A Word from Farmer Jason
Before having thousands of birds on pasture, I had a backyard flock of hens. In my quest to learn all things thing chicken, I did lots of research on feeders.
What was the best way to get feed to chickens??? What worked? What was junk?
There was plenty of options out there. I saw PVC pipes cut in half, metal pans, wooden boxes, plastic pans, metal feeders, etc. It turns out the opportunities to feed chickens poorly were plentiful.
Some feeders created too much competition. Some just wasted buckets of feed.
First, it’s important to understand that hens EXCEL at wasting feed. That’s because laying hens are surprisingly smart given the size of their cranial capacity.
Hens approach a feeder by turning their heads and training a side-placed eye on their meal. Then they use their beaks as a spreader to reveal the choicest morsels, like corn.
Honestly, this cherry picking is one of the reasons pelletized feed was created.
However, pelletized feed is a more processed product that can be a lower-end meal for your birds. The money often goes into the expense of processing, rather than its ingredients.
Mash has its advantages.
The softer texture makes it easier for chickens to eat and digest. Also, since mash is low tech to make, your local feed mill can cheaply produce it with more budget left for better ingredients like a high-end mineral mix and speciality ingredients like non-GMO corn.
But what’s been most compelling for me has been the hen’s take. Our birds approached pellet feed with reluctance; whereas, they eat the mash with enthusiasm. Watching my girls eat with gusto fills me with the joy of an Italian momma.
So, what didn’t work? I want to take a moment to single out two common feeders that, in our experience, wasted chicken feed and were meal-time disasters. Made of attractive galvanized metal, they come in either 40lb., 30lb. or 12lb. size.
All sizes have a pan with a low lip making it too easy for hens to plow feed onto the ground, where it will go uneaten. Recall that hens use their beaks to move feed from side to side? These feeders lack an anti-waste grill to ward off picky poultry.
My experience with this style of feeder is that they jam – a lot. Feed just stops coming out and hens circle the feeder in dissatisfaction. That’s because the pan used with both feeders is flat and allows for feed compaction. The result? Fewer eggs and frustrated fowl. ( No one likes frustrated fowl.)
In particular, on our farm, the 12lb. feeder jammed so consistently that I’ve concluded these feeders would be best used as flower pots, really bad hand-to-hand weapons or, in a pinch, wheel chocks. If filled with concrete these 12lb. feeders would make an ok small boat anchor.
I started to dream of the ultimate feeder. One with a tall pan so there’s little waste, equipped with an anti-waste grill that would never jam. I wanted a feeder with incredible access that would decrease competition. Something that I could easily adjust for feed flow and set right on the ground.
After kissing a lot of frogs, I found my dream feed machine at the International Poultry Conference. It’s a feeder manufactured by Kuhl.
(In case you’re wondering, I have no relationship with this company other than being a happy customer.)
While I have no direct experience with their 22lb. version, I’ve had incredible success with Kuhl’s 50lb. feeder on the farm.
It’s inexpensive, amazingly simple and durable. I’d give it a solid 10 out of 10.
I found the best pricing at the link below, but it’s available lots of places online.
I gave this same advice to a backyard flock keeper who switched away from the galvanized feeder. He wrote, “Jason, thanks a lot for the feeder idea. I changed from the hanging tube feeder to the one that I already had in the shed with the feed saver grill. I have noticed a huge difference in the amount of waste on the coop floor because there is none!”
There’s nothing like the satisfaction of a good meal.