DIY No-Waste feeder! October 5, 2015

I have an embarrassingly large number of chickens who eat quite a bit of food. (Let’s not get into actual numbers of birds I may or may not have, because then the chicken math I keep in my head starts to break down.) So when my friend Judi showed me her DIY No-Waste feeder, I had to make one, too!

DIY No-Waste Feeder

Finished DIY No-Waste Feeder

.

I love a good do-it-yourself project, so a DIY no-waste feeder was right up my alley! With most flocks, you have to deal with the issue of feed waste: it is in the hens’ nature to scratch and peck, and that throws feed onto the ground.  My hens very much enjoy throwing their food around.  On a good day, the smaller hens and bantams eat the food off the ground.  On a bad day, it rains and the food is wasted. This feeder design really reduces the problem of feed waste because it’s so much more difficult to scratch  food out.

DIY No-Waste Feeder Instructions

Materials needed:

  1. A large container with lid.  Note: I like the clear containers, so I can easily see when it needs a refill. However, the clear plastic will dry rot in the sun faster than other containers, so be sure to keep the feeder in 100% shade so it lasts longer.
  2. 4-6 (depending on the size of your container) 3-inch PVC elbows (90-degree).
  3. Silicone caulk or NP1 caulk.
  4. Caulking gun.
  5. A drill.
  6. A 3.5 inch hole-saw drill bit.
  7. Something 1 inch tall, to help mark the placement of the elbow bends.
  8. Safety goggles.
  9. Helpers/an audience.
Materials assembled for DIY No-Waste Feeder

My helper-dog is on the prowl for things he can interfere with!

This is a pretty quick project, all in all, and  can easily be completed by one person. My husband wanted to help, which was great, as it made it easier for me wrangle munchkins and take pictures!

DSCN9793

Husband with munchkin audience

Step 1: First, use a 1-inch tall level to measure where the elbows will go.  You want the bottom of the elbows to be one inch above the bottom of the feeder, so the chickens have a “well” to peck from.

Building the DIY No-Waste Feeder

Measuring for placement

Step 2: To make the holes, we used a 3.5 hole-saw.  Put your safety goggles on! A hole saw is a drill bit designed so you can cut perfectly round holes with your drill, but if you don’t have one, you could probably use other means to cut the hole. As always, use your best judgement and safety first!

Building the DIY No-Waste Feeder

Action shot: drill bit and PVC elbow. You can see here why creating the right size hole is important for a snug fit.

As you drill, be careful not to push too hard, as the plastic can crack.  We found it was better to let the saw spin and warm up the plastic a bit, before pushing the drill bit through.

Cutting for the DIY No-Waste Feeder with the hole saw

Drilling the hole for the DIY No-Waste Feeder

Here you can see what it looks like not-quite-cut-through.

Cutting with a hole saw

A hole saw makes a nice, clean cut, while using some other method can leave rougher edges that don’t fit snugly around the pipe elbow.

Step 3. Once all the holes are cut, fit the PVC elbows into the holes like so:

DSCN9843

Here we have snugged the elbows into the feed tub.

Step 4. Carefully caulk the inside of the bends, to prevent them from slipping out. Use your finger to “moosh” the caulk in for a better seal, and let that dry completely. Next, caulk the outside of the elbows, and let it dry.

Caulking the DIY No-Waste Feeder

There is some leeway as to hole size because the caulk will fill small gaps.

The container we used was pretty large and would hold a lot of feed, so to prevent the weight of the feed from pushing the elbows out, we let the caulk dry overnight, and did second coat on both the inside and outside.

Caulked DIY No-Waste Feeder ports

We caulked the dickens out of them!

Step 5. Finally, place the feeder, and fill it up.When placing the DIY No-Waste Feeder, you want to make sure it is low enough that your hens can easily reach into the feed ports and eat, but not so low that it will attract mice or other pests into our coop.  Our area is all orchards, meaning there are a lot of rodents around to potentially attract, so I wanted the edges of the feeder ports to be high enough that I wouldn’t be feeding a new generation!

Total working time? About 20 minutes.

Chicken puzzling over feeder

Silly chicken! You can see my hen is not pleased with the “new big scary thing” in her coop.  Still, it didn’t take her very long to figure it out!

My turkeys especially love these types of feeders.

Costs of the DIY No-Waste Feeder

This particular container cost me around $12 at Walmart, and is large enough to hold two 50-pound bags of chicken feed, with room to spare.  A hundred pounds is a lot of weight pushing outwards on the side of the container–so when choosing your container, be sure to note the thickness and quality of the plastic. The PVC elbows were ~$2.00 each at the hardware store. If you count the caulk used, this feeder cost around  $25 to make, but I will save money on feed.

Another thing to consider: if you have lots of chickens and not so much space, you may want to use several shorter containers with more feeding stations. As my hens can free-feed out of this feeder all day, I haven’t seen any fighting for use of a particular opening, but if you are seeing feather picking/pecking, you’ll want to make sure there is space for everyone to eat at once.

I hope you enjoyed my little DIY No-Waste Feeder project!  We had fun making it, and the hens love it!

