DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder

 

Around April of this year (2012)  I started the new project of raising backyard chickens in the city.  It’s only been nine months, but I have learned so much about these little guys.  For example, before I started raising chickens, I had no idea chickens had personalities.  Now I know this is not true.  Infact, I am able to tell them apart by their personalities.  Incredible.  Anyway, one other thing that I learned is that chickens can put down some food.  I mean these suckers eat all day.  I started by tossing feed out three times a day (mornning, noon, and evening), but found that they always seemed to be hungry.  So I searched the internet and based on other backyard chicken folks recommendation, I built an “L” shaped feeder made from PVC.

PVC DIY Chicken Feeder

If you’re into backyard chicken raising, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  The feeders resemble an “L” shape with a hole cut out on the bottom length of the PVC which acts as the feeding hole.  The feed is poured in through the opening at the top and depending on the diameter and length of the PVC body, it would hold different amounts of feed.  This worked fine at first, but soon I started to notice some issues with it.

Problem #1 – Too much wasted chicken feed

First and foremost was the waste.  When the chickens pecked at the feed, they would pull out more food than they actually ate.   There was always a pile of food underneath the feeder and while the chickens did peck at the food on the ground, they mostly ignored  it.  As the chickens grew, the waste became so bad that a 3″ x 36″ PVC tube filled with feed would last about a day and a half, tops.   Now I don’t know how you feel about feed, but it (especially organic feed) can get costly.  Pretty cool stuff if you’re into eating organic (my wife is a fan), but at $43 for a 40lbs bag, the last thing I want to see is a lot of waste.  And just in case you’re interested in the feed I use, here are the details of the feed.

 

Organic Chicken Feed - Lay Mash
Organic Chicken Feed – Lay Mash

Problem #2 – PVC chicken feeder capacity too small.

The second issue was capacity.  As mentioned above, my PVC feeder’s main body was 3″ x 36″.  With this sized tube, I was able to feed the chickens for about 5 days at first, but as the chickens grew, I needed to refill the PVC feeder with greater frequency.  Before long, the PVC chicken feeder only lasted about a day and a half before I needed to refill it.  This is not a big deal on most days, but when I go on a road trip or vacation, it becomes a problem.  I wanted my backyard chicken coop to be low maintenance for this reason alone.  Anyway, now that the PVC chicken feeder was only lasting alittle over a day, I had to come up with something better.  Again, I wandered the isles of my local Home Depot and came up with the following.

Solution:  the best DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder made with galvanized steel, not PVC.

How to make a DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder

Ok, so it may not be the BEST DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder, but it works well enough.  So here we go, starting at the top:  how to make the DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder.  I’ve included some photos from the Home Depot so that you can find and price the parts easily.

Parts List:

  • 2 – 4″ 90° degree adjustable elbow
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - 90° degree adjustable elbow
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – 90° degree adjustable elbow
  • 1 – 4″ x 3ft round pipe
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - 4" x 3ft round pipe
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – 4″ x 3ft round pipe
  • 1 – 4″ ceiling collar
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - 4" Ceiling Collar
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – 4″ Ceiling Collar
  • 1 – 4″ vent cap
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - 4" Vent Cap
    DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – 4″ Vent Cap
  • 12 – 1/2″ sheet metal screws
  • 2 – eye hooks with matching nuts
  • 4 – washers
  • some paracord or something similar
Complete Parts Layout
Complete Parts Layout

 

My Home Depot total came out to $33.36 for the feeder materials (I had the packaged screws already).  It’s a bit much, more than some commercially made feeders, but this one is high capacity, rain resistant, made from galvanized steel, and you can say you made it.   I think the extra cost is worth the years of service I plan on getting out of it.

The Build

OK folks, this one is super easy.  You could probably just figure it out by looking at a picture of the finished product, but just be make it clearer, I photographed the steps.

Step 1:  Place the Ceiling collar over the opening of the Vent Cap.  Make sure the corners of the Ceiling Collar is over the opening of the Vent Cap.  This will prevent rain from entering the feeder.

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 1
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 1 (place ceiling collar over the vent cap)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 1 (top view)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 1 (top view)

 

Step 2:  Assemble the 4″ Round Pipe and insert it into the Vent Cap.  Press down until the pipe stops in the vent cap.  Don’t worry, you can’t insert the pipe too far.  The Vent Cap as a stop notch built into it.

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 2
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 2 (feeder assembly)

 

Step 3:  Secure the Vent Cap to the Round Pipe using sheet metals screws.  I put in three screws, evenly spaced around the Vent Cap (12, 4, and 8 o’clock position).

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 3
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 3 (securing the vent cap to the pipe)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 3
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 3 (lower view)

 

Step 4:  Installing the hanger.  This will be done using 1 eye hook, 2 nuts, and 2 washers per side.  Look at the picture below.  The Round Pipe will fit between the two washers.  Two washers and nuts are used to sandwich the thin walls of the Round Pipe to prevent bending or tearing under heavy loads.  Probably an overkill, but I prefer to overkill it now then have to replace it later.

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 4 (hanger assembly)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 4 (hanger assembly)

Use an appropriate sized drill bit to drill holes on the side of the Round Pipe.  Insert the eye hook, nut, and washer assembly through the hole.  Use the remaining washer and nut to secure the eye hook to the Round Pipe.  Repeat on the other side.  Below is a picture of what it will look like when done.

