What Is a Rain Chain?

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Once you discover the beauty of water flowing down a rain chain, you'll look at your own house to figure out where you might put one.

Want to add something to your yard to make rainy days more enjoyable? Think about hanging a rain chain from your roof.

What Is a Rain Chain?

It’s a plain or decorative chain that channels rain from a roof down to the ground and away from the foundation of the home, or into a rain barrel. It slows the water as it falls, reducing erosion and soil loss.

Rain chains originated in Japan, where they are called kusari-doi. Many rain chains incorporate small cups, bells and other devices which enhance the sound the water makes as it runs down the chain.

I know some gardeners who made their rain chains work on sunny days by adding a hidden pump and water line. These cycle water from a reservoir at the bottom of the chain back up to the rooftop, then down the chain again.

Types of Rain Chains

Rain chains vary from simple styles to highly decorated works of art.

Simple chains are made of aluminum or another material that will stand up to weather events. Decorative chains are made of a variety of materials.

Rain Chain Considerations

When deciding where to install a rain chain, consider the following:

  • If installing the rain chain as a decoration, place it where you can see and hear it from inside your house.
  • Always secure the bottom of the rain chain so it doesn’t sway wildly in strong winds.
  • Make sure water at the bottom of the chain flows away from the foundation, as it would if you had a traditional downspout and extender.
  • If you have traditional gutters, install the chain at the end of the gutter where the water naturally flows.
  • If there are no gutters, put it where the rain naturally collects and flows off the roof, like a corner.

How To Install a Rain Chain

Once you’ve determined where you want your rain chain, follow these steps.

  • Remove the downspout if you’re replacing it with a rain chain.
  • Hang the rain chain in the downspout opening. You can purchase adaptors to make this easier.
  • Secure the bottom of the rain chain to the ground or the rain barrel. Use a stake to securely attach a chain to the ground. With a rain barrel, placing the chain through an opening in the top of the barrel should make it secure enough.
  • Test your rain chain by filling your gutter with water from a hose. When water hits the ground, it should flow away from the foundation. Placing large rocks at the base of the chain can help slow the water and prevent erosion.

Best Rain Chain Options

You can make a basic one out of an aluminum chain, cut to length so it hangs down from the edge of the roof. If you decide to do this, choose a chain made for outdoor use and heavy enough to slow the water.

If you’re looking for something more decorative, there are dozens of options at many prices. Choose from styles ranging from decorative black to copper. This copper hammered cup style from Monarch Rain Chains should last for years.

Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.