Recycled rainwater chickens

What is it Paul Wheaton is famous for saying: that permaculture lets him be as lazy as he really is? Meaning that people can go to extraordinary lengths to find easier methods for doing tasks they dislike. He was referring to avoiding weeding, fertilizing, and planting through the use of guilds and perennial food crops; but I can see how it applies to just about everything. I mean, the whole point of a self-sustaining system is that it maintains itself, with little to no input from you.

Anyway. Being lazy finally motivated me to come up with a better solution for my chicken waterer, because I’m really tired of constantly having to check, refill, empty, and clean (and replace every year) the 3-gallon plastic waterer system I’ve had for years. Using (almost!) nothing but odds and ends found around the house and yard, I’ve put together a new rainwater barrel system.


unused barrel and stand

Like this blue barrel. Undoubtedly really useful for something, I’ve hung onto it for more than six years but it’s just sat there gathering dust in the basement. (Anyone know what it might have been for originally?) It even already has its own stand and perfect-sized holes in the lid. All I had to do was add a spigot and “leader” hose (the kind used for attaching spigots to hose reels, only a few feet long).


That spigot, the hose, and the silicone I used to seal it were the only things I bought for the project.

I attached an empty glitter tube as a float on a long skinny dowel. (Would have preferred a golf ball or tennis ball if I could have found one; alas, we do not sports.) This will bob around on top(ish) of the water level so I can easily see, by the height of the dowel, when I need to refill the barrel.


glitter left in because, duh, fabulous.

So that it wouldn’t slip diagonally but slide more or less up and down, I fitted it through a saved length of aluminum pipe that had originally been attached to one of the solar lights I dismantled for my outdoor solar chandelier. (Which I just now realize occurred during the Year of No Blogging. I’ll have to post a pic later.) The pipe was just the right diameter to fit through the small hole in the middle.

The large hole is eventually going to accept rainwater from a downspout… eventually. Once I, you know, actually build a roof for the chicken run that might collect rainwater and direct it to a gutter. So I attached a sediment trap, of a sort, underneath it for the smaller stuff that won’t be filtered out through the various gutter/downspout screens.


a costco cashew jar, screen across the lid, as a rudimentary sediment trap

There are holes drilled all around the top just under the lid. The idea is that the heavier sediment falls to the bottom, and the clear water dribbles out the top. I don’t know how it will work since it’s fairly small – maybe half a gallon – but since it’s going to be full of water all the time I couldn’t use something too much bigger/heavier since the blue lid is pretty flexible.

I’d thought about putting in a big PVC pipe that reaches all the way to the bottom and supports itself, instead, but I couldn’t see easily if that needed to be removed and cleaned out. I like the clear jar for easy checking, and I love that I can just unscrew it if I need to. So we’ll just wait and see.


set up on some extra concrete downspout blocks I found.

The waterer part is just a bullet-like section of 4″ pvc pipe I got free from Lowe’s because it was broken, fitted on one end with a cap and some waterer nipples I had on hand already, and on the other end with a cap that had screw threads on one end so that I can periodically clean out the waterer bullet if I need to.

Strap it to a board that was magically already the right size, level & screw that board to the chicken coop posts, hook it up, take it back apart because I forgot the teflon tape, hook it up again, and voila:


pvc waterer bullet, two nipples underneath


I know, I know, ideally the barrel would be higher so the spigot sits above the top of the hose.  And it will be, as soon as I find/figure out a better base setup. In the mean time it works like a dream as long as the water level is above that top loop of hose, which is about 1/4 of the way up the barrel. And 3/4 of the barrel is… a lot of water. No idea how much water that barrel holds, but unlike my 3 gallon waterer, I know I don’t have to worry about refilling it for quite a while!

At the base of the coop and barrel, I planted up a clematis I had (never got around to planting it last Fall) against a trellis that will shade the barrel during the summer to help prevent hot water and algae growth. (I’m hoping that its proximity to the base of the chicken coop and resultant nitrogen-rich runoff will make for one happy, luxuriant vine). This kind of clematis, Jackmanii, dies down to the ground every winter which means that during the coldest months the barrel will be exposed to more sun and be less likely to freeze. Hooray for making Nature do the work for me!

I can’t wait to build that roof & gutter system and be even lazier.

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