It wasn’t long after bringing our horses home to our first farm that we discovered the magic of auto-waterers. While automatic livestock waterers can cost upwards of $1000 to install (when plumbed underground and installed with high-end insulation) we quickly discovered that this cheap piece of plumbing equipment pictured below could turn almost ANY water container into an automatically-refilling bucket or trough, ensuring that our horses always had clean, fresh water available anytime the temperature was above freezing. (For winter watering tips, be sure to check out our article on winter water management for horses and an article about how to build a naturally self-heating trough)
The photo below shows an automatic livestock waterer that was built into our original barn. With a cast iron tub and wood box built to protect the float from curious animals (not necessary if you use the part above, which self-shields), this built-in auto waterer is a unique and handy piece of farm equipment. This automatic waterer was designed for cattle but works efficiently and safely for horses provided there are not enough to crowd it.
In later years, before we moved to our Hawk-Hill location, the stall where this waterer was located was screened in and converted to a chicken coop. The elongated water basin (which one old farmer told me, rather convincingly, was actually a cast iron urinal from a early 20th-century men’s stadium restroom!) made an excellent community nesting box and the wood panel behind the box, which was originally hinged to allow caretakers to check water levels on the waterer, served as a perfect reach-through egg gathering door.
Unusual Horse Troughs
In addition to the cast iron urinal-turned-water-trough above, we’ve used several other unorthodox watering methods on our farm. In this photo (which shows, in the background, the auto-waterer described above in action) you can see a mare and foal drinking from a low trough. This trough was actually built using Hawk Hill’s Instructions for a DIY pond made from old vinyl billboard material. Kept full using the same float valve described above, using the garden pond as an alternative water source kept our pond turning over at a natural rate.