Easy to Build Hanging Hopper Feeders
July 17, 2018
Like many of you, while looking for the perfect feeder, we found ourselves buying quite a few different feeders that worked but didn't really fit our requirements. Since our children are performing a lot of the morning feeding and cage movement routines we try to build relatively bomb-proof systems! Children and unexperienced interns both don't yet have the skills of observation afforded by experience so it's important to protect your animal investments by building infrastructure that is reliable and easy to use in those instances. Our list of requirements are pretty straight forward:
- Feeder must hang from shelter for ease of moving.
- Feeder must hold sufficient feed to carry it's occupants 24 hours (in our case approx 60-75lbs).
- Feeder height must be adjustable based on bird age and height
- Feeder must have the ability to prevent waste which is often a problem in trough style feeders.
- Feeder must have sufficient linear feeding space.
- Feeder must be easy and cost effective to build.
With these requirements in mind we looked at a number of feeder designs online. My initial thought was to use a half pipe or trough design of sufficient size to hold enough feed. But when I began my volume to weight calculations I would have to have a very deep and wide trough or pipe which was not a practical solution. With a wide pipe, unless you constructed some sort of deflector, the chickens undoubtedly would be in the trough scratching through the feed and making a big mess and wasting lots of feed. The other negative, with a deflector in place they probably couldn't reach all of the feed with a wide feeder.
No matter what, I knew the trough shouldn't be much more than 6” wide so I purchased 10' length of 6” low pressure PVC pipe. My decision was purely based on the rigidity of the pipe to span at least 5 feet cut in half lengthwise. Plus the pipe was only $1 per foot so that made for a cost effective solution when you consider I would get 4, 5 feet troughs out of a 10' section of pipe. While designing the trough my wife, said “why not place a hopper over the pipe?”. At that moment a super simple design came to mind as I sat looking at the trough. I was going to build a simple wooden hopper from which I could hang the pipe trough at an adjustable height. The hopper in this design would also serve as the deflector so I could control the feeding gap between the hopper and pipe.
Enough backstory and onto the design.
The hopper is a simple plywood design built using 2x6” pieces as the inside rib/support. The overall hopper dimensions are 4 feet wide by 5 ½” across by 12” tall with the base of the hopper graduating to a 1” opening lengthwise above the suspended 5' adjustable trough below. The hopper body itself would act as a cover and deflector so you can control access to the feed trough and avoid waste. I suspend the trough and hopper with chain so I can adjust the height of the trough below the hopper and the height of the hopper feeder itself inside the pastured pen.
Building supplies for a "single" feeder :
- Half sheet of plywood (untreated)
- One 2x6x8 (untreated)
- At least a 5ft. section of 6” PVC pipe
- A box of 1 ¾” to 2” wood screws or whatever you have on hand.
- 90 lbs. chain - This is what I normally purchase: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Blue-...
- H brace wire for making hooks
- 12.5 gauge electric fence wire or other wire that can be used to fasten chain sections to the hanging pipe
- Piece of 1 ⅜” top rail at least 5 feet long
Building the PVC trough:
Take a piece of 6” PVC pipe and cut to a length of 5'. To cut the pipe in half I am sure you could employ multiple techniques so do what works best for you. In my case, I simply placed a chalk line down each side lengthwise of the PVC pipe evenly spaced (use the writing on the side of the PVC as a guide for the first side) so I would have two equal halves. I then used my battery powered skill saw to cut the PVC in half. BE CAREFUL with these cuts especially if using a power tool. The PVC will want to pinch the blade of your tool especially when cutting the first side. I placed a couple small wedges in as I cut the pipe to avoid this. Cutting the other side is a little easier since the PVC will not be springing against the cut.
Once you have the pipe cut I then used a piece of 2x6 as the end cap. I simply traced an outline of the half cut PVC end on to the 2x6 and used my jigsaw to cut the template out. Once I had a good fit, I actually saved this piece as my template to trace and cut future pieces with. You should keep this in mind as you build especially if you plan to build a lot of them. It is far better to prepare all of your parts in batches so building is quick and efficient.
To secure the 2x6 end cap, I simply used a couple wood screws on both sides which also doubled as a fastening point for the chain that I used to hang the trough. I used approximately 10 links of chain to create a loop to hang the trough. I then used a piece of H brace wire and linemen dikes to create hooks for both ends. This is the basic assembly of the trough.
Building the hopper:
Now onto the hopper. If you plan to build a lot, it is far easier to cut all of the required pieces at once. For the purpose of the article, we are building a single hopper feeder. First thing I do is rip my plywood side pieces. You will cut two pieces at 5” x 48” and two pieces at 8.5” x 48”. I do recommend cutting a piece at this point that can act as a lid for the hopper if you are going to use this with layers or heritage birds since they will roost on the hopper. You can use whatever material you have on hand but obviously plywood would do.
