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Multi-choice (buffet style) feeder designs, ideas, etc.

 
Devon Olsen
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Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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Hello everyone,been a while since ive had time to spend on permies but i wanted to confide in the permies community for discussion of multi choice feeders for chickens
now by multi choice i mean a feeder designed to be filled with unmixed feeds, so for a simple example, lets say i wanted to feed a mix of corn oats and barley, a common feed mix from my understanding, rather than having one fill chamber where i would fill a premixed mixture of the three grains, a multi-choice feeder would instead have three fill chambers, one for oats, one for corn and one for barley, the chickens would then be able to choose to eat corn, oats or barley without picking through, eating or throwing any of the other two grains to the ground while eating that particular grain

some of the benefits i see to this are:
the individual bird could see to its own nutritional needs in a more precise manner
feed to weight may be more effecient, in my head anyway)
less wasted feed
less risk when  experimenting with a new ingredient in their diet as they could choose to avoid that ingredient easier than if it were mixed with their feed
i would not have to mix feed
could save money on feed as you wouldnt be buying more of any one grain than you needed based on your flocks consumption
could be used by single breed flocks as well as multi breed flocks without losing any efficiency

some of the issues that i could see or would like to overcome with design
feeder would likely need to take up more space
feeder could weigh more both empty and full
addition of supplements such as kelp or powders could be problematic, you would need to mix with one of the feeds to prevent wasting money on feeding more kelp than the birds need, which could result in the birds eating more of that particular grain for the purpose of the kelp and not the grain



i am trying to come up with a decent design by spring of next year (2017) so that i can use the feeders with pastured broilers (so 75 birds to a feeder) and as of right now i have not seen anything on the market that i think would work short of buying a dozen smaller feeders so if you know of anything please let me know, if not then i would appreciate any helpful discussion drawing from the wide permies knowledge and idea base, thanks in advance
 
Charli Wilson
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Location: Derbyshire, UK
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Depends on how many chickens you have, but I make my feeders out of drainage pipe (downpipe)- and it would be easy to make extra ones for extra feed types.

I don't have any pictures right now, but they're basically this:


Mine have a kink in the pipe and go through the wall of the run- so I can fill them from outside.

You could probably add straight sections to the bottom if you needed to be able to feed more chickens at once, something like:
 
Devon Olsen
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I had what I thought was a great response tired up but either my phone or internet thinks it's too early lol so I'll just have to retypeit at some point, please keep the discussions alive until my return...
 
Druce Batstone
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Here is my take on a multi-choice feeder. In this case, the feeder has mixed feed in three compartments and shell grit in the fourth.
Feeder-4-Way.jpg
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4 compartment feeder
Bucket-Feeder.jpg
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Devon Olsen
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ok, now for typing up (again) my response as well as a new response for the new post (thank you druce)

so for the pvc feeders i had a lot to say but i think i can just sum it up by retyping my benefits vs drawbacks list as i remember except adding current thoughtsx and removing the ones that ive forgtten

the benefits i see to the pvc style:
-Modular design allows for small changes and additions to be made without replacing all of the components at once
-ability to add feed from outside the pen, one of my favorite
-gravity feed system allows feed to be stored with the chickens so that you do not have to add feed from bulk storage as often
- ease of feed seperation
- ability to space out feeders so as spread out activity and ground impact
-easy to assemble
- easy for guests/apprentices/friends to figure out your free choice system in your absence
- without major modification you can change h0w many birds it can supports
- with this particular pvc design the feeder is not swinging and is therefore not a hazard to the birds when moving the pen ( not sure if benefit or drawback as this also means you have to provide a means of secure attachment to the pen)
- gravity feed system may also prevent or reduce likelyhood of feed dust collecting and filling the feeder

