Tag Archives: construction

How-To: Chicken Feeder from PVC Pipe

I’m a big fan of these feeders.  In terms of being low-cost, easy to assemble, lightweight and durable, they are as good as it gets!  We use these feeders for both our egg-layers and our broiler chickens.  Each feeder holds about 15 lbs of feed and one is sufficient for a broiler pen of 80 birds.

Materials:

  • 6-inch PVC pipe, Schedule 40 or lighter.  (You can sometimes find this inexpensively at your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore)
  • 1/2″ plywood (minimum thickness)
  • 3/4″ plywood (minimum thickness)
  • 1.25″ and 1.75″ wood or drywall screws
  • rebar or electrical metal conduit (also something you can pick up at the Habitat ReStore if you keep an eye out)

Tools:

  • Circular saw
  • Hand saw
  • Band saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Flat drill bit for boring holes.  Same diameter as the rebar or electrical metal conduit.
  • Measuring Tape
  • Permanent Marker

Step 1:  Measure your pipe to 5 feet in length and mark around the pipe with a permanent marker.

Step 2:  Prop the pipe on a sawhorse, or a couple of garbage cans and cut on your marks with an old handsaw.  This may dull the teeth of the saw, especially over time, so use an old one if possible.

Step 3:  Measure the diameter of the pipe and calculate the exact center of the circle.  Draw a line down each side of the pipe to mark where you will cut the pipe in half.  Using the printed words on the pipe may help to serve as a guide to verify that the line is straight.

Step 4:  Secure the pipe on a sawhorse and cut down the line with a circular saw.  Wear safety glasses, as the PVC shavings are bad news.  It is a very good idea to have a helper holding the two halves apart as you cut.  The halves tend to fold in on one another as you move down the pipe.

I don’t have a picture of this step….was too busy cutting!   It’s not difficult though, so don’t be afraid to fire up the circular saw.

Step 5:  Trace the end of the pipe onto a piece of wood with a pencil, making a template.  Use a bandsaw to cut 2 half-circles per feeder out of 3/4″ plywood (can be thicker).  These will fit into the the ends of the feeder, so they must be the correct size.

Step 6:  Cut 7.25″ x 7.25″ squares out of 1/2″ (or thicker) plywood. If you have the means, you can trim the corners off, as shown in this post.   Doing so will give you one less thing to catch your leg on while feeding.

Step 7:  Insert the half-circles into the ends of the pipe and secure with 1.75″ wood screws, spaced evenly around.  If your plywood begins to split, drill holes instead and then put in the screws.

Then, attach the squares to the half-circles with two or three 1.25″ screws. The screws should be short enough that they don’t come out through other side of the half-circle.

Step 8:  Using a flat drill bit, bore a hole through each square piece of plywood, at the correct diameter to fit the handle.

It’s incredibly useful to have the handle so that you can quickly lift the feeder out of the broiler pen with one hand, while propping up the lid with the other hand.  The handle also acts as a barrier to keep the chickens from climbing in the feeder and scratching out the pellets.  Don’t skimp and skip this step.

Step 9: Cut a piece of electrical conduit (easily done with an old hacksaw) or a piece of rebar…anything less than about 3/4″ diameter can be used as a handle.  Insert into the holes, and secure with a long screw inserted from the top of the square plywood.

Allow the Quality Assurance Cat to inspect your work.

Now you’re ready to feed chickens!

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Brooder and Hover Plans

As promised, I have uploaded our plans for building portable, low-cost brooders and hovers. These brooders are modeled after one pictured in Joel Salatin’s book, “Pastured Poultry Profits”, but we developed the design ourselves.

The following pictures should be of help to anyone who is inexperienced in construction.  They are really easy to put together, and require minimum tools; just a circular saw, a cordless drill, a hammer and a square.  The cost for each one came to just less than $200.

There are probably ways to build these better, and if you’re experienced you’ll probably catch things we did wrong.  But at the end of the day, they are sturdy, watertight and are doing a great job brooding chicks.  Use our guide as a base and make any changes as you see fit.

