One blustery evening last winter, my wife and I ventured out to the chicken coop to do the chores after dark. The temps were well below zero and the snow was over the knee if we strayed from the shoveled pathway. I grabbed our standard 1-gallon poultry drinker with frozen hands, only to find out that it was frozen too. It was a solid block of ice and the red bottom wasn’t budging. In my late winter frustration, I banged it a few times on the side of the coop to try to loosen the ice inside so I could remove the lid to fill it. Grabbing the handle, I twisted vigorously, thinking it had to break loose at some point.
“Stop, you’re going to break it,” my wife said.
“It’s not going to break,” I replied, determined to free the drinker from winter’s grasp.
Just as soon as I finished my sentence, winter proved her right. One of the three tabs on the red bottom busted off, sending a 1-gallon chunk of ice to shatter at my feet. I refilled it, hoping it would hold water. After putting the red lid back on and turning it over for the chickens, the water rushed right through the bottom where the tab was broken. The drinker was done for. I filled a bowl of water for the hens, and then went back inside for a slice of humble pie.
The next day, we replaced the poultry drinker with another one just like it. The busted drinker stayed on the barn shelf for the rest of the winter, laughing at me every time I walked through the door. I knew I would use it for something eventually, I just didn’t know what yet.
A few days ago, I was looking for an excuse to take a short break from our fence-building project. My hands were full of blisters and pin holes from stretching welded wire, and I needed a little change of pace. So, I decided to redeem myself by turning the busted chicken drinker into a fully functional chicken feeder with supplies I had laying around the barn. We’ve needed another feeder in the coop since we introduced our 10 young hens, anyway. So, we got to it.
First, we found a tray in the barn that we weren’t using anymore. It’s one that sits under heavy pots to catch the water after giving your plants a drink. Any old tray with raised sides will work. The next step is the most important of all in the process of repurposing a busted poultry drinker. Remove the metal handle and turn the busted drinker upside down. That’s right; it’s as simple as that. Because the drinker is now upside down, the busted tab on the red lid can’t leak anymore. Two out of the three tabs are still in place, so the lid on the feeder is plenty sturdy enough to take on and off and fix a handle to.
Next, drill four holes in the bottom of the new feeder, which actually used to be the top. The size of the holes depends on how big the feed is. They just need to be big enough to constantly keep the tray full as the chickens eat the feed.
Place the upside down feeder into the middle of the tray. Find the holes that the handle you just removed went through. Using a pencil, mark the tray near the holes. Using a small drill bit, poke a couple holes in the bottom of the tray. String wire up through the holes on the tray, and then through the holes that the handle used to be attached to. Twist it tight underneath the whole contraption to keep the feeder attached to the tray. You can now attach the handle to the top of your feeder by simply drilling a couple holes in the red lid and bending the handle a bit to fit snugly in the holes. Fill the feeder with your grain and twist the lid back on.
That’s all there is to it. The whole process only gave me about a 5-minute break from fence building. It gave me a lot of satisfaction though. One of the major components of trying to build a homestead is using what you have on hand to get the job done. You reuse things when you can, even if it’s for an entirely different purpose. We needed a new feeder to accommodate the extra chickens anyway, so we saved a few bucks and a trip to the farm store in the process. Now the chickens rarely eat out of the old feeder that they’ve had for years. They seem to prefer this new one and they line up for it come supper time.