Thursday, January 10, 2013

Comparison of Poultry Cup Drinkers

By Sue -

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a waterer that would accomplish several purposes:

  • Didn't want dirty water setting in a pan or bowl at the base of the waterer
  • Wanted a waterer that fills from the top; not one that you have to turn upside down to fill
  • Wanted it to last for several days before needing to refill
  • Wanted it to, with the aid of a small heating device, be useable most of the winter - and hopefully all winter long

I had originally planned on doing the "chicken water nipples" and purchased a couple different kinds to test them.  One of the types dropped too much water resulting in wet stinky litter below.  It did not leak, just let too much water out when the chickens drank from them.  The second nipple I tried didn't let enough water out (!) and the birds got discouraged and didn't like drinking from them.  In the end, in my opinion and experience with them, they were an "unnatural" way for a chicken to drink, and they never really liked using them.  Not to mention that I couldn't use them inside the coop without having come kind of a "catch pan" below them to keep from having a mess in the litter.

Then... I found the mini cup waterers.  These waterers were designed to be used on PVC pipe with a low pressure water hose connected to deliver constant fresh water.  I DID NOT want to use them that way as I wanted to be able to use my waterers for winter as well as summer.  Obviously a PVC pipe system would freeze up so that was out of the question. 

After gathering some information, talking with distributors, and thinking it through a little bit, I decided to try an experiment to see if the waterers could be used on buckets (similar to the nipples - just attached to the side instead of the bottom).  [FYI - when I spoke to the owner of Cornerstone where I purchased the cups, he told me he didn't think they'd work on a bucket.  He was wrong!]  I have been using these on the bucket since late summer and they're working wonderfully!  Now, for some photos, videos, and winter assessment:

Here are the two different cups I bought to try out:
They have 2 different cups.  I originally bought 1 of each to compare them.

Cup type A (300 Poultry Cup Drinker).  So far I like this one best.  It is the less expensive at $1.70 ea.
I purchased these HERE.
Cup type B (Plasson Cup Drinker)$3.00 ea.  Mechanism is replaceable inside when the internal sealing ring goes bad. See them HERE.

 These cups have stems with threads on them.  I used trial and error to figure out what drill size I'd need. (Have to apologize that I can't find the size marked down anywhere.  I plan to do some more and I can update with the size then.)   Then I visually marked where to drill the hole in the side of the bucket so that if the bucket was sitting on the ground, the cup would be above the ground.  I wrapped the threads with plumbing tape and screwed them into the bucket.  Bucket was free from the local supermarket's bakery department.

Note:  if you look closely at these, you'll see a rubber ring that's between the bucket and the waterer.  I went down to Lowes and some O rings that would fit as I thought that might keep them from leaking.  Not sure I needed them but I put them on anyway.

On both of these:  As the chicken puts their beak in, it moves the nipple and releases more water down.  The cups stay mostly empty - it's tripped when they put their beak in the cup. 

Easy to clean out.  When stuff gets in the bottom of the cups from their beaks, I either take a wadded up paper towel or an absorbent rag and sop up any water and wipe out the cup.  You can also just turn them upside down to dump the water then wipe out.  I've found that the amount of water in the bottom of the cup is so little that it doesn't hurt to turn it into the litter at all.

Here's what the bucket looks like.  BE SURE NOT TO PUT A TIGHT FITTING LID ON TOP.  Same for nipple waterers.  If a lid is closed, it creates a vacuum and no water will be let down.  KEEP YOUR LID AJAR.

You can see a strange chain up there.  The only reason I have it is to keep the birds from jumping on top of the bucket and roosting.  I was concerned that they'd jump up there and end up IN the bucket of water since the lid is always ajar.

For winter, I put a bird bath feeder into the bucket.  These are thermostatically controlled to come on near 35 degrees and shut off around 40 or so.  Here's the bird bather heater looking down into the bucket.  You can see a glass Pyrex in there.  I have since turned the glass upside down and set the bird bath heater on top of the upside-down glass.  This will gets it closer to the waterer mechanisms and, I think, give me a better shot of keeping them thawed.  I like the Pyrex either way so that the heater isn't sitting on the plastic.

Current Winter Use Assessment:

  • I had problems with the mechanism inside Cup B freezing; No freezing with Cup A.  Cup A wins the freezing test and I've since replaced Cup B with a Cup A and now both of the cups are the same.
  •  If there is water pooled in the bottom of the cups it will, of course, freeze.  Most the time the cups are almost empty but occasionally they have a little more water in them.  This is easily solved if you are out at the coop after they go to the roost by just turning the cup over and letting the water out.
  • My biggest concern was that the mechanisms inside the stem would freeze.  So far this has not happened with the bird bath heater installed.  We have not had SUSTAINED cold weather - only 2-3 days at a time in the 20's.  I'll reevaluate after seeing how they do if the temps remain in the 20s or below for longer periods of time. 

