasture. I personally prefer bowls to nipples — it is obvious that the bowls need to be cleaned every day, a detail that is probably easy to miss with nipples. The automatic poultry founts save me hours of heavy labor.

Before that, I did use large-capacity waterers like the ones in your blog post, and also large plastic ones. Even though the waterers say not to hang them, I think a chicken waterer that doesn’t hang isn’t very useful. Hanging waterers high enough solves all the poo and shavings issues, and no birds manage to roost on them. I used wire rope and various clips for the “chain,” but also had to find a way to keep the clip centered on the handle at the top of the waterer so the waterer wouldn’t tilt and spill … for that I attached U-Bolts to the handles (either in pairs, or just a single bolt). Using a big clip at the handle makes the waterers very easy to remove and replace. Regardless, scrubbing out a big waterer is time consuming, and carrying a full one is heavy work.

The wire rope hanging system also works for feeders and is easily adjustable by adding or removing “extra” clips between the rope and the handle.

Camille Kotchenreuter September 11th, 2013

I have a 9 wk old chick whose beak has become crossed. I’m assuming this is genetic. She was fine until she was 6 wks, old. Has anyone experienced this with their chicks?

Lissa September 13th, 2013

Sorry to hear your chick is developing a problem! In most cases, it shouldn’t substantially affect her, though. Please read more about crossed beaks in the My Pet Chicken help pages.

Jill November 8th, 2013

I struggled with this also, your idea is great. I resolved my girls pooping and dumping there water by stapling a small piece of deer wire to the coop door and hanging 5 in dog kennel bowls on it away from the roost. Hung my galvanized waterer under the coop with 2 -10 in metal s-hook plant hangers angled so the waterer handle has a hook on each side so it stays level.

David Caprioni April 1st, 2016

How do I care for a chicken with a hurt leg? (hard for her to walk). I looked at it but can not see anything wrong with it.

Lissa April 1st, 2016

Hi, David. It depends on what is causing the problem. Unfortunately, we can’t diagnose your chicken. There are a lot of issues that could cause staggering or limping. I once had a hen simply sprain her leg when she landed wrong jumping down from a roost. If it’s just a sprain, she should recover. But there are other causes of limping or leg problems in chickens (read about some of them at that link). If you suspect it’s more than a strain or a sprain, you’ll probably want to contact a veterinarian to get a diagnosis. We hope she’ll be okay!

Dana August 30th, 2016

I keep my waterers only in the run and outside the run – not in the coop due to trying to keep the humidity levels lower in the winter. I have a cinder block with one water on top, it gets dusty – but no biggie. Another 2 I hang they both have lids and are 3 or 4 gallons each… I do have another one on the ground, that gets nasty – but in the HEAT they LOVE it b/c I add ICE to the black water dish – holds about 2 gallons… they love to wade in it. It gets nasty and I change it daily…well sometimes every couple days.

Artie September 12th, 2017

I am new to my Chickens. I am building a coop and am trying to figure out the best layout. My question is should I have food and water inside the coop? I am trying to keep it as clean as possible and they come out every morning around 6:00am. Right now I keep food and water in the partially built coop. it gets pretty messy.

Lissa September 19th, 2017

Hi, Artie! That’s a common question, so we address it in detail on our website at this link: Should the chickens’ feeders and waterers go inside the coop, or should they go outside in the run?

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