A Unique Watering Concept
By Anna Hess, Virginia
Two and a half years ago, my husband, Mark, and I moved to a 58-acre farm and got a dozen chickens. We soon fell in love with our feathered egg-laying machines, and Mark built them tractors so that they could mow our grass and hunt down bugs.
Every morning, my job was to go out and move the tractors, drop in a bit of feed, and make sure they had water. Mark did the afternoon chores: taking out the eggs and, again, checking on their water. We had one of those metal gallon waterers, the type where you fill up the reservoir and it gravity feeds into a little round trough. This is a big mistake with tractors. One hot summer day, the chickens nudged the waterer and it tipped on the uneven ground and drained dry. Before we knew what hit us, two chickens had keeled over from dehydration and heat exhaustion.
We buried our dead hens and vowed to be more vigilant. Mark started checking on them several times a day (good thing we work from home), and we had no more losses. But the waterer was still driving me nuts. Every morning, I’d have to take the waterer out and clean the trough, which was always full of gunk scratched up into it by the hens. By evening, it was gunky again! And our young hens enjoyed perching on top of the waterer and pooping on the lid and in the trough — it was certainly not pleasant to clean it out. In winter, it was even worse since the water froze in the trough and had to be pounded against the ground to be emptied. Add to that the fact that we had to carry water from the house to the tractors as we moved them around the yard, and we weren’t happy campers. What were we thinking getting chickens?
One morning, Mark woke up to hear me swearing at the hens. I’d put my hand smack dab in the middle of a nice pile of fresh poop on top of the waterer and I was not pleased. So, sweet husband that he is, Mark got to work. A few months later, after testing several designs, he had developed the Avian Aqua Miser — an automatic chicken waterer which stays clean and full in chicken tractors and never gets poop on the top!
The Avian Aqua Miser is a bit like a hamster water bottle — the water is enclosed in a clean container and the chicken gets at it by pecking on the stainless steel nipple that releases a drop of pristine water with each peck. The pros have been using these nipples for years, but they attach them to long hoses that don’t work in moving tractors.
Mark discovered a special nipple that works under gravity conditions (most require water pressure) and attached it to a plastic reservoir complete with an easy carry handle and a wire that lets you hang it just about anywhere. He started out with a nipple attached to a five-gallon bucket but soon discovered that most of the water from our former waterer was just getting spilled on the ground.
We enjoy our Avian Aqua Misers so much that we wanted to share them with other poultry keepers. Mark put together a little store on our blog at www.waldeneffect.org with pre-made waterers, do-it-yourself kits, and even just plain nipples for folks who aren’t willing to buy them in bulk from the big farm supply companies.
Our customers seem thrilled — other than one unit that broke in the mail — we’ve yet to have a return! One customer emailed me to say that he’s using the Avian Aqua Miser with his two-week-old chicks, preventing the worrisome possibility of the toddlers drowning in a more grown-up waterer.
Best of all, I no longer swear when I do my morning chores. With an Avian Aqua Miser in each hand, I wonder why anyone would not have chickens.
Originally published in the June/July 2009 issue of Backyard Poultry regularly vetted for accuracy.