In my childhood, having rats and mice living off of the chicken’s feed during the night was a fact of life. We would set traps, but they always seemed to come back. Where there is available food, there will always be rats and mice. Looking online for rodent proof feeders, I found some very expensive feeders up into the hundreds of dollars or complicated plans for building your own that seem to have a chance of failure, not allowing chickens to eat if it failed.
Chickens can be very messy with their food and spill it all over the place, digging for their favorite grains. This is not always a problem as I usually do not fill their feeder until they clean up after themselves, but when it rains, this food will disintegrate, get covered in mud or manure, and go to waste.
I finally found some 5 gallon bucket plans that were fairly simple and did the job for a few dollars rather than hundreds.
Many recommend using food grade 5 gallon buckets if you are concerned about plastics leeching into the chickens’ food. Though this is better with dry food than if it were wet, it can still be a concern.
All you will need is:
- 5 gallon bucket
- Two 1/2″ eye bolts
- a screw, hook, or something else to hang the bucket handle by
- a drill with 1/2″ or larger bit
Drill two holes in the bottom of the bucket. Make these holes larger than the eyebolt shaft but not wider than the head portion so it cannot fall out. Fill your bucket part way with feed after placing the eye bolts in the holes. Rotate the bolts back and forth and see if a decent amount of food comes out. This may take some adjusting to find a balance between too little and too much. You can always duct tape the hole from inside the bucket if you need to start over with a hole.
Once you have the hole the correct size for the feed and eye bolts, you are ready to hang your bucket. I chose a tree growing on the edge of my chicken pen. Try to hang it about chicken head height so they do not have to bend down to get under it but low enough they can still reach the eye bolts and holes (my chickens sometimes peck the feed right out of the hole instead of the eye bolts).
Place your feeder as the only source of feed (or transition them to the new feeder if you wish), and when they are hungry, tilt the eye bolt a couple times. My chickens caught right on and started pecking the eye bolt and feed from the hole. Frequently, one chicken gets some feed out while the others eat it underneath.
If you find the chickens start dumping too much feed out, you can either disable one hole with duct tape, place a tray underneath to prevent the feed mixing with manure or mud, or take their feeder away until they eat up the mess. One 5 gallon bucket feeds my 7 full grown chickens for about one week. Supplementing this feed with kitchen scraps will help it last even longer.