Chicken Care Automation Part 2: DIY Chicken Project July 20, 2014

Several weeks ago, I blogged about how great our automatic chicken door is… but it’s not by a long shot the only accommodation we’ve made to ensure our chickens are happy, safe, and provided for when we travel.  We also engaged in a DIY chicken project or two. Along with our automatic chicken door, we adore the trough feeder and heated waterer we built ourselves. If you’re the kind of chicken keeper who’s willing to put in a little elbow grease, a DIY chicken project might be up your alley.

Your chickens (like Chloe here) will thank you.

Your chickens (like Chloe here) will thank you.

DIY Chicken Project #1: PVC Pipe Feeder

The PVC feeder we constructed holds enough food for ten chickens for about three days. You have lots of options for purchasing feeders that can be suspended from the coop or set on the floor or on a cinder block. We decided to make one ourselves in order to save money, and also because we wanted to design a feeder that would hold a lot of food and yet use minimal space in the coop. We decided to use PVC pipe: it’s durable, inexpensive, and perfect for mounting against the wall. Plus, we had plenty of scraps to utilize for our DIY chicken project.

DIY chicken project: trough-style, gravity fed, PVC feeder

It might not be pretty, but it’s pretty functional.

We designed a trough feeder that—once covered so as to keep the feed clean—nicely suits our needs, and used plastic straps to mount it. After making a few adjustments, we find our new feeder really fits the bill. This is what we learned along the way:

1) A bend in the pipe only works at the bottom, where chickens move the feed along.

2) An open trough end (as opposed one that is closed or capped) allows any mess to eventually move out of the feeder.

3) The trough needs to be angled slightly down from the gravity feeder.

4) A large communal trough is preferable to a design with individual access. Using many, smaller access holes gave some of our chickens beak abrasions. When we switched to the open trough: Voila, problem solved!

Etienne coming in for some vittles.

Etienne coming in for some vittles.

DIY Chicken Project #2 – Heated waterer

A heated waterer is a must if you live in a northern area but still want to be able to travel during the winter months. This past winter when we experienced so many consecutive freezing nights due to the polar vortex,  I don’t know what we would have done without it, traveling or not! Again, there are commercial heated waterer options, but my frugal husband created a common-sense, virtually free heater modification for our existing waterer.

We had long used a large galvanized waterer set on blocks to raise the it high enough to help keep the water clear of droppings and litter. To heat our galvanized waterer, we set a cinder block on its side and set an exterior light fixture inside it. We killed a bulb before realizing a small, metal sheet placed over the bulb prevented errant drops of water from dripping on the bulb and causing it to shatter. A standard, old-school 40 watt bulb  (stock up if you find a source – they’re getting harder and harder to come by) produces enough heat to keep the water from icing. This past year we manually unplugged the unit when warmer days warranted it but next year we’ll probably try a thermo – outlet such as this one (It automatically turns on when temps hit near-freezing and stays off otherwise) to minimize excess energy consumption.  

DIY chicken project: heated waterer base

Just place your metal waterer on top, and you’re ready to go!

We took some precautions to make sure we weren’t introducing a fire-hazard and advise that you do the same if you tackle this project:

1) Use a sturdy, heavy waterer that sits securely on a heavy base such as a cinderblock that sits securely and evenly on the floor of the coop.

2) Make sure the cinderblock or base is clean and completely free of debris so the heat source (light bulb) does not come into contact with any flammable debris.

3) Utilize a metal guard to protect the bulb.

4) Properly insulate all electrical connections per local codes.

5) Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (aka ground fault outlet) to ensure that if there is an imbalance in the current flow, the circuit is tripped and the electricity is cut off to the heat source.

As always, DIY projects carry with them an inherent risk. If it’s not one you’re comfortable with, you can always fall back on commercial heated waterer options available at MPC and other vendors.

We love our chickens and prize the eggs they give us, but we like to be able to get out and see the world (or, erm, the tri-state area), too.

We would love to hear what you’ve done to help tackle the tasks associated with flock ownership. Please share any DIY chicken-chore-easing-modifications you’ve made in the comments.

One Comments
Jen July 29th, 2014

I love the chicken feeder out of pvc pipe! It’s a great alternative to actually having to buy one. Thanks for the idea!

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