Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gravity Fed Poultry Feeder

One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Edison. "There is always a way to do something better. Find it."  I also like to work smarter, not harder and look at everything I do with an eye for efficiency. I took that approach to feeding and watering my flock of chickens.

Chickens are dirty birds. Seriously dirty birds. They poop everywhere, including in their water. It's a lot of work to keep their water clean on a daily basis. And it's yucky to clean out a poop-filled waterer. They also waste feed, since their natural tendency is to scratch around. The food, even when it's in special chicken feeders, gets scattered all over the place and wasted.

With some internet research and a little ingenuity of my own, I now have wonderfully low maintenance systems for both feed and water. 

First the feeders.  Here is the finished product. It's a couple lengths of 4" plastic drain pipe, a PVC elbow joint, some drain/end caps I found in the irrigation supply section of Lowe's, a bit of duct tape and some pipe strapping.

This design is a modification of one I found online at Our Little Coop. Here is a photo from their website of the feeder they designed.

It's a lovely, simple design and was one I was going to build for my own flock. Until I got to Lowe's and priced out the components, that is. The tray that the feed goes into is a cap for PVC fence. They were $15 each. I need four feeders, so right away I was up to $60 in materials. Add in the cost of the 4" Schedule 35 pipe and the various other fittings and my four feeders would have cost in excess of $150. 

With some help from an amazing employee at Lowe's, I found alternatives to all of the components for a total cost of just under $60 for four feeders.  WooHoo!!

The white pipe is some kind of 4" drain pipe that's out with all of the landscaping drainage materials at Lowe's. It's a lightweight material and each 10-foot length was only $7. 

Naturally, I was so busy doing that I forgot to take photos.
I'll do my best to describe my process. I used a hacksaw to cut each ten foot piece into two 4-foot and two 1-foot lengths. One of each of these lengths makes up the feeder. 

I used a hole saw bit to cut three holes in each short piece. The chickens will get to the feed through these holes.

The short piece is connected to the long piece with a PVC elbow. The short end is capped with a green plastic drain piece. That piece had drain holes in it which were easily covered over with duct tape.

The top of the long tube is covered with a plastic end cap that was also out there with all of the landscape drainage material. 

Two of these feeders were installed back in July when Richard was here helping with the coop renovation. Here he is attaching one of the feeders to the wall. That's copper pipe strapping holding them to the wall.

This reminds me, if you are going to build something like this yourself, make sure all of the components fit together BEFORE you buy them and leave the store!  We live 15 miles from the nearest hardware store, so we make our list before we go and check it three times before we leave the store for home!

I put up the two outside feeders myself. Because of the way the run is constructed, I mounted the feeders on boards that were then screwed into the supports of the run.

I had a lot of help from the chickens while I was trying to get the feeders up. They're pecking at the drill, at the screws, at the feeder, my belt and even my earrings while I'm trying to work! Sheesh!

Ta Da! My $15 a piece super-duper chicken feeders!

Wanna know the best part? Each one holds around 15 pounds of chicken feed. Once filled, it takes my flock nearly two weeks to empty them. And the food in the pipes is clean and dry all the time. All I do on a daily basis is check the feed level. I only fill them when they're nearly empty, then I'm good for another two weeks or so. Sweet, huh?

Tomorrow I'll post the details of my gravity-fed watering system. If you thought the feeders were ingenious, wait until you see the waterers!


  1. Ok...just gotta ask how these feeders are filled. Do you have to heft the bags up there to pour? Or do you use scoops and a funnel? The openings look pretty high up there. Do you need to stand on a stool while doing all this?

    I think the design and materials are ingenious for keeping mice out of your feed.


  2. The feeder tubes are only four feet long. They're less than five feet high after mounting them to the wall. No need to stand on anything. I use a scoop made from an empty quart jug of milk. The size of it is perfect for filling up a 4" diameter pipe.

  3. Thanks for a great design! Just got home from Ace Hardware, who cut 3" PVC into the 3' and 1' pieces I need for our little coop & 6 girls! (I even splurged for white duct tape ~ Granddaughter will probably override that for "pink cheetah tape" tho :) Can't wait to assemble this tomorrow and put an end to the waste I see all over the coop! (BTW, only 15 miles to the hardware store??? For us Home Depot is 30+, Lowes & ACE are 50ish... )

  4. Hi Susan! I think the pink cheetah tape would be fun! And I don't feel so bad now about my hop-skip-and-jump to the hardware store in comparison to your half day journey. Being a city girl, I'd gotten accustomed to everything being practically right next door.

  5. I know what you mean, I'm originally from southern California. We've been fortunate to live high in the Rocky Mountains for the last 20 years, tho! On our way here we lived in New Mexico for a few years and raised chicks for meat & eggs there, as well as breeding Silkies, Polish, and many others. Now we just have our adorable pets.

  6. Hello. Have you had any issues with the feed/pellets not coming down to refill? I've found that I have to shake the feeder for the pellets to come down. Thanks.

  7. Hi Berean! Thank you for stopping by! Yes, there have been times when the pellets don't roll down and I have to tap the pipes or else reach up and pull them down. We're experimenting with modifications to the systems to prevent that problem.

    I'll post the updates once we have decided which modification works best.