My chicken feeder plans in operation…a 55-gallon drum with a feed caster mounted on the bottom.
There are perhaps many chicken feeder plans that one might consider, so let me throw an idea out to you. If you like it, good, and if you don’t, feel free to throw it out as well. This design focuses on providing a high capacity for feed so you’re filling up your feeder less often. It also eliminates many of the concerns about birds and rodents eating the chicken food, chickens crapping in their food, and foul weather affecting the food.
The general design is an elevated 55-gallon drum with a feed caster mounted on the underside of it. The drum will hold about 350 pounds of food, so it ought to last your flock a very long time between fillings. The lid of the drum is naturally resistant to water intrusion, and if you add a seal, it will be storm proof.
I used a feed caster meant for fish, but chicken feed isn’t much different, and I’ve found it works very well to distribute crumbles, pelleted food, and hen scratch.
Here is the process of creating an automatic feeder from these basic chicken feeder plans:
Obtain a food grade 55-gallon drum with a lid that has a locking ring. It’s alright if the lid has two bungs on the top, just make certain it has a locking ring. And, make sure the bungs are sealed tight. Also, if it has a gasket around the inside of the lid, all the better.
Create a strong stand for the drum that allows you to keep it away from your chickens. I used two free-standing posts with a piece of channel iron mounted across them, and a set of iron cleats attached to one of the power pole uprights that holds the chicken yard fencing in place. I also used an iron strap as a belly band around the drum and secured that to the power pole. The heavy drum filled with feed isn’t going anywhere. Remember the drum and feed caster need to be positioned to cast feed out into the middle of the yard. Also, try to protect the feed caster from storms. The top of the drum has to be easy to access for filling, since you’re going to lift 50 pound bags of feed in order to fill it. I have two sturdy steps that allow me to easily access the top of the drum for filling. Test mount the empty drum to be sure it’s level and secure.
Get yourself a feed caster or similar game feeder that is powered by a 6 volt battery and designed to be mounted on the bottom of a drum.
Use the template that comes with the game feeder to identify the location and size of holes that need to be drilled into the bottom of the drum.
Drill the holes and mount the feed caster to the bottom of the drum.
This feed caster is mounted lower, using PVC piping, so as to avoid casting feed directly into the channel iron that braces one side of the heavy drum.
Carefully mount the drum on your stand, remembering that there is a feed caster mounted to the bottom of it.
Put one bag of feed in the drum and make several test runs of your feeder to make certain it’s casting the way you’d like it to.
When satisfied that all is well with the location, orientation and height of the feed caster, fill the drum with as much feed as you’d like it to hold.
Feel free to modify these chicken feeder plans to suit your interests and your particular situation. As it is, I had to modify mine a bit because of our weather conditions and how I mounted the drum. Here’s a bit of discussion about that.
I created a storm shield around the bottom of the drum to help eliminate driving rain and blowing snow from getting directly on the feed caster. Our snow rarely falls straight down, and our winds can cause rain to do much the same. Although game feeders are designed to be outdoors, I figure it will be outdoors much longer if I take better care of it.
Since my stand has a piece of channel iron holding up the front of the drum, I had to create a mount and feed tube extension to lower the feed caster about 6 inches. I used a few pieces of PVC tubing. Three 1/2 inch pieces allow me to mount the feed caster lower using long carriage bolts, and a piece of 1 and 1/2 inch PVC funnels the feed from the bottom of the drum into the top of the feed caster, just like it was mounted flush with the bottom of the drum. This lower mount allows the feed caster to cast feed below the channel iron and out into the yard.
In cold weather, the battery capacity was affected, and the feed caster stopped working. So, I placed the battery inside a water environment and ran heavy gauge wiring over to the feeder, careful to make certain I knew which wires were positive and which were negative, before making the alligator clip connections to the feed caster. I also had to drill a hole into the bottom of the housing and up through a portion of the battery holder (both of which are plastic) so the cable could enter the feeder and allow the cover to easily slide down over the wiring when it came time to adjust the timing of the feed caster. With the battery in a warmer environment, the feed caster works flawlessly.
Water has found a way to get inside the barrel, because my lid doesn’t have a gasket. This has caused some of the seeds to sprout and clump together. The water is either being blown in or it wicks in around the barrel lid. I’ll install a rubber lid gasket from another drum, or create a cap that can slide over the top of the barrel, and that will end that problem entirely. The concern about clumping feed is simply that it could clog the opening that serves the feeder and then your feeder spins without casting food. It’s something to check periodically. If there is loose food on the casting wheel, then nothing is plugged up. If there is no loose food on the casting wheel, that means you’re either out of food or there is a plug and the last casting cleared out the loose food after the clog set in.
So far I’m pleased with the performance of the automatic chicken feeder. I’ve been running it for several months and the feed caster battery still shows 100% power. According to the manufacturer, it should last about one year.
With six potential castings each day, and the ability to set each cast from one second to 60 seconds, you can set up your feed schedule just about anyway you’d like.
My chicken feeder plans make use of a battery operated feed caster that is easy to hook up and operate. It offers six different feed times, each with a range of feeding duration from one second to 60 seconds.
To be sure, there is a drawback having an battery powered device to feed your chickens, but I like the idea that the feed caster makes a sound that calls “the girls” to eat. With limited dispensing of chicken feed throughout the day, the wild birds in the neighborhood don’t have much time to get in there and steal food. Otherwise, I imagine I would lose about 25% of my feed to birds I don’t care to feed.
Here’s a video of the chicken feed caster in operation.
I’ll be experimenting with other chicken feeder plans and presenting my results for your review. Feeding chickens isn’t nearly as troublesome as the idea of trying to keep their water clean, but it’s one less task to be concerned about when you have an automatic feeder. For me, all I have to do is periodically check to see that the feeder is working, and I do this when I gather the eggs, so it isn’t really a separate task, and it’s not inconvenient at all.
If you’re interested in building something similar, I used this Moultrie Fish Feeder FeedCaster Kit to turn my chicken feeder plans into a reality.
As with his chicken waterer project, now Clair Schwan doesn’t have to mess with feeding chickens but once every couple of months. How easy is that? His only regular chicken chore is to gather the eggs.
Meat, eggs, milk, fur, hide and natural fertilizer can all be obtained from animals that are common around small farms, ranches and homesteads. It's a great way to complement what you grow in the field and garden plots. Being able to feed yourself is perhaps one of the most basic and essential of self-reliance skills.