drawbacks
- its plastic
- it will eventually b e broken down by the sun though there are kinds of pvc that will last longer in sun they still are weakened by the sun
- prone to shattering due to weather fluctations such as extreme cold and heat
- a real pain in the ass to pick up shattered pieces after such an incident
- which means soil and groundwater pollutants
- whether you do it more often to avoid the bullshit above or wait til that happens pvc does need more regular replacement than say stainless steel
- expense both upfront and ongoing as mentioned above, some people claim that pvc is cheap but i tend to feel that it is relatively expensive
- if you make feeders with flat sections then you encourage roosting on feeder and thereby poop in the feed

as i WOULD have said had my first response worked, i really apprecate your input and thoughts and dont mean to be unappreciative in any way nor do i intend to shoot down or discredit certain ideas, i am merely trying to write down in one location the pros and cons to help in my final desicion

on to the bucket again i also appreciate your response and think that all ideas regardless of drawbacks or benefits are helpful to the end game for both myself and guests who view the post so thank you for your contribution to the permies community


benefits
- easy to build
- reduces or eliminates feed waste
- prevents chickens from roosting directly on and pooping in the feed
- this design allows for 4 different types of feed for each feeder
- can be hung anywhere in the pen as feed is protected from weather by the design
- is also relatively easy for an apprentice friend or relative to figure out in your absence

drawbacks
- is also plastic
- this design does not allow more than one or two birds to access the same feed at the same time
- makes great places for feed dust to fill feeder and displace room for actual feed
- makes it difficult refill feed without spilling or removing bucket from hanger


i am sure there are more to both drawbacks and benefits, feel free to add any you see that i missed and perhaps i will add more later, anyway, ill be back to continue this discussion



 
chad duncan
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I also have feeders made from plastic pipe. Mine are made up using black ABS (sewer pipe), it is much thicker and stronger than thin walled pvc. My feeders have been outdoors and subject to sun, rain, snow and geese and have no signs of damage, I didn't even glue them together and they are still solidly attached together.

You might have some trouble if you allow the chickens to regulate their food choice on their own. Much like children they will likely eat the candy (corn) first while ignoring the vegetables.
 
Devon Olsen
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How long have your feeders been in use? How many chickens do you typically feed with each one?
Anything made of plastic I've ever fed chickens with gets scratched and pecked up as if they are eating it or at least integrating it into their bedding or the pasture have you nocticed any scratch damage on your feeders?
 
chad duncan
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The oldest feeder is two years old. No scratches or cracks. I am using 3 inch pipe so only one chicken eats at a time but they share it well. I have seven chickens that use that particular feeder. In another coop I have a similar feeder with a wooden box (for extra capacity) on top of two plastic pipes and that feeder services a number of turkeys. The turkey coop also has some standard poultry feeders so I can't put a number on how many use that one specifically. In my brooder cabinet I have one that is three pipes under a wooden box so that the chicks never have to wait. None of them shows any signs of wear and none of them are glued together.
 
chad duncan
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In my primary coop, I have a 45 gallon barrel over top of 4 pipes and that feeds around 50 birds.
 
chad duncan
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These are my feeders.
20150825_203201.jpg
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20150301_175121.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20150301_175121.jpg]
 
Devon Olsen
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Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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How long have your feeders been in use? How many chickens do you typically feed with each one?
Anything made of plastic I've ever fed chickens with gets scratched and pecked up as if they are eating it or at least integrating it into their bedding or the pasture have you nocticed any scratch damage on your feeders?
 
Wes Hunter
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Do a Google search for hog self-feeders.  You may have to include a "DIY" qualifier.  The best hits will likely be from university extension websites.  There are many variations, typically made of wood, that can get you started.  Dimensions will obviously be larger than you need, but they'll be scalable.

I see no need to feed kelp/DE/etc. mixed with grains--just include separate compartments for whatever you want to offer.  That said, I've seen multiple reports that suggest cafeteria-style feeding offers no particular benefits, but I've never tried it.
 
Charli Wilson
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My feeders have been in use 3 years or so, no damage yet but I only have 4 chickens. The squirrels cause infinitely more damage than the chooks ever do- when I was using 'standard' poultry feeders the squirrels were constantly gnawing and destroying them.

