This was one of our first stops on the journey to find an easier-to-fill poultry drinker. We were especially interested in a top-fill type so that our younger children could better handle the watering chores. Though the idea was right, the design of this one turned out to not be as easy to use as we assumed it would be. Read on.
COST: This is a pricey chicken waterer which set us back around $35 plus tax.
EASE OF USE: Operation seems pretty straight-forward and self explanatory. First, unscrew the large black cap at the top of the reservoir. Fill reservoir with water and replace cap. At this point the reservoir is sealed by vacuum. Place the drinker in the desired (very level) location and then remove the small white cap to allow water to flow. Do not lose the small white cap. This is important.
I say it seems straight-forward, but there are several extra steps that we certainly had not been planning on. To begin with, the large black cap contains a large o-ring which creates a very tight seal - which is great, except... We are talking about a very tight seal... think pickle jar seal... Which is extremely difficult to open (impossible for a child) when the reservoir is empty and absolutely impossible (even for an adult) to open when there is still water in the reservoir and there is a vacuum. I spent many mornings muttering "just unscrew the &$#*& lid" under my breath while struggling with this thing.
Once you manage to get the lid off and the container refilled with water (don't forget to replace the little white cap -- which I'm sure you haven't misplaced -- before refilling or your water will simply leak out as you fill), there is the matter of replacing the screw on lid. This also seems simple, but it is a bit tricky to get the tightness just right... too tight and water will never come out into the tray.. not tight enough and all of the water leaks out within an hour. But this is something you will have to deal with once you get the drinker into place wherever your chickens are.
Moving the drinker should be a breeze with the large handle even though five gallons of water is a bit heavy. The problem is that the container and tray are simply too wide - and the overall design too short -- to carry comfortably at knee level. I had to choose between bruised knees or a thrown out back from trying to awkwardly carry it out away from my body. It worked great when I loaded it onto a cart to pull to its destination. Once in place it is necessary to remove the small white cap (and put it somewhere where it will not be lost forever) and then test if the large black cap is too loose or too tight by checking water flow. The small white cap will have to be replaced each time you make an adjustment to the large black cap. There is a lot of tinkering here - and your chickens will be thirsty.
NEATNESS: As far as water-spillage, this drinker is pretty much drip and spill-free once you have it working properly. However, the thing is a veritable algae farm. Every single day it required a thorough scrubbing to get the thick layer of green algae out of the reservoir which was no easy task given the shape of the container and the ridges in the body of the reservoir where the algae especially collected. What's worse is that algae also collected between the reservoir and the tray which could not be cleaned without removing the reservoir from the tray -- and, this may just be my experience, I was never able to get the reservoir back onto the tray as it originally had been which caused some leakage issues.
CHICKEN LEARNING CURVE: Thankfully, your chickens do not have to figure out how to fill the drinker, so there is no learning curve for them. Water flows into the pretty good-sized red tray and that is all they need to know.
DURABILITY: Despite all of the complication of actually getting the drinker set up just right every day, I would have been happy enough to use it if not for the durability factor. The fact is that the manufacturer is sure to be clear that replacement parts are available (although they are not cheap). That's always a bad sign, as far as I'm concerned. The little white cap is easily lost (something you may have probably guessed by now), yet essential in the operation of the unit. But the main issue is with the large black cap and the o-ring. The o-ring will break down very quickly under normal conditions and use. This is something which the manufacturer is also aware of as they recommend that users treat the o-ring with food-grade oil after every cleaning and before every refill or, failing that, just order a replacement o-ring. If you have time to carefully treat the o-ring on your chicken waterer each day - more power to you. Eventually our unit's o-ring broke down to the point of permanently (and I mean PERMANENTLY) sealing the reservoir shut and we gave up on this one.
SUMMARY: There were too many days when my chickens were drinking out of a three-dollar bucket because I could not get this $35+ poultry drinker to dispense water. Cold weather was even more problematic than ever as the delicate o-ring would hopelessly freeze the container shut - and further damage the o-ring. There may be work-arounds for every single one of these issues, but I am not one to pay a lot of money for something which requires work-arounds.
These drinkers are cheap and readily available. That's often enough to drive sales into the millions. And the fact is, if you are looking for some way to get water to animals which otherwise would die of thirst - this will definitely do the job. However, I would like to take a little time to go over what is right and what is wrong with this ubiquitous poultry drinker design.
COST: Sometimes on sale for $8 or less for the one-gallon models, this drinker can be a real bargain. The larger models sell for about twice as much, but even that price remains under the average price for more complicated drinkers.
EASE OF USE: The concept and mechanics are quite simple - turn the drinker over, unscrew the bottom tray, fill the reservoir with water, replace the tray, and then turn the drinker over. The created vacuum will keep the water from flowing out and over the tray. Perfect!
Not quite. The process of turning the drinker over will always result in spilled water and you will most likely come away from chicken watering with at least soaked shoes. Additionally, the drinker will need to be placed on perfectly level ground (which we do not have... ever.. anywhere...) in order to keep the water from slowly seeping over one of the sides. Also, moving the unit at all once it is filled will result in a loss of vacuum and there will be more water loss. You may notice the handle seems to be designed for hanging. Ignore that. It's all lies. Even if you do manage to get it to hang straight, it will inevitably get moved around and lose vacuum... and all of the water.
NEATNESS: Not accounting for the inevitable water spills that happen upon refilling and putting into place, this is not necessarily the messiest waterer we have ever used. At ground level you can be sure that the small tray will be full of shavings and dirt within a couple of hours. Placed on a level surface above ground level - preferably just at chicken beak level - the water stays fairly clean and debris does not back up into the main reservoir.
CHICKEN LEARNING CURVE: This is a no-brainer - even for chickens. There is nothing to figure out about drinking from a tray full of highly visible water.
DURABILITY: We have not had one of these waterers of any size last more than one year. The plastic becomes extremely brittle and tends to crack near the tabs which are used to twist into the slots on the tray to hold it in place even with light use. Dropping the reservoir section will end its life sooner. Subject it to freezing and thawing temperatures for a few weeks and it will be on the trash heap in no time.
SUMMARY: For a quick and temporary watering solution, we suggest the 1-gallon incarnation of this poultry drinker. The larger versions are simply too hard to carry and fill without losing more than half of the water. You should expect to clean and refill these (at any size) at least twice per day - which is not at all convenient if you are looking for something to use long term with a lot of birds. If it is of great importance that the area where you are watering your birds stays relatively dry, this is not the solution either - mostly because of the messy refilling process. On a good note, these drinkers tend not to freeze completely solid on your average freezing temperature day because of the inevitable air-bubble trapped in the top of the reservoir. The tray will be frozen, which does not help your chickens any, but it is pretty easy to dump out the ice and refill. Just use caution as with any plastic the reservoir and tray will be extra brittle in the cold.
We have bought a lot of things over the years to try to improve our daily routine and the lives of our animals. To not only save you some time and money, but to maybe sometimes vent a little of my own frustration, I share here some of the good, the bad, and the too good to be true.