Even free-range poultry, with the opportunity to graze, and scratch up bugs and insects, will need to be provided with a good-quality seed mix. If you don’t want to encourage vermin, it is far better to provide this in dedicated feeders, rather than scattering it across the yard.
As any poultry keeper will tell you, chickens can be particularly dumb – you may need to show them, several times over, where the feeder is, and, if you’re using a treadle feeder, how it actually works. They should get it with a week or so.
Feeders should be emptied out at the end of the day, ready to be refilled the next. This discourages rodents, and also prevents feed from going stale in the feeder, which can promote bacteria and disease.
As with drinkers, it is advisable to have two feeders, to ensure all the chickens in your flock have a chance to get to the feed when they want to.
What to Look for in a Feeder
You’re looking for a feeder that can take enough feed to keep your birds happy for a full day, so you don’t have to keep going back and forth. Chickens that are able to free-range will also scratch themselves up grubs and insects, as well as grazing on low-level plants.
Your feeder needs to be of a design, or at a height, that discourages rodents. Hanging feeders might spring to mind, but remember that most rodents, especially rats, can jump far higher than you might imagine.
If your feeder sits on the ground, it is advisable to move it a little each day, to ensure no rats have set up a nest in or around it, as the presence of rats will discourage your poultry from feeding.
Treadle feeders are good, as they rely on a spring mechanism that is designed to be operated by the weight of a chicken, or heavier, meaning rodents shouldn’t be able to trigger them. However, rats, particularly, are quite intelligent, and can often work out how to get under the lid. Again, make sure you are emptying out unused feed, and checking in, under, and around your feeder every day.
An automatic feeder is a good option if you will be out of town for the day, and don’t want to worry about getting home to feed the chickens. It will automatically release feed, usually in response to treadle motion, at a set day.
Whether you use grain, pellets, or crumble feed, it should flow easily through your feeder, without spilling excessively from the tray.
Types of Feeder
Hanging feeders, as their names suggest, are often hung in the coop, or from the top of a chicken run. They are a good way to feed chickens that have to be confined, as they still allow for maximum floor space in the coop and run. Even free-range chickens may need to be confined, for example if there is an outbreak of avian flu, or during severe weather. It is therefore worth investing in hanging feeders to cover this eventuality.
While moving a feeder off the floor is a good first step to deterring vermin, remember that most rodents can jump and climb, so you will need to check your feeder to ensure that vermin haven’t got to it. This should be done on a daily basis.
Treadle feeders, once chickens have worked out how to use them, are the best option for keeping vermin and non-poultry birds away from your chickens’ feed, as the treadle should only respond to a chicken’s weight. Bear in mind, however, that rats are very intelligent, and may learn to open the lid, bypassing the treadle.
Automatic feeders are usually treadle-operated, but can be set to only release food at a set time. This is ideal with free-range chickens, as it encourages them to search for natural additions to their diet, which helps improve their intelligence and behaviour, and makes for healthier chickens overall.
An automatic feeder will usually be of minimal attractiveness to rats, as it won’t always release food if it is set on a timer. However, as with all feeders, you will still need to check daily for vermin activity.
Automatic feeders are also good if you are regularly out at work for the day, as you can set it to feed your chickens before you get home, so they’re not kept waiting.
The Best Poultry Feeders for 2018
Miller 12lb Galvanized Hanging Feeder
The Miller Feeder is a solid, durable feeder, although it doesn’t come with a lid. Lids can be purchased separately, but are quite costly.
The Miller hanging feeder also has a tendency to clog easily, which will result in frustrated, annoyed chickens! It may also mean that trapped food goes stale without being noticed: as well as attracting vermin, this will encourage disease, which you definitely don’t want.
- Solid and durable
- Would benefit from a lid
- Clogs easily
Value For Money?
This feeder is a good price, so, if you’re not bothered about thoroughly checking it daily, and periodically shaking it throughout the day to release trapped feed, it could be a good basic option for use in your hen house or coop.
- Hanging galvanized feeder Holds 12 pounds of feed
- Hanging feeders Saves floor space and cuts down on debris in the feed
- Reduces feed waste by eliminating scratching
Grandpa’s Farms Automatic Feeder
Grandpa’s Farms Automatic Feeder offers you the peace of mind of knowing you don’t have to rush home to feed the chickens (unless you want to, or need a convenient get out from awkward gatherings!)
It is easy to assemble, and comes in two sizes, so, however large your flock, you should be able to get an automatic feeder that holds enough for them all – and remember, it’s good practice to have a couple of feeders, in any case.
This is metal construction, which can be cold to handle, and for chickens to stand on, in extremes of winter weather. However, most chickens will prefer to spend much of their time in the coop during cold weather.
As this is treadle-operated, some chickens do struggle to grasp exactly how it works.
- Easy to assemble
- Different size options
- Metal can become uncomfortably cold during harsh winters
- Chickens aren’t always quick to grasp how the treadle works
Value For Money?
These are very expensive feeders, and are probably more for the professional or semi-professional poultry keeper than the hobbyist keeping a small flock in their backyard.
- BUILT TO LAST: Unlike other chicken feeders, Grandpa's Feeders have a high quality galvanized Steel finish, which is built to last in the...
- RAT & BIRD PROOF: Grandpa's Feeders provide Feed on Demand for your flock, while keeping costly chicken feed away from wild birds, rats and...
- LARGE FEED CAPACITY: The Large Automatic Feeder will hold 40 lbs (18 kg) of feed. This feeds approximately 12 chickens for 10 days as a...
Automatic Treadle Feeder
The Automatic Treadle Feeder offers a full range of sizes, from the backyard handful right up to a professional-quantity flock. It comes with video instructions, both for assembling the feeder, and for training your chickens to use it.
It is watertight, and the step weight can be adjusted for lighter chickens, such as bantams.
The Automatic Treadle Feeder is not as durable as Grandpa’s Farms, and the trough can be a little narrow for larger chickens, including roosters, to feed from comfortably.
- Video instructions
- Adjustable step weight – ideal if you keep bantams
- Range of sizes
- Not as durable as other models
- Trough is somewhat narrow
Value For Money?
If you keep smaller breeds of chickens, this is more affordable than the Grandpa’s Farms model, and the adjustable weight is helpful.
However, if you have larger breeds, or keep a rooster, you are better off spending more to ensure all your chickens can comfortably access the feed trough.
- Keeps rats, mice, squirrels and wild birds from eating your chickens' feed
- 100% Waterproof - Feed always stays dry
- Installation video and training video links sent within 24 hours (When purchased from RentACoop)
Last update on 2018-04-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API