Rodent-proof Chicken Feeder

Sep 27, 2019

Here in peri urban Hobart we have to stay on top of managing rodents and birds getting into our chicken’s feed. Over the years we’ve tried lots of different designs and none of them have worked as well as we needed.

Enter this beauty. While trawling the world wide web I stumbled across this design on youtube for an automatic feeder. People – it actually really works and does everything it promises to do. It’s bird proof, weather proof and rodent proof –  basically all our chicken feeding dreams coming true at once.

The basic premise is that the bucket is full of grain. A hole has been drilled into the bottom and a “ toggle” (aka 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.

One chook pecking the toggle which releases a small amount of grain. The other chooks have their heads down, eating off the ground. 

This is an automatic feeder which means you don’t have to tend them everyday (as long as they have access to fresh water). This means you can go away for the weekend or just improve efficiency in your garden tasks.

Oh, and it’s dead easy to make – here’s how…

Ingredients

  • 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.
  • One eye bolt – we’ve used a 5mm one.
  • A chunk of wood.

Method

  • Using a 16mm 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 sunflowers included – so our holes quite generous. If you’re not sure, start with a small hole and gradually make it bigger until you hit the sweet spot.
  • Drill a 5mm holes into the chunk of wood.
  • Poke the eye bolt through, with the eye on the inside of the bucket.
  • Screw the eye bolt into the chunk of wood – which I call “the toggle”.

Our mixed grain has different sizes in there so we’ve made our hole quite big to make sure they can all get through. 

Edit: We’ve since switched to feeding them chicken pellets (crushed up grain) as the chooks eventually worked out how to “mine” the grain mix to only eat their favourite bits and leave the rest on the ground for the birds. The pellets have been working for us really well as they’re all the same size and look. 

The 16mm holes in the bottom of the bucket

The toggle (chunk of wood) with a 5mm hole drilled into it and the 6mm eye bolt. 

Poke the eye bolt through the hole with the eye on the inside of the bucket. 

Screw the toggle onto the other end of the eye bolt so it hangs as seen above. 

That’s it! Only three bits of materials to make the chook feeder of your dreams.

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.

Special thanks to Anton for making me a gorgeous spiral rod using the campfire as his forge. 

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 wont find this one.

The feeding station, nestled between our worm farm (on the right-  an old bath in a timber frame) and the branch prunings from our goats which will be turned into woodchips or biochar. 

your thoughts:

47 Comments

  1. Wendy muffet

    Thanks so much for sharing this brill idea!!

    Reply
    • Malcolm Reynolds

      Thank you very much I have been looking for a rodent proof feeder for years.

      Reply
    • Sue

      Thank you get help & little or no cost 👍

      Reply
  2. Sarah

    We have so many sparrows and rats getting a free meal at our place. I hope this sorts them out. Thanks

    Reply
  3. Cass Rea

    Thanks Hannah – my feeder just bit the dust and this looks amazing.

    Reply
    • Casey

      Hi Hannah!
      Love this we have made two and the chickens love it! But is it bad for them to be eating off the floor, we have placed it away from their poop perch but we have a dirt floor like you, someone mentioned they could pick up parasites eating of floor. Just wondering what you thought?

      Reply
      • Hannah Moloney

        No – it’s fine. They spend their whole life pecking/scratching in the dirt – it’s what they do. IF you’re worried about build up of poo in your run then you haven’t got enough deep litter in there to help absorb it. Deep litter is simply woodchips, mulch (carbon). You can then shovel out the run a few times a year into a compost pile – creates lovely stuff for the garden. 🙂

        Reply
  4. Linda

    This looks great! Any idea if it might also work for ducks??

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Not sure Linda – could try and find out 🙂

      Reply
  5. Daniel S

    Great find! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Lucy

    Would ducks figure it out do you think?

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Not sure – worth having a crack at it to find out :-). Let us know how you go!

      Reply
  7. Thomas

    I did this, using a teaspoon as the lever (a Kat Lavers’ design). It didn’t work well with mixed grain, as the chooks pecks up the grains they preferred, leaving the boring grain on the ground whilst they toggled more of the good stuff out.

    Reply
  8. Al

    Uh, how is this rodent proof or bird proof? The chickens are dumping the feed on the ground and wild birds quickly learn to fly into the trigger to drop feed, not that they need to, the chickens leave plenty laying on the ground. Spend the money for a proper rat proof and wild bird proof treadle feeder. It needs to have a spring loaded door, a heavy counterweight system, and a narrow and distant treadle for it to work. The ones without these things don’t have anyway to prevent rats and wild birds from just pushing the doors or lids open. http://ratproofchickenfeeder.net/

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi Al, Once the birds peck the “dongle” only some grain/pellets come out, they then proceed to peck the food off the ground before going back before more. We’ve tried a few automatic feeders like the ones you make and sell, but have had no luck with large birds and rats (and once possums) learning how to use them. This design’s been a big game changer for us and we no longer have swarms of birds hanging out or the neighbour’s rats.

