One of the major side benefits of the commercial poultry industry has been the development of efficient low cost management systems. The most common system which is of benefit to us is the drinker systems.
When poultry first developed beyond the farmyard flock, one of the first difficulties encountered was how to keep clean water up to them. Initially bottles and jugs were used, along with various types of trough. These were all still common useage items in commercial poultry until comparatively recent times. Indeed one gallon jugs are still being used for starting D.O.chicks in some of the older installations.
The next step was the development of float valves to supply water to the troughs. This type of system was also still used until recently, A development of this idea was a valve which is connected to the trough. This valve was spring loaded to weigh the weight of water in the trough. As the water was used up the valve released more water.
This idea was used in the bell type hanging drinkers which use the same principle, that is they use a spring loaded valve which is effectively weighing the water. As the weight grows lighter, the valve replenishes the water supply into the trough, around the base of the bell.
At the same time as the bell drinkers were being developed for floor birds, the use of cages for layers was just coming into popularity and troughs started to show their deficiencies there also.This led to the development of nipple drinkers. With nipple drinkers the birds has individual water sources to each group of birds. The birds have continuous access to clean water. The bell drinkers and the nipples were the industry standard for many years.
Recently though there has been a major change to the use of cups or "founts". These systems have many different configurations but mainly consist of a series of cups mounted on a long pipe. The intervals at which the cups are placed on the pipe depends on the number and type of birds using the system.
These systems are still being installed both as new systems and as replacement for the older styles of equipment. All the types of systems listed above are still used by the small poultry hobbyist. Many of the modern commercial systems adapt wonderfully to small usage and in the small flock situation require almost no maintenance. The volume of production of the commercial systems also means that they are cheaper than manual systems, and in many situations far more suitable.
The latest development has come with the improvement of nipple activation. This means even day old chicks can drink straight from the nipple. Result clean water straight from pipe with no exposed water surface to pick up dust and disease. Very suitable to mass systems less suited to small systems.