Animal HousingBird LifeLivestock

How to Make a Home Made Chicken Feeder

Photo copyright © Craig Mackintosh

In the old days, farmers would have lots of left over pieces of galvanized tin sheeting. To make a chicken feeder they made the tin into a tube cylinder and suspended it above a plate and hung it in the coop.

Today, unfortunately, most people forget how easily people made these things for a dollar or less. I went to our local Feed Store and they wanted $70 to buy a galvanized chicken feeder. I was so angry.

I went to the local hardware store and bought 25 liter water barrels. Thats 6 1/2 gallons for you guys still living in the old measurement system. People here use them for water and camping (obviously) but also for brewing their home made beer and wine and mead because the plastic is HDPE or high density polyethelene which is a food-grade plastic that is safe to drink water from and safe for using as water and food feeders for chickens. If you use any old plastic, not made of HDPE for food or water storage, then you put chemicals into your chickens that end up in the eggs and in your own body. Looking out for your chickens’ health and happiness means you are also looking out for your own health and happiness.

This and next photo © Peter Dilley

If you go to a brewing store here and buy the same container they will charge you $30 or more for each container (angry again). So I went to the hardware store and they are $15 each and sometimes you can get them on sale for $10 each.

I then got a cheap hole saw kit made in China to cut out circle holes for installing can lighting in ceilings. I used the largest hole saw, about 100mm, or 4 inches in the old measurement system, and I measured how tall my average chicken stands when not lifting its head into the air. I used this measurement to put the center holes of the guide drill in the middle of the hole saw blade to start cutting using my battery operated drill. Because the center drill bit went at chicken height, there is 50mm, or 2 inches, below the hole, above the hole, and to the sides, giving the chicken a lot of room to get in no matter how big or small a breed they are. Even 5 to 6 week old chickens that are feathered out can reach over the bottom lip of the holes.

I fill the chicken feed below the holes and you can see through the plastic to see how far you’ve filled the feeder and you can see how much feed is left when it is time to refill the feeder. One feeder has layer’s feed, the other feeder has water.

With the water I don’t mind filling to the bottom lip of the holes because it is only the layer’s feed that chickens throw around with their beaks. Because the chickens stick their head in high, they can not scratch the feed and spill it on the floor wasting it. Because chickens stick their heads in, when they toss food around with their beaks very little, if any, escapes the feeder, saving feed and money. That is why filling the feed a few inches below the bottom hole lip is important. Otherwise chickens will pull and pile the feed up against the hole and then start tossing it out on the floor, wasting feed.


  1. The water container also stops the chooks from fouling the water with faeces like they do with an open water container.

  2. Good idea. You can get food grade plastic containers for very little from recycle centres. They come out of the restaurant trade and have been used to storing things like vegetable oil. Some are buckets with lids that you could adapt to your plan, some are more like cannisters which would need more jigging as they don’t have a wide cap on top (you could fill with a funnel though).

    Did you file off the edges of the holes? They look a bit rough in the first photo.

  3. It is high enough to keep out mice, I am unsure about rats. I have yet to see rats attempting to eat from the feeder.

    Rough edges are in the first photo because it had just been cut with the hole saw. I was starting to file the edges but I found I could just pull the loose bits of plastic off with my fingers which ended up in a cleaner overall hole edge, so I finished all the holes by just pulling with my fingers.

  4. Nice idea! Another way to make the holes without a saw kit is to heat up a tin coffee can on the stove for 5-10 minutes then, using tongs or some kind of hand protection, press the hot can against the plastic feeder to melt the holes. Be sure to do it outside or in a very well-ventilated room. This method works well; I’ve used it to make a simple glove box for mushroom cultivation out of a plastic storage bin.

  5. Off Topic: Mushrooms! Sounds interesting rob. I built mine out of a plastic storage bin as well. Used some duct couplings that clamped on the inside and stuck out the outside and were large enough to get my arms through. Then some heavy duty rubber gloves over the outside and pushed through and I had my glove box. Later on I added a frame, and HEPA filter for home heating systems but I didn’t get my seal super tight but it still worked for doing petri and jar work transferring and growing spores to petri plates to mycelium transfer to jars of grain. I may get back into building some mushroom equipment again over, but this time over here in Australia but expect it to be my next property.


  6. Can the chickens eat all the feed to the bottom of the container? If they can’t empty it out the food will eventually get moldy.

  7. Does this setup keep birds out of your chook feed, too?

    I’ve got a real problem with Indian mynahs and bowerbirds eating all the feed. I estimate I’m going through about twice as much feed as I should be, supporting all these additional flocks of birds.

  8. If the chickens are not able to reach the bottom of the container, cut out the hole lower in the barrel. Each breed will be slightly different in height, but I simply watch the flock on first use of the barrel and adjust the heigh accordingly. With the young 5 to 6 week old chicken, I simply left a few bricks near one entrance hole so it or any other chicken can step up and reach into the barrel further.

    As far as keeping out native birds, I leave the food inside the coop area and the door open so any non-native invasive species can easily be caught inside and dealt with accordingly.


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