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 4 (completed)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 4 (completed)

 

Step 5:  Use a length of paracord (or any other cord) to hang the feeder from something.  I used it to hang the feeder from the ceiling of the chicken coop.

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 5 (paracord used to hang the feeder)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 5 (paracord used to hang the feeder)

 

Step 6:  Use the two 90° Degree Adjustable Elbows to make angles to get the opening of the feeder tube out and through the coop.  This way, you don’t have to enter the coop to refill the feeder.

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 5 (feeder mounted to the coop ceiling)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 6 (adjustable angles used to get out of the coop)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder - Step 6 (note the elbows are used to get out of the coop)
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder – Step 6 (note the elbows are used to get out of the coop)

 

That’s pretty much it.  I haven’t found a decent cap for the feeder opening, so for now I’m using a plastic lid off of a jar (red in the photo above).  If anyone can come up with something better to use than the plastic lid, please contact me and let me know.

Anyway, I checked back about a week later and so far, the feeder is working great.  The feeder holds approximately 30lbs of feed and in the past week, I haven’t had to fill it yet.  I did observe the chickens eating from it, which can mean only one thing:  less wasted feed.  Below is a picture of the area directly below the feeder.  As you can see, there is hardly any wasted lay mash.  Note there are lots of seeds on the ground, but that’s not from the feeder.  It’s some wild bird mix I threw on the ground as a treat for the chickens.

DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder installation complete.
DIY Low Waste Chicken Feeder installation complete.
Less wasted feed = $ saved
Less wasted feed = $ saved
Closer view of the feeder.
Closer view of the feeder.

 

 PS – sorry about the crappy photos.  I was in a hurry to build the feeder before departing for my Idaho road trip.

UPDATE:  NOV 22, 2012

OK folks, it’s been about a week since I posted this article and here’s what I’ve discovered.  You need to waterproof the seams around the 90° adjustable elbows.  I’ll explain.

Last week, we had a good amount of rain (by Southern California standards).  When I went to check the feed level, I noticed some clumping of feed around the inside seams of the 90° adjustable elbows.   Based on the rain in the days leading up to this day, I concluded that water must have seeped in through the elbow joints.  It wasn’t a lot, but enough to cause the feed to stick around the seams.  Not a big deal, but I was afraid that maybe mold would begin to form if it continued to rain.  However, for me,  this fear of mold is totally unwarranted since it’s supposed to be in the 80°’s this Saturday (which translates to – we are going to have another dry winter).  But just in case someone outside of Southern California decides to make this feeder, I wanted to warn you prior to you finding out the hard way.

~ John, Modern Bushman

11 Responses

  1. This is brilliant! I have been wanting to do something like this and just love your design. However, I am concerned about the material – galvanized steel – because there is lead present, and I don’t want my hens (and therefore my family when we eat the eggs) ingesting lead. Any thoughts on how to seal the inside – or maybe if there are similar products made of other materials that might work? I just love the vent cap idea…

    • Amy: I’m not sure if lead will leach into the feed. In the case of galvanized steel used for water, I can see lead leaching into the water, but I don’t feel the same way with lead leaching into dry feed. I store my chicken feed in feed containers made from galvanized steel which was purchased at a local feed barn. This lead me to believe that galvanized steel was suitable for storing dry goods. However, now that you bring it up, I will be on the lookout for alternative materials for constructing a similar feeder.

  2. Excellent!! Do the sharp edges cause any issues?

    • Wayne: none so far. The hens seem to work around it just fine. The only thing I noticed was that the chickens need to duck down alittle to get to the vent opening and clear the rain cover. Other than that, the feeder seems to be working just fine.

  3. I like this idea and tried a similar thing using simple metal rabbbit feedersplaced high enough so the birds could not scratch out the feed (we raise bantams or as I call them feathered pigs) and are huge waster of feed. The result was the metal edges were sharp enough to remove their neck feathers! No matter what height the feeders were placed, it was the same result. Love the design are there maybe other materials to use that would provide a deeper pocket that would be less damaging to the chickens?

    • Eric: So far I haven’t had any injuries occur to my chickens. The components I bought from Home Depot were not sharp by any means. I did raise the rain cover alittle and the waste increased significantly. So that has me thinking that the rain cover actually restricts the chickens from scooping out too much food and thereby reduce wasted feed.

  4. Hi, love the idea and am looking at building my own soon. Since you’ve been using this a few years, have you noticed any changes you’d make?

    • Rebecca: the last modification I made to the feeder was to raise the feeder so that the chickens wouldn’t have to bend over as much to feed. Raising the feeder changed the chicken’s pecking angle preventing the scooping motion which further reduced waste. That said, I had to get rid of the chickens because the feed that did fall onto the ground started attracting various rodents (mice, skunks, and opposums). With a new baby in the house, I didn’t want to risk a rodent infestation. Good luck with your chickens.

  5. Where can we by such feeders ?

    • Suraya: I don’t know where you can buy this type of feeder; you might have to look around a bit. I would recommend just trying to build one. It really is easy to do, inexpensive (especially if you compare it to similar store bought feeders), and customizable if you build your own. Good luck!

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