Treadle Feeder Training

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Beakner, Jul 22, 2011.

  1. Beakner

    Beakner Out Of The Brooder

    May 17, 2010

    I have scoured this site looking for a thread explaining how best to train hens to use a treadle feeder. I found nothing in detail.

    I now pose the question to you.

    What is the best method to train chickens how to use a treadle feeder?

    My luck has been nil so far, and I have some hungry birds.
  2. goldeneggtees

    goldeneggtees Fluffy Butt Nut

    Mar 11, 2009
    Long Island, NY
    i just got one of grandpa's treadle feeders, did you try propping the top for one week so they get used to the feeder, then lower it by half the following week, then let it close all the way so by then they know to step on it? Mine is still in the fully open stage so I have no experience. I worry that one bird won't be on the treadle part and another will and when the one that is gets off, the other hen will have her head stuck. I see that this could happen. Did you look at this site?
  3. Beakner

    Beakner Out Of The Brooder

    May 17, 2010
    I have tried propping the door open. The result was a squirrel buffet, which was the reason I bought the feeder in the first place (a squirrel deterrent).

    Should I therefore let the squirrels feast and feast until the time comes when I can close the door all the way?

    I am feeling as though the feeder was a colossal waste of money.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  4. Gallo del Cielo

    Gallo del Cielo La Gallina Resort & Spa

    May 6, 2010
    My Coop
    I think that until the chickens are trained, you are going to lose some feed to the critters you wanted to avoid feeding in the first place. In the long run, you'll save money. I started training the chickens on my home-made treadle feeder by propping open the lid for a week (by placing a brick on the treadle) just to get the birds accustomed to stepping on the treadle and eating from the feeder. I stood two cement blocks at the sides of the feeder to limit access from there and force them to step on the treadle. During the second week I propped the cover open so that it opened or closed only about 1" when the chickens stepped on or off the treadle. That got them used to to the movement of the cover mechanism. I then propped the cover 1/2 way open so the chickens could see the food, but had to step on the treadle to access the food. I only propped the feeders open for brief periods of time, usually about 20-30 min in the morning and late afternoon (and anytime I was around to observe). The rest of the time the chickens were able to step on the treadle and open the cover and access it. Two of my six birds learned within days to fully use the feeder at will. They would calmly step up and open the feeder and eat. The others then would move in as three can easily eat at once. Interestingly, not all birds learned to open the feeder right away--the birds at the bottom of the pecking order learned first. In fact, my hen at the top of the pecking order didn't open the feeder on her own for nearly a full year! She always walked up to the feeder with one of her buddies and they opened it for her and she would step on and eat. Then one day, while broody and in a mad dash to eat, drink and get back onto the eggs, I saw her walk right up and open the feeder on her own. It demonstrated that she knew how to open it, but preferred to have another open it for her. Now that she's done being broody, she opens it all the time on her own. I suspect that training would be easier on birds that do not free-range. My birds free range a lot and don't eat much of their commercial feed in the summer, so the motivation and opportunity for interacting with the feeder are lower. I wouldn't worry at all about another hen feeding and getting her head stuck when one steps off. I've never seen it happen in a year of use now.
  5. Beakner

    Beakner Out Of The Brooder

    May 17, 2010

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post your reply.

    I'll follow your advice.

    Your insights concerning the order in which the chickens seem to learn was spot-on for me.

    I have a leghorn pullet--harried by my other hens and by far the lowest in the pecking order--that started feeding at will from the treadle today. The rest can only hope to accomplish such a feat!
  6. AussieHens96

    AussieHens96 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 16, 2013
    This is a great help, especially for when we go to buy one of these feeders <3
  7. mfischer

    mfischer New Egg

    Aug 30, 2011
    Hi, This was very interesting. I started using a treadle feeder about a month ago. My birds stopped laying. I used to have the feeder inside of their coop. When I moved it outside I realized that the squirrels had been having a field day. Four or five at a time they would gather round and my three chickens went to to the other side of the pen. I purchased a treadle feeder and while waiting I fed the birds each morning and evening and sat with them till they had enough. At least one bird started laying again. So I think my theory of bird starvation was right. When I got the treadle feeder I propped it open for a while but when I found at least one of my three was opening it - I stopped. The egg laying has stopped again. They seem hungry and complain loudly. I am trying to put the extra treats into the treadle feeder so they associate it with all of their meals. I hope this works for all of them. I hate to think that they are hungry. It works fantastically well in keeping out rodents and squirrels. I mixed some DE with the food and the ants don't bother it. I
  8. headworm

    headworm Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 2, 2014
    Just throw some cayenne pepper in with the feed to deter squirrels while you're training your chooks.
  9. pdirt

    pdirt Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    If you have deep litter where your feeder is, place the feeder high up on some cement blocks. This is to keep the litter that the chickens kick up from clogging up the treadle hinges. Ours would get so clogged in the hinges that it almost wouldn't open and certainly wouldn't close shut when the last bird stepped off. Which defeated the whole purpose of the treadle feeder!

    I like the sound of the chili flakes in the feed. Chickens will love them but the squirrels will not.
  10. Al Gerhart

    Al Gerhart Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2011
    Oklahoma City
    If you prop open a treadle feeder to "train" birds all you are doing is training them that the door isn't supposed to move.

    I've sold thousands of these feeders in the last few years and here is what we tell folks to do.

    Remove ALL other feed sources before the birds go to roost, fasten the new feeder to a wall or post with the spacer block so the feeder doesn't bounce around as it gets low on feed. That movement will shake too much feed down the feed ramp! Secure the feeder solidly to an object that can't move.

    The next morning wait a few hours after daybreak so the birds are hungry. Use your toe and show them how the treadle opens the door. One or two will be brave enough to start eating, let them get a few beak fulls and shoo them off the treadle. Repeat the process. After a couple of times the braver birds will have picked up the idea. Check on the birds a few hours later and again before they go to roost to see if they have forgotten how to operate the treadle then check again a few hours after daybreak just in case.

    Two reasons why people have trouble with new treadle feeders... leaving other food for the birds and propping the door open while "training".

    However the guillotine type feeders like Grandpa's feeder or the wooden copies will take much longer to train a bird because the lid is swinging in their face and over their head. Heck, I wouldn't want a door over my dinner table that could whack me in the head if another diner left the table. Our feeder has the door swinging IN, not up. There is no free lunch though, the Grandpa feeder is water tight due to the design of the lid so put our feeder inside the coop or under a closely fitting shed roof with sufficient overhang to prevent blowing rain.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by