This week we’re going to talk about the cross roads between poultry feeders and inclement weather. There’s not much that will ruin feed faster than rain, so having a way to keep it both accessible and dry is a pretty high priority. Not to mention that it should hold enough that it needs to be filled no more than once a day. And minimize spillage. Oh, and keep rodents out. Huh, there’s more to this than meets the eye!
For the moment though, we’re only going to talk about keeping out the water. And I want to point out that these feeders should be considered weather resistant, not weather proof. The only way I know to make anything weather proof is to seal every opening and seam. That’s not going to be very useful for your birds.
If you’re in search of a quick answer to this issue you’ll probably want to just buy something. It’s quick and it gets the job done. There are really just two options here: put a standard feeder in the coop or buy a feeder that keeps the rain out.
Feed In The Coop
The easiest way to keep rain out of your poultry feeder is to simply buy a standard feeder and keep it in the coop. The caveat with indoor feeding is that the birds will spend more time in the coop, which in turn means more poop in the coop.
Poop in the coop! Isn’t that fun to say?
If you’ve got 12-18 birds or less keeping your feeder in the coop may be an excellent solution. If you’ve got more than that, well, it starts to lose its appeal. That’s a lot of extra poop load that would be easier dealt with outside. Very few people like changing the bedding in their coop. From a maintenance perspective we really only want our birds in the coop to lay eggs and sleep.
An in-between option would be to put the feeder under a large overhang off of your coop. This may or may not be possible depending on your coop design.
If you’ve got the funds to buy one of these it’s probably worth the investment. These are basically a standard non-hanging plastic feeder that has a fancy hat on it to keep the rain out. Depending on the capacity you need expect to spend $80 to $300+ on one of these. They look to be a pretty good solution but I haven’t tried one to see how well it works. Mostly because I’m not willing to spend that kind of money.
There are a few silo style feeders out there that look like they’re designed to keep feed dry. But even then the fine print often has a caution regarding finer granulated or ground feeds and how they behave when moisture is present. It’s true that high humidity can make a mess of your feed, regardless of how well it’s protected. These are relatively new to the market but look to be a good compromise between utility and cost. I don’t know of anyone that’s tried one yet so I can’t attest to their effectiveness. They certainly look like they’d do the job. The one pictured is from Royal-Rooster.com, includes a feature to reduce spillage, and cost around $50
If you’re short on funds or long on time a DIY approach may be more to your liking. Or maybe you’re like me and just like making stuff on your own. A quick internet search will return about a bazillion different ideas on how you too can build your own chicken feeder. Many feeder designs out there are not useful for outdoor use, so we can quickly rule out about 75% of the ideas. That leaves us with three basic approaches, all of which will work if built properly. We’ve created a Pinterest page with some of each style for your viewing pleasure.
These are typically made from either a 3″ or 4″ diameter PVC pipe with a T-fitting (wye or sanitary) at the base for access to the feed. Depending on the size and length of the PVC these can be custom sized to keep your flock fed all day up to a dozen birds or so. Many more than that and the required silo height starts to get unwieldy. If you’re going to be keeping your feed outside make sure that the access point has an overhang of some kind to help keep the rain out. Also be mindful of how easy or difficult your chosen design will be to clean.
One of the things that I like about this style is that it can be mounted at any height and can be attached to the side of a chicken tractor or mobile coop. Our feeder for the Golden Egg chicken tractor will probably be in this style. The design pictured looks like a pretty good one. Head over to PrepForSHTF.com to see their build.
This style feeder provides a similar feed access as the silo style but can hold more feed and allow for more birds to feed at the same time. Our primary layer flock uses a feeder in this style and it works well. They can be built with a variety of different container types and so can be sized however you want. Ours holds about 100lb of feed and provides six access points.
Similar to the silo style feeder, make sure that the access points have some sort of overhang to keep the rain out. Because plastic tubs flex a lot more than PVC sealing these up can be difficult to do. Make sure your cut edges are cleaned up and dry before caulking the heck out of it.
There are plenty of tub feeder ideas and designs out there. The one pictured is from MyPetChicken. They’ve got a good DIY post to show you how to build your own.
Finally, you could just build a shelter for your feeder. This style kind of follows the same principal as a commercial range feeder – give a standard feeder a fancy hat. In this case it’s more like a movable porch than it is a hat. If you’ve got some extra building material laying around this would be a good and cheap solution to keeping the rain out. And you can make sure that it’s designed so that you can use a feeder that you already have. The one pictured is from PetitDesignCo.com but doesn’t come with directions from what I could tell. But, if you’ve got extra building supplies laying around, you should be able to figure something out.
Feeding your birds outside their coop is usually a good idea because it keeps the birds from spending unnecessary time inside. That means less poop in the coop (so fun to say!) and longer intervals between bedding changes. If your feeder is going to be outside it is critical to the health and happiness of your birds that the rain be kept out. There are some really good commercial options out there for a price ranging from $50 to $300 depending on the style and capacity. If you want to DIY a solution there are three primary styles: silo, tub, and field roof. Head over to our Pinterest page to see some of the designs we like. In a few weeks we’re going to be publishing our own design, probably a silo style feeder.
Thanks for joining us everybody!
Next week: Watering Systems