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.