How to make a pig water barrel

One random skill I have acquired and become unexpectedly adept at is making barrels into water receptacles for pigs. It is a simple concept but when I first looked into it I found it really hard finding instructions that made sense or worked for me. I love the idea of hooking the nipple right up to the hose but then I would have to fiddle with pressure and plumbing. Not to mention get a hose all the way out to where I need it. I love these because they are simple.

Yes, drinking out of plastic is not ideal, but in my opinion it is a big step up from a more natural option like a stream with giardia in it. My critters get ultra filtered water that even gets run through UV, but these are my back up barrels. These are in the pastures so if someone goofs off and tips over their bowl, there is back up. Water is important for everyone but bigs are extra sensitive and it is peace of mind knowing they have water all the time. Not to mention that at 440lbs and 55 gallons fully loaded, each of these barrels has enough water to last the herd a couple of weeks each. This is a huge bonus for emergency preparedness. We have water stored for our family, of course we store it for our critters too. Otherwise during a crisis I’d be pumping a lot of water through a lifestraw!

So how easy is it? Pretty easy! You just need a clean, food grade barrel (I got 2 for $35 bucks each from Saanich for a student fundraiser), a 1” drill bit, a file (because the size of the hole you need is more like 1.25”), a 1/2” threaded bulkhead, some silicone to seal the bulkhead, a 1/2” pig nipple, and my secret weapon, a garbage picker thing.

The barrel has tiny little bungs at the top so you can’t reach inside to thread the nut onto the bulkhead. The garbage grabber slides in there and holds onto the nut while you screw the bulkhead in. If there is a better way, I have not tried it!

To get the job done:

  1. I just drill a hole and file it down to make it a little wider to accept the bulkhead. I put the hole where weaners and adults can reach it. The little fellas don’t need to use it.
  2. I thread the bulkhead most of the way in using the garbage grabber on the inside and twisting it from the outside. It takes a bit of back and forth but eventually it tightens up.
  3. Then right before I finalLy tighten it I smear a big glob of silicone all the way around the outside. I don’t know if I need to but it has been working with no leaks and I don’t want to find out if I need it or not.
  4. The last step is to add the pig nipple and make sure it is oriented upright.
  5. Once it sets up in 24 hours or so I test it for leaks, lash it down to a sturdy fence, and fill it up.

Trouble training pigs to use one of these? Just add some apple butter, jam, peanut butter (you get the idea) to the nipple. They figure it out, FAST! Within a day they will have no problem using it.

Cold winters? Yup frost will not be your friend. Inside a barn that is above zero I can’t imagine any problems but even if they are frozen during winter they hold up surprisingly well. I left mine out last year – full. We had a week or so of -7C which is cold for Vancouver Island. It made me wonder if the nipple would be okay. When it thawed to 0C+ there were no leaks and the nipple worked just fine. I was impressed? I like having an emergency water (or ice…) supply year round so I choose to leave them full. It’s probably best to bring them in where they are above freezing or drain them. I like to live life on the edge but I also have a bunch of spare nipples just in case!

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