While chickens can scratch the ground and eat scattered feeds, they will waste some (or a lot) of feed.
Some feed will get stomped into dust, dirt, or mud, some will be contaminated with manure, and the chickens will let it mold and rot away.
For small flocks, the loss is minimal; for medium or larger flocks, this waste can add up quickly, attracting rodents, making a mess, causing odors, and wasting money.
To keep production costs low and your coop clean, it’s wise to invest in a DIY No-waste feeding container to reduce or eliminate waste.
Don’t worry; this is not particularly difficult or expensive, and I have several ideas to share with you.
How Do You Feed Chickens Without Waste?
The best way to feed chickens without waste is by feeding your chickens in limited quantities throughout the day or utilizing a no-waste chicken feeder.
If you’re a full-time homesteader who rarely leaves home, it’s perfectly acceptable to feed your chickens several times a day.
This will improve your bond, make them friendlier, and give you more chances to inspect your flock and coop.
The only downside to this is that you must be home nearly the entire day and be willing to keep a semi-strict schedule for their feedings.
Feeding limited quantities means they will be hungry enough to eat it all and search for lost pieces after the meal.
If you cannot accommodate the feed schedule, make a low or no-waste chicken feeder.
This automates the process and ensures they have free access to food all day long.
To ensure your chickens aren’t wasting food from the feeder, eliminate their ability to scratch the food with their feet.
If they can’t stand in their food source, they won’t be able to kick it all over the coop.
Yes, chickens have a natural drive to scratch through feed, looking for the best pieces.
Much like I, to my husband’s dismay, tend to pick through trail mix eating, everything except those awful raisins.
You can still meet their scratching desires by occasionally tossing in a handful of scraps, scratch feed, or fruits.
They will devour these treats, and your chickens will waste almost none of them.
Should Chickens Have Access to Feed All Day?
Chickens should have access to 30 to 40 grams of food three to four times a day, equaling about 120 grams of feed per chicken per day.
Chickens do not eat at night when they hop onto roosts, so they generally do not eat from dusk to dawn.
All of their food should be provided during daylight hours.
It doesn’t matter if you give free access all day or limited quantities several times a day, so long as they can eat three or four times per day.
To learn more about chicken feeding habits (and seven surprising feeding rules) check this out.
Can I Make A Homemade Chicken Feeder?
If you’re wondering, “what can I make a chicken feeder out of?” we’ve got all the crazy potential materials covered, most of which you probably already have lying around.
Making chicken feeders is surprisingly easy, and many of them can be made from waste or junk.
DIY No-Waste Chicken Feeder Ideas
Low Waste Bucket Chicken Feeder
I’m going to assume that you have a cracked or chipped five-gallon bucket somewhere on your property.
I know I have a few! One had a hot coal dropped in it, causing a tiny hole.
Another has a crack from being dropped with heavy ice inside, and I have a surplus of Costco dry detergent buckets.
Let’s use one of those to make a low-waste chicken feeder.
If you don’t have an ugly bucket, you can find a shiny new one at your local feed store for $3-7 (depending on your area).
Take a one-inch drill, and drill about five holes on the sides of the bucket, at least a half inch or inch off the bottom.
If you have half-inch (or smaller) drill bits, you can make a few holes side by side to achieve a one-inch hole.
The intention is for feed to pour into a pan or container.
Set the bucket with holes into a slightly larger pan, fill the bucket with feed, and then snap the lid back on the bucket.
A five-gallon bucket feeder will hold roughly twenty-five pounds of feed.
Twenty-five pounds of feed will last one chicken for ninety-four days, ten chickens for nine days, or twenty-five chickens for almost four days.
I like this feeder because it only requires a bucket and a drill, something many of us already have.
It’s also easy to refill and clean because the lid, bucket, and pan easily come apart.
No Waste PVC Pipe Feeder
For this feeder, you’ll need a long (three feet or longer) PVC pipe at least two to three inches wide.
You’ll also need a corresponding PVC elbow, one or two PVC end caps (optional), a fitting pipe strap, and screws for the pipe strap.
Snap the elbow onto one end of the long PVC pipe.
You will need an endcap on the bottom if it is a “T” pipe. If it is a true elbow, no endcap will be necessary.
Stand the pipe upright, with the elbow on the bottom near the ground.