Link to PDF file for plans:  Provenance Farm Brooder and Hover Plans

one wall, partially constructed

completed wall

all four walls joined to create the brooder frame

brooder frame, with partially completed plywood walls

cut removable plywood panels for sides

attach hinges for lids

Finished brooder (with sides removed)

Select an experimental chicken

test brooder for chicken-holding capacity

When satisfied with chicken-holding capability, drag brooder to designated Brooding Spot

Build a few more, and you're in business

Link to PDF file for plans: Provenance Farm Brooder and Hover Plans

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Broiler Pens

Our first batch of broiler chicks has been ordered and will arrive on May 4.  Three short weeks after that, all 170 birds will be out of the brooder and onto the pasture.

Problem.

I haven’t built broiler pens yet.

Nothing like having a deadline to light a fire under you.

Fortunately, Tyler’s dad Bradd is building ten new broiler pens for their farm this week, so I volunteered my outstanding construction expertise (ha!)  in exchange for some pen-building tips.   The verdict is that these things are really easy to build, and they don’t take long at all.  With three of us working, we made three frames in just a few hours.  The lids and siding are projects for another day, so I’ll post pictures of that when we get there.

For the uninitiated, here are a couple pictures of what a  Salatin-style broiler pen looks like:

Tyler Jones and Joel Salatin at Afton Field Farm. Broiler pens in background

Tyler demonstrates how to move a broiler pen

The pens are specifically constructed to be lightweight yet sturdy.  Unlike copy-cat pens made from PVC, these will hold up over the years.  They are moved every couple days by sliding a dolly under the end and then walking backwards while pulling a handle on the front. (Edit: these pens are moved every day).  The dolly is visible in the first photo, at Joel’s right shoulder.

The chickens are get water from a Bell-Matic automatic waterer that hangs in the pen.  It is connected to a water reserve in the black five-gallon bucket with plastic tubing.  Each pen has one feeder made from 5 ft long, 6-inch diameter PVC pipe cut in half on the horizontal, which you lift out before you move the pen.  I’ll have a feeder construction tutorial up soon, but for the time being here is a crummy iPhone picture for reference.

PVC broiler/layer feeder

So, without further ado, here’s a picture of the frame of a broiler pen.  It is completed; it just lacks wire to keep it taut, siding, and a lid.

broiler pen frame, 10'x12'

broiler pen from another angle

Here’s a clearer picture of the end piece:

broiler pen end

As soon as Bradd gets me the materials list and lumber specifications, I’ll post it here.  I have had little luck finding any of this on the internet, so I’m sure this will be of use to someone.

(Edit: You can see the plans for the broiler pasture shelters on my 4/29/11 post.  Click here: Broiler Pasture Shelter Plans.)

And yes, I realize it looks like I live at Afton Field Farm.  I do, kind of.   So, if you’re learning anything at all on this site, thank them!

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Chicken Dorms

It’s been a busy few weeks out here on the farm, as we prepare for spring livestock.  The first to come will be 150 Delkab Amberlink chicks, which will add to our laying flock this fall.  Keith and I have been spending evenings and weekends building cozy brooders for the babies.  We don’t have a barn here, so we designed weatherproof, stand-alone houses to be used as brooders.  These could even double as a pasture pen for larger chickens; when the weather is nice the sides can come off to let the sunshine in.

A hen tries out the partially-constructed brooder

The day-old chicks arrive next week, straight from Ohio via the U.S. Postal Service. I will go pick them up at the Post Office and show them to their new homes. Once they are settled in, and we make any necessary adjustments to the brooder design, I’ll post plans here for anyone who is interested in copying the design for their own farm.

(Edit May 7, 2010:  Plans are now posted here with a pictoral guide and here as a PDF file)

Hauling the brooders out to the pasture

There is nothing more satisfying than accomplishing a big project after a lot of hard work, many late nights, and dozens of strong cups of coffee.

Now bring on the chicks — we’re ready for them!

Pasture brooders - ready for chicks!

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Rachel Learns to Use a Skilsaw

Two weeks ago, I’d never used a circular saw in my life.

Yes, we finished most of the Eggmobiles with a hand saw.  Amish, I know.

What I’m trying to say is:  if a clueless girl like me can start a farm, anyone can.    Ask a lot of questions, be a little daring, and you’ll learn essential skills as you go.

I filmed a short demonstration video on “how to use a Skilsaw”.  Then I realized I’m not very good at using a Skilsaw.  In fact, I kind of suck at it.  It takes me forever to cut a 2×4 because I have to concentrate so hard, and even then my cut is crooked.

Clueless, I tell ya.  Laugh along with me, or at me as you prefer….

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