Small Livestock Watering System You Can DIY

Looking for a simple, effective livestock watering system? This DIY system is self-filling, simple to build and clean, and off-grid friendly!

How to build a simple, effective off-grid livestock watering system (The Grow Network)

Small Livestock Watering System You Can DIY

One of the reasons why growing meat and animal products is easier than vegetables, fruits, or nuts is because animals will water themselves if you set it up for them. In the video below, you’ll see a very simple and effective livestock watering system that works really well for most backyard and home-scale animals.

Get the skills you need to survive (and even thrive) during a long-term emergency situation with our popular Off-Grid Survival Toolkit, featuring 27 essential, survival-related presentations and 7 bonus eBooks!

Simple, DIY Livestock Watering System For Small Animals 

This is a completely off-grid livestock watering system, without any pumps, cords, or engines.

You May Also Enjoy:

“Overheated Ducks? No Problem!”

“How to Keep Chicken Water From Freezing”

“7 Ways to Prevent Livestock Water Tanks from Freezing”

In the video, you’ll also see how I make an easy “homestead scrubbing brush.” (Try not to be alarmed by the dead squirrel. It’s just a fact of life that I do my best to prevent.)

Get Step-by-Step Instructions to Build Your Own—My Treat!

For step-by-step instructions on how to build the DIY livestock watering system I show you in the video above, check out the “DIY Off-Grid Watering System” eCourse we put together in the TGN Academy. Simply click the graphic below, and tell us where to send your free access!

Register for your FREE access to the TGN Academy’s Weekend Project:
“DIY Off-Grid Watering System”

Free DIY Off-Grid Watering System eCourse


This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on October 30, 2014. 

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This post was written by Marjory Wildcraft


  • Kristina says:

    I would love to see you put together one of the waterers you show in the video. I think the parts list would be a very helpful thing, going to the hardware store can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you are looking for. Thanks for the video!

    1. Bonnie A says:

      Great comment! You’re right on target. The inexperienced (like us) need a parts list along with the how to. Often, that’s the difference between success and glitches in making a new, unfamiliar system work well. Thanks for your targeted comment.

    2. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Krinstina, Oh you know what? Yes, there is a parts list and a complete set of plans for how to do this in an ebook…. If you are a member of TGN (the grow network) – and membership is free – after you log in, fo to your “library” that comes with your membership and you’ll get that set of plans.

      If you aren’t a member, just sign up and we will get you your login right away 🙂

      These waterers are so useful, and make a great weekend project with kids! Kids love playing with water and there is so much easy but cool science in the project.

      Have fun! Marjory

  • Theresa says:

    YES, we would definitely be interested in learning how to put together a gravity-fed waterer for small livestock. Thanks for the offer.

  • Patsy says:

    I’d be very interested in seeing a step-by-step how-to on making a watering system.

  • Mary says:

    I would love to see how this is built. Thank you!

  • MotorPsychGirl says:

    Yes, step-by-step how to’s are very needed. Thank you!

  • Theresa says:

    I would also like to see how you do the watering system step by step!

  • Jacqueline says:

    I want to see…

  • Sandy says:

    Excellent idea! And would love to see a tutorial on construction as well!

  • Dianne says:

    Thanks, I appreciate the communication and reminder to keep up the redundancy of watering systems. Since you have made the effort to research and implement these self watering systems, yes I would like to see a video on step by step process on constructing them.

  • Katie says:

    I love this water system, I do believe that it is something I could use for my house cats, maybe in an area where the water would not cause any damage like the shower or laundry room or maybe the kitchen. Thank you for the great idea

    1. Oh yes, the cats would like this system too! Hadn’t thought of them.

  • Erik says:

    Very cool watering system! I would definitely like to see how you came up with the parts, but also your philosophy and research that goes into diy type projects. Thanks for sharing!

  • Winie says:

    I would also like to see how to make the float system for watering.

  • Katie says:

    I would love to see a step by step as well!

  • tina says:

    pleaase show us 🙂

  • Gordon Smith says:

    Super good watering system and I appreciate you letting us know about it. I would love to see a rundown on how you build it and a list of parts you need to complete it. Always enjoy your writings and videos.
    Thanks again,


  • Mary Himmer says:

    I would love to see how you put that system together.

  • Bill says:

    Margory, I’d be very interested in seeing the parts list you used. From the quick glance in the video it looks like a toilet float valve, some PEX or similar and probably some fittings. Also interested in what size material you used on the 55 gallon watering system.

    1. Susan says:

      I would like to see the 55 gal. drum set up as well, thanks!