Next you need to build the internal rib supports which we make from 2x6. In my design each rib is a total of 12” long and I use three of them at 24” centers which is one on each end and one in the middle. To create the rib template and base angle cut I simple make a center line down the 12” length of the 2x6 piece and measure 1” centered on the base or 1/2” each side of the center line. I then place measurements on each side 8 inches down from the top. This allows you to cut a 2 ¼”x”4” triangle on the bottom of each side to create the graduated opening of the hopper base. Keep in mind 2x6 lumber is actually1 ½” x 5 ½” which is where the 2 ¼” measurement comes from versus 2 ½” if it were actually 6” wide.
The last thing I do to the rib is drill an at least 1 ½” hole centered about 1” from the top of the rib. This is where I slide the 1 ⅜” top rail through to hang the feeder. Make sure the hole placement is uniform on all of your ribs or you will have a difficult time pushing the pipe through to hang the feeder
Once you have your ribs completed you can assemble the hopper body. First place your ribs on their side on a flat surface at 24 inch centers. I normally place a 24” mark on the top and bottom of the ripped plywood pieces so I can line up my center rib properly. This is not rocket science but again you want to make sure the alignment is close enough so your pipe slides through the ribs without too much effort. First attach the 8 ½” piece on the top 8” sections of the ribs. You will want to align your plywood to the 8” mark you used for your angle cut. The plywood will likely overlap at the top of the rib. Next place your 5” ripped piece on the angle itself. You want to shingle this over the 8.5” piece so it overlaps a fraction of an inch. This way the feed doesn't escape from this seam. There may be a small gap between the rib and the bottom piece where it meets the 8.5” section. You may have a tiny bit of feed escape here but honestly it just simply falls into the trough. If you are super concerned you can spend some time with a belt sander and place the proper angles on the plywood where it overlaps to reduce this gap or you could simply fill it with caulking. I personally did nothing and really haven't seen an issue or waste from the seam. Repeat this on the other side and be careful to keep your rib holes aligned. I simply used two or three screws per ripped section plywood per rib.
Once you have the hopper body assembled, the last thing I did was place a piece of 1x2x4” long piece of wood on the bottom of each rib with the 4” length pointing out from the sides of the base essentially 1 ½” inches on each side. This prevents the trough from coming out of alignment with the hopper. The hopper bottom sits about an inch in the PVC trough and I found without this piece the trough can be pushed out of alignment and of course spill feed.
Assembling the feeder:
Next thing you do is place the pipe through the lined up rib holes leaving 6” of pipe on each side. I then cut 4 sections of chain to be used for adjusting the entire hopper and trough height and one to adjust the trough height in relationship to the hopper. I used about 8 links of chain for the section between the hopper and trough and then about 12 sections of chain for the overall feeder height adjustment. I simply attached these sections of chain to the pipe protruding from both sides of the hopper using 12.5 gauge electric fence wire (farmers duct tape). The last thing I do to ensure the chain pieces do not slide off of the hanging pipe is place a self tapping metal screw on the ends of the 1 ⅜” pipe. In previous designs I did not do this and occasionally the chains would work their way off.
You will need to make 4 S-hooks out of the H-brace wire or other rigid (not copper or aluminum) wire which will be used to hang the feeder and the trough. These should be relatively small S-hooks especially for the trough portion so you can make proper adjustments. To make the S-Hook I personally just use a pair of lineman pliers / dikes and put my bends about 1" apart. This seems to make a pretty consistent S-hook shape.
Once you have your chain sections in place, I hung the hopper so I could adjust the trough height. As a starting point I went for about a 1 ½” gap between the sides of the hopper bottom and the PVC trough on both sides. This is about the right amount of gap space for most birds both meat and heritage. This should recess the hopper about 1” into the trough. You can adjust this gap smaller if there is waste. Be sure to make this initial trough height adjustment before adding feed or it will prove difficult to adjust (ask me how I know).
Lastly, when hanging the hopper in my pasture pens I use the 12 link sections of chain so I can adjust the overall height of the feeder to about the height of the chickens' back. This seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb and minimizes waste. If you start seeing waste, normally this just means your chickens are growing and it's time to move the feeder up or adjust the gap size.
We have used this design for about two years and really feel like it works well. I am sure it would be entirely possible to increase the height of the hopper itself in order to increase the amount of feed you can store. I would caution against this unless your pastured pens can support the weight. Honestly, by the time you add enough of these feeders to satisfy linear feed space requirement for the number of birds you have in your pen you should have plenty of feed capacity across all of your feeders.
As always, if you have improvements certainly let me know so that I may incorporate them in to future designs.
Dave & Ginger and Family