How to Build an Automatic Chicken Waterer System for Less Than $150

Build a Homemade Chicken Watering System for Your Chicken Coop

Once he figured out how to build a chicken coop, my husband built my portable hen house on a tractor for me in 2009 for my, ahem, 43rd birthday. Providing a portable automatic chicken waterer system for the henhouse was important. We needed it to provide water for the flock wherever we parked it on the farm, hold enough water so that fillings were infrequent, and be easy to fill and maintain. He did an excellent job in design and function. Other than adding a tee connector to run lines to the rooster and breeding yards, we’ve made no changes and have only made minor repairs a couple of times.


He purchased a 30-gallon plastic barrel from a local odds and ends shop for $10; black water tubing because it resists algae growth and is UV stabilized; picked up locally for $20 for 60 feet since we wanted to have extra just in case (we still have some of it left); 1/4” tee connectors – 10 for about $6; splicers – for about $5.00; and the watering cups and mounts – 14 for about $65 (this was the most expensive part of the project). He had the garden hose to create the attachment to the barrel and the shut-off valve that he added to the hose. These prices are based on the products available today. When he built it for me then, it was about $20 less than it would be now.

Materials Size Cost
Plastic Barrel 30 Gallon $10
Black Tubing (resists algae, UV stabilized) 60′ (had extra) $20
Tee Connectors 10 $6
Splicers 1 $5
Watering Cups & Mounts 14 $65
Garden Hose 1 $10
Shut Off Valve 1 $10
*Prices are estimates from 2009


First, he laid the barrel down the way it would be mounted and drilled an air hole on what would be the top of the barrel. Next, he drilled out the hole for the hose connection and attached it with plastic threaded bolts, silicone, and plumbing tape. Then he did the same process with the water line in the other cap. The barrel is mounted using roofing strap. A 2” x 4” frame supports the tin “roof” over the barrel with a sheet of silvered backed foam insulation between it and the barrel. He used tee connectors to run two cups inside the hen house and one outside the hen house.

When we enlarged the compound to include the rooster and breeding yards in addition to the hen house, all it took was a few tee connectors, some water line, and cups with mounts, all of which we already had on hand. At this time, we took insulating tape and wrapped it around the lines to help keep the water cooler in the summer time.


We run a water hose to the barrel, connect it, turn the water on, open the shut off on the barrel nozzle and wait. Once we see water begin to trickle from the top air hole, we know the barrel is full and turn it off at the barrel then the faucet. This lasts our flock 10 – 14 days depending on the weather. To keep them from running out, we fill it every Saturday. This gives us the opportunity to check for leaks in the line, at the connections, and at the cups. In the last 6 years, we have only had to replace 3 cups. That’s not too bad, we think.

We have faucet nozzles in several locations around the farm. They run from our deep well that is fed by underground springs – always cold and delicious. No matter where the chicken coop tractor is located, we run a hose (series of hoses) to it and fill it up. When the coop is out of the poultry compound, we provide water to the other chicken runs by using one-gallon poultry waterers. We use this system most of the year. If we are going to have prolonged freezing weather, which isn’t often, we drain the system and use the gallon waterers.


This system is easily customized for any small poultry farming operation. You can tweak it or make it work the way you need it by adjusting the size of the barrel, creating your own type of connections, and using the number and kind of cups you need for your flock. Once a year, we run a hydrogen peroxide/vinegar mixture through the lines and flush them well.


Here are some links you may like to have to order supplies:


QC Supply

Have you created an automatic chicken waterer system for your portable coop or hen house? Comment here and share your story with us—we’d love to hear it!

Safe and Happy Journey,

Rhonda and The Pack

Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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