  • Chris says:

    Hello Marjorie, Love your down to earth ideas. Would love to know how you built the little float valve. I guess I will stop into our local Home Depot and see if they have any of those large float valves like the one you had on the larger water trough. I am thinking of doing this but may use the rainwater off my chicken coop to refill. Maybe you could comment on this when you do your video (is it good or bad idea). I Live in Pacific NW so 9 months of the year we get enough rain to keep it overflowing. Will have to fill it up during the dry summer months. Thanks for being you and sharing. Chris

    1. Hi Chris, Oh yes, I do have systems where I collect off roof – of chicken coops, rabbit hutches, you name it. I’ll be posting more I promise!

  • JOanna says:

    I would love to see a video of exactly how to put together the watering system as well. Please do it! 🙂

  • Dixie says:

    Yes I would like to see step by step instructions. While it may be childs play for many, some of us just aren’t that good at understanding what they see.

  • Robert says:

    Hi, great video on your watering system. When you put together the plans on how to make it i would love a copy.

    Thanks again for all of your tips.

    Bob in Madison, WI

  • Margie says:

    Marjorie, PLEASE show how you put this together. I want to do this too, I don’t quite understand how you did the float thing. And I loved the video, THANKS!

  • I think seeing the setup of your watering systems would be great. Otherwise I’m just guessing at what you are using.

  • Charon says:

    likewise …. would truly appreciate seeing the process!

  • KIC says:

    I’d like to know how you handle watering in the winter! Thanks so much for all your wonderful information. BTW – Loved you at the Kansas Mother Earth News Fair!

    1. Oh we are pretty lucky with not that many frozen winter days. but yes, that is a great question to address.

      I had so much fun at the Mother Earth New Fair. It was enormous! And I am bummed I didn’t get to do the test drives… LOL

  • kathleen says:

    I would like to see it too!

  • Jennifer Carlson says:

    Such a great idea — sharing. And would watch some directions.

  • Paul says:

    You just can’t save a suicidal squirrel. I used to live in a townhouse with a basement in the suburbs of Chicago. You’d think it would be a closed system. However, one day I found a dead squirrel in my basement toilet. Apparently the squirrel got in through a dryer vent, chewed its way out of the duct, discovered the toilet and then fell in. I only visited the basement once a week to do laundry, so it was long dead by the time I discovered it.

    1. Awww, it is so sad. But yes, they are crazy critters.

      1. Rustaholic says:

        Sometimes you do get there in time.
        I had an old church baptism tank out back next to a tree and while out there I heard some scratching. I went over to it and found a still alive but very thin raccoon in it. It was only a bare steel tank and I have no idea why a coon would drop out of the tree into it. My sweet wife and I tipped the 1000 pound tank on it’s side and the coon took off. It seemed to know just where to go for some water. It headed back into a field behind our property where I know there is a spring fed pond.

  • Tony says:

    The float valves do you make them for both sizes or are they purchased. It sounded like the one for the smaller version was made by you. I would be interested in seeing a system put together. Thank you

    1. Hi tony, the float vale on the big blue system was purchased from tractor supply and is easily available. I’ll make a ‘how to’ video using that as it is the easiest for people to get the parts.

      1. Rustaholic says:

        That will be great but i also would love to see what you used to make the one for the PVC pipe waterer.

        1. OK Rustaholic! LOL. is your pen name the reason you are interested in pvc? grin….

  • Lillian says:

    Awesome I would love a step by step instructions. Thanks

  • Diana Stephenson says:

    I could use the step-by-step video of exactly how to make this watering set up.

  • Faith Rivera says:

    I would also like to know step by step on how to build a simple & effective water systems for small live livestock. It’s something I definitely would find very useful. Thank you

  • Theresa says:

    I like your watering system and would really like to know more about making it. Thanks

  • Christina S. says:

    I would love to see how the watering system is made. I want to try and see if the wild birds would like this.

    1. Oh! wild birds, yes that is another great reason too.

  • I do not know what a float valve is; I could not see the one(s) shown in the video enough to figure it out. Otherwise, I LIKE the video. Thanks. Elizabeth

    1. Rustaholic says:

      If you have a standard toilet in your bathroom the tank has a float valve in it.
      If it has a float attached to a shaft that will close a valve when the float is raised far enough then that is a float valve.

  • Perhaps you should put a rock or brick on top of your piece of plywood to prevent it blowing off!

    1. Yes, I do that too. Usually. Even still when the wind comes up that lid is gone.

      1. Rustaholic says:

        You can attach the lid to the barrel easy enough.
        One way would be with three or four small eye bolts attached to the barrel with fender washers and a nut inside with a nut outside. If they will be below the water line just small pieces cut from an old inner tube squished between the inner fender washer and the barrel will seal against any leaks. Rope or bungees over the top of the lid or just short ones up to the lid will keep the lid on through your wind gusts. Easy peezy lemon squeezy

  • Frances says:

    Your system looks to be perfectly good and very easy to set up. Using the brush from your field is perfect and a renewable resource. The dead squirrel should not bother anyone that is homesteading . Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Maree says:

    Hi Majorie, Really like the video and would also like to see the connection you used between the source of water and container and also what you used for the float and how that was put together. Great idea. If you have a have a simple drip irrigation system, would also be very interested in that. Thanks for all you are doing.