      Reply
  9. Kellie

    Do you know if this works with fine grain or only coarse grain?

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Great question. We ended up switching to pellets (crushed grain) as the chook’s were only eating their favourite grain and leaving the rest on the ground for birds. This doesn’t happen when you use one type of “thing”. Choose the grain/pellet size that suits how big you’ve made the hole at the bottom of the feeder – might take some experimenting!

      Reply
      • Jill Garrett

        That is helpful feedback. Can’t wait to try! I’ll let you know our results!

        Reply
  10. HJ

    I have been looking for a rat/mouse proof feeder for quite some time, and I was delighted when I found this in YouTube.

    Unfortunately it didn’t work with mixed grains. Chickens quickly worked out how to get their favourite grains – keep pecking the toggle!
    ” …they only eating their favourite grain and leaving the rest on the ground” and back to pecking the toggle.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Ah yes, we had this too and had to switch to chicken pellets which are all the same size and look. Now it works really well! I’ve also just edited this blog to share this info above :-). Cheers.

      Reply
  11. Lynn

    Great! I’m so excited with this feeder and it’s easy enough for me to make. Thank you so much for the great ideas.

    Reply
  12. Dina

    Thanks for this Hannah, we’ve had really bad problems with sparrows in the chook run. We made the new feeder yesterday and the chooks seemed to work it out straight away, smart little birdies. Love your work 😊

    Reply
  13. Yvonne

    Did you make your chicken pellets or buy them?

    Reply
  14. Elyse Tierney

    Thanks for sharing this idea, looks great! We’ve just moved and acquired chickens but have been having trouble keeping possums out of the chicken run. We’re working to improve the floppy fence and electrify if needed as they’re eating the chicken feed which we were leaving out overnight. Have you ever had trouble with possums accessing and working out how to use this feeder? Would love to find a possum proof feeder, my uncle who lives nearby said they’ve worked out how to use a treadle feeder at his place – they seem pretty persistent here in Northern Tasmania.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi Elyse, We don’t have possums in our garden (as we’ve fenced the whole property).

      Reply
  15. Helen of the North West

    Great idea…will have a crack at it…we looked at a treadle feeder yesterday at a local produce store …it was $175 …not happening on our single income family…this feeder you’ve created will help encourage sustainability and reduce repetitive chook feeding tasks, so I can spoil them with more interesting/creative feed options every now and then whilst the everyday feed chore is done eg stringing together spinach etc…

    Reply
  16. Renae

    Has anyone got any tips for teaching the chickens how to use the feeder? After a week of demonstrations they are still clueless! I’ve been hand feeding them (which is what they’re used to) at the feeder so they associate it with food. I’ve even been tapping the toggle in front of them. They eat the fallen grain but still seem to have no idea that they’re supposed to peck it!

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Not sure Renae – hopefully they’ve worked it out by now?

      Reply
  17. Tony

    My problem is that I have one particular chook that will spill all the food required for her to get to the black sunflower seeds. I’d hope any other chickens I get would eat the spilled food assuming any of them are smart enough to learn to peck at the toggle.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Yes – this is something people have said a fair bit to me. You’ll notice in the blog above I’ve edited it to explain how we’ve also had to switch to pellets (mashed up grains) to stop the chooks from doing this. Now it works perfectly.

      Reply
  18. Jennifer

    Can I please ask, what pellet brand do you use? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      I don’t have one brand – I just use a high protein option

      Reply
  19. Alex

    Wonderful idea
    Will be using this for sure!!!

    Reply
  20. Emily Carrick

    I made one of these and bought five 17 week old chickens. It seems they are not the brightest of birds as after a week and a half they still haven’t worked out how to pack the toggle to access the pellets. Any tips??? About to resort to buying a treadle feeder. I have tapped some pellets every day onto the ground under the feeder so they are attracted to the spot in the run and have demonstrated how to use it many many times.

    Reply
  21. Tamma Armstrong

    I have 10 hens and a rooster. Do you think just one of these be enough? I love this idea and can’t wait to try it.

    Reply
  22. pohil

    Thank you! Wondering if this would work for quails?

    Reply
  23. April

    Made one like this but the food seems to get wet from sitting in the sun. What do you suggest to keep the feed dry.

    Reply
  24. Jayne Downs

    Hi
    I’ve made the feeder and looking good. Many thanks for the instructions.
    I did wonder how it goes given the flat bottom of the bucket – when the feed gets a bit lower I imagine the pellets don’t come within reach of the hole? I’m thinking about how I could set up more of an internal funnel shape inside to help channel the pellets.