Made from the same stuff as the downpipe on my house that is 22 years old, and still not particularly brittle!
 
Devon Olsen
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Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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Thank you everyone for all of the responses, I am finding all of them to be helpful and appreciate the advice in all directions, few more questions and some input of my own more or less
The only that buffet style feeding is of no particular benefit had popped up more than once can someone extrapolate on this a little bit more? Is the chickens going for the "candy" the main reason this is considered not really worth it?
Does anyone know of anyone who has shared their experiences and experiments of feeding chickens with and without kelp?

Also, for now I have added a feeder of my own for a couple reasons, mostly because I had too many chickens crowding my 30 lb capacity hanging feeder at once and was concerned about them scratching easier up for feed, this feeder is essentially a tray with a cylinder spaced above it to allow the feed in the cylinder to equally gravity feed into the tray, I actually kinda like this feeder for preventing much roosting as I have yet to find chicken poop in the feed dispite the open top design the only thing I didn't like was cost 17 bucks for one feeder(not prohibitively expensive but I would like better cost to bird capacity) and also I opened a third line if credit and needed to use it to boost credit score so I decided to use it to take care of my feeder problem

Gutter/tray style feeder
Benefits
Can be steel out other metal, can also be vinyl
Can be 4-6 inches wide
Length and capacity can be adjusted based on your needs
Cost effective ( I made two four foot feeders and one two foot feeder for about 15 bucks)
Capacity I have found that one four foot feeder is enough for my 45 birds for a full 24 hrs without running out of feed
Ease of construction ( take gutter, cut to length and put end caps on it, bend over back edge to remove any sharp edges)
Can be used for multi choice by pouring different feed into different sections
Drawbacks
Easy for chickens to poop in feed
As feed is eaten chickens are more likely to poop in it as they climb on it to get to the feed
Requires stabilizers to prevent tipping
More feed is wasted then with hanging feeder
To hang requires some way of securely attaching end caps to support the weight of feed
Hanging requires twice the rope or chain
Requires daily cleaning
Allows for unhealthy feed between feedings and cleanings due to poop in feed
May be difficult for helpers to figure out your multi choice idea
Must be placed in protected area to prevent weather damage to feed
 
chad duncan
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On my single tube feeder, I have no food waste of any kind, but on the four tube barrel feeder I get a small amount of waste. I don't know why that would be, perhaps it's the number of birds or maybe one has a different height from the ground where the birds put their heads in. Both feeders waste less food than the generic farm supply feeder I used to have. If you should try a feeder like mine there are a couple details that don't show up in the pictures. In the bottom of the'Y', I have a blue cap turned upside down and pressed in to fill the space at the bottom of the 'Y' so that there isn't a bunch of feed in there that the chicken may not be able to reach. It is a very tight fit because the blue cap is the same size as the 'Y' but with a little bit of swearing and sweat it will go in. Be sure to use a 'test cap' and not a hard 'pipe cap'. And on the open end that the birds eat from there is a three inch piece of pipe inserted and this small piece is what keeps the hen from scratching the food out on to the floor. The diameter of the pipe is 3" and this is large enough for chickens, turkeys and even embden geese.
 
Wes Hunter
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Devon Olsen wrote:The only that buffet style feeding is of no particular benefit had popped up more than once can someone extrapolate on this a little bit more? Is the chickens going for the "candy" the main reason this is considered not really worth it?


With a diverse enough mix of feedstuffs, the birds are going to get what they need regardless of whether the feed is pre-mixed or free-choice.  That said, I can only assume that the studies mentioned are looking at it from an economic perspective and showing that any benefit of increased production (assuming there is increased production) doesn't make up for the increased costs of labor and materials.  If you don't look at it that way, then those studies are irrelevant.

I'd be interested to see a study of actual productivity differences between the two systems, as well as how feed consumption of the various components changes throughout the year, and how that relates to pasture/forage availability, etc.  Do they eat more corn in the early spring when they need more energy?  Less high protein feed in summer when bugs are plentiful?  Would be rather fascinating, I think.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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