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Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Did It My Way

I guess the first thing to tell you about my automatic chicken waterer is that it was born of sheer laziness. The chicken waterer had to be relatively low cost and low maintenance, and dare I say it, automatic.

So down to the box store I went. Now that I've written that, I'm not so sure that hiding Home Depot's identity in this tale serves anybody well, because I have certainly had some seriously bum steers at Home Depot.  But this time, I was ably assisted by a plumbing clerk who also happened to be a woman, which was helpful.  A woman helping a woman with a project is going to be a LOT more helpful than a man helping a woman with a project, because she'll be more supportive.  I cannot tell you how many times I've been brushed off by men who have either told me the wrong thing or an out-and-out lie (yes, there is so such a thing as an offset ratcheting screwdriver and it's right behind you, asshole) or worse, patronized me which irritates and annoys me beyond expression.  Maybe it's because I've had a little experience with plumbing and a lot with other projects and thus exuded some confidence or maybe I'll never know, but the clerk I asked help of had never advised anyone on building an automatic chicken before, but she was game to try and we figured it out together.

I've included a fleshed out diagram of what I did. I did not take blow by blow pictures of how I put it together because I didn't know as I was putting it together if it would work, but because it did, I'm listing the instructions for it below.

Here's your BOM (bill of materials*):

1 each 5 gallon bucket, with a Gamma lid (which you may have to buy separately)
1 each toilet fill valve
1 each 9" ⅞" toilet supply line (incorrectly identified in the PDF as 9" ⅞" fill valve to toilet)
1 each ½" MNPT x ¾" FHT PVC  swivel adapter
1 each ½" PVC close nipple
2 each ½" PVC threaded couplings
1 each pkg garden hose gaskets
1 each ½" threaded barbed elbow connector
1 piece ½" ID vinyl hose (length is your discretion)
1 each ½" threaded straight barbed connector
1 each ½" PVC pipe (length is your discretion)
2 each ½" PVC threaded slip connectors (one female, one male)
1 each ½" PVC threaded cap
Garden hose with a male end that reaches to the chicken house.

You will also need some PVC primer and glue, and teflon tape, and a ⅞" spade bit and a ¾" spade bite.  You also need to decide if you will hang the bucket or set it on something.  If you set it on something you will need to make sure there is a big enough hole for the supply line.  If you hang it, remember that water weighs approximately eight pounds per gallon, so you need to support approximately forty pounds. I chose chain that tested at fifty pounds.

Couple of things: the ⅞" spade bit is for drilling a hole in the bottom of the bucket, so it should match the bottom end of the toilet fill valve. In my experience, a ⅞" hole was exactly the size of the core of the outside of the fill valve, so it screwed in perfectly. In fact I had to shave off the lip of the gasket that comes with the valve that normally goes through the hole in the toilet tank.  I used the large piece on the inside of the bucket and the cut off piece on the outside between the toilet fill valve locknut and the bucket.   The ¾" spade bit is for drilling a hole in the side of the bucket for the line leading to the watering valves- this size is just large enough through which to thread a ½" close nipple*.

To assemble the waterer:
  1. Smack the ring on the Gamma lid on the top of the bucket. Set the other part of the Gamma lid aside.
  2. Drill a ⅞" hole with a spade bit in the bottom of the bucket, half way between the side of the bucket and the center- you need enough room to turn the valve in the bucket as you screw it into that hole.
  3. Drill a ¾" hole in the side of the bucket near the bottom, say an inch or so up- you need to be able to screw the couplers on the close nipple.
  4. Use the directions from the toilet fill valve to assemble the fill valve in the bottom of the bucket, with the fill valve gasket between the bucket and the stem on the inside, and a gasket between the fill valve locknut and the outside of the bucket.  Tighten it down.
  5. Screw the fill valve end of the supply line to the bottom of the fill valve.
  6. Screw the ½" MNPT x ¾ FHT PVC swivel adapter to the bottom of the supple line.
  7. Thread the ½" close nipple into the ¾" hole you drilled in the side of the bucket.
  8. Place a hose gasket over the close nipple on the inside of the bucket. Wrap some teflon tape around the threads a couple of times and screw on a ½" PVC threaded coupling on it. (Keep the teflon tape off the end of the nipple.)
  9. Place a hose gasket over the close nipple on the outside of the bucket. Wrap some teflon tape around the threads a couple of times and screw on the other ½" PVC threaded coupling.  Grasp both couplings and tighten them down for all you're worth.
  10. Jam the ½" ID vinyl hose over the barbed end on the barbed elbow and the other end of the hose over the barbed end of the barbed straight connector.
  11. Wrap some teflon tape over the threads of the barbed elbow and screw it into the ½" threaded coupler on the outside of the bucket. Screw it on tightly, finishing with the hose pointing down.
  12. Carefully prime (with PVC primer) the inside of the slip end of one of the ½" threaded slip couplings with a Q-tip, and then carefully spread a little PVC glue over the primer.  Quickly slip one end of the ½" PVC pipe into it.
  13. Repeat this on the other end with the remaining ½" threaded slip coupling.  Let this dry. (How long depends on a lot of things- kind of PVC glue you bought, and ambient temperature, but this will go pretty quickly.)
  14. Wrap some teflon tape over the threaded end of the barbed straight connector, and screw the female end of the pipe on it.
  15. Wrap some teflon tape over the threaded end of the male ½" threaded slip coupling and screw the ½" PVC cap on it.  Tighten it all down.
The next step is to attach the hose and then fill it, so either hang it where you want it or set it on whatever it is you want it on.  Then screw in the Gamma lid.

Wrap some teflon tape on the threads of the male end of a garden hose.  Screw that into the ½" MNPT x ¾ FHT PVC swivel adapter on the end of your supply line.  Get it good and tight.

Now go turn on your hose on low and fill your bucket. Once the bucket is full, the toilet fill valve will stop the proceedings. Check over everything and make sure it isn't leaking anywhere. Once you've determined that you did a good job, turn off the hose, remove the cap from the end of the pipe and drain the system.

Now you can drill 11/32" holes in the pipe and screw in the chicken watering valves, and then hang the pipe for the chickens. You may need to seal these with a little silicone sealer, depending on your skill and the valves you purchased.   I haven't read this anywhere, so I can't verify it, but it seems to me that you want to hang the pipe along a wall so the chickens can't roost on it, or they will.

But that is pretty much all there is to know about building an automatic chicken waterer my way.

I'm thinking the automatic pop-hole opener is next (or maybe I'll just buy one).

* Glossary:
Close nipple - all pipe that have threaded ends are nipples; a close nipple is a short (usually 1-½" long)    pipe that is threaded all the length of the pipe
MNPT - male national pipe thread
FHT - female hose thread
PVC - polyvinyl chloride
ID - inner diameter


russell1200 said...

You are being too sensitive.

I have an unlimited electrical license and have worked in construction for a long time. But if I go into a box in non-work clothes, or with my young son, I get that skeptical "your an idiot look" frequently.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

That is a beautiful thing. Although we can't run a hose to the chicken house in winter, after everything thaws in the spring, I'll see if I can't talk Kevin into helping me build one of these (my skills aren't as well-developed as yours, and any project like this is likely to turn out better if Kevin's in on it).

Nice work!

Paula said...

Thanks Tamar.

I'm trying an old North Dakota trick, as described by a co-worker who grew up there- I've backed off the end cap a little so that it drips. She promised this will keep the system from freezing.

You might be able to use this method in winter.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Paula! JAGG