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Our 5-Gallon Bucket Chicken Feeder – Super Easy DIY and Vermin Proof!

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Introducing our 5-gallon bucket chicken feeder! 

I first saw this idea for a vermin-proof chicken feeder on a local gardening show, and then my favorite permaculture farm made one as well. At the time, I was skeptical.

I mean, chickens aren’t particularly smart… Could they figure out how to get the food out?

Turns out – yep! They’re more clever than they look.

In fact, it took them all of 1 minute to get the full hang of it!

How to Make a DIY Chicken Feeder From a 5-Gallon Bucket

I’ve created a little video to show you how well it works. It’s always better to show than tell, right? You’ll find it below.

After the video, I’ll add a heap of photos showing you the exact steps we took to make ours – you’ll even catch a glimpse of my notoriously camera-shy husband!

Step 1: Get a Bucket

Not surprisingly, you will need a bucket for this how-to. It doesn’t need to be a 5-gallon bucket; you could make a smaller (or bigger, I suppose!) chicken feeder, too.

Since your girls will be eating their food out of this bucket, I recommend you find a food-safe one. Nothing yucky or toxic!

Every plastic bucket is stamped with a recycling number (usually on the bottom). You’re looking for preferably a “2”, but “1”, “4”, and “5” are fine too.

Amazon has some mighty-fine food-safe 5-gallon buckets if you’re in the market, or check out your local bakery or ice creamery for free ones!

Step 2: Drill a Hole

There he is!!!
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Step 3: Insert the Eye Bolt

Now, my husband is a diesel fitter and he works with very large machinery. He doesn’t do things by halves so our toggle setup will last for the rest of our lives.

It’ll never come off, nor move, nor get stuck (because no bolt is put together without anti-seize). And washers. A bear could use it and it wouldn’t come apart.

Even the toggle had to be hardwood!

Like our outdoor dining table. It weighs a ton (literally) and can only be moved with the excavator and even then it’s a bit hairy. But it will last for the rest of our lives. And our kids’ lives. And their kids’. And so on.

You don’t have to prepare for such a situation if you don’t want to or you’re not feeding bears or you’re not planning on the feeder bucket becoming an antique.

A simple eye bolt with a screwed-on piece of wood would do the trick just fine if you ask me (don’t ask my husband if you don’t want extra work).

Now, insert the eye bolt!

That’s inside the bucket
And that’s outside of the bucket

Step 4: Attach the Toggle Block

See how there’s enough space around the eye bolt for food pellets to fall through? That’s what you’re aiming for.

Play around a bit with the best hole size for the eye bolt you’re using, and the size of your food pellets.

For us, it didn’t work very well with grain but I usually feed pellets, so that’s what we made it for.

The pellets stay in the bucket, they don’t just fall out. When the chickens peck the toggle, a bit of food drops out for them to scoop up.

The girls all think it’s pretty exciting – who can get to the little dropped piece the quickest?

Step 5: Test

It appears it would work fine as a dog feeder too…

Step 6: Fill and Hang in the Coop

Final Famous Words

I adore our 5-gallon bucket chicken feeder. It’s saved so much money over the past few months!

We no longer feed half the rat population in the area, food doesn’t get wet (moldy, ewh!), and it keeps the chickens (and me, I admit) entertained.

The only thing I struggle with is the lid. It can be darned hard to get on and off to fill it. Even though I only need to fill it every 2 weeks or so, that lid is tough.

My mother-in-law has a bucket lid tool I might try – but for the moment, I’m just not shutting the lid completely. Our feeder is under a roof so there’s very little chance of the food getting wet.

It also hangs from the roof and I’m just assuming no rat could hang from the ceiling like Super Rat and somehow glide down the chain to get into the bucket.

Super Rat might surprise me one day, but for now, this DIY 5-gallon bucket chicken feeder is perfect for me.

What do you think?

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12 Comments

  1. Loved the idea! Tried this and it took 1 day for a squirrel to hang from the toggle and dump the food directly in its mouth and a week for varmints (probably squirrels) to completely eat through the lid. Also, once the pellets get rolled in the dust, the hens no longer are interested in them and we wasted at least half of the feed. Back to the drawing board!

  2. I know you are using this for pellets, but has anyone successfully used it for grain? I assume I’d have to play with some washers, but not sure it would be optimal. I like the fun idea!

    1. We tried it with grain, but it didn’t work very well. We’d love to hear if anyone has MacGyver-ed this bucket feeder to make it work better with grain!

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving feedback, Corey. I hope you have a fabulous day!

  3. The picture of the chickens under the bucket appears to have a LOT of feed on the ground…do they still waste feed?
    I think I might put a shallow container under so feed does not get wasted…..

    1. Hi Carol!
      The food on the ground was due to us trying out different sized washers inside the bucket. It took a few tries to get the size right. And, when we use a different feed, we usually need to re-adjust the washer. Too small and the food doesn’t come out. Too big and it all just flows out.
      They do still waste a bit – generally only when I don’t let them out of their coop first thing in the morning. I think it’s more of a boredom thing than actually being hungry! They love to peck the toggle 😀 A tray underneath could definitely work!

    1. Hi Tracey! Have you tried showing the chickens how it works? If you slowly feed them by tapping on the toggle, they may start to understand that they have to peck at it to get their feed. Another trick that may help them learn how to dispense the feed is to make a paste with some thick oatmeal or a dab of peanut butter and stick it on the block at the end of the toggle. That way, they will feel motivated to peck at it and figure out how to get more food. I hope that helps! Let us know if either of these tricks works! Have a great day and good luck!

  4. I tried this two years ago. The problem, overtime, is the plastic wears out and the hole enlarges. So I did a fix of heat glueing a 7/8” stainless washer to the inside of the bucket. That way you have metal on metal.

    1. Hi Dave – great tip!
      Ours is about a year old now. I haven’t noticed it wearing out yet, but one problem we did run into is the different pellet sizes.
      I now keep an assortment of washer sizes in the coop so I can change them out when we get a different pellet size, or change to grain for a while.
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Elle

  5. Remove the rubber seal, then cut and remove 2/3 or 3/4 of the “lid lock”. I’d remove from 0 – 35% and 65 to 100% of each of the four locks.

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