DIY Poultry Drinkers

DIY Poultry Drinkers

Planning a DIY chicken drinker?

Many chicken keepers put a lot of time, effort and materials into building DIY poultry waterer systems only to be disappointed with the result. Why? Because they haven't understood the basic nature of the parts they are using. 

The reliable performance of Dine a Chook Drinkers are the result of precision engineering and extensive testing over many years. We cannot guarantee that our Outlets or other drinker parts will perform in the same way in a DIY system. But by following the simple guide below, we can help you plan a DIY poultry watering system that avoids the pitfalls of many DIY waterers.

Failure to follow these instructions may void product warranties.


Click to jump directly to the section you need:

1. System type

2. Water source

3. Water pressure

4. Parts and materials

5. Air locks

6. Troubleshooting

7. Warranty information for DIY systems

1. Choosing a system type

There are two main types of poultry waterer:

  1. Traditional drinkers that have a water reservoir requiring refilling
  2. Automatic drinkers that provide water on-demand from a pipe, pump or water tank

DIY automatic chicken or poultry drinkers do require some basic plumbing skills, so they are often more daunting to build. But provided you start with a good quality header tank and float, a homemade automatic waterer is often more reliable than a homemade traditional drinker.

Common pitfalls with traditional DIY drinkers include:

  • Making the reservoir too big, causing the outlets to leak due to the immense water pressure
  • Placing the reservoir too high up, again causing outlets to leak due to water pressure
  • Choosing a reservoir that doesn't admit enough air, causing a air lock that prevents water from flowing freely
  • Difficulty creating a seal between outlets and the reservoir, particularly if using a recycled or cylindrical reservoir

2. Comparing water sources

Chicken keepers often want to use rainwater collected from the coop roof in DIY watering systems. 

While there is nothing wrong with using rainwater, it is important to note that rainwater contains higher levels of sediment and that systems using rainwater are more likely to clog. If using rainwater for a DIY poultry drinker, it is vital to thoroughly clean Lubing Cups and Nipples, and to clean out tanks and reservoirs, regularly. It is also important to ensure the rainwater is clean - droppings from wild birds on rooftops can contaminate the water and spread disease to your poultry.

Bore water also contains high levels of sediment and may also be rich in certain minerals, depending where you live. Again, this will cause parts to clog and it is important to clean and maintain your waterer if using bore water.

Mains water is the water source least likely to contain sediment or clog system parts.

3. Managing water pressue

Managing water pressure is the key factor in designing a successful DIY chicken waterer. It is also the most common reason why DIY waterers don't work as intended.

Lubing Cups are the industry preference for poultry waterers. However, they have been specifically designed for low pressure watering systems. If the water pressure is too high, Lubing Cups will drip and leak. This is not the result of a problem with the Lubing Cup, but with the design of the system. 

The head pressure of the water supply for a DIY drinker with a Lubing Cup outlet should not exceed 35 cm.

This means that the distance from the Lubing Cup outlet to the highest point of water should be no greater than 35 cm. In addition to limiting the height of the water reservoir, this also limits its size. 

Many DIY system designs utilise a water reservoir that is too large, such as a 55 gallon drum, an IBC or a small rain tank. The water pressure in most reservoirs larger than 20 L will be too high for Lubing Cups and most other poultry drinker outlets. 

The best solution to the water pressure problem, if you want to use a larger water reservoir, is to use a header tank. With the addition of a header tank to moderate water pressure, Lubing Cups can be used with water reservoirs of all sizes and water pressures! 

4. Parts and materials

Choosing high-quality, industrial grade parts for your DIY poultry waterer can help prevent problems in the first place. 

Lubing Cups and Nipples

Genuine, German-made Lubing Cups and Nipples are the industry preference for poultry watering.

Lubing Cups are recommended for most poultry, while Lubing Nipples are preferred for ducks, geese and many aviary birds.

Lubing Cups and Nipples must be installed using a 9 mm drill bit and an 1/8 BSPF thread tap. Do not over tighten.

O-rings or white Teflon tape (plumbers tape) should be used to achieve a water-tight seal.

Both Lubing Cups and Nipples are designed for low pressure systems. They should never be connected directly to a hose, pump, tap or water reservoir with head pressure exceeding 35 cm. They are not suitable for direct connection to mains water. A header tank is required for use in automatic systems and systems where head pressure exceeds 35 cm.

For more information on Lubing Cups, including instructions for how to change the Lubing Cup float for higher water in the Cup, click here.