Attach it to the wall of your coop using the strap and screws. If this feeder is outside, cover the open end at the top of the long pipe with another endcap so rain doesn’t mold or mildew the feet.
Fill the pipe with chicken feed.
The larger your flock is, the more you should create since only one chicken can access the feed.
This feeder widely varies in how much it holds depending on the width and length of the pipe.
PVC feeders are a bit more cumbersome to clean but relatively easy to refill.
To clean it, empty the feed, and the “pressure” wash down into the pipe with a garden hose or a pressure washer on the lowest setting.
You can use soap, but don’t leave any residue behind.
Garbage Can Chicken Feeder
This feeder is similar to the five-gallon bucket but on a larger scale with two added materials, PVC pipe elbows and silicon.
Drill holes in the side of the can (galvanized metal or plain plastic is fine), with the bottom of the hole about two or three inches above the bottom of the can.
The holes should be three or four inches in diameter.
Slip the PVC pipe elbow into the hole, with the elbow pointing down.
Seal the elbow into place with silicon, and let it dry fully before adding the feed.
A thirty-gallon garbage can holds roughly one hundred and fifty pounds of small pellet feed.
This will last ten chickens for fifty-four days, twenty-five chickens for about twenty-two days, fifty chickens for eleven days, or one hundred chickens for five days.
Like the five-gallon bucket and tote feeder (more on that below), it is easy to clean and hassle to fill.
DIY Tote Chicken Feeder
You can create this no-spill chicken feeder exactly like the garbage can feeder.
Use a clear tote (and then keep it inside the coop for UV protection) to make it easy to see how much feed remains between fill-ups.
Most standard tote feeders will hold about fifty pounds of chicken feed. Fifty pounds will last twenty-five chickens a week, or fifty chickens for four days.
Should I Hang My Chicken Feeder?
Hanging chicken feeders create less waste and generally stay cleaner than feeders that sit directly on the ground.
Chickens cannot as easily flip mud, muck, manure, and bedding into elevated feeders, which is helpful.
Still, not all feeders are suitable for hanging, and not all buildings can support the weight of these feeders, especially those 35 -100 gallon containers filled with chicken food.
Hanging chicken feeds is also more difficult (or impossible) for insects and small rodents to reach and eat from.
So if they could become an issue, go for a hanging setup.
Lastly, hanging feeders are typically easier to fill because you don’t need to bend over.
If you are differently abled or have chronic pain, opt for something easy to check and refill regularly.
Off-the-ground is usually the better option, especially for small-capacity feeders.
How High To Hang a Chicken Feeder Off The Ground
Chicken feeders must be accessible for you and your chickens.
Mount the hole or access point of the feeder at the average bird’s neck height.
If you need to hang the feeder higher than this, provide a way for the chickens to reach it, like a cinder block for them to stand on.
Should I Worry About Pests and Predators Getting Into My Chicken Feed?
Chicken feed appeals to more than just chickens; rodents, insects, other birds, and mammals can smell it and want their share.
Keep chicken feed inside the coop, if possible.
If that’s not an option, place it inside the enclosed run. This will at least eliminate most other outside birds, mammals, and stray pets from getting into it.
Keeping it off the ground will save a few bugs and small rodents like mice from getting into the food. Most rats will still be able to reach elevated feeders.
If rats are an issue, consider setting rat-sized snap traps that are out of reach for the chickens.
Alternatively, get an outdoor cat, a chicken-friendly dog, or surround the coop and run with an electric netted fence.
You can also hire a terrier dog (check with your local Rat Terrier Dog Club) to immediately kill all rodents.
Another concern you should have if you live in a bear country is black bears and grizzly bears.
They require a tremendous amount of food to maintain weight, especially as fall and early winter sets in.
If they can smell feed, they are more likely to attempt breaking into your coop (and subsequently eating your chickens once inside).
To prevent this, bring all chicken feed inside overnight, or better yet, protect the coop and run with an electric five to seven-strand fence with 12,000 volts / 1-joule output.
DIY No-Waste Chicken Feeder: Final Thoughts
While the thought of another building project may seem daunting (or exhausting), you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy this one is.
And once you’re finished, you’ll have another low-cost high-function item that will improve your day-to-day life.
It’ll cut feed costs while keeping your chicken coop considerably cleaner.
Did I miss anything?
We would love to hear if you have another low-cost DIY no-spill chicken feeder.