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 a waste free feeder, too!
I love a good do-it-yourself project, so a DIY no-waste feeder --- also called a waste-free feeder --- was right up my alley! With most flocks, you have to deal with the issue of feed waste. It's in hens' nature to scratch at their feed, and that throws it 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 waste-free feeder design really reduces the problem of feed waste because it's so much more difficult to scratch food out.
Of course, you can buy waste free feeders for chickens if you don't have time for DIY projects---but I love chicken DIY projects! So here's my version.
DIY No-Waste Feeder Instructions
- 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.
- 4-6 (depending on the size of your container) 3-inch PVC elbows (90-degree).
- Silicone caulk or NP1 caulk.
- Caulking gun.
- A drill.
- A 3.5 inch hole-saw drill bit.
- Something 1 inch tall, to help mark the placement of the elbow bends.
- Safety goggles.
- Helpers/an audience.
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, because it was easier for me wrangle munchkins and take pictures!
Steps to craft your DIY No-waste feeder
Step 1: First, use a level to measure where the elbows will go for your waste free feeder. You want the bottom of the elbows to be at least one inch above the bottom of the feeder, so the chickens have a "well" to peck from.
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. As always, safety first!
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.
Here you can see what it looks like not-quite-cut-through.
Step 3. Once all the holes are cut, fit the PVC elbows into the holes like so:
Step 4. Carefully caulk the inside of the bends, to prevent them from slipping out. Then, 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.
To prevent the weight of the feed from pushing the elbows out, let dry overnight and do a second coat.
Step 5. Finally, place the feeder, and fill it up. Make sure it's low enough that your hens can easily reach, 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 attract! That's why 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.
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. However, I'll also save money on feed.
Another thing to consider: if you have lots of chickens and not so much space, you may want more, but shorter, 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 particularly if you're 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!