OK – what do you think this is? And what’s it got to do with chickens?
Well, it’s a great but simple piece of technology that is used right across the chicken industry and which has helped to significantly improve the environment and welfare of millions of meat chickens grown in Australia every year….in fact 600 million of them.
It’s called a nipple drinker, and they are used to provide water to chickens in almost every chicken barn in Australia.
How does it work?
The principle is quite clever really, because it uses the chickens’ natural attraction to and interest in pecking at shiny surfaces and objects to teach them to drink directly from the delivery point. Each nipple drinker point has a one way ‘valve’ that allows water to flow out, but doesn’t allow air or other materials to flow in. Chickens peck at the bottom of the stem of the nipple and it releases water directly into their beak before closing off again. The nipple only releases a droplet of water when it is pecked, but releases a droplet each time it is pecked, so there is always easy access to plenty of water for the birds.
Day old chicks are immediately attracted to the shiny stems of the drinker as soon as they are placed in their shed, and very quickly learn to drink from them.
Most nipple drinking systems have a cup below the nipple, to catch any water inadvertently splashed or lost during drinking, or any leakage from the nipple.
How have they improved the environment for chickens?
Firstly, the chickens have access to fresh water that is straight from the water source, and has not sat around in open water troughs or cups where it could be open to contamination by dust, manure or microorganisms. Therefore, its way more hygienic than any other option for delivering drinking water to chickens.
Secondly, it prevents spillage of water from water receptacles onto the floor of the barn, keeping the bedding material in the shed drier and therefore the chickens themselves drier, cleaner and healthier.