DIY No-Waste feeder!

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!

DIY No-Waste Feeder

Finished DIY No-Waste Feeder


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

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, because it was easier for me wrangle munchkins and take pictures!


Husband with munchkin audience

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.

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.  As always, 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. Using other methods to make the holes for your waste free feeder 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:

waste free feeder, no waste feeder

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. 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.

Caulking the DIY No-Waste Feeder

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

To prevent the weight of the feed from pushing the elbows out, let dry overnight and do a second coat.

Caulked DIY No-Waste Feeder ports

We caulked the dickens out of them!

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.

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. 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!

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7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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 […]

7 years ago

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
7 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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?

7 years ago
Reply to  Chris

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!

7 years ago

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...

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

7 years ago

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

LeAnn Ratcliff
7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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

Cathy Hill
7 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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!

7 years ago
Reply to  David

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
7 years ago

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!

6 years ago

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.

6 years ago

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

6 years ago

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.

6 years ago
Reply to  Becca

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
6 years ago

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.

6 years ago

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!! 🙂

6 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

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! 🙂

6 years ago

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 ????????????????????????

6 years ago

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.


6 years ago
Reply to  Russ

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.

6 years ago

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!

6 years ago

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.

6 years ago

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!!

6 years ago

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

6 years ago
Reply to  River

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.

6 years ago

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

6 years ago
Reply to  geri

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

6 years ago

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
90 Degree Elbows, Carbon Steel Weld Fittings

6 years ago

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.

William Sonsma
6 years ago

It seems the elbows are in the wrong direction and not using gravity.
Does this mean the chickens have to stick their head in and down to get the food?

6 years ago

If pvc is so toxic, why is our drinking water running through it in our homes??? Darin can you please answer this one

Gena Bergeron
5 years ago

I just made this and my chickens haven't figured it out yet!!! I am on day 2. I used a black container instead of a see threw one since I read it can be sun damaged. How do you get them into the idea of putting their heads in the hole?! Any suggestions are much appreciated.

5 years ago
Reply to  Gena Bergeron

Hmmm... maybe perch some treats on the edge of the hole, and sort of scatter them back? It will take chickens a while to get the hang of it. However, they're very food-motivated, so they should pick it up pretty fast once they realize food is in there!

5 years ago

My chickens are pecking pieces of caulk off the feeder! Anyone else have this problem? I would hate to have to give up on this design after I spent all the money and time to make it.

5 years ago

CPVC is what is used for drinking water pipes in your home. Sounds the same but when in the store just make sure the pipe is labeled CPVC

5 years ago

Could someone please answer the question about whether this would work for younger birds, not just full grown? Thanks

5 years ago
Reply to  Cathie

You would need to make certain that the younger chickens are large enough to reach the food. If their necks are too short to reach, it wouldn't work. Thus it will depend on the exact age/size of your birds. Very small bantams will also have problems if the elbows aren't sized for them.

Luc West
5 years ago

What about the food stay in the middle of the container

Robert Lewis
5 years ago

Curious - I am not Darin and I have no real idea about the toxicity of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) but I thought Dioxin was only released when burning PVC. It may have nothing to do with toxicity but the house we are building now has PEX (crosslinked polyethylene) delivering water to the outlets...since the well isn't in yet, I don't know if PVC will be used between the subsurface water and the PEX.

Robert Lewis
5 years ago

I am not a chemist. I have no degree in chemistry.

Both PVC and CPVC have lots of toxic stuff in them but it is my understanding that the toxin danger is primarily to the people making the PVC, not to the people using it - unless the PVC is destroyed - and since it isn't digested by anything living on this planet I would think that would mean through thermal or chemical damage.

The difference between PVC and CPVC has more to do with how the vinyl deals with mechanical and temperature stress. CPVC is made by chlorinating PVC resin (more expense) and there is subsequently less mechanical deformation with heat and pressure with the CPVC than with the PVC. CPVC offers more strength and flexibility...

5 years ago

Thank you very much for the wonderful instructions 🙂
I made a 4 at first then bought a new tub and more elbows and am using a 10 hole feeder for 20 chickens and it works great other than the boss chickens peck the others and have not let them eat much. I am hoping they will settle down. The only modification I made was I cut the bells off the elbows so they could eat a little easier.

5 years ago

If you live in a cold weather area do the containers only last one year before becoming brittle?

5 years ago

Just to help clear up this misunderstanding about the use of PVC for drinking water, the PVC is used nationally for COLD water supply and CPVC is used for HOT (or cold) water supply.

I hope this helps.

louise miller
5 years ago

I also have a feeder's made from the large buckets with lids that come with the cat litter in them. I drilled the holes and used the pvc also. but I used a extra ring on the outside and the pvc glue to attach it to the inside pvc elbow. that way I didn't need any caulk. been using them for 3 years and still works perfect. I have 4 buckets. they hold a 50 pd. bag of scratch grain. i'm collecting more buckets to make one for the layer mash. I got all my PVC supplies from the local farm and home store.

5 years ago

Could you use this with Gunieas? They have a feed scattering party every time we fill them and this looks like it'd fix that!
Awesome ideas!

Laurie J Mooney
5 years ago

Anyone have any helpful hints on goat proofing a chicken feeder? I'm afraid anything I build will be destroyed by the goats trying to get the feed.

5 years ago

Would this original idea work for water too? As long as the water level is not too high? The water would stay free of debris.

5 years ago
Reply to  SM

It might work to keep most debris out, but I think this design might be a little awkward for water in terms of refilling. You could always try it, and if it doesn't work for you, you've just got an extra feeder! 🙂

5 years ago

putting red pepper flakes in with the chicken feed solves the rat problem and the goat problem. Birds cannot taste the peppers in their feed, but mammals (rats and goats) do and will be repelled by the taste.

Chelsey Prescott
4 years ago

Some how my chickens are still wasting their food! We built this for them and there is still food all over the floor help!

4 years ago

Do you still use this feeder and have you found any problems?

[…] Great idea for a DIY chicken feeder! blog.mypetchicken… […]

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