DIY Inexpensive Livestock Waterer

One of the most important aspects of a farm or homestead is the livestock water system.   Perhaps it is cost prohibitive for you to install underground water lines and automatic waterers or perhaps you rent and would prefer to not be making infrastructure improvements for your landlord.  Whatever the reason to not install a permanent waterer, it is nice to have frost-free water readily available for our livestock.

Barrel Waterer

A year ago, I had the idea to utilize a food grade plastic barrel from our local recycler and install a nipple waterer in order to supply water year-around to our pigs.  Scott was skeptical that it would hold up the way I made it; however, after a year I think it’s safe to say it held up. We have used it constantly for the past year and much of that time it has been used for full size sows and boars.  We have never had trouble with it being frozen either which has been an additional blessing!

Since our inexpensive DIY waterer has been so effective we recently decided to make two more.

Purchased Supplies:






Necessary Tools:

  • Wrench to tighten nipple drinker
  • small drill bit ( I used 5/16″)
  • large drill bit (slightly smaller than the threads on the nipple drinker)
  • drill
  • a lighter or small torch
  • a saw to remove part/all of the top of the barrel if necessary

First take the nipple drinker apart by unscrewing the filter end.  Remove the insides including the rubber washer.


Use the small drill bit to make the hole in the plastic baffle bigger so that water will gravity feed faster. (You can also purchase a gravity flow nipple drinker but they are about twice as expensive.)


The one on the left has been drilled out.


Remove  all/or part of the barrel top either by taking off the lid or by cutting it. I had to use a recipricating saw to cut the top off the first barrel.  (You will want to be able to reach the nipple from the inside of the tank in case debris gets stuck on the screen.) The lid was already off the barrel I used this time.

Use the larger drill bit to drill a hole in the barrel about 3 inches from the bottom of the barrel.  It is VERY IMPORTANT that this hole is slightly smaller than the threads on the nipple drinker.


Use the lighter or handheld torch to heat the threads (only the threads so you don’t burn yourself!) on the nipple drinker.  Then insert the nipple drinker into the barrel and turn until it is snug, you are making the threads in the plastic barrel as you go.  Be very careful to not wiggle it around; you want nice, neat threads so it doesn’t leak.


Once the nipple drinker is cool put it back together. It’s now ready to be put in place and filled with water.  During the winter, we use a submergible tank heater that is safe for plastic tanks.  We have never had the water freeze with this set up.


For about $60 we have a reliable source of water for our pigs.  (And yes I put it together in our living room.  It is nice and cozy inside!)


This is the first barrel waterer with a wooden frame in the corner of one of the pens in the barn so that the nipple would be at the proper height for the pigs.  I also put a board in front so that when the water level gets low the pigs can’t get it down and tear it up.




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6 Responses to DIY Inexpensive Livestock Waterer

  1. Kristy Russum says:

    Do you just use a hose to fill the tank? Did you have any trouble with the pigs figuring out how to work it? Do you think you could use the same thing for sheep? It looks about 55 gal size, right? I love reading your posts. I look forward to each one. Love to the family.


    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you!! We absolutely must get together this year!! 🙂
      Yes, we just use a garden hose to fill it. It is the 55 gallon size. I’ve never used it for sheep but I did see where they have nipple waterers for sheep and goats so I think it would work. I will have to try it for our sheep!! Great idea!
      Love to you too, Jennifer

  2. Ben Jensen says:

    Awesome! Another local farmer came by and said he had his pigs watered just like this. Thanks for the heads up on drilling out that little baffle. Going to put this together tonight!

  3. Christianne says:

    What a great idea! I like that the animals don’t have to stick their mouth in there so they don’t make the water dirty!
    Love, Christianne

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