I have a broody that is by herself in a separate part of the hen house so I wanted to make a waterer for her to use.  I didn't have a small bucket at the time so I decided to try one of the cups on a pretty thin-walled container that I had lying around. I wasn't sure this would work since the plastic sides are much thinner and more pliable than the large buckets.  The rigidity of the wall of the bucket is pretty important to keep it from leaking.  

I have been using this for a number of weeks now and it's doing great.  I just have to be careful when handling the cup at all due to the thin, flexible plastic.  I'm going to replace it with a little heavier bucket sometime soon, but wanted to share this just so you can see how it's working. 

On whatever container you use, YOU HAVE TO BE SURE YOU HAVE A GOOD AMOUNT OF WATER ABOVE THE CUP WATERER INTAKE!   These are gravity fed cups. 

Here are a couple videos so you can see how they're designed to be used and get an idea of how they work.  



  1. great info! Thanks for sharing! I'm not seeing a photo under the section of 'winter trial.' There's a sentence about seeing a pyrex dish? Not sure if it's just my browser!

  2. Yes...there are a few photos missing...I think Leigh will be able to get those in there soon. I think she's away from the computer right now!

    I'd also like to see the videos posted here as well.

    Can't embed them in the comments but here are the links:

  3. Thanks for the videos and the photo!!

  4. I have seen mixed reviews on if these work in brooders for baby chicks. We are looking for a better solution for our baby chicks. Have you tried these with little ones? What would you think?

    1. On using with chicks - I think that they need to be a little older before using them. I saw my 3 week olds using them but they were broody-raised and they were following the example of the older chickens. When I had chicks I used one of the canning jar waterers because I wanted to be SURE they were all getting water. They do learn to use them quickly, however, and they had access to these waterers as well as the canning jar waterers.

  5. Also, you mentioned that you drilled a hole in the bucket to install, and then twisted them in. Did you just drill a hole, and allow the plastic to sort of self-tap, or did you actually tap the hole so they would make like a bolt to a nut? This is what I want to do, and there is a more expensive version that is made for mounting to a bucket (it essentially has a nut on it so you can clamp it to the bucket, and comes with o-rings to seal, but it's 10 times as expensive

    1. On the waterer that you saw that had the bolt and nut - I tried one of those and it only worked about 2 weeks then began to leak continually. I really loved that concept, but at this time they are faulty.

      Just to be sure we're talking about the same thing, here's one like I tried:

      When I had problems with mine, I began to do a little research and found that everyone was having the same problem. The float wouldn't shut off so it just kept running until the whole bucket of water drained out on the floor.

      I had gotten mine from Premier Fencing and here is what they wrote to me about the problem:

      "I am very sorry to hear of the trouble you have been having with the
      mini cups. Yes, we are aware of its cons and what it is, if you were
      to unscrew the base on the cup, there is a float inside that does not
      hold its seal. After some use, which is what you have noticed, they
      begin to retain water inside the float and that just causes it to run
      all the time. There is no shut off from the float because its
      flooded. So, I would be more than happy to refund your money for the
      mini cups. We are waiting to get the improved version from our
      manufacturer hopefully soon. I am told. I am not sure when but we
      will announce on the website when they are here. Please let me know
      what you would like to do. Thank you for your detailed report and I
      again apologize for the inconvenience."

      I haven't seen them come out with the new ones yet, and in the meantime I found the cups I reviewed in the post above. If they ever do come out with a better one, I'll be the first to try it! :D

  6. As a rabbit raiser who has made a LOT of float buckets over the years, to keep the lid vented, here's a trick that keeps a lot of crud out:

    Go to your local pizza parlor and ask them to sell you half a dozen of the plastic 'three legged stool' lid supports they use in takeout boxes.

    Mark anywhere from one to three spots on the bucket lid, using the legs of the plastic thingies for spacing. (You really only *need* one.)

    Drill a hole slightly smaller than the diameter of the leg area so it fits 'inside' the triangle of the pizza thingie's legs.

    Hot glue is your FRIEND! :) Snip out a piece of window screen and hot glue around the hole, then press the screening into the glue firmly. (Hint: If you use a very very little Vaseline on a pair of dishwashing gloves, you don't stick to the bucket lid...)

    Then hot glue the pizza thingie legs to the lid, having cut them short (like a quarter inch tall), or you can bend them and glue the whole leg to the lid. Keeps crud out, lets air in.

    Best float for a bucket? Swamp cooler float valve.
    Best way to prevent leaks in the screw-in or bolt-on type things? Rubber washers, as thick as will fit, so they compress when the nut is tightened. Don't overtighten--just tighten *enough* to keep it from leaking and from falling off!