  • Jerry says:

    YES, we would definitely be interested in learning how to put together a gravity-fed watering system for the garden and small livestock. I’d like to know how you handle watering in the winter, well over a 9o days of winter! I am on dial up, very,very slow. Thanks for the offer.

    1. Hi Jerry, so sorry to hear you are on dial up. We do so much that is video, it umust be difficult.

  • charlie says:

    Marjory. that was a very informative video.i specially tike the time saving idea of the whole set up and how simple it is thanks for sharing

  • Laurie T. says:

    I’d also be interested in seeing a step-by-step how-to on making a watering system. Love your videos. You make everything seem so do-able! Thanks so much for all you do.

  • Jeff pender says:

    Really liked your video on the stand alone watering system but it would be real helpful to learn how you made the “ball check” valves. Thanks for all you do.

    1. LOL, well Jeff, I ‘made’ those by going to Home Depot.

  • Carole Barrett says:

    I have two left hands and no imagination. Step by step would really help.

    1. Hi Carole, it is coming. Hah, two left hands…

  • Amy says:

    I would like to see a step by step explanation of your watering system that you referenced in the video.

  • Ann Cheney says:

    I enjoyed the video and I find it very informative. My problem is I live in
    MA and it get’s very cold here. Sometimes below 0. I’ve been thinking I might be able to put the barrel outside the coop and wrap it in insulation and put the tube insulation over the line. I do have a heater to go under the waterer to keep it from freezing. I can’t do it this year but next summer I will set this up so I can try it for the winter. I’ll let you know if it works. Thanks for the suggestion. Ann

    1. Hi Ann, yes I am lucky to live in a mostly warmer climate. But there must be a place for where the livestock stays warm? So putting the water system in there with them?

  • Curtis says:

    That is a great idea. I’ll have to try this for our cats and dogs. A PDF of instructions for constructing your own would be great. Include a list of parts needed, tools required and simple step-by-step instructions with diagram or photos.

    1. Hi Curtis, oh a pdf doc for instructions… yes, that would probably be better than a video. Thanks for pointing that out. Easier to refer to.

  • Nannette says:

    I would like to have a step by step as well. Thank you!

  • Virginia says:

    I would like to see a video made for making a homemade watering system. I think I can use this watering system for both our dog and small fish pond. I wouldn’t have to “worry” nearly as much about water evaporation in the fish pond. Thanks for all your wonderful tips!

  • JJM says:

    Decades ago, our chicken waterer consisted of a 5 gallon jug suspended upside down above the trough so that when enough water was in the trough the water level would not allow air into the bottle and the flow of water would stop. In fact, 15 years ago we purchased a similar setup for watering our dog that used a 2 gallon plastic water bottle. Same thing would work with a large barrel or 5 gallon bucket as long as you can seal the top of the container with a hose held firm at the desired water level.

  • Rick says:

    Great video! I would like to like to see how you make the gravity fed livestock waterer.

  • Yes – I would love to see how you make the watering systems with the gravity flow valves. Thanks for sharing these great ideas!

  • Kathy says:

    Hi Marjorie! Great video on simple, effective water systems!! At your earliest convenience, please create a “how to” video on making a watering system, which will include a parts list. Thanks so much!! Keep growing! 🙂

  • Sue W says:

    I also think a ‘how to’ video or a few instructional paragraphs with photos and list of specific equipment needed would be terrific; especially how to attach the pvc pipe piece onto the 55 gal drum and then the adapter to the pvc pipe so you can attach the hose…thx!

    1. Hi Sue, I am working on it. Stay tuned! LOL

  • Ernie says:

    Great video, simple concept and simple to build, thanks again for a great tip!

  • Adele Emerson says:

    I just watched the video of the watering system for small animals and i am very much interested in how you made your float system. I hope you get enough people interested so you can make the video. Love all your video’s and find them very good learning video’s. Thanks for all your knowledge.

    1. Looks like we do have enough Adele. Look for it early next year.

      1. Rustaholic says:

        This is early the next year. What I would like to see info about would be sources of your store bought float valves and info of any home built ones.

  • Adele Emerson says:

    I just watched your video on the watering system for small animals. I am very much interested on knowing how you make the float system. Loveall our video’s as they are great learning tools. Thanks so much for all your knowledge.

  • Ginger says:

    Would love to see The HOW TO of your watering system. Thanks so much Marjory.

