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.
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!
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.
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.