Q: How do I train my chickens to drink from nipples?
A: Many chicken keepers prefer nipple drinkers over conventional style drinkers for reasons of convenience and cleanliness. Nipple waterers involve so much less cleaning and are so much easier to refill, that they’re quickly becoming the watering method of choice for backyarders. Nipple watering systems mean no more (daily? weekly?) cleaning a gunky mess of dirt, poo, and soiled wood shavings out of your watering trays!
Whether you’re starting baby chicks on nipples from day one, or whether you want to get your grown flock on nipples, there are a few important training considerations.
Step one: Make sure you’ve got enough nipples
If you are designing your own home-made nipple watering system, remember that nipples will need to be a minimum of 6 inches apart (though we prefer 7 inches or more), so that each nipple will be accessible to your flock simultaneously.
Space nipples appropriately
Step two: Pick the right time to do it
Whether you are starting with baby chicks or older birds, plan to start the training when you can be around to monitor them for at least two days. Saturday morning might be a great time to start, for instance, if you have Saturdays and Sundays off of work.
If you’ve got brand new baby chicks who appear to be in any sort of distress from shipping, wait on the nipple training. They’ll need easy access to fresh, clean water for a few days to recover.
Step three: Remove other water sources
Like humans, chickens are creatures of habit and will use traditional waterers if they have access to them. Being thirsty is a great motivator to try new things!
Step four: Show your chickens how the water comes out
Tap on the nipple’s metal toggle so the birds can see the how the water comes out. If you’re using a horizontal nipple (like these), you can tap the nipples until a few drops of water are in the small "cup," so they can easily see the water.
Horizontal watering nipple
Be prepared to continue repeating this step several times throughout the first and second day, as necessary, until the chickens start figuring it out for themselves.
Step five: Be patient and have faith!
Don’t give up! It may take your chickens a couple of days to fully figure out the new watering system. You may feel sorry that they are so thirsty in the beginning. But as we mentioned before, thirst is a great motivator. Plus, you will be setting your birds up for a lifetime of access to clean, fresh water. It’s worth it in the long run. Just keep repeating step four, and have faith that once one bird “gets it,” the others will soon follow.
Step six: Enjoy
Once your birds get the hang of drinking from a nipple watering system, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits that a nipple watering system can offer: far less time filling reservoirs, and less mess in your run or brooder. And your birds will be thankful for the continuous flow of fresh, clean water!
Flock enjoying their nipple waterer!