  • Rustaholic says:

    I would like to suggest a couple ways to make a better lid for that plastic barrel.
    One way would be to hinge the lid then it can’t blow off.
    To attach hinges to the drum i would suggest laying a scrap of 2X6 or 2X8 on top of the barrel then with a pencil draw a line using the barrel as a guide.
    Then you can use a band saw, coping saw or jig saw to cut along the line and one piece will fit the curve inside the barrel and the other piece will fit outside the barrel. You can screw them together through the barrel then you can screw your hinges to that.
    Another way to keep it from being blown off would be to make a frame of 1X4 pieces to go around the edges of that lid so they hang down like an apron. The wind then would have to lift the lid to blow it off.

  • TJ says:

    Please add me to your list of followers who would like to see, in detail, how to construct your watering system and the back-up system. I would also like to know how one activates/de-activates the other. Thanks, TJ

  • Marilyn says:

    Thank you very much for your videos. I would like very much to see a video on how to make a self-watering system. For buckets, I collect every free one I can find but the metal ones and those black rubber ones have lasted the longest. I store them upside down, indoors. I use the rubber ones in my lambing pens and they have been frozen and thawed regularly every winter for 15 years.

  • Cherril says:

    I have learned so much watching your videos and reading info from you and those you invite to teach us what they have learned.
    The watering systems are great, but it would be nice to have a list of materials and instructions along with the video. I am a visual learner but I need written instructions to refer to later when building the project. It is great to find a site that encourages using what is available or recycling old materials into new and different uses instead of buying new. I am very frugal and I love to use and reuse what I find. I am 68 and I will soon be moving to 2 acres to start a small homestead. I’m learning how to survive off the grid, so I am really getting some great ideas here and from a few other sites that you have mentioned so my little place may become a refuge for others someday if needed. God bless you for your ingenuity and helping others by sharing what you know and learn.

  • frances says:

    Yes please Marjory please make a video of the construction of the 5gal bucket and pvc homemade float set up.
    Enjoy watching your videos.
    (I live in Southern Hemisphere)

    1. Michael Ford says:

      Hi Frances – We just made an eBook that gives you all the details for setting these up. It’s one of the free gifts you get when you register for the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit.

  • janet says:

    definitely would like to see step by step

  • Debora Hotard says:

    Please do a step by step on how to build the watering devices you made for your small live stock . It would be a wonderful solution for keeping my flock well watered with clean drinking water. I have to wash out the traditional can daily, sometimes, twice daily to keep sanitary water for them to drink. It takes time that I could be doing other things.

    Thanks for all you do to teach us to better caregivers of our livestock and how to grow our own vegetables. I really appreciate all the ideas you share.

    Debbie Hotard

    1. Michael Ford says:

      Hi Debbie – We have that guide available now! It’s an eBook in our library, and you can get a copy by signing up for the free membership up above at the top right-hand side of the page. Thanks!

  • Toni says:

    Me gustaría ver un video sobre el sistema de riego.Gracias.

  • Linda Hester says:

    I think this is very help on what to do, but need how to do step by step would be great! What is a low flow valve?? We have 7 hens and 2 roosters and 5 mature ducks, and have fresh water out 2 x a day, but the duck pond (small childs pool) needs to be picked up to empty it and my husband is having surgery and my back is not great so the weight is restrictive. Do you have any suggestions for the pool? Could you make this kind of system work on the pool??

  • Hazel says:

    I would like to see this too thanks.

  • Stephen Keen says:

    Hi thanks for the video, are there any special steps you take to winterize this system. Thanks for all you do!

  • Virginia Myers says:

    I would also like to see a step-by-step on the 5 gallon watering system

  • malan43 says:

    For the life of me I can’t find the free ebook “Simple And Effective Watering Systems For Small Livestock” I’ve clicked the download button but only got a sign-up link for everything else. Any suggestions on how to find it?

  • Carolyn says:

    Great information! Do you have any off grid watering ideas for winter time in Michigan?

  • Kittycat501 says:

    Thanks for this video, it’s great but can you please make a video showing how to make it, with a parts list? That would be so great.

  • Patricia Wolfe says:

    Since as a new member I’m just seeing this video, I would like to know where to access the pdf or video you have made with instructions on making this system. Excellent idea for several uses. Thanks

  • Rhonda Rae says:

    I’d love to see the “how to” assemble this watering system please!

  • rlldav51 says:

    Hey Marjorie,
    Thanks for this information. Have you created the how to set up this system? Where can I find it?

  • marjstratton says:

    When I get chickens again, this sounds a lot more feasible than hauling water across the yard. Thanks

  • hischaser says:

    I’d be very interested in seeing a step-by-step how-to on making a watering system.

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