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Pros and cons of automatic feeders  RSS feed

 
Angela Aragon
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I have a small flock of 18 laying hens. I have them both for eggs and as a chicken tractor. I recently saw a couple of videos on how to make an automatic chicken feeder out of a 5-gallon bucket and a PVC elbow. The obvious benefit to these systems is that you do not have to personally go out and feed the birds every day. However, I could not help but wonder if you go through feed faster with an automatic system. My birds seem to be perpetually hungry. Another thing I wondered about is if an automatic feeder would have a dampening effect on the chicken tractor function. After all, if a bird has an all-you-can-eat buffet every day, they might not be as inclined to scratch and forage.

Does anyone have experience with automatic feeders and can talk about their pros and cons?
 
Judith Harbach
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Hi There, I have 16 hens and recently bought an automatic feeder. I can't speak highly enough of it for the following reason. It has reduced my feed bill by half, yes half. We bought it as a solution to a rat problem that had started to escalate. We knew we lost food to pigeons etc etc but suddenly the rat population became noticable. It took a day or two for the hens to get the hang of it and I do give them some corn in the afternoon as a treat and yes they always act as if they are ravenous when they see me then turn their noses up at what I have to offer unless its their favourite treats such as cooked veg peelings. The egg laying didnt change when the feeder was introduced. They also "bill out" less feed too. I had tried all sorts of ways to prevent that from happening, there was a lot of waste. I feed them organic layers pellets and now put a tray under the feeder which stands on a pallet, which means i can pull out the tray and give them the billed out pellets rather than them becoming a yukky mess on the ground. My girls are ex commercial birds and seem a bit lazy at scratching unless its digging up paths or any plants that I want to keep. The feeder holds 20 kgs, one sack of pellets, which all winter have stayed dry. The only downside ? it clanks a bit as each hen steps on or off the footplate. Not a huge noise but if it were very close to the house I might get a bit cranky about it. It was expensive, about £100 but in 6 months it has almost paid for itself. I did think about trying to make one but in a moment  of weakness hubby ordered one. Glad he did
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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forest garden trees urban
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I have a DIY auto feeder. At this point it only has grit in it.
For me,it did spoil my hens. Two birds taken from a flock used to devouring food scraps learned to wait for BOSS and crumbles,ignoring meats,veg,fruit,etc.
With new birds from that same flock I haven't made that same mistake ,no free access to food for them,and they still eat scraps with great delight.
I'm hoping the newer hens will remind the spoiled ones what good eating is,after all chooks seem to want whatever their flock mates have more than anything.
 
Angela Aragon
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Two different experiences so far. I hope that there will be more responses to help flesh this out.

One other thing that I have been concerned about is fighting. My birds are pretty aggressive going after food. I successfully have managed this through decentralization, distributing the food in 3 separate small feeding troughs made of longitudinally cut 6" PVC. The most aggressive always go for the first trough, but the others do not panic because they know that food will be put in the other two. Once I have distributed the food, the birds runs back and forth, sampling food from each source, even though I always put the same food in all three. It is fun to watch them.

An automatic feeder is a centralized source for food, which could result in some heated competition over who gets to eat first or even if certain birds get to eat at all. Has this been a problem for anyone?
 
Judith Harbach
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When I first had a group of 28 hens i did have 4 feeding stations because I was worried about the pecking order. My hens are free range and seem to have different meal times. Now i have just one automatic feeder and they seem to have learnt who eats when . No noticable fighting other than the odd peck to push someone out of the way. When they have veg and food scraps I use an 8 foot length of plastic gutter just dropped on the ground so everyone has room to feed at the same time, and its easy to clean, and its too narrow for them to perch on and poo on the food.
There are such a variety of personalities and characteristics amongst the hens , but as i said earlier they are ex commercial so perhaps they learnt different behaviour. They do get lots of human contact. Very entertaining
 
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