37 Comments
Carlos October 5th, 2015

Such a great idea but not sure if my chick will get stressed by putting their heads into the “hole”. I will give it a try. Thanks for sharing

Somerzby October 12th, 2015

Wow, great idea, looks very professional as well. Looks like it would be rodent free as well, is that correct?

Brenna October 12th, 2015

I use one of these! My feeder is a ( 2 gal?) detergent bucket that was cleaned and aged, and then turned into a chicken feeder. Because I knew I would use this type of feeder before I got chickens, I made ‘trainer feeders’ out of plastic bottles that they used as chicks, so they were completely fine when I upgraded them to their grown up feeder. There is no waste. Mine is elevated off the ground on a cement block inside the coop, and no mice have gotten to the feed. It holds about a third of a big 50lb bag of feed, and the hens like being able to stick their heads in and block up the hole so no one else can get to the feed till they are done eating. I’m thinking about adding a second and third tube/hole for them when I integrate the new chicks, so more than one hen can eat at a time. Cool to see it on Mypetchicken!

[…] and have to get a fresh new bag of feed early! Another MPC employee recently shared her version of homemade chicken feeders, so here’s mine! I decided to create a DIY PVC chicken feeder, too. In fact, I made […]

Renae Hynes November 20th, 2015

I am new to raising chickens, and I would like to thank everyone on here. You all have great advice and great DIY projects! I am learning alot!

Cathy Hill January 3rd, 2016

When choosing a container, also note that the sides should be straight up and down, not angled out. Very nice design. Some very small ventilation holes might be drilled around the top to allow moisture out and reduce the chance for mold in that amount of feed in the summer. Smaller containers would be great too, one for grit and one for oyster shell calcium. With a neat cover, like a mini pergola, it could be good outside too.

Be January 3rd, 2016

I think this would work very well for our girls. And if a mouse was inclined to jump up into it to eat, our hens would get some excersize hunting it down.

Chris January 5th, 2016

We have rats. Rats love to get into my chicken feeder which has a steel hog feed pan with a 5 gallon bucket attached supplying feed. The rats gnaw on the plastic bucket and it’s only a matter of time before they ruin my feeder and I’ll have to build another. Any advice on how to discourage rats from gnawing this feeder full of holes?

Lissa January 26th, 2016

Generally speaking, rodents are going to be attracted to any sources of feed they can get into. The best way to avoid attracting them in the first place is to remove food sources, as you probably know! You can see our advice about how to protect your flock from rodents on our website, and it includes–among other things–removing feed containers at night when rodents may feed (but chickens won’t), and using metal feeders and metal feed storage that rodents can’t gnaw through. For this project, switching plastic out for metal would make it more expensive and certainly less easy to DIY unless you have metal working skills such as soldering and/or welding. Instead, perhaps you could simply cover the outside of the feeder with hardware cloth, and be sure to remove it at night until the rodent problem is addressed. (I can’t picture the design of your current feeder, but wrapping hardware cloth around the plastic parts may work there, too.) This No-Waste DIY feeder will also help the issue in that you won’t have waste feed scattered around in the litter to attract them! However, since you mention you’re on a farm, of course you’ll need to take similar steps with any other animal feeds you keep, and you’ll want to make sure your compost pile doesn’t have scraps, either. Please take a few moments and read through the advice at the link I included. I hope that will help!

Liz January 5th, 2016

This is a great idea! How do you keep them from “messing” on the top?? It seems like when ever we leave flat bins in the coop it gets covered…

Stumble-On Micro-Farmstead January 6th, 2016

Awesome. I’m wondering if it will work for ducks? I’m worried about their bill fitting around the bend…

Lucas January 8th, 2016

Use a 45 instead of a 90 for ducks maybe? Less angle.

LeAnn Ratcliff January 9th, 2016

How well can the chickens reach the feed?does the chickens have to put their heads all the way in the elbow?how well would it work for babies if we made a smaller version? Please reply

Tammy Royal January 10th, 2016

I am thinking of using this method with 5 gal buckets with lids.

Cathy Hill January 21st, 2016

You can use a flat piece of plastic material (some scrap of some sort) and cut the same diameter of the hole in it to strengthen inside and out. Add it when caulking but use a good plastic glue to make it stick all around.

I wonder why a feeder company doesn’t use an idea like this? I’ve seen this same thing done by others too.

David March 9th, 2016

Great write up! With such a big feeder don’t you get issues with mold on the feed? I take it you must have a LOT of chickens with so much feed available!

Lissa March 11th, 2016

Feed will not mold unless it’s exposed to moisture; it doesn’t really have to do with quantity (otherwise it would simply mold inside your feed storage container, too!). We do recommend keeping your feed in a sheltered area out of rain and even heavy fog. Many, if not most coops, have feeder (and waterer) space inside, which is ideal in most cases. Others have a sheltered run area that will keep the feed nice and dry.

