Introduction: Quail or Chicken Drinker to Suit a Moving Tractor or Hutch
This is a drinker set up designed for quail or chickens primarily in a moving tractor set up. (Although it could be adapted to many types of housing.)
The criteria for this design was to make a two part system so that the tank and the tractor could be moved independently of each other. This eliminates stress on my back and makes moving them an easier job for a single person. It also means that i can move the tractor to parts of the property without water access as i can simply take the tank to fill it up and then bring it back. The tank is also at a better height and position for me to lift than in my previous designs.
My tractors are designed to hold up to 60 laying quail. Currently I have 95 as they are not yet full grown. This 30L system is easily getting two to three days worth of water for all of these birds. I suspect it will last even longer with a smaller number of adult quail.
Let's get to building it!
Step 1: Parts Needed:
To make the waterer you will need the following:
- Three chicken drinker cups with mounting brackets
- Something to use as a housing to mount the cups and contain the junctions of the tubing.
- A hook to hang the housing on the cage (or some other way of mounting it.)
- A tank to store water. I used a 30L drinking water drum with a bung in it.
- 10mm tubing
- 13mm poly pipe
- A reducer. This threads into the bung of the tank ( I think this is a 19mm thread but i already had this from a previous version) and then has it's own thread to suit a 13mm connector.
- A connector to go from the 13mm threaded reducer to a standard 13mm barbed fitting.
- A 13mm inline tap/valve
- A 13mm Quick connect set (male and female.)
- 6 13mm ratchet clamps
- Thread tape
- A 13mm-10mm reducer
- A 4-way 10mm junction piece. (I did not have access to this part but i did already have several 3-way junctions. By combining two of them as you will see I was able to create the same junction however it was tricky and more complex than finding the appropriate junction.)
And the following tools
- Something to cut the tubes and pipes. I used tubing cutters for the most part but a good stanley knife can work just as well.
- Hot water to soften the tubes and pipes
- A small flat head screwdriver
- An adjustable wrench
- Something to cut the box with. I used a rotary tool with a cutting disc.
Step 2: Making the Junction: Creating a Four Way Intersection
The junctions that i had available to me in the 10mm tubing were limited purely to this three way intersection. If possible a single four way junction set up appropriately would be much better but sometimes it is cheaper and less fuss to improvise with what you have. Keep that in mind if you decide to build something like this yourself as you may have a much better solution than i did right under your nose.
Thankfully for me the 10mm tubing is quite flexible so i was able to pull off this improvised version of the four way junction.
To start with lay both three way junctions in place so they are touching as shown in the first picture. Mark on the tubing where it will need to be cut so that it covers the entire length of the connection without having extra length in the middle. This was crucial to me as i did not have a lot of space in the junction box.
Once the piece is cut soak it thoroughly in some nice hot water. I kept some boiling water in a thermos for the duration of this project. Soaking the tubes and pipes this way makes it infinitely easier to slide them on to the junctions. I will assume you are doing this for every connection from now on.
Rotate the top junction 90 degrees around it's main axis and slide the junctions into the tube. You should end up with the second picture.
Step 3: Making the Junction: Setting Up the Tubing for the Cups
Slide a Piece of tubing onto each of the outlets of the junction. This should just leave the inlet which will be on the top. Leave a little bit of extra room on the tubes for now unless you are certain of how it will all work out.
The drinker cups that i bought have a two piece bracket. One piece goes on the inside of the housing and the other on the outside and some bolts clamp them together. Undo the brackets and slide only the inside piece onto the tubing and right into the middle out of the way for later.
Note: the hole in these brackets was exactly the size of the tubing. However once the tubing is attached to the cup it expands slightly, this means it can be very difficult to move it into place later. However attempting to slide the tubing onto the cup with the bracket in it's final position will be even more fiddly and may not result in as secure a connection. Use your discretion as to which method you would prefer. I opted to slide them as close to their desired position as i could after the connection had been made.
Step 4: Preparing the Junction Box: Setting Up for the Brackets
I designed this drinker so that it could be put on the ground for young chicks or hung higher on the cage wall for adult birds to stop fouling of the water. For this reason i wanted the cups to be as low on the junction box as possible without them taking the weight of the box.
Measure the cups against the box to work out this height and then mark out a 20mm x 20mm square for the bracket.
Use a cutting tool to cut out this square. I found a rotary tool with a cutting disc worked great for this however i am sure it could be done with a stanley knife or some other tool.
Use your bracket to test that the fit is snug and neat. While you are doing this mark out where the holes for the bolts need to be. Remove the bracket and drill them out.
Repeat all of this on three sides of the box.
Step 5: Preparing the Junction Box: Making a Hole for the Inlet
My biggest mistake of this project was that i wanted to make a round hole sized to the tubing on the top of the junction box. To do this i used a drill bit and tried to drill into the box. The top of the box cracked awfully and through the drill bit off centre. I ended up using the rotary tool again to widen the hole and move it back to the centre.
Because of the rough hole and the fact that the inlet tube will move quite a bit during use i decided to shield the edge of the hole. I split an off cut of tubing down it's length and added a couple of other slits to allow it to rest neatly around the hole and protect the tube.
Step 6: Putting the Junction Box Together
Combining the tubing, cups, and box can be a little tricky. First slide the brackets into place and trim the excess tubing to the correct lengths, make sure that you don't make them to short or they will pull at each other, or too long and they will kink up in the box. The tubes should form a gentle curve to wherever they need to go.
As it became too difficult to individually heat up each tube i filled a bucket with hot water and soaked the entire thing at once. This meant that i could easily soften all the tubes. and when they cooled down i could just pop it back in.
