The best automatic chicken feeders and drinkers for backyards
Updated: 6 December 2022
When life is busy, automatic chicken feeders are a great solution.
I've road tested (and spent a lot!) using most of the automatic or self-feeders on the market today. Some have been a great investment, and others have been a disappointing waste of money.
I don't want you choosing a poor quality feeder that will get clogged, won't open or end up in the bin next year!
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.
Fret not mama and papa hens; we’ll show you how to avoid these mistakes when choosing a chicken feeder.
Choosing a style and type of chicken feeder
The style and type of chicken feeder 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 will the feeder go, 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.
What's the best chicken feeder?
When it comes to chook feeders, there are four popular choices:
- Plastic or stainless steel bell-shaped feeders. Otherwise known as hanging chicken feeders, because they're usually suspended from the roof.
- PVC tube feeders - these may be store bought like the one by Royal Rooster or Dine-A-Chook, or home made
- Home-made chicken feeders. There are many designs out there. I love the this design Goodlife Permaculture adapted from this design. You may also use a simple tub, an old heavy frying pan (not rusted) or humble ice cream container
- Automatic chicken feeders, otherwise know as treadle chicken 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 help deter mice and rats. What’s the best height for the chicken feeder? Hang it from the roof so the feed height matches 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 tube chicken feeders
A PVC chicken feeder for backyard chickens minimises waste and the slim design 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? If you're not ready to invest in an automatic chicken feeder, start basic! here are so many You can use a simple tub, an old heavy frying pan (not rusted) or humble ice cream container.
These are great options for younger pullets or feeding wet foods daily.
If you like the challenge of making something from scratch why not make you own chicken feeder? There are so many designs out there, using pipes, pulleys, canisters, buckets and other innovative bits and pieces. I love the this design Goodlife Permaculture adapted from this design.
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 scratch the feed all over the ground! So only fill as much as they will eat in a day and top up daily.
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 wastes less feed. They are also 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 automatic chicken feeders are expensive. How much is a chicken feeder? Expect to pay around $195-$250. Beware of some poor quality 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
- The mechanism used to connect the pedal and feeder broke from excited chickens jumping on it
- The lid won't close 100% or gets stuck
- One tall model used to blow over in the wind, even with feed in it
- The step or pedal 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 automatic chicken feeder?"
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):
The Chicken Feeder With Anti-Scratch Grate www.chickenfeeder.com.au
I love these chook feeders!
They are made locally and packaged sustainably by Pete & Kerrie Kruger of Meredith in rural Victoria, Australia. They make incredible heirloom metal and tin smithed items that will last a lifetime. Pete has perfected the chicken feeder 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.
An important detail - the metal grid stops the birds from flicking the feed out.
How to use automatic chicken 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 under laying 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.
How do you feed kitchen scraps to chickens?
When feeding kitchen scraps, throw them into the outdoor run and let your chickens pick through them as they please. Depending on the scraps and your litter, this should compost nicely. If you find that they're not eating all of your kitchen scraps and this is attracting rodents, offer your leftovers in an old heavy crock pot or frying pan. Then, simply take away what they don't eat, and put it in a compost bin.
Does a chicken feeder go inside or outside the coop?
Either. The main priority is keeping the grain or pellets completely dry and out of the weather and rodent free.
How can I stop chickens scratching litter into the feed and water?
Scratching is what chickens do! I would recommend raising the height of the feeder and drinker. I use a large concrete paver or two stacked under my feeders. This helps a lot!
How high should my chicken feeder be?
If you're hanging your chicken feeder, the height of the feed should equal the height of your smallest chicken's back.
What's the best feeder for baby chicks?
For the first 5 days, I feed my newly hatched chicks in a shallow dish, shallow enough for them not to get stuck in it if it's empty. After this, I use a small plastic bell-shaped 3kg feeder.
Thank you for reading.
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.
I’d love to hear what your favourite chicken feeder is and why. Drop a comment below, tag me on Instagram or Facebook, or send me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Grab my free guide, The First 8 Steps To Naturally Healthy & Happy Backyard Chickens now!
Elise McNamara, Chicken Consultant & Educator.
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