Outlet Frames

Dine a Chook Outlet Frames are suitable for a range of DIY drinker designs and fit directly to most standard 20 L Drums or any flat, rigid surface with a 3/4 inch female outlet. They are available with Lubing Cups or Nipples.

Do not disassemble Outlet Frames unnecessarily. Spray with olive oil before reassembling.

Click here for complete installation instructions for Dine a Chook Drinker Outlets.

Water Reservoirs

Measure water reservoirs carefully to ensure head pressure won't be exceeded, prior to installing Cups or Outlets. In most cases, it is better to install Drinking Cups on an Outlet Frame than directly on the water reservoir. 

A water-tight seal is easier to achieve on flat, rigid surfaces that have not degraded. Choose carefully if using recycled materials.

Header Tanks

A header tank is required for all DIY automatic waterers. Lubing Cups, Nipples and Outlet Frames should never be connected directly to a water source, whether it is gravity fed, mains pressure or a pump.

Inline Water Filter

Where you are using a water source likely to contain high levels of sediment, such as rain water, dam water or bore water, an inline water filter is recommended. Inline Water Filters will help to prevent sediment from clogging the interior workings of Lubing Cups and Nipples, preventing leaks and drips.

5. Air locks

For Lubing Cups and Nipples to function correctly, the water reservoir must have air flow.

If an air lock or vacuum occurs in the water reservoir, this will stop water from flowing into the Nipples or Cups. 

6. Troubleshooting

We have been building Poultry Drinkers for years. We also have experience designing large-scale and commercial poultry waterer systems. For help with your DIY poultry waterer, please Contact Us!

The Drinker Cup is not refilling automatically

There is a difference between Drinker Cups refilling automatically and a dry Drinker Cup. If no water is flowing into the Drinker Cup, even when you press on the float, see the next section.

If the Drinker Cup is not refilling automatically, the most common explanation is that you have not changed over the Lubing Cup floats.

Gently press down on the float. Does water flow into the Cup?

If water flows into the Cup when you press on the float, then the Drinker Cup is working correctly. The original Lubing Cup floats only release water on-demand, so the Cup can appear dry. This does not mean that the Lubing Cup is not working. Chickens and poultry have no trouble finding water or drinking from the original floats.

If you would prefer the Drinker Cups to refill automatically and have higher water levels, change the float from the Lubing Cup original float to the complimentary Dine a Chook float provided with your purchase. You can find instructions here.

Dine a Chook floats are designed so that the Drinker Cup will automatically refill and to have a higher water level in the Cup.

Water is not flowing into the Cup or Nipple

An air lock will cause water not to flow into the drinker outlet. Open the lid to the water reservoir and listen for a hiss or pop. A noise any indicate that a vacuum had formed. Modify the drinker so air can flow into the water reservoir.

Another common cause of water failing to flow is sediment in the Lubing Cup mechanisms. Click here and follow the instructions for cleaning the Lubing Cup.

Leaks, drips and overflowing cups

There are four common causes of a leaking or dripping drinker:

  1. The Lubing Cup needs cleaning

    This is most common in Drinker systems using rainwater or hard water.

    If sediment becomes caught in the nipple valve inside the Lubing Cup, it can cause the Cup to leak, drip or overflow. Follow these instructions for cleaning the Lubing Cup.

  2. The water pressure is too high

    Lubing Cups and Nipples are specifically designed for low pressure systems. If system pressure is too high, then outlets may leak, drip or overflow.

    Lubing Cups should never be connected directly to an automatic water supply, such as mains water or a gravity feed from a tank. A header tank must be used.

    The head pressure of the water supply for Lubing Drinker Cups should never exceed 35 cm. For systems where the head pressure will exceed 35 cm, a header tank is required. For information on calculating water pressure, see above.

  3. There is a problem with the seals on the drinker

    This commonly occurs where the incorrect tools are used during installation. Cups and Nipples must be installed using a 9 mm drill bit and 1/8 BSPF thread tap. You can purchase these here.

    Ensure all o-rings are intact and in place.

    We recommend using white Teflon tape on leaky seals.

  4. Components being over tightened or under tightened 

    Over tightening pipes can cause leaks. Always check that components are firmly tightened, but do not over tighten. In the case of over tightening causing damage to components, using Teflon tape may create a seal. 

7. Warranty information for DIY systems

Our own Waterers have been tested extensively. We cannot guarantee that a DIY waterer system will attain the same level of reliability even where Dine a Chook parts and materials are used.

Failure to follow any of these product instructions will void any product warranty. Where products are used in a DIY system and a warranty claim is made, we will request photos of the system including how outlets are mounted and the height of the water source. 

More warranty information is available here.