Cutting down on wasted feed in the brooder?


May 7, 2015
Anyone have any suggestions? I've realized very quickly that these little buggers are a messy lot, and that I'm going to have to come up with something pretty darn quick to reduce the amount of waste, especially since I am using hippy-dippy, organic, non-gmo, milled feed and not pellets.

I tried putting the feeder into a round disposable pan, but it freaked them out every time they touched it.

Then I took the feeder out for a few hours in hopes that they would pick through what was on the floor of the brooder. They ate maybe half of it, but we were going out for the day and they are only 2 weeks old so I don't really know how much food they actually eat in a day (because they flick so much of it on the floor) and I didn't want to leave them without enough. So I took what was left in the bottom of the feeder (which was mostly the fine stuff that is left when you feed milled food) and made an oatmeal-type consistency with water and put it in an open dish. They walked on it so much that it got packed down into a cake and I kept having to break it back up with my fingers for them to eat it (ew).

Today I put the feeder on a round plastic plate. That caught some of the waste, but there is still a ton on the floor of the brooder. I'm halfway through a 25 pound bag of feed (5 chicks) in less than 2 weeks. We can't keep this nonsense up!

I've thought about making mini-pvc feeders with small pvc for the brooder, since I've read people having success with those types of feeders reducing waste in the run/coop. We will have to come up with a solution once they are outside, for sure, but even in the brooder it is out of control. Any other suggestions?
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What sort of feeder are you using? Are they getting their feet in the holes and kicking feed out or are they "billing" it out with their beaks?

The first thing I would suggest is to raise the feeder up off floor level -- use a paver or other item to put the lip up to chest level (and keep raising it as they grow).
I use the kind of feeder that is long and has holes in it to stick their heads in. Do you know what I mean? It's just the kind that you buy at a feed store, nothing I made myself. I can get a link if you don't know what I mean. :) They can't really get their feet into it to pull the feed out. I also use hippy dippy feed, lol. :) They do still dump some of it on the floor of the brooder but it's not all that bad. It's mostly the pieces that are a little big for them to eat. I have 5 and 6 week old chicks (6 of them total) and I'm just finishing my second 10lb bag of feed.
I find the best way to cut down waste is by raising the height of the feeder with bricks and scrap wood as they grow. I try to get it as high as possible where everyone can still reach. That way they don't kick so much into it. I do the same with the water. I also use a deep layer of pine shavings so their bedding stays dry and I don't refill their feeder until I'm satisfied they made a good effort to clean up their mess. It got to the point I think they preferred to scratch for their food. Once they got big enough I took the feeder and set it inside a round tupperware bowl where the food couldn't be kicked out. When I refilled it, I'd pour the rest into the shavings so they could scratch some more. I have 4 Australorp chicks that are about 2 months old and they're still on their first 25lb bag of feed but they've also been eating fodder and dipping into the flock pellets.
Ive been using a homemade auto feeder. I cut a few holes near the bottom of a protein powder container then set it inside a pie tin. I haven't noticed significant waste from it so far. I have 12 two week olds and only had to refill the container once (though the second time will be tomorrow). It's not one of the huge jugs. Maybe 2-3x bigger than an ovaltine container.
Hmmm....ok. I might try the brick idea. I have a mason jar feeder from TSC (it's round and has about 8 holes around for them to eat from). I did notice that they weren't this messy when we first got them, but as they grow they are getting messier. I did try the pie tin but they totally freaked every time they touched it because it made noise, I think. I think I'll scrounge up 2 extra pavers laying around in the yard tomorrow for the water and the feeder and see how that works.

I second the motion on fermented feed. Not only will it eliminate waste, but it's far better for your chicks.

Whatever you feed chicks, know that they are inclined to walk and wallow in their food. It's the way of chicks. Even older chickens do it. I've found that dishes with straight sides eliminates the ability to "beak" or "bill" out the food in the dish. Many dog dishes come with straight sides. Or you can make your own feeding troughs with straight sides.

I made a fermented feed chick feeder out of an ice cube tray glued to a heavy board and covered with a piece of half inch hardware cloth crimped over the sides so it will easily slide off and on the ice cube tray. It keeps the chicks from walking in their food and the food remains in the dish until it's eaten.
Can you feed fermented feed from the start with chicks? I'm researching it and can't seem to find much reference to chick feed in particular.

Your ice cube tray idea is genius.
Do you have a pic of the ice cube tray idea? I'm also interested in knowing more about fermenting chick feed. I already feed my grown birds fermented. Same idea, but using the chick starter?

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