Make use of any lee-way you have to slide the cups onto the tube. for the first two cups i slid the whole junction as far to one side as i could so there was plenty of tube to work with. the last one was the most tricky as everything is relatively locked in at this point. This is why i chose to slide the brackets back down to the middle while i did this and work them back into place afterwards. doing this gave me a small amount of extra room.
Once all three cups are in place put the brackets together by threading the bolts through the holes we made earlier and tightening them up with the screwdriver and wrench.
Lastly, cut another length of tubing for the inlet. As i want to use this drinker from when my quail are just chicks all the way to adults i want to be able to adjust the height of the cups. If the cups are too low the birds will end up with poo in the water which can spread bacteria and disease. If they are too high the birds would not be able to reach them at a young age.
This piece of tubing will be threaded through the mesh of my cage so that there is plenty of room to raise the cups up but also enough length to drop it right down to the ground. For my small quail around 25cm was plenty, however if you are building this for chickens increase the length accordingly accordingly.
Step 7: Adding a Hook to the Junction Box
The last thing you will need to add to the box itself is a method to hang it from the wall of your cage. Improvise with whatever you can find but do your best to ensure that the box will sit parallel to the mesh not at an angle. If it sits at too steep of an angle water may leak out of the cups meaning that your water supply is slowly lost. Thankfully the cups have a bit of tolerance as the water level sits below the rim.
I used a large stick on hook from my local hardware shop. the hook i chose was probably not the best as i was using it upside down and it has a hinge on it. this meant that the whole box tipped forward. I used a large screw to stop this.
The box still tilted forward more than i wanted because of the hook being quite large and my cage wire not being super tight. to account for this i trimmed a small piece of poly carbonate sheeting off an off-cut i had lying around. this sat really nicely between the hook and the rim of the box. It pushes the bottom of the box away from the mesh and levels it out really well.
Sometimes the best solutions are nothing fancy!
Step 8: Connecting the Inlet Tube to the Tank: Box to Quick Connect
From the box going backwards towards the tank this will be the order of connections:
10mm tube > threaded through the cage wall > 10mm tube > 10mm - 13mm reducer > 13mm poly > 13mm quick connect (Male) > 13mm quick connect (female) > 13mm poly > 13mm Inline tap > 13mm poly > 13mm barb - 13mm threaded connector (male) > 13mm thread (female) - 19mm thread (male) > tank
Attach the 10mm - 13mm reducer to the inlet tube as normal. Then take the whole junction box and make sure you are happy with how it sits in the cage. In my case once i add the next connection i can no longer thread the tubing through the cage without either pulling something apart or breaking the cage so make sure everything is correct.
Once you are happy and the tube is threaded through the wall of the cage you can add the 13mm male quick connect to a small piece of 13mm poly. Just long enough to make the connection properly. Hot water still works wonders with the 13mm poly so use it well.
Add a ratchet clamp to this connection and tighten it down with a pair of pliers. You will need these on every 13mm barbed connection. Thread another ratchet clamp onto the poly but don't tighten it yet. connect the quick connect and the poly to the reducer on the inlet tube. Now you can tighten the ratchet clamp onto this connection. It should look like the last photo.
Step 9: Connecting the Inlet Tube to the Tank: Quick Connect to Tank
Cut a small piece of 13mm poly to connect the female quick connect with the inline tap. Attach these together using hot water and ratchet clamps.
Next i recommend getting the outlet of the tank set up. Take out the bung stopper of your tank and put it away. Take the 19mm to 13mm threaded connector. Wrap thread tape around the exposed thread that will be going into the bung. The best way i have found to do this is to start at one end of the thread and slowly wrap up to the the other end while keep tension on the tape. Keep wrapping back to where you started and then once more to the other end and then break off the tape. Going in the direction of the tape run your finger over it to help settle the tape onto the threads.
Now, thread the connector that you have just taped into the bung of the tank. Use a wrench to tighten the connection a little but avoid going to tight. Repeat this process with the threaded end of the 13mm thread to barbed connector.
Now you simply need to decide how much length you would like to add between the quick connect and the tank. As my tank was already set up with about a foot of poly coming out of it i left it as is and it is working great However choose a length that is right for you.
Use this length of poly to connect between the tank which you have set up and the inline tap.
Now you are almost finished! Just some final touches...
Step 10: Setting It Up :)
The cups work best when the tank is raised above the drinker height a little. This keeps the pressure at the correct level and gives you full use of the water in the tank. I decided to simply strap my tank to a milk crate to keep it at the right height. For this i just used some bungee cords that were lying around.
The beauty of this design lies in the fact that my water source needs to be able to be moved separately from the quail tractor. This is easy because of the tap and quick connect allowing me to separate the part of the waterer that is in the cage from the part that is out.
This means that when i move the cage every day I can do it by myself without someone helping to move the water source alongside or having it weigh the cage down by being left in. Prior to this i was lifting a tank in and out of the cage in order to move it and this has saved a lot of stress on my back. As the tank is now up off the ground at a good height and not in the cage it is easy to move.
To move the tractor i simply turn off the tap and undo the quick connect. Move the tractor. Move the tank next to it. Re-connect it and turn the tank back on.
Also if I am out of range of my hoses and taps i can disconnect it and move the tank to fill it and then take it back and re connect. This means that i am much more portable to make use of all areas of the property.
So go ahead! Put a bit of water in your tank and make sure all the tank connections are sound and not leaking. Once you are confident you can fill it as high as you like. Move the tank into place connect it and open the tap.
Water should start filling the taps and if your birds are anything like mine they be crowding around to see this wonderful new life giving machine. Not to mention hiding under the box.
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