What Size of Chicken Feeder do I Need

What Size of Chicken Feeder do I Need?

One of the repetitive tasks when raising chickens is the need to refill chicken feeders and waterers. Sometimes I want to sleep longer but the constant noise of chickens asking for their breakfast won’t let me. 

I just started keeping meat birds and they do eat! I keep filling their feeder and waterer every hour. This is taking a toll on me and I need a solution. I am looking at getting chicken feeders and waterers that will hold food and water for a long. 

Getting the right size of a chicken feeder will not only cut on the time you need to refill but also keep your birds are well fed and they do not have to fight for space while feeding. 

What is a Chicken Feeder?

A chicken feeder is an item used to hold feed for chickens to feed on. It is designed to prevent waste and keep the feed clean. Chickens tend to scratch and spread feed all over. A good feeder should prevent this as it leads to wastage and makes the feed dirty. This can lead to diseases. 

Since it is not feasible to have a feeder for each chicken, is good to have feeders that are the right size. This not only ensures that there is enough food for all the chickens but also there is enough space around the feeder for them to be able to access the feed. What is the use of having a feeder that holds enough feed and your chickens have to fight to get to it?

Before we look at how to select the right size of chicken feeder for your chickens, let us look at the types of chickens feeders.

Types of Chicken Feeders

There are different types of feeders. These types can be categorized by

  1. The mode of operation of the chicken feeder.
  2. The design of the chicken feeder.
  3. The  material of the chicken feeder.

The mode of operation of the chicken feeder.

The mode of operation for chicken feeders is how the feed is made accessible to the chickens.

Chicken feeders come with different operation modes. These include:-

  • Automatic chicken feeders (gravity feeders)
  • Manual chicken feeders. 
  • Treadle chicken feeders.

Automatic chicken feeders (gravity feeders).

Automatic chicken feeders make feed accessible to the chickens by use of the force of gravity. At one end they have openings where the chickens will ear from and on the other end they have openings that are used to refill the feed. As chickens feed on the feed at the bottom open, more feed drops by the force of gravity to replace the feed that has just been eaten. 

Automatic feeders that work by force of gravity can either be hung or placed on the ground. Hanging is the preferred method because as the chickens shake the feeder, more feed drops down to the feed opening. 

Examples of automatic chicken feeders that work by gravity include the cylindrical feeders and PVC pipe feeders. 

Manual Chicken feeders. 

Manual chicken feeders are feeders where feed is placed at the bottom of the feeder. Chicken accesses the feed  from some kind of opening. With manual feeders the chickens will eat the feed until they reach the bottom of the feeder. At this point the feed will be finished and the feeder will need a refill. Examples of manual feeders include the trough feeders. 

Treadle chicken feeders. 

Treadle feeders have a footstep where the chickens can step on so as to open the feeder. The feeder can either be a trough with a cover or a covered galvanized metal gravity feeder. The purpose of the footstep is to make the feed accessible to the chickens. When they step on the feeder, the cover opens and the chickens eat. When they step down, the cover closes and the feed is not accessible, 

This make is a good choice for preventing rats and other rodents that will want to eat the chicken feed at night.

Treadle feeders come in different designs. The most common treadle feeder is the Grandpas Feeder, designed by Bill Kirkham from New Zealand in 1995.

The design of the chicken feeder.

The most common designs of chicken feeders are the trough design and the cylindrical design. 

Trough feeder 

The trough feeders have been used over the years as feeders for animals. They are long narrow containers that are open at the top. Chicken feed is put at the open top. Chickens will eat until the feed is finished or they are full. Trough feeders are usually made of galvanized metal, wood or plastic

Cylindrical feeders (hanging feeders) . 

Cylindrical feeders are made out of galvanized metal or plastic. They have a cylindrical enclosure where the feed is held before being made available to the chickens via a rounded open bottom. As the chickens eat the feed, more feed is dropped by force of gravity. 

What Size of Chicken Feeder do I Need
What Size of Chicken Feeder do I Need? A cylindrical hanging chicken feeder.

Cylindrical feeders have a cover on top that opens to a hole. This is where feed is refilled. Some cylindrical feeders have a handle that is used to carry them around. The handle is also used to hang the feeder. 

Material of the chicken feeder.

Chicken feeders are made from different materials. The most common materials are:-

  1. Plastic (PVC)
  2. Galvanized metal
  3. Wood.

Determining size of chicken feeder

Before calculating the size of the chicken feeder, there are few factors that will assist you in making the selection of size. These are:

  1. How much  food a chicken eats per day
  2. How many time you will be able to refill the feeder
  3. Size of chickens. 

How much food a chicken eats per day. 

Adults chickens consume an average of 4 ounces(0.25 pounds) of feed per day. This amounts to 1.75 lbs. per week. When choosing the chicken feeder, you need to consider this.  You do not want to select a size where you will be refilling feed every hour. 

How many times you will be able to refill the feeder. 

Will you be available during the day to refill your feeder? If you choose small size chicken feeders, you will need to refill a few times during the day. If you choose a big size feeder, you might not need to refill it for days. 

Be careful to avoid the feed from getting moldy or attracting rats and mice to your coop or run. This makes choosing the right size of feeders for your chickens a delicate balancing act. 