    Hope this helps...what I need is something that will work well for the very teeniest of chicklets, the Seramas. Lightweight and don't seem to like hitting things with their beaks in the water dish...and the babies drown at the drop of a...well, a drop!

    Ideas welcome at vhd at cncnet . com (remove spaces)

  7. Question regarding...Here's what the bucket looks like. BE SURE NOT TO PUT A TIGHT FITTING LID ON TOP. Same for nipple waterers. If a lid is closed, it creates a vacuum and no water will be let down. KEEP YOUR LID AJAR.

    could you close the lid but cut a hole in it so it wouldn't act like a vacuum? Would that work instead of propping the lid on?

    1. Anything that lets air in, keeps chickens out and still holds enough water should work. Just be sure the hole(s) are up high and too small for mice to get in and drown.

    2. ok I was thinking of securing the lid but drilling maybe one hole to fit the water hose through to fill. I don't have any mice so no worries there. and I have silkies so they wouldn't be trying to get on top of the bucket.

  8. Ok, I hope this isn't a dumb question, but has anyone had any chickens that are having a difficult time figuring this watering system out? I pressed the valve to fill the cups to show the girls that the water was in there and they drank. But I haven't seen them pushing it with their beaks on their own yet. When I first put it in I was worried they'd be thirsty so did put another small water bowl in the pen- maybe I just have to remove it and let them be thirsty enough to find it?

    1. Not a dumb question!!!

      When I first started using them I had to remove the other waterers so they could re-learn where the water was coming from.

      I filled them like you described and showed them the water. I kept filling them with water every time I was out for 3-4 days so that there was always water in it whenever I went out. And I'd tap on it to get their attention and be sure I saw the predominance of them drinking from it.

      After that, they realized that's where the water was. When the cups would empty they'd stick their beaks in there looking for water and would end up tripping the trigger. They learned really quick to trip the triggers (some quicker than others, of course).

      If I hadn't taken their other water supply away I'm not sure they would have made the effort to get water out when the cups were empty.

      If you're not around during the work week, you could try taking the other waterer out over the weekend when you're around to observe and teach.

      Let us know how it turns out!

  9. First off, this is an excellent idea! I love my birds...I really don't like constantly changing their water. And the waterers get SO dirty, SO quickly! I'm super excited to give this a try! I have a couple of questions...1) what's the ratio of birds per cup? And 2) do you know if ACV in the water does anything to the mechanism of the cup? Now that I've written it, it sort of sounds dumb, but I'm interested to know if you know before I try it out and discover that the vinegar corrodes something in the cup and stops it from doing it's thing. Know what I mean?
    Thanks for putting this info out there. It's wonderful and inspiring :)

    1. I use ACV in mine from time to time and haven't had a problem. Right now I have 10 birds and they could all get away with the 2 cups. However, if I had a good place to set this inside the coop (which is where I keep their main water supply) in the center, I'd put at least 4 on a bucket around all sides so they could access from all around.

      You'll have to give it a try and see if you feel that you need more.

      Oh...and BE SURE to read the update on using them in the winter:

  10. Very useful guide. Please write something about nipple drinking of broiler chickens. Thank you!

  11. Just something that i`ve done myself......instead of having to leave the lid ajar and worrying if it falls off or drilling holes in the lid.......I just went to Lowes and bought a 5 gallon bucket w/ the lid that has the spout/ pouring hole. It comes with a screw cap for the spout. You can either leave the cap completely off or just set it on top. Its convenient because you don't have to drill the hole yourself. The cap is easily unscrewed and taken off in the winter to drop a heater down, and to fill it. Since its a threaded cap you can easily control the amount of vacuum in the waterer, whether its too much water or not enough.

  12. If you already have the bucket, just buy the lid. They sell them seperately anyways. They should fit any standard 5 gallon bucket. I` be only had luck finding them sold at Lowes so far.

  13. I attempted the cup waterers a couple of years ago. I couldn't "train" the chickens to use it. They would drink the cups dry then go without water. What can I do to make them trigger the valve stem to let water in?

  14. Hi, I'm catching this information a year after you originally posted it, but I am going to purchase the cups you recommended for the spring season of poultry I raise. From the Cornerstone Farm Ventures site, the cups have gone up to $2, which still looks like a bargain, as compared to a $60 set up from other companies that includes a bit of hosing, etc. LOVE the bucket idea!! Hope my birds will figure the system out. Thanks to others who have posted with questions and experiences. All the info, will be of help I'm sure.

  15. Hope you enjoy them! If you fill them up they get the idea really quickly. You'll have to let us know how it goes in the spring!

    Have you seen the "winter update" on them? I did decide not to use them this winter since I'm in a cold part of the country.

