Here in our peri-urban paradise we have to stay on top of managing rodents and birds getting into our chickens' feed.
Over the years we've tried lots of different designs and none of them have worked as well as we needed. Then I stumbled across a design on YouTube for an automatic feeder. Can I just say, it actually works.
The basic premise is that the bucket is full of grain. A hole has been drilled into the bottom and a toggle (an eye bolt with a chunk of wood attached) is installed which the chooks peck to access the grain - only a few grains at a time.
This means they peck once, then quickly eat all the grain off the ground before doing another peck to get more grain - ensuring no excess grain is left out on the ground for rodents and birds.
This is an automatic feeder, which means you don't have to tend them every day (as long as they have access to fresh water). So you can go away for the weekend or just improve efficiency in your garden tasks.
It's easy to make - here's how we did it:
One bucket with a handle and lid. I recommend either a 20-litre or 10-litre bucket so it can hold a decent amount of grain. A five millimetre eye bolt; and a chunk of wood.
Using a 16 millimetre drill bit - drill a hole into the bottom of the bucket.
This size of the hole will vary depending on what type of grain you have. We have mixed grain with chunky sunflower seeds included - so our hole is quite generous.
If you're not sure, start with a small hole and gradually make it bigger.
Drill a five millimetre hole into the chunk of wood and poke the eye bolt through, with the eye on the inside of the bucket.
Then screw the eye bolt into the chunk of wood - which I call the toggle.
That's it. (Told you it was easy).
Next up you can hang it in your chook run. Make sure you hang it from a chain or a steel rod so rodents can't crawl along it to access the bucket.
The other hot tip is to make sure it's not too close to the ground that rodents could jump up to hit the toggle to release the grain.
And don't worry about the chooks working it out. They're very clever when it comes to food, and will have orientated themselves to it within one day.
This has been a game changer for us. The flocks of sparrows (small birds) are no more and I'm feeling cautiously optimistic the rodents that live in our neighbouring bushland won't find the chook food.
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