The Best Chicken Feeder for Backyards
Automatic chicken feeders 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. With so many brands and options on the market, how do you choose a chicken feeder that's not going to get clogged or end up in the bin this time next year?
The style and type you choose will depend on:
1. What type of feed you are feeding your chickens – pellets, grain or wet grain mash?
2. Your chicken house and yard layout – where will the feeder go, inside or outside the coop?
3. Is your area wild bird proof? If not, a treadle feeder is your best option.
When it comes to feeders, there are four popular choices:
1. Plastic or stainless steel bell-shaped feeders (usually suspended from the roof)
2. PVC Tube Feeders
3. A simply tub or humble ice cream container
4. Automatic feeders, aka treadle feeders.
Let's go through the pros and cons for each.
PLASTIC BELL STYLE FEEDERS
Designed for undercover use and should be hung from the roof to deter rodents. Height of the feed should equal the height of your smallest chicken’s back.
Pros – work well for pellet feeds, inexpensive.
Cons - 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 feeds.
PVC TUBE FEEDERS
Pros – minimal waste, slim design works well in small spaces. There are some great designs on Youtube. In my experience, there's art to getting homemade PVC tube feeders to flow also not allow your hens to flick grain everywhere. Check out Dine a Chook or Royal Rooster.
Cons - if the feed outlet gets wet the feed will clog and get stuck.
SIMPLE TUB, OLD SAUCEPAN OR HUMBLE ICE CREAM CONTAINER
Pros – a good option for younger birds or for feeding wet foods.
Cons – 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 their feed all over the ground! So only fill as much as they need and replace daily.
AUTOMATIC CHICKEN FEEDER, AKA 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 pay for themselves in reduced feed wastage. Until a chicken steps onto the treadle step, the food is safe and covered.
Pros – minimal waste, depending on the design. They are huge time-savers, providing you don't get a dud quality version! Look for a treadle feeder that has a grill over the grain section or calibrated design that prevents chickens flicking grain everywhere.
Cons – expensive. 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:
1. Not all designs are weatherproof
2. Some (expensive) models allow for the feed to pour out everywhere as they are not calibrated
3. They won't close 100%
4. One tall model used to blow over in the wind, even with feed in it
5. 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!