How to Build a Chicken Feeder

Learn to build a chicken feeder, and feed your flock without encouraging mold or supporting the local mouse and starling populations.

| July/August 2011

Chicken Feeder

Keep chicken feed dry and fresh longer with this DIY chicken feeder.

Jeff Nickols

Whether you have a large laying flock or just a few backyard hens, keeping them fed is a regular chore (never mind the expense), especially if the feeder isn’t weatherproof and allows rodents and wild birds access. One way to keep the feed safe from spoilage and purloinage is to keep it covered – but how will the chickens gain access? Through a bit of physics, it’s possible to employ some carefully designed levers and fulcrums that will cause the feeder to open when a chicken (or an object of similar weight) steps on a perch-like treadle; let us teach you how to build a chicken feeder. The best part is that you can build a treadle-opened feeder yourself – in fact, it makes a fun weekend project that can be completed with common tools and basic carpentry skills. You will be pleased with the result because the feed is kept dry, songbirds, mice and other rodents can’t get in the feed, less feed is wasted by the chickens scattering it, and the feeder will hold several days’ worth of food. Follow these directions to build a chicken feeder.


Using the feeder

This was our first time raising chickens, and when I first put the feeder out, the chicks were too small and frightened to raise the lid by themselves. I put a brick on the treadle and left the lid up for a few weeks. After the chickens got used to standing on the platform to eat, I removed the brick. They had no problem adapting to the treadle after that.

Several people have been concerned that the feeder will become some type of decapitation device, clamping down on a chicken’s head, leaving the chicken running around like a … well, you know. First of all, cedar is a fairly light wood, so the lid does not crash shut with a lot of force. Second, chickens learn quickly – they only have to get whacked on the head a couple of times before they figure out the process.

The first few days after removing the brick from the treadle, I did notice a process I called “eating from the side.” One chicken would stand on the treadle eating, while a second chicken would come in from the side and start eating without being on the treadle. When the first chicken finished eating and stepped off the treadle, the second chicken would get whacked on the head. But, once again, chickens learn pretty quickly. Our chickens are growing just fine, and they don’t seem to have suffered any harm; they’re every bit as entertaining as they’ve always been.    

I constructed my feeder using one 21⁄32-inch-by-16-inch-by-72-inch edge–glued pine panel for the body of the feeder and two 5⁄8-inch-by-6-inch-by-72-inch cedar fence boards for the trim and arm pieces. You may substitute plywood for the pine and cedar boards. I used scraps from my chicken coop construction for the first feeder I constructed. Even purchasing all of the lumber, the cost was less than $20: $15.79 for the pine panel and about $2 each for the cedar fence boards. Add a few wood screws and wood glue, and you have all the supplies you need to get started.  

4/19/2015 4:04:15 PM

9/24/2014 5:16:27 AM

if you want professionally built demand feeders for you chicken or ducks .. i recommend peckomatic feeder.... they are of good quality..

4/11/2014 1:34:10 PM

All the links are broken in this article. I was really wanting to build one of these, but without the plans, its kinda hard.

9/18/2012 6:27:23 AM

Good idea, I will do that as well. Thanks!!!

9/18/2012 6:26:44 AM

Bought all of the supplies to build the feeder today. Can't wait to quit feeding the mice and birds... I am having some difficulty reading the fractions...and would really really appreciate it if someone could please post them. I tried enlarging and using a magnifying glass and still they are fuzzy. Thanks so much and thanks for the plans. Oh also for the front of feeder board and the slanted board inside the feeder looks like they are 10 1/4 and 6 1/4 inches but the board is only 16 right? Please help before I start so much.

Ed Burns
4/17/2012 2:06:51 PM

Great idea... I will build one ASAP. I do have a suggestion for CAPPER's GRIT. Please consider putting these projects in PDF format. Thank you.

Grace Hallett
4/14/2012 12:09:09 AM

I couldn't wait to try building your treadle chicken feeder, but I really didn't want my girls (the ones who are the sneaky 'side feeders') to get whacked in the head while learning to use it. I knew that if I "thought on it" long enough, I would come up with a solution. And... I did! When I built the feeder, I simply made the "treadle" part 8" wider than the body of the feed box. In other words, the treadle sticks out 4' to either side, so those "side feeders" are also standing on the treadle. Now when the chicken in front steps off, the side-feeders are also standing on the treadle. No more whacked heads!

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