Your Thoughts on Treadle Feeders?

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One problem with having chickens is the inevitable rat/mouse buffet that happens around the feeders. In addition to busting your feed budget, rodents spread diseases such as virulent forms of salmonella.

One of the suggestions at the poultry seminar I attended last week was using treadle feeders. Think of it as a Skinner box for chickens. Chickens walk up to the feeder, step on a treadle, and feed is dispensed. It beats having to wake up at five in the morning to put out food in a conventional feeder.

You have to teach your chickens how to use a treadle feeder. One of the veterinarians suggested putting something shiny on the feeder. Your flock will step up to peck at it and discover that the feeder opens.

There are two problems I can think of with a treadle feeder. One was mentioned by a fellow classmate. Squirrels figured out how to open her feeder. Damn squirrels again! But I don’t think I’ll have that problem, because I’ve never seen a squirrel in my coop.

An alternative that I thought of is a feeder on a timer which opens up when the sun rises and closes up at dusk. The only ones I can find like this are the kind hunters use and they just drop the feed on the ground, which is not ideal for chickens. This could be an Arduino project, but I don’t have the programming chops.

My other problem is simply choosing a treadle feeder. A cursory glance at the Interwebs revealed so many options that I’m confused. This is where you come in. Do you have a treadle feeder? How has it worked for you? What is your favorite model? Or do you think they are a bad idea?

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8 Comments

  1. I have long thought about building a treadle feeder, but have yet to do so, instead opting for just feeding the hens their ration once or twice a day and letting them forage for the rest of the time. I stopped providing free choice food the first time I saw a rat sitting in the middle of the backyard in broad daylight, boldly eating my spendy organic chicken food and looking at me. I hope to hear from your readers about their experiences!

  2. We built a treadle feeder a few years ago since we were having trouble with sparrows coming in and eating from the standard feeder. Our chickens learned pretty quickly how to open it so there was no issue with that. Our problem is the our chickens are messy and just push the food out of the feeder onto the floor of the coop and the sparrows can still fly in when the coop door is open and eat to their hearts content. Maybe the get a little less but its still annoying.

  3. Netting the top of the chicken run will stop most wild bird. But maybe not squirrels. And not rats.

  4. I have seen several projects where a chicken coop door is open at dawn and closes at dusk. Some use arduino, others use those “eyes” that turn on outside lights at dusk.

    Instructables has several..seems like it would be an easy step to turn one of those into a door on a feeder.

  5. Best thing we ever built! The chickens learned to use it within a week (leave open for a day, then they get it- makes you appreciate that hens are smart!) We had a crazy sparrow infestation plus squirrels over a year ago. No issue now. I guess our squirrels didn’t think the food was worth the effort of learning. The sparrows will occasionally check in, but only get random flecks that drop outside the contraption. Also this design stopped our girls from spilling food all over. We still put a rock on one and a wedge under the other at night – just in case something with paws gets in (I.e.possum). Also, we don’t use the full capacity – freshen food each morning.
    We built this one From backyard chickens:
    http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/building-a-treadle-chicken-feeder

  6. We were feeding a small tribe of roof rats, so I invested in a treadle feeder. We purchased this one – http://www.thecarpentershop.net/mediumplywoodchickenfeeder.html

    The chickens (and the rabbit who lives with them) figured it out right away, and we buy much less feed. We also have much less rat droppings in the coop. The only downside to this feeder is that when the door swings shut it bangs. I’ve tried to put damping material in numerous spots on the door and elsewhere on the feeder, but haven’t succeeded in eliminating the noise. It’s not extremely loud, but loud enough to hear in the house if the windows are open – lets me know when the chickens are awake (on those days that they’re not squawking to let me know).

  7. A year ago I splurged on the Grandpa’s Feeder. I love it. It’s very well-built out of galvanized steel, and it would have cost me much more in time and money to build something of similar quality. The hens had no trouble learning to use it (it took them a couple of days). It has helped a lot with the rat problem. My open feeder was previously the rats’ main food source.

    My eight hens go for 4-5 days before I need to refill it (but I supplement generously with scraps from various sources, which I only give in the morning to ensure they’re consumed before sundown).

  8. I had the sam problem with rats.
    So i hanged the feeder to the roof of the big gage where the chickens live with iron wire. Now the feeder is suspended 25 cm. from the ground and no rat has been be able to reach it jumping or descending along the line.
    Most of sparrows cannot enter because the net all around and above the zone.

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