Avoid These Mistakes When Choosing an Automatic Chicken Feeder
Updated: 16 August 2021
What’s your top priority as a chicken keeper?
Well-fed, healthy and happy chooks, right?
Even free-range chickens need to receive the nutritional benefits of feed to maintain a well-balanced diet.
No matter whether you’re new to keeping backyard chickens or you’re a chook raising egg-spert, finding the best chicken feeder is no easy feat. With so many options on the market, we know you’re asking, ‘what are the best chicken feeders to buy?’
Automatic chicken feeders for chicken coops are a great solution, particularly if you're time-poor. They can also save you hundreds of dollars in reduced feed waste and deter rodents.
But not all chicken self-feeders are equal in quality.
You don’t want to spend your hard-earned money to find your new chook feeder gets clogged or end up in the bin this time next year.
Fret not mama and papa hens; we’ll show you how to avoid these mistakes when choosing a chicken feeder.
Determine Your Chicken Feeder Style
The style and type of chicken feeder dispenser you choose will depend on:
- What type of feed are you feeding your chickens – pellets, grain, or wet grain mash?
- Your backyard chicken house and yard layout – where should I put my chicken feeder? Inside or outside the coop?
- Is your area wild bird proof? If not, a treadle feeder is the best chicken feeder to keep wild birds out.
Which is the Best Chicken Feeder by Type?
When it comes to chook feeders, there are four popular choices:
- Hanging Chicken Feeders
- PVC Tube Feeders
- Home-made Chicken Feeders
- Automatic / Treadle Feeders
Let's go through the pros and cons of each.
Hanging Chicken Feeders
Hanging plastic or stainless steel bell-shaped feeders are designed for undercover use. Hang your chicken feeder to keep mice out. What’s the best height for the chicken feeder? Hang it from the roof to match the height of your smallest chicken's back.
These chicken coop feeders work well for pellet feeds and are inexpensive.
If you are feeding a grain mix, your chickens will 'cherry-pick' their favourite grains and flick what they don't want on the ground. This can then become a haven for rodents. The design is not suitable for wet chicken feeds.
PVC Chicken Feeder
A PVC chicken feeder for backyard chickens offers minimal waste, a slim design and works well in small spaces. You can find some great techniques on how to build a chicken feeder on YouTube. In my experience, there's an art to getting a PVC pipe to flow easily while preventing your hens from flicking grain everywhere. Check out Dine a Chook or Royal Rooster.
If the feed outlet gets wet, the chick feed will clog and get stuck.
Home-made Chicken Feeders
What to use for a chicken feeder? You can use an old tub, saucepan or humble ice cream container. These are great options for baby chicken feeders or feeding wet foods.
While not automatic as such, there's nothing wrong with feeding from simple containers if the set-up is weather and rodent proof. BUT - it will be a matter of minutes before bored chickens try to get into the container and s
Automatic Chicken Feeder
Also known as a chicken self-feeder or chicken treadle feeder.
Treadle feeders are fantastic but vary A LOT in quality and design. Treadle feeders are an investment, but they pay for themselves in reduced feed wastage. Until the chicken steps onto the treadle step, the food is safe and covered.
Depending on the design, this type of chicken feeder sees less waste. In addition, they are massive time-savers, providing you don't get a dud quality version! Look for a treadle feeder with a grill over the grain section or calibrated design that prevents chickens from flicking grain everywhere.
Treadle chicken feeders are expensive. How much is a chicken feeder? Expect to pay around $195-$250. Beware of some imported models priced around the $100-200 mark. Price does not equal quality for treadle feeders, unfortunately.
Here are some of the issues I've personally experienced with inferior models:
- Not all designs are weatherproof
- Some (expensive) models allow for the feed to pour out everywhere as they are not calibrated
- They won't close 100%
- One tall model used to blow over in the wind, even with feed in it
- The step on some brands can become stuck and jam up if not on a flat surface
Yes, I've wasted a lot of money on automatic feeders that don't perform - don't make the same mistakes! Now let's answer the question, "what's the best chicken feeder near me?"
The Best Automatic Chicken Feeders in Australia
If you are considering an automatic feeder for your backyard chickens, the two brands I trust and recommend are (I'm not affiliated with either brand):
I love these chook feeders!
They are made locally and packaged sustainably by Pete & Kerrie Kruger of Meredith in rural Victoria. Pete has perfected the design over the past 15 years.
They feature a sloping lid (to stop your birds perching on it!), a metal grid to stop birds flicking grain out, and a creative calibrated internal design to reduce waste.
It's exceptionally well-designed and handcrafted. With a 100% satisfaction guarantee, it's well worth the investment.
These chicken coop feeders are also a great design. It does have a flat top, but it comes with a 24 month, 100% satisfaction, money-back guarantee.
One crucial detail - the metal grid stops the birds from flicking their feed out.
How to Use Automatic Feeders Successfully
For best results, position your treadle feeder up on a large concrete paver (or two) in a spot protected from rain. If your chickens are underlying age or are bantams, be aware that a treadle feeder will need to be calibrated to allow their weight actually to open it for access to the feed.
Training Your Chickens to Use an Automatic Feeder
It usually takes around a week to train your chickens to use a treadle feeder. To do this, you'll need to allow the tray to remain open while your chooks become familiar with the chicken feeder - about 7-10 days. Then, as soon as one of them gets the hang of it, the rest will follow.
When feeding kitchen scraps, throw them into the outdoor run and let your chickens pick through them as they please. If you find that this attracts rodents, offer your leftovers in an old heavy saucepan or frying pan, take away what they don't eat, and compost it.
Now you are equipped with the tools to avoid these mistakes when choosing a chicken feeder. So choose the style and type for your backyard chickens and get cracking!
Want to know which feed is best for chickens? Check out my blog here.
Want your chickens to be the healthiest and happiest they can be? I offer backyard chicken workshops, online programs, phone coaching, and in-person support to families, schools, and free-range egg farmers. Visit my online shop for natural, tried-and-tested poultry supplies in Australia.
We’ve got more tips for raising backyard chickens beyond the basics. Become an egg-spert and follow my online guide to raising backyard chickens 101.
Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.