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How to Mount the Cozy Hen™ Waterer and Select the Height

This article describes:

  • ways to mount the waterer
  • how high to mount the waterer (so that the actuating pin at the drinking end of the nipple is the proper height off the ground)

and it provides references (mostly scientific journal articles) about these topics.

Ways to mount the waterer

The waterer can be mounted by hanging by its chain from a hook, nail, or shepherd’s crook.  It may also be set on a sturdy stand or shelf.  A sturdy plant stand may be suitable, although height adjustment may be more difficult than when mounted by chain. 

It is important that the nipple is vertical or nearly so.  If the waterer is mounted so the nipple is tilted, dripping may occur.  Also, the bucket lids do not make a water-tight seal, so water may leak out of tilted waterers.  

Hanging the waterer can provide the easiest way to adjust the height of the waterer as your birds mature.  The fully assembled waterer can be hung by the chain that is part of the waterer.  The waterer may be hung from a shepherd’s crook (see Figure 1), a screw hook (see Figure 2), a hook bolt (a 3/8-16 UNC x 7” is recommended), or a nail.  These are commonly available at hardware  and home improvement stores.  The screw hook may be attached to a frame member of your coop; a hook bolt may be mounted on a medium or heavy duty u-post (see Figure 3) that has holes drilled to 3/8” diameter.  

Use of an extension chain enables easy height adjustment (see Figure 4).  (A 2 foot length of chain with 2 stainless steel S-hooks is sold separately on this site).  A double snap clasp (sold separately on this site) when used with the extension chain can make height adjustment easy (see Figure 5).  The extension chain may be attached to the wire bail of the waterer or to its chain.

An extension chain and a screw hook comprise a convenient way to mount the waterer in an A-frame coop.

The waterer may be mounted on a plant stand.  Typically, these are available from home improvement stores and garden shops.  Commonly found are stands with heights of 15, 20, and 21 inches so that the actuating pin at the drinking end of the nipple will be about 3 to 4 inches lower, that is about 11, 16, or 17 inches off the ground.  Adjustment can be obtained by placing bricks, boards, or other suitable items (good compression strength and easily washed) under the legs of the stand.  If you use one of these stands, be sure that the nipple assembly can protrude through the bars that support the outer bucket of the waterer.  Examples are shown in Figure 6.

How high to mount the waterer

It is important that the waterer is positioned so the actuating pin of the nipple is at the proper height off the ground.  Adequate water is essential to the welfare of your birds.  In addition to affecting how much food your birds will eat, the amount of water they drink affects their ability to regulate their temperature and their productivity. [1,2]    

Chickens drink differently when drinking from open water sources and from nipple waterers.  When drinking from open containers such as troughs or bowls, or from puddles, chickens use a ‘scoop’ action in which their head is lowered to fill their bill and then the head is raised.  When drinking from a nipple, chickens must tilt their heads upward and peck the nipple to obtain water. [3] 

Setting the waterer for the proper height of the actuating pin of the nipple is necessary to effectively water your birds.  Incorrect height (too high or too low) may lead to reduced water consumption and may lead to wetting the ground, litter, or floor beneath the waterer.  Wet litter or mud can harbor organisms that may be harmful, and it may lead to conditions conducive to foot pad dermatitis (e.g., FPD, pododermatitis, bumblefoot, etc).[4,5]   

Setting the nipple height too low (where the birds do not lift their heads and slightly stretch their necks) may be somewhat preferred by the birds in comparison with a nipple height for which they do have to stretch slightly,[6] but there is much more spillage and dripping at the lower setting. [7]

(Note: The nipples are ‘no-drip’ type nipples, and a drip-pan is generally not needed.  However, occasionally, a modest amount of water drip may occur.  Check that there is no debris or soil partially clogging the nipple.  Dripping or spillage may happen although the nipple height is correctly set for your flock.  If you have different sized birds, you may notice that spillage occurs more with the taller birds.  If you find that the litter is wet under the waterer, a drip pan or absorbent material placed below the nipple, or drainage may be necessary.  For chicks, wet litter poses a potential choking hazard, especially if the nipple is too high for them to adequately drink.  Thirsty chicks may ingest wet litter and choke.[8])

In contrast, if the nipple height is set too high, then the birds must uncomfortably stretch and, as a result, they will drink less water.[6]  Too little water intake will lead to reduced food intake, and it may lead to dehydration and the formation of dry clumps in the crop.  Further, drinking from a nipple that is too high may lead to difficulties in panting in warm or hot outdoor temperatures.  [6,9]

For grown pullets and adult birds, the height of the nipple off the ground should be such that the birds tilt their heads at about a 45 degree to 55 degree angle, that is, when the head is lifted and the neck slightly stretched, the angle between the ground and a line between the feet and beak. [10]  

The proper height and how it changes with age   

The proper height of the nipple actuating pin off the ground depends on the age of the bird and its size.

