Archive for the ‘Bad Ideas’ Category

30-Gallon Barrel and Pipe Automatic Chicken Feeder

We saw a few great ideas on Youtube about using PVC drain pipe parts to make a chicken feeder out of a bucket or barrel. I found a good local source for 30-gallon blue barrels that came from the soda bottling plant. Just as with the many 55-gallon barrels that I have used for rain collection, I don’t buy used barrels unless I am confident about what they were last used for. In this case it was easy to tell, since the barrels still had the markings from the soda bottler, and they had a distinct smell of Mountain Dew.
The theory is to set the elbows so that they stick through the sides of the container, requiring the chickens to stick their heads into the 4″ hole to eat. This should minimize waste and make it much harder for mice and other critters to get to the food.

Looking Down Into the Barrel

Looking Down Into the Barrel


Each elbow is attached to a block of wood with a screw like this one:
Attachment Screw

Attachment Screw


And then I ran a second screw up from the bottom of the barrel into the same block. For a second feeder I used a slightly cleaner method of one block to serve all four pipes.
A Cleaner Option

A Cleaner Option


I used a 4-1/4″ hole saw to make the holes in the barrel. This is the outer diameter of the drain pipe, though not the outer diameter of the flange on the elbow. This made it necessary to use a 3-inch long piece of 4-inch pipe to protrude through the barrel.
Before attaching the elbows to the wood, I cut a section of the lower flange off to allow the feed to flow into the opening. I had to guess about what size to use, and went with about an inch on the first feeder. This proved to be not quite enough, especially for a pelletized feed. 1-3/4 inches worked a little better.
The barrels that I purchased were “closed top,” meaning that the only way in or out is through the small bung hole. To build the feeder I had to cut the top off with a reciprocating saw, just as I usually do when making rain barrels. This left us with a need for some type of top. What we came up with was a storage cover like this one:
Plastic Barrel Top

Plastic Barrel Top


The cover is about 3″ larger in diameter than the top of our barrels, so it is a pretty loose fit. On one feeder I secured it with a bungee cord, but on the second I just used a brick on top. You can find the covers here.
One idea that we tried, but do not recommend, is to put a lip on the outside of the short length of pipe, like this:
Don't do this!

Don’t do this!


We thought this might reduce waste further. Instead it created a place for young ones to get stuck. One little hen that we named “Chuck” because she kept getting stuck eventually died because we didn’t realize that she was in there.
Chuck is too small to use this feeder safely!  She kept getting stuck.

Chuck is too small to use this feeder safely! She kept getting stuck.


If the chicks are small enough to get both of their feet into the elbow, then they are doomed. We have also had a chick get stuck on the feeder with the larger bottom opening when it ran out of food. She got into the elbow and stuck her head through the slot sideways, which she wouldn’t have been able to do if the feeder had been full. I would say that the safest bet is to keep these feeders available for full-grown birds, and not use them with chicks.

How High Should We Mount the Chicken Waterer?

Using a Trampoline as a Chicken Tractor

Trampoline as a Chicken TractorIn the earliest days of our chicken hobby, we thought we would have the girls in a chicken tractor. This idea was quickly squashed when we realized that our tractor was perhaps large enough for three birds, and we had 26. Even with just three, we would have needed to move the tractor almost daily, and it was just too heavy for that, even though we had worked hard to try and make it light-weight. The next iteration in that plan was to make a larger enclosed pen with an open bottom, that we could move less frequently. One of us had the idea to try using a trampoline. It’s round, so it provides a maximum surface area for the amount of material used, and it’s a sturdy, ready-made frame with a cover that provides some shade, but also allows some sun in. We picked up a 100-foot roll of 1/2″ hardware cloth from the local hardware store, and found two trampolines on Craigslist. One was a nice 14-foot version that we paid a little for, and one was a cheap 12-foot version that we got for free, since it had been balled up in a windstorm. The trampoline pen worked well. It was easiest to move them with two people, but it was possible to move them with one person too. Two wheelbarrow tires on one side would have made it easier to move. As we became less interested in the chicken tractor idea, we would just scoot trampolines around to provide cover for the girls while they grazed in the pasture. We never did get around to enclosing the larger trampoline, though even without the hardware cloth it still provided some good protection from aerial predators. And best of all, if we felt like we had too much energy, we could go bounce on the trampolines too! Although we would make sure there weren’t any birds underneath of course.