If you're new to raising chickens, then you may not be familiar with all of the different models of chicken waterers available.
That's okay. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of ice water and take a seat, because we're going to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of three models!
The chicken waterer that most people are familiar with is the plastic one you can get at any farm store for somewhere between $5 and $10. It usually has a large one gallon plastic top with a red bottom that screws onto the top. Sometimes the water holder top can be larger, and hold two gallons or more.
To use, turn the waterer upside down and unscrew the red bottom. Fill the waterer to the top with fresh water (and add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, see the article on Raising Chicks), screw the red bottom back on and flip the waterer over so that it's right side up. You can also get this same type of "flip over" waterer in galvanized steel.
If you have only a few chickens or baby chicks, then this waterer suits most people. It can reasonably water 80 one to two week old chicks, or about five to eight adult chickens for the day.
A disadvantage to this type of waterer is that it sits on the ground. You can also place it on three bricks to lift it off the floor. Chickens, however, are not known for their personal hygiene and will step in the water, poop in the water, get wood shavings and other debris in the water, making it very messy.
If you have a larger flock or you want to do a better job at keeping the water fresh, then you may want to consider an automatic chicken waterer.
There are a couple of automatic chicken waterers that have been quite popular with chicken farmers. Both are automatic founts, but I prefer the Plasson Chicken Fount.
The simplest automatic fount is basically a small red cup that is fed by a water hose. It stops filling at a certain level so it doesn't overflow.
The Plasson Broiler Drinker design is similar, but it looks like a large red dome with a small lip on the bottom. The water drips onto the top of the dome, slides down the sides and fills the little lip. A ballast filled with sand regulates the water so that it stays at a certain level in the waterer lip. As the chickens drink, both founts automatically refill.
Both founts can be attached to a garden hose or other water source, or they can simply be attached to a five gallon bucket that you fill with fresh water regularly. (This is how I watered my girls since there wasn't a water source near their pasture.) The five gallon bucket is elevated at least two to three feet, and there is a small diameter hose attached to the bottom of the bucket so that water gravity-flows into the waterer's basin or lip. Both founts can be elevated off the ground and the birds can drink out of them from hatching to adulthood.
I've used the Plasson Broiler Drinkers for years and I LOVE THEM! Several chickens can drink at the same time. They are very easy to use, very durable, there is very little in the way of parts to break or wear out, and the chickens are able to drink from them easily. They are automatic, so they don't need constant attention.
Best of all, they stay clean!
The simple automatic founts run about $25, and the Plasson models run more like $50-$60.
If you're thinking of going into fulltime chicken production - whether raising egg layers or broilers - you can't go wrong with an automatic chicken waterer.