PHOTO: Frank Hyman
Frank Hyman
July 14, 2016

Suspending your chickens’ waterer off the ground is critical. If you don’t, your hens will spend their day scratching and foraging, meaning a saucer of water will be filled with debris in record time. When I built our first waterer, I had plenty of scrap wood that I used to make a contraption held a 5-gallon bucket of water off the ground , and I inserted water nipples in the bottom of the bucket for hens to drink from. However, there are easier ways to suspend a waterer off the ground.

Commercial bucket holders are sturdy and easy to install, look good and will last forever. They’re basically a metal ring that holds the bucket and a couple of flanges that attach to a wall to hold the ring so it lays flat when the bucket isn’t in use. The design works well and may be just the thing for your site. However, you can also try to create something similar.

I use the kind of hook a gardener might use to suspend a hanging basket on his or her porch. Look for a zinc-coated, screw-in hook that’s at about 4 or 5 inches long. They’ll cost $1 to $2 each. You want to screw the hook into a wall or post so it will hold the bucket handle. The bottom of the bucket will need to be about 12 to 14 inches above the ground so the chickens can reach the water nipples.

Once you mark the spot where the hook needs to go, choose a drill bit that is the same diameter as the shaft. It should be narrower than the diameter of the threads of the hook. By drilling a hole that size, the shaft has room to enter the wood without splitting it, yet the threads themselves will slice into the wood.

If it’s too difficult to screw in the hook by hand, there are a couple things you can do. Rake the threads lightly across a bar of soap; some carpenters keep a bar in their tool box just for these situations. The little bits of soap act like a lubricant, making it easier for the screw to go in. As an alternative, or in addition, use a set of pliers to hold the hook end and twist it into place. If you don’t have any soap or pliers handy, put the shaft of a big screwdriver perpendicular to the hook to give you more leverage for turning the hook.

A 5-gallon bucket that is full of water is going to weigh 40 pounds (each gallon weighs 8 pounds); that’s a lot of pressure on three points of the bucket handle. Over time, the plastic tube may break, which will only make the bucket less comfortable to carry. Also, the two points where the metal handle attaches to the bucket may break, especially in cold conditions. For those reasons, this DIY option may be cheaper and faster than a commercial bucket holder, but it might not last as long because the bucket itself may fail.


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