The size of your chickens.

The size of your chickens will determine the size of chicken feeders. If you have chicks, you will need to have small feeders that sit on the floor or hand close to the floor. You want to have a feeder that chicks will easily reach. As they grow up, you can adjust the height. 

Chicks around a plastic cylindrical feeder and a mason jar feeder

Bantams, because of their small size, will need feeders that they can reach. The feeders can be smaller than for standard size chickens because they consume about 2 ounces (0.125 pounds) of feed per day. 

Calculating the size of the chicken feeder. 

When calculating the size of your chicken feeder you need to factor in the frequency of refills and the amount feed your chickens will consume. What makes it easy is that chicken feeders have the amount of feed in weight indicated. 

The capacity of the chicken feeder

For instance the 30 pounds feeder above will hold enough feed to feed one adult chicken for 120 days. If you have 10 chickens, it will hold enough feed to feed them for 12 days. The calculations are rather straightforward. Take the capacity of the feeder in pounds and divide by the amount of feed required per day. In this example this is 30/(0.25*10). If you had 100 chickens, the feeder would hold enough feed for 1.2 days. 

However this brings another factor into play. Will the space around the feeder be enough for 100 chickens?

The space around the chicken feeder

Experts recommend 4 inches per chicken around a feeder. The 30 pound cylindrical(round) feeder above has a circumference of 47 inches. Using this the feeder can easily accommodate a rounded figure of 12 chickens. This means you will need approximately 8 feeders for 100 chickens. 

If using a trough feeder, you will use the length of the feeder multiplied by 2. For a trough feeder with the length of 20 inches, the available space for your chickens will be 40 inches. This divided by 4 inches per chicken will give you 10 chickens per trough feeder. 

Frequency of refills

It is advisable that you size your chicken feeders so that you refill only once per day. This will cut the number of trips to the chicken coop or run. Your birds will not run to the feeders each time you will walk in to refill the feeders. 

If your schedule does not allow you to refill each day, you can try target feeder sizes that allow you to refill once or twice a week. Once you get the space requirements right, calculating this will be purely a volume play – how much feed the feeder can hold. 

For instance with the thirty pound cylindrical feeder above which we concluded provides enough space for 12 chickens. This  will hold feed for 10 days. We came to this by multiplying the number of chickens(12) by the amount of feed consumed per day(0.25 lbs.). This gives 3 pounds of feed per day. Since the feeder holds 30 pounds The feeder holds  30 pounds of feed, we divide this by the total amount of feed per day(3 lbs). This gives us 10 days.

In short the formula is total volume/(number of birds for the feeder*amount of feed per day.)

Observing your chickens around the feeder. 

Another factor that comes in when calculating the number of chicken feeders is observation. In the morning, stand by your chickens during feeding time. If you notice there are chickens that are being bullied away from the feeders, then you need to add more feeders. Add more feeders if you notice your chickens are pushing each other in order to access feed. 

Let us look at examples of the size of chicken feeders for your birds.

What size of feeder for 4 chickens

Using our calculations above, 4 chickens will each eat 0.25 pounds of feed per day. This means for 4 chickens you will need a feeder that holds 1 pound of feed. Each will need 4 inches of space at the feeder hence the length or circumference of the feeder should be at least 16 inches.  

What size of feeder for 8 chickens

When selecting the size of feeder for 8 chickens, the first thing you need to determine is the amount of feed required per day. 8 chickens will consume 0.25 pounds of feed per chicken per day. This amounts to 2 pounds per day. Getting a feeder that holds 5 pounds of feed will mean you will need to refill it every other day. The circumference or length needs to be at least 24 inches. 

What size of feeder for 10 chickens

10 chickens will consume a total of 2.5 pounds of feed per day. Getting a feeder that holds 5 – 10 pounds of feed will be sufficient for 10 chickens. This means you can refill the feeder every 2 days or twice a week for the 5 pound feeder and 10 pound feeder respectively. If you want your chickens to be comfortable at the feeder, you can get two 5 pound feeders.

Table: Size of feeder for 4,8 and 10 chickens

Number of Chickens Frequency of Refilling Feeder Amount of feed (Feed*Chickens*Days)/Frequency Size of feeder
4 chickensDaily(0.25*4*1)/1 = 1 lbs.1 lbs.
8 chickensDaily(0.25*8*1)/1 = 2 lbs.2 lbs.
10 chickensDaily(0.25*10*1)/1 = 2.5 lbs3 lbs.
4 chickensTwice a week(0.25*4*7)/2 = 3.5 lbs.4 lbs.
8 chickensTwice a week(0.25*8*7)/2 = 7 lbs.7 lbs.
10 chickensTwice a week(0.25*10*7)/2 = 8.75 lbs.9 lbs.
Table 1: Size of feeders for 4, 8 and 10 chickens

Final thoughts.

Chickens need to be fed well. Whether for meat, eggs or pets, they need feed to be made accessible. A major factor to making feed accessible for chickens is having the right size of feeder. When determining the correct size of feed for your chickens, you need to consider the amount of feed they consume per day, the space they require at the feeder and number of times you are able to refill the feeder per day or per week.

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About James

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard

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