Owen Manske March 15th, 2016

Thanks for excellent post. I followed this exactly to specifications and my girls (and boy) love it. We have 15 and they go through two bags in about 3.5 weeks. This is a perfect solution. Put it on cinder blocks under the shelter that covers the coop and no problems at all. Mice can’t get in it, and even the silkies can get their heads in. Combined with the automatic waterer I built, this means all I have to do every day is collect eggs!

riversidema April 23rd, 2016

If you make a “short pyramid” out of plywood and put it in the center, it pushes the feed out to the sides where the chickens can reach, and stops there from being food in the center that can never be eaten.

Betsy May 9th, 2016

Where can I get the elbows? The only ones I can find are to long.

Becca June 19th, 2016

I have one of these feeders made out of a 20 gallon foodgrade plastic. These are great for hens however my rooster died because he could not get to the food comfortably. It irritated his comb and wattle to the point he would not eat. I did not realize what was happening to him until it was too late. So beware, this may not be a rooster friendly feeder.

Lissa June 20th, 2016

Some roosters do have extra large combs, so it’s a good idea to double-check and make sure your chickens’ heads can fit in, easily. So sorry to hear about your rooster–you must have been heartbroken!

pat Lander July 30th, 2016

I used you if a but for lack of space and more sturdiness, I ordered 4 1/2 gallon square buckets and smart hinge lids about $7 each. Used all the other recommendations and works great. Chickens have no problem putting head into pvc elbow. Started with 2 but now have ordered 2 more so we have feed to last longer. Great to prevent waste and less likely for predators to get to food.

Kristen August 23rd, 2016

I am researching best ideas for my chicken coop that will hopefully be up and running in the next year. So, just wanted to clarify here – in order to get the food the hens have to stick their necks way in to reach the feed at the bottom of the bin? Is that how it works? It looks like a long way in, but I have no idea b/c I don’t even have my girls yet!! 🙂

Lissa August 26th, 2016

Yes, the girls stick their head in to get the food. In a conventional feeder, they tend to “beak out” or knock feed out all over, because it’s in their nature to scratch around and forage. But it can end up wasting food when they knock it onto the floor, so this is a design that helps eliminate that problem. They just can’t knock it out unless they pick p a piece and carry it out! 🙂

Alfred Madsen September 9th, 2016

Your idea sounds great, don’t like waste.How much space do you leave from the bottom of container to the the elbow. Thank you 🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓

Russ October 1st, 2016

We have 9 birds. 6 of which are California Whites. The other three are Old English mixed. My wife and daughter are concerned the chicken would eat themselves to death with this setup.

Thoughts?

Lissa October 3rd, 2016

The only chickens likely to have a problem overeating when offered a nutritionally balanced feed would be “meat” birds. They have been specially selected to grow fat fast. This is why My Pet Chicken doesn’t sell “meat” birds as pets, incidentally. It’s not that they aren’t personable; they’re sweet birds by all accounts. But they tend to be sickly from overeating, and die quite young if feed intake isn’t strictly limited. Other types don’t have this problem. Either way, though, the design of the feeder doesn’t cause overeating. A no-waste feeder just helps to prevent a lot of wasted feed knocked onto the ground.

Martha October 10th, 2016

If you have a rodent problem, which most of do at one time or another, you can get caps for the end of the elbows, and put them on at night when the rodents come out. Solved my problem!

Kie October 26th, 2016

Hi Pat Lander,

Where did you buy smart hinge 4G buckets for $7 please? I use this feeder but would like to try making one with a smart hinge lid.

Anna November 6th, 2016

Hi could you use this type of layout as a watering container as well. I have 30 hens. I’m looking for a setup that Can hold plenty of water. Thanks..great idea!!

River November 25th, 2016

My hens are not sold yet, they still haven’t figured it out ..is elevating it critical?

Lissa December 6th, 2016

They should be able to easily get inside to get at the food, so the openings should be about at their shoulder height. If the feeder is at a level where they can’t do that without contortions (or at all!), obviously, they’ll be much slower to use the new feeder.

geri November 28th, 2016

does this work for keeping the birds from getting the seed.

Lissa December 2nd, 2016

Do you mean wild birds? If so, it won’t stop them all. Smaller songbirds could simply fit through the holes

Darin December 6th, 2016

PVC is super toxic and leaks Dioxin into the aquifers for all time. There are alternatives. Here are a few: 90 Degree Elbows for HDPE Pipe https://www.dultmeier.com/products/0.1158.1913.1942/1923
90 Degree Elbows, Carbon Steel Weld Fittings https://www.dultmeier.com/products/0.1158.1913.2145/2130

TC December 17th, 2016

Where were all these brilliant ideas 10 years when we 1st started raising chicks. I don’t even want to think about what every egg we’ve gotten has cost me in feed. Ha.
I just built one of these feeders with my 10 year old son. He came up with using our hot glue gun for a couple of quick “tac welds” to hold the elbows in place for caulking. Just a little spot at 12 and 6 o’clock on the outside sure made it easier for caulking. I sure appreciate everyone’s feedback on feeders; now I want you all to get busy designing the perfect waterer; for both summer and 0′ F winters. I’ll be awaiting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *