They say necessity is the mother of all invention, and I have to admit I believe it, especially on farms, ranches and homesteads. We can see examples of the diy chicken feeder all across rural America. From creative uses of duct tape, welders and bailing wire to more refined custom-built projects, people’s ability to overcome challenges stands out. Every homestead has them, no matter how big or small. And not too long ago, my own family had a small challenge of our own.
DIY Chicken Feeder Problems
When we first got our small flock of chickens, we hastily built a self-feeding chicken feeder. We followed a plan we found on the internet. Basically, the feeder consisted of a few PVC pipes you filled up and let the feed run down. It worked, but it had some major problems.
First, these PVC feeders didn’t have a large capacity. We built two of them. Each held about 5 to 7 pounds of feed, which meant we had to fill them every few days. The only way to increase their capacity was to make them taller. Adding height contributed to the second problem. It was difficult to pour the feed into the pipe without spilling half the bag on the floor. In fact, the only way I could fill the feeders was to stand on a ladder. I had to haul the 50-pound sack of feed up and precariously balance myself until I was able to spill enough into the feeder to fill it.
After putting up with this system for far too long, I said enough was enough and decided there had to be a better way. In the end, I built a simple feeder that works great for my family and our chickens. It only cost me half a day of labor, and I was able to build if from scrap materials I had lying around the house. If you’re looking for an easy way to feed your chickens, our design might help you or at least give you some ideas.
- Four 4-foot lengths of 2×4 for feeder legs
- One 20-inch length of 2×4 for cross piece between legs at the bottom of the unit
- Two 20-inch lengths of 2×4 for box bottom supports
- Two 39½-inch lengths of 2×4 for box lid
- About 14 square feet of ¼-inch paneling, plywood or scraps in the following sizes: 14×20 inches (four pieces); 17×22 inches (one piece or in pieces); and 22×22 inches (one piece)
- 6 feet of 4-inch PVC
- Two 4-inch elbow joints
- 1×2 pieces for roost (optional)
In addition to the materials, I needed a few simple tools, including a drill, saw, reciprocating saw, tape measure, level, square and caulking gun. As mentioned, this feeder is an easy build and doesn’t require great skills or tools.
The Feed Box Walls
To start this diy chicken feeder project, I began by cutting four 2x4s to length. My feeder ended up being 48 inches tall, but that’s only because of the 8-foot 2×4 material I had on hand. I also wanted to make the feeder easy to fill, and 4 feet ended up being the right height for me. After using it for over a year, I wouldn’t change a thing about the height.
After cutting my upright 2x4s, I began constructing the feed box itself. We wanted it to hold one 50-pound sack of feed at a time. That would allow us to dump a bag in all at once and not worry about it for another 10 days. In order to create a feed box that holds 50 pounds of feed, you can cut four pieces of ¼-inch plywood or paneling, each 14×20 inches, to form the four walls of the feeder. After they’re cut, screw them into the upright 2x4s. For the floor to have a tight fit, screw the two side walls on the inside of the 2x4s and the front and back wall on the outside.
At this point, you can also cut a 2×4 into a 20-inch length and secure it across the bottom of the 2x4s in front. When done, the PVC will rest on this and help support the overall structure.
Building The Box Floor
Once your feed box walls are built, get started on the bottom of the box. Again, we wanted our feeder to require as little attention as possible, so we built a slanted floor in the feeder to help funnel the feed.
To build it, cut two 2x4s, each 20 inches long, to support the floor. I laid these flat and secured them by running screws through the paneling in the front, side and back. To achieve the desired slope, place the bottom of one 2×4 even with the bottom of the front wall. At the back end, raise it so the bottom of the 2×4 is 6 inches higher than the bottom of the wall and secure it to the upright 2×4 in the back. After completing the other side in the same way, you’re ready to cut the floor.
The floor of our feeder measures 17×20 inches. You’ll notice from the pictures that there are actually two different pieces that make up the floor—that’s because I used scrap materials I had lying around. You could easily cut one piece for the floor if you have adequate material. Once the paneling is cut, you can secure it to the supports.
As a final step, cut two holes 4 inches in diameter so you can insert the PVC. Here’s where your reciprocating saw comes in handy. To mark the center of each hole, we came in 6 inches from the side and 3 inches from the front.
Prepping The PVC
Our chicken feeder uses two lengths of PVC pipe extending down from the front. At the bottom of each pipe we installed an elbow, which sends the feed to where the chickens can use it and stops it from running out on the floor. You won’t need any glue to hold the elbows in place; a friction fit is good enough.
As for length, we cut our PVC to a length of 14 inches without considering the elbows. Again, this may change depending on the height of your box. For ours, we left the PVC about ½-inch longer than flush. When the project is complete, the caulking and overhang secure the PVC to the floor. If you leave some overhang, you won’t run the risk of the PVC falling out. It’s also important to take your measurements while the PVC elbows are resting on the 2×4 you installed across the bottom of the feeder.
Once you have your PVC cut to a general length, you’ll then need to match the top cut with the slope of the floor. You can do this by cutting your PVC to maximum length, inserting it through the hole in the floor, and then tracing the slope on the pipe. It doesn’t have to be exact, but the closer you can match it, the better. Remember to leave about a ½-inch overhang.
Fitting It All Together
Now, with your PVC cut and your feed box made, you can easily put the feeder together. Start by inserting the PVC through the holes and getting it to the approximate position you want. Once you have the PVC in the correct position, take a screw and run it through the bottom of the elbow into the 2×4 the elbow is resting on. If you’re having trouble getting your screw started, it might help to pre-drill a pilot hole.
After your PVC is screwed into the 2×4, take your caulking gun and run a bead along the inside of the feed box wherever there’s a large gap. Be sure to caulk where the PVC enters the feed box. In the end, the caulk and the screw are all that hold the PVC to the feeder. It shouldn’t take too long, and you’ll have a feed-tight box with the PVC secured.
Making The Lid
To keep your feed protected, you’ll need to make a lid for the diy chicken feeder. Ours is super simple and only requires two 2x4s, each cut 19½-inches long, and a piece of plywood cut 22×22 inches square. To start, make a mark in the center of the lid. Come out 8 inches from that mark and make a mark on each side. Do this at several locations and draw a straight line. Next, align the outside of your 2×4 on those lines so they run parallel and screw it in from the top. If you do it correctly, your lid should have a friction fit that doesn’t allow any tiny critters into your feed box.
After you’ve completed the project, you should have a well-functioning, low-maintenance diy chicken feeder. We also installed a little roost on the back of our feeder to let our chickens perch on it from time to time, but it’s not necessary. What we appreciate most about this self-designed feeder is how easy it is to fill, its 50-pound capacity and the way it limits our chickens’ ability to make a mess of their feed. We needed a better way to feed our chickens, and this feeder meets our needs. Although we didn’t use any bailing wire, welders or duct tape to hold it together, it has the distinctive marks of a homestead design.
This article is from the summer 2019 issue of The New Pioneer Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
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