    Here's the winter article:

  16. I have the cups from Cornerstone Farm Ventures, but they came with no instructions. I'm planning on attaching to 1/2 inch pvc pipe using the fitting they sold me. I don't understand how to attach the fitting to the PVC as there is no clamp. Can you help. I have written to them, but they have not answered. I'm a little disapointed.

  17. The link to Cup ! no longer works. Maybe they went out of business. Is there a new link that you know of?

    1. I have fixed it. Thank you for letting us know!

    2. I just noticed that they are still not working at least from my computer. Here are the updated links and updated prices:

      Here are the links and UPDATED PRICES:

      Plasson Cup Drinker: Price now $3.15

      300 Poultry Cup Drinker: Price now $2.00

  18. How many Cups would you recommend per chicken? I have 10 chickens can I just do 4 cups on 1 bucket?
    Also I already have a base heater to put under a metal waterer, would I be able to use these cups in a metal bucket?

  19. We bought these cups with the same idea - to use them on a bucket - but have not gotten around to installing them on a bucket yet. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us!

    In addition to 10 chickens, we have 9 Muscovy ducks. Has anyone used these cups with ducks? How have the worked?

    Thanks again!!

  20. Hi there. I am interested in using this for my messy pigeons. I want to put them on the sides of a 5 gal bucket. I am on that site ready to buy them. Do I need anything else? Like the fitting that is mentioned?

  21. Do you recall what size drill bit you used?

  22. HI, Thanks for the great info. Just wondering if the cups get slimy, especially in hot weather? How often do you clean them? Thanks!

  23. I have a bucket waterer that I purchased from a local feed place. I always close the lid tightly and haven't had a problem. However it came with a hole in the lid that included a plastic plug. I kept it plugged in the good weather but now I have a heater in it and the cord comes out of the hole, even so the water has been staying very clean. I have a 50 or 100 watt aquarium heater suction cupped to the bottom that is plugged into a thermostatically controlled outlet. So far it has worked great. The only problem I have is the floor of the coop getting wet, so I am considering making a new bucket similar to yours except I will plan to put a hole in the lid to prevent the problem you described when closing the lid. I do have to run warm water over the lid before I can get it open when I bring it in from the cold.

  24. Thank you for the informative post. You mentioned that sometimes the water in the bottom of the cup will freeze. When this happens with the "A type" cup are the chickens still able to use the mechanism to get water out? Is there a risk that the chickens may not be able to get water? Thanks

  25. I was wondering if you knew what the tread count is on the Model 300 Poultry Cup Drinkers from Cornerstone Farm Ventures and also what size nut to use with them. I called Cornerstone but they didn't know.

  26. I used a 3/8 bit to drill the holes in the bucket and the cups screwed in perfectly. :)

  27. We bought our chicken cups at and they have worked great. I think they are the Cup A style.

  28. To keep water from freezing, we use an aquarium heater in the bucket. We have water nipples screwed into the bottom of the bucket. They leak, but we just hand the bucket on the downhill end of the run.

  29. In the two (almost 3) years I have had my "ladies" we have gone through about SEVEN different watering systems! We started with the standard metal ones from the feed store but they spilled and eventually rusted. Tried the plastic variety but my girls seem to think they are DUCKS and played in it, spilling 5 gallons in about 2 days. We tried a few different set-ups with the nipples - the first simply screwed into the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket and hung and then another on PVC pipe. Both worked "ok" - better than the first ones but the nipples would get stuck open and leak often AND they froze in the winter even with a heater inside the bucket. I bought these cups after reading this article and L O V E them!! Just like all my other waterers, I have gone through three generations!! One leaked as I cracked the bucket - my fault - and one I placed the cups too high. I found this winter that if I place the cups low - so they gently rest on ground level (even with the bottom of the bucket) I can place the waterer on one of those warmers (the plug in kind that looks like a big upside down cake pan from the feed store) and, because the cups are touching the warmer, they usually don't freeze. We have had a particularly COLD winter this year and once in a while they would freeze up. I just took a small container of hot water out to the coop with me twice a day when I collected my eggs and poured it in and over the cups. Only takes a second to thaw them out! I bought 5 cups and made 2 5 gallon buckets for my flock of 12 girls. I only have to fill them about every three weeks - about every 2 weeks in summer

  30. I have just ordered some of the 300 cups from Cornerstone, and am very anxious to try them on a 5gal. bucket. Will I need rubber washers or o-rings? My girls never liked the nipples, and they drip all the time.

  31. Link isnt working.. Came up with a 404 file not found

  32. Try this link for the 300 cup version:

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. Hi all, I thought I’d jump in with my 2 cents. I bought these on ebay because the seller includes an O ring, and washer and a nut. The setup was a breeze with a 3/8 drill bit. That said, I cant get the chickens to even look at the cups. Maybe they are too set in their ways. They ate 16 months old. Any ideas?

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