Necessity is the mother of invention- and in this case, a need to not frequently handle feed bags due to a dust allergy inspired the creation of this multiple-week feeder.
The basic design of this feeder, one 5 gallon bucket set in a feed pan, is common but has a capacity of only about 1/3 to 1/2 of a 50 lb bag of chicken feed. I made two improvements to this design: #1, stacking buckets (which triples the capacity) and #2, lifting the feeder (which reduces the chance of bedding being pushed into the feed pan)
3 x 5 gallon plastic buckets
1 gamma seal lid (optional, but creates a dust-proof easy-open lid – especially helpful because your chickens will probably try to roost on this feeder and keeping waste out of the feed is very important)
1 metal feed pan
6 x 1.5 in bolts with nuts
handheld electric jig saw**
1.5″ hole saw bit for drill
1 drill bit similar circumference to your bolts
painters tape (masking tape or duct tape ok)
heavy duty epoxy glue or drywall screws (screws will create a sharp point in the bottom of your feeder, but outside of the access of chickens)
**This tutorial calls for more tools than my typical tutorial. If you don’t have a jig saw, a hand saw should work. Alternately, almost every pawn shop has a few jig saws on their shelves starting at around $10 or $15. My jigsaw was a $10 pawn shop buy and is going strong 3 years later!
Instructions For Making your Gravity Chicken Feeder:
Cutting the buckets:
Bucket 1: Using the 1.5″ hole saw drill bit, Drill holes at 3-4 inch intervals around the base of the bucket. (If you have trouble with your hole saw slipping, try covering the area with duct tape and trying again)
Bucket 2: Using the 1.5″ hole saw drill bit, drill one hole in the bottom of bucket #2. Then, using that hole for access, use the jigsaw to completely remove the bottom of the bucket.
Bucket 3. Measure 3″ up the side, and mark a line at that height all the way around the bucket. drill a starter hole for access, and then cut the bucket into two pieces. (the cylinder left will become part of the feeder, the bottom of the bucket will become the riser to life the feeder) You should end up with a bucket that looks like the red bucket below:
Next Step: Construction of the “Silo” portion:
Just like a grain silo, your feed storage bin will store your chicken feed vertically. As the chickens eat, gravity will cause the chicken feed to slowly automatically refill the feed pan for several weeks, until the vertical storage is depleted.
construction: lay out your pieces in the order illustrated: the cylinder of bucket 3, then bucket 2, then bucket 1 (with feeder holes), then feed pan, then riser.
Place bucket #2 partially into #3 (do not insert the bucket all the way down, but instead with bucket #1 overlapping #2 by about 6-8 inches.) Keep the inner bucket from slipping during this process by stuffing rags into the gap. Using a drill, drill a hole with a width the same as or just larger than your bolts. Drill through both bucket walls, insert the bolt, add the nut to the bolt, and tighten the nut halfway. I used wing-nuts because I had them handy, but they aren’t necessarily.
Add 2 more bolts in the same way to secure bucket #1 and bucket #2, then repeat the process to connect bucket #2. If you require a dust and waterproof seal you can add caulking or expanding foam to the gaps between buckets.
Last Step; Assembling pieces:
You can use screws (drywall screws will pierce metal and plastics) to attach the base, the feeder pan, and the silo together, however using a heavy duty glue ensures there will be no sharp points protruding anywhere. A heavy duty epoxy glue like Loctite Quickset works well to bond metal and plastic together solidly.
Coat the bottom of the column of buckets with epoxy and press firmly into the center of the feed pan. Next flip the entire feeder (plus attached feed pan over) and take the riser we made from the bottom of bucket #3, coat the bottom with epoxy, turn over, and press onto the bottom of the feeder pan. (so the center of the bottom of the feed pan has a bucket bottom glued to the top and bottom). With the feeder still overturned, add a weight on top and allow the glue to cure for 24 hours.
Once the glue has cured, your feeder is ready to use!
Please note that even though this feeder will auto-refill your birds’ feeder for an extended time (2-3 weeks, for my flock of 5-7 birds) you still need to check on your birds daily to make sure they have clean water and that the feeder is supplying fresh feed into a clean pan.
1. Feed set out 24/7 will potentially invite rodents. If you notice signs of rodents, for a few nights remove the feeder at dusk, replace with a bucket mouse trap placed in the location when the feeder normally sits, and replace the feeder in the morning.
2. Cover this feeder to prevent birds from nesting on the bucket rim and soiling the feed or from falling in. (Before I got a gamma seal lid I had a lid the chickens could occassionally get off and I one day when I noticed a hen missing a morningrolle call and went looking for her I found her trapped inside the feeder!)
3. This feeder can be top heavy when filled, for the safety of your chickens you’ll need to secure the feeder to something stable. I just looped a lightweight chain around the handle and hooked it on a hook on the center beam of my coop)