For adult chickens, the actuating pin at the drinking end of the nipple should be about 12 to 20 inches above the ground so that the birds must tilt their heads upward at about a 45 to 55 degree angle and stretch their necks a little.  For larger breeds, the waterer might even have to be a few inches higher.

For chicks & pullets, the waterer must hang much closer to the ground.  For young chicks (first week), the waterer should be situated so that the actuating pin at the drinking end of the nipple is at about eye level or a bit above, perhaps 4 to 6 inches off the ground.  The height of the waterer should be raised every 2-3 of days in the first week.  Typically, in the first month, the waterer should be raised about twice a week so that by the end of the month, the actuating pin is at about 12 inches or so off the ground.  After the first month, the waterer should be periodically raised as needed to accommodate the head tilt and neck stretching for proper drinking posture. 

If your flock has different size birds, a block of wood or some bricks may be placed under the waterer so that the shorter birds can reach the actuating pin at the drinking end of the nipple.  If you set the waterer at a lower height than optimum for the tallest birds so that it accommodates the smaller birds, be sure to check for wet litter, and take measures (e.g., a drip pan or absorbent material) to avoid potential health issues from wet litter.

There have been several studies of the effects of nipple height for broiler production.  A characteristic curve for nipple height versus age has been reported by Goan [11] and referenced by many others (see for example, Tabler [9]).  There have also been studies of chicken preference for various types of drinkers and for drinker and nipple height.[3,12]  One study reported by Quichimbo [12] used nipples that were in the low and medium range.  The data for nipple height from Goan [11] and from Quichimbo [121] are shown in Figure 7.  These curves are for broilers and so you should consider them only as approximate guides.  You must determine the proper height for your birds by observing their posture when drinking and watching their drinking habits.

References:

  1. K. Kirkpatrick and E. Flemming, “Water Quality”, Aviagen Brief, Aviagen, Ltd., Feb 2008 http://www.aviagen.com/assets/Tech_Center/Broiler_Breeder_Tech_Articles/English/AviagenBrief_WaterQuality_Feb08.pdf
  2. J. D. van der Klis and L. de Lange, “Water Intake in poultry”, Proc. ESPN 2013, 19th European Symposium on Poultry Nutrition, Aug 26-29, Potsdam, Germany  http://www.wpsa.com/proceedings/ESPN_2013/assets/pdf/0318.pdf 
  3. E. Houldcroft, et al., “Welfare implications of nipple drinkers for broiler chickens”, Animal Welfare v17 p1-10 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (2008)  http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/3447766/DrinkingFinal_proof-libre.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ56TQJRTWSMTNPEA&Expires=1411917252&Signature=%2Ffxdz3kVKlLkmfmN5IbB17M2d5M%3D   also:  http://users.ox.ac.uk/~abrg/papers/dawkins/DrinkingFinal%20proof.pdf 
  4. U NH Cooperative Extension System, “Bumblefoot”, http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/resource000779_rep800.pdf 
  5. I. de Jonge and J. van Harn, “Management tools to reduce footpad dermatitis in broilers”, Aviagen 2012  http://en.aviagen.com/assets/Tech_Center/Broiler_Breeder_Tech_Articles/English/AviaTech-FoodpadDermatitisSept2012.pdf 
  6. B. D. Lott, et al., “The effect of nipple height on broiler performance”, Poultry Science v80 pp408-410 (2001)  http://ps.oxfordjournals.org/content/80/4/408.full.pdf 
  7. Ross 2002 Broiler Management Manual, Aviagen, Ltd., Newbridge, Scotland, U.K. http://kenanaonline.com/files/0070/70697/ross308%20Manual%20broiler.pdf
  8. S. L. Branton, et al., “Chick mortality associated with elevated water lines and consumption of wet litter”, Journ. Appl. Poultry Research Field Report v10 pp427-430 (2001)  http://japr.oxfordjournals.org/content/10/4/427.full.pdf
  9. T. Tabler, “Nipple drinker management critical to broiler performance”, Avian Advice 5(1) Univ. of Arkansas Div. of Agriculture Coop. Ext. Service, pp9-12, Spring, 2003  http://www.avianadvice.uark.edu/AA%20PDFs/avian_advice_5.1.pdf 
  10. Technical Team, Ziggity System, Inc., “Understand broiler drinking behavior to achieve better flock performance”, http://www.ziggity.com/pdf/cont/cont_article_pdf_14.pdf/Understand_broiler_drinking_behavior_to_achieve_better_flock_performance.pdf
  11. Goan Management of nipple watering systems  http://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1036&context=utk_agexani
  12. C. Quichimbo, et al., “Effect of nipple type drinker height on productive parameters of broilers”, Int’l Journ. Of Poultry Sci. 12(3), pp144-147 (2013)  http://www.pjbs.org/ijps/fin2144.pdf