Outsmarting the Chickens at the Feeder

September 16, 2012
Sunshine, the culprit

If your chickens are like mine, they enjoy eating.  As we have a smaller coop, I use the Little Giant 3 pound hanging feeder for the girls.  It fits great in the coop and I only have to fill it every couple of days or so, that is when the girls are behaving.  The chickens enjoy “scratching” around in the feeder as they sort out and pick the best morsel to eat, even though all of them look identical to me. When the girls scratch around, they inevitably scratch some of the food right out of the feeder.  To minimize spillage and waste I did a few things.

1. Used a feeder that has an outer lip/rim.
2. Used a hanging feeder.
3. Used pellets vs. crumbles for feed.

The hanging feeder and Dolly seeking the perfect nesting box.

However, even this was not enough.  Sunshine was on my list.  Her new favorite habit has become emptying the feeder entirely as soon as it was filled.  I would fill it to the top, and by late afternoon, it would hang, empty blowing in the breeze with all the food scattered in with the pine shavings on the floor.  I tried to outsmart her.

1.  I began to fill the feeder with only enough food for the day.
2.  I tried to distract the girls with more free-ranging and hanging cabbage pinatas in the run.
3.  I refused to refill it until they ate most of the food off the coop floor.

And so it went, like this for weeks on end.  I began to research other feeders available that would fit inside my coop.  Sure, they had a plethora of larger ones that could go outside in the run, but I don’t like to keep food or water in the run “after hours”, as I feel it can attract scavengers including mice and rats.  Then, my prayers were answered.  A fellow chicken owner on Facebook, posted their idea to my problem.  So I decided to try it.  All I needed was a small piece of chicken wire and a pair of wire clippers.  I had both.

The idea was brilliant and simple at the same time.  The idea was by placing a layer of chicken wire over the feed, you could eliminate the girls spilling the food, while they still could access all the food.

Here is what I did:

1.  I took apart my feeder by detaching the metal arm and nut that ran through the feeder.
2.  I cut a larger piece of chicken wire in the shape of a circle that over hung the edges by about 3 inches.
3.  I put the feeder back together making sure that the food could still have enough room to get through the dispensing holes.
4.  I trimmed the edges of the chicken wire allowing them to over-extend the edges of the feeder by a tad bit.  These edges were sharp.  I tucked the edges under the lip of the feeder, so they would not be able to harm the girls by scratching them, pecking an eye out or anything else imaginable, chickens have a way of finding trouble.  The sharp edges could also be duct taped with large pieces of tape that the girls could not swallow if they removed them accidentally of course. DISCLAIMER:  If you chose to create something like this for your feeder, there is no guarantee that your chickens will avoid harm.
5.  I then refilled the feeder and rechecked that the edges were still where I had placed them.

Chicken wire runs all the way through the base of the feeder, sharp edges are tucked beneath.

Before placing the feeder back in the coop, I cleaned out all the pine shavings.  This was an experiment.  I had to have a clean laboratory.  All clean, I hung the it back.  So far, it has been about 5 days and there  is no spillage whatsoever.  Everyday, I expect to see even one pellet on the floor.  I am happily disappointed to find not a one!

A huge thank you goes out to Cliffside Chicken Ranch from Tilly’s Nest for showing us the way!


feeder outsmarting

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest


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28 thoughts on “Outsmarting the Chickens at the Feeder”

    • Yes, I mix food grade DE in with the pellets and I also add the grit and oyster shells directly to the food. Each time I refill the feeder, I sprinkle a little of around the bottom of the feeder.

  1. My first thought was to wonder why you would put a feeder in the coop as I don't want my chickens eating inside. Their feeder hangs underneath their coop, which is raised off of the ground. The way their feeder hangs now, I don't have a problem with spillage or getting bedding in there. But then I thought about winter. This will be my first with chickens and I'm not sure if they'll come out if it's very cold or after a snow, although they have a roof over part of their run. So I'll keep this in mind.

    • We are still going strong after over a week in place. I can't believe my eyes when I go in and find none on the floor. I think this is one of the best things I did since keeping chickens.

  2. I love the idea unfortunately I read a warning label when I went to purchase chicken wire :

    This label reads: WARNING: Proposition 65 – a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. *

    The alternatives are American-made fencing by Red Brand, made from 100% US steel, by Keystone Steel & Wire, a company in Bartonville, IL, in business since 1889. There ARE alternatives to buying Chinese products.

    • Good tip. Yes, chicken wire is galvanized steel coated with zinc. The warning comes when there is lead present-predominantly from Chinese products. Most large box stores like Lowes, Home Depot and TSC will have this warning because they are selling Chinese made chicken wire. Always check to see where your products are manufactured. This is important too with dog products, toys and food as well. Thank you for the comment.

  3. We just tried your ingenious suggestion. I hope it works! I was concerned that they just didn't like their laying pellets, I smelled the feed and it wasn't mildewed or anything like that, so we shall see! Thanks!

  4. Great retrofit! But if you're in the market for a new plastic hanging feeder, know that some manufacturers sell a plastic feeder that has an integral grid to prevent this very problem. I own one and it works very well for me…no waste at all.

  5. I was wondering how that is different from the feeders that have multiple holes for the chickens to peck out of. I have one of those and they STILL spill the food. Might the wire do better?

  6. Our girls free-range all day. We purchased Eglu Grubs to keep feed spillage down – we had to figure a way to mount them outdoors because those U.K. products don't fit over USA kennel wire. But now we have problems with too many mooching wild birds that enter the Grubs. We solved the wild bird waterer problem by getting Brite Tap Comb Package nipple valve waterers for our ranging chickens. For the feed-mooching wild birds we bought two chicken treadle feeders that we will try to train our old chickens to use. The feed can only be accessed by the chicken stepping on the treadle peddle to open the feeder and wild birds/mice/rats are too lightweight to trip the treadle. We're hoping the high lip in front of the feed area will keep the chickens from tossing the feed out. Wild birds are such a problem with chickens on the property!

  7. brilliant! can’t wait to try it! man I had the same thing happening, all of the sudden, you know. it never happened in the past. I thought our dog was wiggling through the chicken opening and causing the mess.

    I downsized the chicken door opening 3 times I was like surely the dog can’t fit through that. The mess kept showing up, so much waste!

    Thanks for posting this with the photos and all. This problem was stressing me out!

  8. Last hanging feeder I had was back in 2010. I’d come in and see it swinging back and forth from the rats leaping off it when they heard me coming. Never realized how much feed was being taken by the rats as the flock was growing with chicks I was hatching. Eventually I had thirty or forty chicks plus the adult birds so I set the hanging feeder on the ground. Every week I’d rotate in a new batch of feathered out chicks but I noticed they were disappearing and the remaining chicks were terrified every time I’d see them. Picked up the feeder one day to clean it out instead of dumping feed into it to re fill and a basket ball sized mob of rats flooded across my feet. Started making treadle feeders a few days later.

    • DE is food grade diatomaceous earth. You can get it anywhere livestock stores or feed stores are. It is pretty much available in most retail places like that.

  9. That’s cool but I just add large stones all the way around the feeder so they have to work at getting the food. No waste.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.