To safely deliver the nutrition and hydration that your hens need requires a couple of important devices that make it easy. Drinkers and feeders are essential to not only take care of your hens but also retain your sanity.
If you are wanting to save money you can always use a bowl for feed and water but they will encourage spilling, contamination and wastage. You will also find yourself frequently replenishing your water and feed bowls which will take up time and drive you crazy during the summer when hens are thirsty.
Feeders are devices that provide the right flow of feed to your hens whenever they feel hungry. They come in different shapes and forms, but it is important that you match your feeder to the number and breed of hen that you have, along with your available time.
You can waste a lot of money on buying a feeder that is either too big or small for your needs, is of poor quality, or that is set up wrong so that it wastes feed. As a rule of thumb, a 5kg feeder will keep a pair of actively laying hens fed for around 20 days and six hens for around six days.
Always ask about the amount of feed needed for each breed of chicken you own, being mindful of any scraps you might regularly give them. Remember that the more your laying hens eat, the better their egg production will be, as long as they are eating high quality ingredients.
Common types of feeders
The most common types of feeders include:
The most common (and inexpensive), type of chicken feeder for the backyard chicken keeper is the bell feeder. Bell feeders are shaped like a bell and have a moat around them where hens are able to access their feed. It’s useful to have some adjustment options for the flow of feed in case the feed you use is of different consistencies.
Of course, all bell feeders are not created equal. Imported ones from certain countries are often cheap and of poor quality, and can quickly break, requiring replacement. They will also tend to be missing any form of feed flow adjustment which can cause problems.
It is best to hang your bell feeder on a chain with a hook at the end to hang the feeder on. The “moat” should be hung around 100 mm from the ground for the smaller hybrid layer hens like the Hy-line Brown (from 16 weeks), so that their backs are flat or parallel to the ground. This will reduce any wastage of feed and make it more difficult for rodents and bugs to access the feed.
Another feeder that is quite a bit more expensive, but often a worthwhile investment, is the tread-on feeder. This type of feeder reduces feed losses due to wild birds eating feed meant for your hens. It is more box-like in shape and works by opening once a minimum weight is applied to the platform in front of the feed box. The box then opens allowing the hen access to the feed.
Our selection of feeders guarantees a high-quality solution for whatever your needs are. Our Stainless Steel Feeders are a tried and true, classic choice, and we would recommend the Chooktred feeder for anyone looking to save money over the long term. We also have plastic feeders and tripod feeders available if you’re looking for a more economical solution.
It is vital that your hens receive enough clean water, which is essential for health and good egg production. Laying hens will consume around 220 mL of water each day on average, with more or less consumed depending on the climate.
Using a good drinking device will make it easy for your hens to access water and reduce the amount of dirt or debris getting into it. Poorly designed drinkers will just encourage spilling and contamination of the water.
Always ask how much your breed of hen will drink on average each day then multiply this figure by the number of hens you own of that breed. Once you know your daily water needs, you’ll be able to purchase a good drinker that is right for your situation and your available time. As an example, a flock of five Hy-Line Brown hens will consume around 1.1 litres of water each day.
Don’t forget to clean your drinker periodically and watch for any signs of gunk or slime, as you’ll want to remove it immediately. Poor quality water is a key reason for poor hen health and laying, yet is often overlooked. Also, don’t forget to check your flock’s water supply daily as they won’t last more than 48 hours without it!
Common types of drinkers
The most common types of drinkers include:
The bell drinker is the most common form of drinking device used by backyard chicken owners. They look almost identical to the bell feeder and have a moat around the bottom, but don’t tend to have any water flow adjustment mechanism or a hanging loop.
They should sit firmly on a brick or platform so that the back of your hens are flat or inclined slightly upwards when facing the drinker. By elevating your bell drinker the water will stay cleaner and it will be easier for hens to consume the water as they aren’t able to swallow like us humans and instead tip their heads back and rely on gravity.
The lack of any water flow mechanism isn’t a problem as the viscosity of water doesn’t really change too much. Hanging the drinker isn’t the best as hens will tend to knock the drinker, making it rock and spill water which should be avoided.
We have curated a selection of the best drinkers to suit every backyard chicken owner’s needs in our online store. From the durable Stainless Steel Drinkers to the more economical plastic bell drinkers, we have high-quality options for all budget ranges and flock size.
Please feel free to contact us if you would like more specific guidance.