Oh, those little sparrow thieves! Nothing drives a chicken owner crazier than watching dozens of wild birds boldly gobbling up valuable feed. There are myriads of feeder styles you can try out to determine if they’re the right fit for your coop—and we’ve outlined some options below—however, the trigger feeder has proven to be the easiest and most effective option for minimizing feed waste and keeping panhandling birds and rodents away.
First, let’s take a look at your options, and why they’re not ideal.
When we first purchased our chickens, we purchased this standard hanging feeder from our local feed store. The sparrows had a field day with this one, hanging out on the red tray and enjoying the buffet. We needed a change.
Many chicken owners have shared ideas for building feeders like this one out of PVC pipe to prevent waste. One issue for me with many of these models is that they don’t really seem like they would prevent rodent theft. Also, as busy urban homesteaders, we simply didn’t have time to build a new feeder. More time-sensitive projects, like building a rain barrel and canning our produce, took priority.
Janet and Ray Owen/Flickr
For a treadle feeder, chickens step on a pedal to open up the lid of a container of feed. While looking at plans, we ran into the same issue as with the PVC pipe feeder: We simply didn’t have the time to build one or the money to buy one. I was also a little concerned about the frequency of chickens getting bonked on the head with the closing lid because chickens will often flock together when they see one eating.
That brings us to our winning solution: the trigger feeder.
Ultimately, we found that a trigger feeder worked best for us. The biggest benefit was its simple construction: All you need is a drill, a bucket with a lid, and a “trigger” that your chickens will peck. This photo shows a side-by-side comparison and design for a homemade model.
To do the job quickly and easily, we ordered a store-bought trigger. Here’s how we installed it:
Our chickens quickly figured out how to peck the trigger to make a small amount of food fall out at a time. Some sites recommend putting a piece of red tape on the trigger and/or making sure the trigger is at head height for your smallest chicken to make sure they can reach.
If you want to make your own, there are several different methods. For example, the DIY model in the photo above is made from a 16 penny galvanized spiral nail, a wire nut, 5/8-by- 1½-by-?-inch piece of hard plastic, and some E6000 adhesive. Another DIY model uses an eyebolt for a trigger. I tend to prefer this design, as the trigger is a smoother surface—looking at models where spiral nails or screws are used for the trigger makes me worry about the potential for broken beaks.
Feed waste is a frustrating and expensive issue for many chicken owners. Whether you choose to make or own or order a trigger from a company, using a trigger feeder is a great option if your goal is to ensure your chicken feed is reserved for your chickens alone.
About the Author: Aliza Sollins spent five years working in urban agriculture as a co-founder of Boone Street Farm in the beautiful, gritty heart of Baltimore City, teaching canning classes, learning how to raise backyard poultry, and gardening with refugees from Iraq, Bhutan, Sudan, Burma and more. She is now the assistant manager of the Lexington Farmers’ Market in Kentucky.