Sunday, March 25, 2018

Function vs cost...the chicken feeder quandry.

There are a number of things to consider when addressing feeding your chickens.  Besides the obvious, such as what to feed them, whether your chickens are layers or broilers, how old they are, etc....there are also various other details to consider.  Cost, effectiveness, and mice infiltration to name just a few.

The simple solution is to just buy hanging feeders, pour in your feed, hang in your coop and poof quandry solved.  However, when I started this adventure cost was a bit of a deal breaker.  We had upwards to 50 chickens...didn't have a lot of extra spending money and hanging feeders cost around $20 piece.  Might not seem like a lot...but if I could make my own feeders for say...$5 each...I could accomplish my goal for a quarter of the cost.

So I tried two different styles of feeders.  The first was a five gallon bucket screwed into a wooded base.  While this works quite well...I didn't realize a few important details. waste for what would end up on the floor (I can't really explain why this happens...but it does) and two...mice.

Food waste:
My suspicions about how waste gets scraped onto the floor is to do with the depth of the tray shown here on the bottom of the bucket...that...or the distance between the edge of the bucket and the edge of the wood tray.  Whatever the reason...I've scooped up no less that 30 pounds of feed off the floor over the months that I've used this feeder.  Definitely a debby-downer...and yes...defeats the purpose of saving money.

The mice issue comes from the size of the holes in the bottom of the bucket.  If you look closely you can see the golf-ball sized holes that allows the feed inside the bucket to gravity-pour out in the tray as food is consumed.  When the bucket is empty...the holes are wide open...therefore mice just jump right in and walk around in the bottom of your bucket contaminating your feed with mice droppings everywhere....which I believe is a real health-hazard for your chickens.

The next "feeder-on-the-cheap" I tried was the ye ole plastic pipe method.  I'd seen these types of feeders over the years at our local county fair in the pens of various farm animals and thought it rather creative. Yet...on day one...LOTS of food waste on the floor.  My first version of this feeder style didn't include the plastic tray on the bottom...that came as an attempt to illuminate the waste.  It helped...but it didn't solve the problem all together.  While this feeder style can hold quite a bit of feed and last a couple of days..the fuller it is...the more waste on the floor...even with the trays.

Both of these feeders I found the design discussed on Youtube with much one talked about or updated the info found there about the pitfalls of these feeders.  Figures...functional reality is not always authentically represented.

So after struggling with the shortcomings of my homemade feeders...I finally decided...enough is enough.

Let's review the issues:
  1. I need a feeder style that I can fill and will hold my chickens over for a minimum of two days without going empty.
  2. It also needs to be mice deterrent.  No mice able to access the feeder, therefore no mice droppings in my feed. (If your feeder sits on the ground...easy peazy mice access. If your feeder hangs...mice can still jump up into it...hence the quandry with mice).
  3. The chickens have to understand...this is for them. Easy for them to access learning curve. Chickens are by their very nature curious new things usually aren't a problem. They figure most new things out within a few minutes.
  4. It also must be able to be protected from chickens perch very high up in the things below are at risk of getting poop bombed.
So here's what I found...the $20 feeder will do the trick and then some!  I had an extra $40 dollars to spend so I bought two hanging metal feeders and so far...they're doing the trick!

No mouse droppings. YEAH! These feeders hold 30 pounds of feed so lasts two days easy before needing to be refilled. The feed sack topper I put on here seems to do the trick for keeping the chickens from bombing the feeder from above at night...and still allows easy access to refill it when needed.

In conclusion...while sometimes you can get by with creative more affordable solutions to farming dilemmas...sometimes the tried-and-true designs just work better.

Onward to happier and healthier chickens!

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