    Reply
  25. Nancy

    Great idea, and my daughter taught the hens (not the dullard rooster), to peck the toggle in one day. She asked me to drill a few small holes in the toggle and stuffed dried meal worms (chickens fav) in the holes!
    Shocking problem though, the Norway rats, stand on their back legs and fling themselves at the toggle, dangle, and release feed to their buddies below! Blew my mind seeing this. Going to try notching the bucket up a few rings.
    We actively dealing with decreasing a horrible rat issue right now.
    Any other ideas?
    Thanks for the awesome feeder idea!
    Nancy-Canada

    Reply
  26. Heather

    Hmm I wonder if you could attach a string to the eye bolt and run it through the top to be able to shut it tight when you are home. Maybe a couple weeks of that and opossum would give up. Then when it was left ‘open’ he wouldn’t be around.

    Reply
  27. Manfred

    Thanks Hannah for the design, I’m going to give it a go!

    Do you happen to have any recommendations on a rodent proof waterer? I take it that the rats are attracted to my chickens’ water as well? Or is it just the feed they are after?

    Reply
  28. Barbara Dixon

    Have just been put on to this by a friend and intend to try is as I’m fed up with disposing of dead sparrows who get trapped in our treadel feader so thank you so much!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You might also like…

Reo Mesh Garden Arches

Reo Mesh Garden Arches

I'm a big fan of reinforcement mesh (aka reo mash) as a material to use for making simple and super strong and versatile structures for plants to grow on. I'm always keeping an eye out for scraps of the meh at our local tip shop, alas it's highly sort after. So...

Verticillium Wilt In Your Fruit Trees? Bugger.

Verticillium Wilt In Your Fruit Trees? Bugger.

Over the past few years I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with my two apricot trees as they've never really thrived. Symptoms included not fruiting well, sparse leaf and dead wood starting to appear in the canopy branches. Finally this year while we were...

Home Harvest: Thoughts & A Virtual Tour 2023

Home Harvest: Thoughts & A Virtual Tour 2023

Home Harvest is an edible garden trail around nipaluna/Hobart that we started in collaboration with the City of Hobart in 2020. Here’s some images and videos (further below) from 2023 to give you a taster! Over 700 people took themselves around to some incredibly diverse edible gardens and just had such a great time. Talking […]

Home Harvest 2023: Host Call Out!

Home Harvest 2023: Host Call Out!

We’re happy to announce we’re working with Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania to hold our fourth annual “Home Harvest” garden tour in the nipaluna/Hobart region!  Special thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this great initiative. Home Harvest is going to be a one day event on Sunday March 19th, 2023 in and around nipaluna/Hobart where […]

Crowdsourcing Photos For My New Book!

Crowdsourcing Photos For My New Book!

Hi Friends, I’m in the process of writing my second book about how to grow food in any climate in Australia (due out late 2023 with Affirm Press). As it’s covering the whole, vast country I would so very dearly love to include photos of edible gardens in different climates to show folks what’s possible […]

Mounding Potatoes – Or Not

Mounding Potatoes – Or Not

There are many varieties of potatoes (aka spuds) but only two key categories they all fall into. Determinate and indeterminate. Determinate potatoes don’t grow very tall and only produce spuds in one layer of soil so you don’t need to mound them. They also generally mature quicker than indeterminate types, a good thing to know […]

Eat Those Weeds

Eat Those Weeds

I’m a big fan of eating weeds. But first, what even is a weed? A common description is that it’s simply a plant in the wrong place – meaning us humans don’t want it there as it may be compromising the ecological integrity of that place or crowding other plants we want to thrive. But […]

How To Make a Fancy Clutch From Scraps

How To Make a Fancy Clutch From Scraps

I recently went to the TV Week Logies with dear Costa, representing the wonderful Gardening Australia. While we didn’t win our category, we did have a lot of fun celebrating gardening. Costa Georgiadis and I on the red carpet! Yes, he does fit perfectly in my armpit nook. We also had a lot of fun […]

How To Grow Food From Scraps

How To Grow Food From Scraps

As I have a large garden and the luxury of space, I don’t usually make time to experiment with growing food in tight spaces. But I’ve always been curious about growing food from scraps. So I made the time – thank you curiosity. I saved some scraps from going straight into the compost bin and […]

Vote For Gardening Australia!

Vote For Gardening Australia!

Hello Dear Friends, I have two bits of exciting news to share with you, which can be summed up with Costa’s (host of Gardening Australia) gorgeous smile below… After being a guest presenter on Gardening Australia since 2019, I recently became an official permanent member of their team. Oh the joy!!! This is very exciting […]