The History of Rain Chains and How to Use Them

rain_chainRain chains are a wonderful addition to any landscape. They can add sound and direct water in a stylish way while meshing cultures.

Rain chains have a unique history that starts in Japan several hundred years ago.  In this culture they were called ‘Kusari doi” and were used as both a decorative element for downspouts in both temples and homes.

Later on, rain chains appeared in the American culture when the 1998 Winter Olympics were held at Nagano, Japan.

In both of these situations, rain chains were used to enhance the sound of the water running out of the gutter.  This sound element not only tied into the Japanese-style of landscape design but also utilized the vertical realm, which in many landscapes is underused.

Rain chains come in many different forms but three common styles exist.  The first style can come in two sections and can be personalized according to ones interest, zodiac or style.  The first section is referred to as the leader.  This leader tops the chain itself, which also can have a design element.  This chain can consist of simple links or can be broken down into sections that are separated by other design elements such as teacups and flowers.

The second style consists of a pots lined up along a chain.  As the one pot becomes full of water, it tips and forces the water down the chain.  Another pot down the chain catches the water and the process continues.

The third type consists of a simple chain that can be designed as a single link, like the Small Single Link Rain Chain that Outdora sells or double like the Double Link Rain Chain.  The links of the chain do not have to be circular but can also be square such as the Aluminum Square Link Rain Chain.

All these designs can be enhanced more by adding a collection bowl at the end.  The element’s purpose is to catch the water as it runs down the chain and also prevents the chain from swaying in the breeze.  To utilize this element one must allow the bowl to sit on the ground.. For a decorative touch, fill with colored pebbles or marbles.

To properly set up a rain chain, one must first close off a gutter downspout.  Then, one will either need to use a rain chain downspout or gutter installation clip to attach their chosen rain chain to the gutter.  Once that is done, the next step is to decide where you want the water to go.  Directing the water into a rain barrel, cistern or rain garden is a good choice; just make sure that the water is not directed into an area where it will stand and not be used.

So this year, do not let your downspouts hang bare, instead add a designer touch with rain chains.

Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.

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