Thursday, July 26, 2012

Product Review: The Chicken Fountain

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by Rebecca Nickols

Missouri is similar to much of the country in the fact that we are into our third year of summer heat and drought. In fact, the drought now covers around 60 percent of the continental United States, the largest area since the epic droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Scorched fields have forced many farmers to plow under crops rather than attempt to harvest anything. As a result of the loss of crops, feed prices will rise and an aftereffect will be an increase in the cost of groceries including eggs and poultry.

While my heart goes out to the farmers whose livelihood depends on their harvest, I am more grateful than ever for my small free-ranging flock that provides my family with fresh eggs daily. After a day of searching and scratching for the abundant bugs and seeds throughout our property, the amount of chicken feed that the hens consume is minimal.

In addition to a high quality chicken feed, the most important nutritional requirement for a chicken's health is access to fresh, clean, cool water. During the excessive heat of this summer, hydration is more important than ever and a limited amount or a poor quality of water could be fatal to the flock. In a previous post (Hot Weather, Cool Water), I shared how I provided  several shaded watering spots scattered throughout my flock's free-ranging territory. In the chicken run, I use a galvanized chicken waterer that has worked well for my set-up over the years. As long as the container is elevated on a level surface, it stays relatively clean and holds an adequate amount of water (5 gallons). I also appreciate that during the winter I can use a heater with this type of watering option. 

Even though I'm confident that my flock is well nourished and hydrated, I'm always open to new ideas and I wanted to try out some of the other products available. The Chicken Fountain is a new poultry watering system designed by Frank Cardaropoli.  The fountain utilizes a "semi-sealed, passive flow" design which means that the unit is not under any pressure. Water flows to the drip heads only when your chicken demands water. My first impression of the product was positive: it's constructed of a high quality PVC material, it's rust proof and appears well designed and crafted. Other than attaching the side arms to the main unit, the product arrived fully assembled. I connected the system to a garden hose, turned the water on and the set-up was complete! 

My husband and I had our doubts if the chickens would be able to figure out how to drink from the poultry drippers or "nipples." We also weren't convinced they would be able to obtain an adequate amount of water from this drip method. My older hens had never been exposed to this type watering device, but fortunately Frank provides a few tips on how to "train your flock" to use the fountain. Rubber bands (included in the packaging) are used to help hold the drippers open allowing them to release droplets of water. Immediately the girls were curious about the new contraption in their run and within seconds they were pecking at the water. Even when I removed the rubber bands from the fountain, the girls continued to drink from the poultry nipples without a hitch!

I know that there are many chicken keepers that are skeptical about this method of providing water to chickens and I have to admit I was a little reluctant myself, but I'm sold--it's a great product. 

In a nutshell, here's what I liked about the product:

  • It's simple to assemble and install.
  • It provides a constant supply of cool, clean water. Refilling the waterer is a thing of the past!
  • The chickens easily adapted to this method of drinking. 
  • The design prevents the water from becoming contaminated  by dirt or bird droppings.
  • According to a review of this product by The Chicken Chick, poultry nipples have been around for more than 25 years and have been proven by research, trail and expert opinion to be a safe effective option of providing water.
  • Supplements, wormers, vitamins and apple cider vinegar can be added to the unit.
  • During the winter, a heater option is available which can be easily added to the unit to prevent the water and drippers from freezing.
For more info on this product please visit this website:  The Chicken Fountain
Stay turned: next week I'll share my attempt at a DIY chicken waterer! To see what else is happening at our southwest Missouri property, visit the garden-roof coop.


    1. Great review of a wondeful product, Rebecca! Thanks for the shout-out.
      My chickens took to it just as quickly as yours did. Even though no one in my flock has ever been sick, it is a relief to know that they will in fact, be even more healthy by virtue of drinking clean water EVERY time. Let's face it, even when changing their waterers several times daily, the traditional waterers didn't get sanitized with every change.
      I'm with you on the wholehearted endorsement of this product.

      Kathy Mormino
      The Chicken Chick

    2. Do you still provide water in bowls or tubs for them to stand in and to cool their wattles - two ways that chickens cool off in extreme heat? Or is this your only water source now?

      How do you clean the inside ? Sitting in the sun even with water moving through it, eventually it will accumulate algae,etc.

      I admit I am very skeptical, because tho the commercial chicken industry HAS been using these for 25 years, they also force molt their hens, make them live in a cage the size of an iPad, etc.....just really curious about the nitty gritty details.

    3. Lisa--my chickens free-range during the day and I have several additional spots for them to drink throughout the yard.--Even the dog's bowl is a popular watering spot. ha! (I'll have to get back with you on the cleaning aspect. It is in a shaded spot in the run now.)

    4. think you could also have a regular hose and just poke a hole in it and let the water squirt out during extreme heat.

    5. I've been using chicken nipples, (about $2 each) in a free (from a bakery) 5 gallon bucket, for about three years now. The bucket has the advantage that the lid can be easily removed to add some ice, and to wipe out any algae. I find I need to wipe it out about once per year.

      While it isn't necessary, I put a PVC connector with a screw top into the top of the bucket, so I just unscrew and fill from the hose. No need to pry off the top to fill each time.

    6. I love this idea and your review has sold me on the product. We have just a little over 70 (pet) chickens running around with 25 waterers. Needless to say, the time involved in cleaning and filling up the waterers is a full-time job. My pay is happy chickens! :)

      I will definitely look into this and surprise my girls.

    7. How about using a toilet float as the water manager inside a 5 gallon bucket. Then the water would always be full and would refill itself. A black bucket would reduce the algae growth

    8. Excellent Idea and great review. Thank you very much Rebecca! I have only 2 fenced acres and maybe 11 Hens all named Maria plus a rooster (Cluck Norris)and their purpose is only eat bugs (insects, ticks, spiders etc) - The eggs are a collateral benefit - so they are completely free ranged around my small property. Here and there I have buckets of water for them, but that has a tremendous inconvenient of breeding mosquitoes like nobody's business. This product close to their coop and maybe 2 or three buckets far away from the house can be a genial solution. Thank you very much

    9. Great review. Clean water is so very important - and while this system is a good idea, I've seen one, while along the same lines in design is a little different and I think would work a bit better for two reasons: 1. It's pressurized (if only slightly) which keeps the water (and everything else) flowing only in one direction and 2. It's designed to work when it freezes outside - and if it freezes solid it has pressure relief so the unit isn't damaged. 3. It costs less than the reviewed system. See for yourself:

    10. Thanks for the ideas, comments and tips! Teri--love your suggestion of using a PVC connector with lid on the top of your DIY waterer. (I'm adding that to the one I'm constructing)!

    11. I have used the plain nipples that can be mounted in whatever container you want. I mounted 4 nipples in a bucket bottom and chickens adapted fast, except Mr.Rooster. He pecked at one nipple until he was able to knock it out of the bucket causing the bucket to lose all the water. so on try 2 i put chalking around them thinking this would be sturdier. well he not only removed one nipple but he also pecked off the chalking off all the nipples. I'm not sure, but i think Mr. Rooster is ready for the pot!


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