Does anyone have a way to keep chicken feed off the ground? I'd like to hear your method. (I mean the feed that the hens inevitably flick out of their feeder and onto the ground).
We've had chickens for 3 years now and I'm still trying to figure out how to keep the feed in the feeder and off the ground. Because the feed attracts rats and other wild critters and because it's a waste of feed and money.
No matter what kind of feed container* I've tried the hens always manage to get feed on the ground. I know some people feed only the amount their hens will eat up in a few minutes to prevent this. But I haven't wanted to do it that way. My observation is that the hens are nibblers/grazers and left to their own preferences they like to alternate between feed from the bowl and grazing greens and insects. So I've left enough feed in the bowl that allows them to graze all through the day. Maybe that will have to be sacrificed in order to prevent the feed loss on the ground.
*About feed containers: have tried the standard ones from feed stores as well as heavy deep dishes that are raised up on bricks. As well as trough styles with covered tops. Any other ideas that actually work?
We've preferred to use feed that has cracked grains and fines (supplements) rather than the pelletized feed. I believe the pelletized feed would be slightly easier to keep cleaned up or off the ground. But it seems the unprocessed grain type might be a higher quality so we keep using that.
We ruled out keeping the feed in the coop. We have a smallish coop and so keeping the feed inside the coop would result in poop getting into the food and food getting all over the floor which would still attract rats to the inside of the coop. Even though we have a double layer of hardware cloth lining the underside of the coop, I don't want rats to be attracted by food, to chew through or to enter the coop through the chicken entry door. And yes - Rats will just walk in through the coop door during the day if they are hungry enough.
I've imagined building a feeding station raised up off the ground 2 or more feet*, with a cage floor that would allow feed and poop to drop through to a tray below. This tray could then be cleaned daily so no feed lays on the ground to attract rats. We haven't tried this (yet). It might solve the issue with attracting rats but it would still be wasting what falls on the ground as it will then be mixed with poop. (*having the feed station raised off the ground that high would make it easier to clean daily and would prevent rats from living underneath it.
As far as setting rat traps.... I've done that quite a few times. Interestingly I found that we'd catch one rat right away then after that one - none. I'd keep putting traps out and none would get trapped. Smart critters!
Care to share any thoughts on this subject?
I use a big metal bowl and mix scoops of scratch n peck into water and mix that up daily for them. no waste at all. and Im not sure if that would help with the rats or not. I do not have that issue. worth a try.
I have tried mixing the fines with water or other liquids like whey. Our hens pick out the big stuff and leave the fines anyway. If I withhold food they will eventually eat the wet fines, but not all of it. I don't want to leave the wetted food out for them for more than that day because it will spoil, so I end up throwing a lot of it out anyway. I'm also not sure about withholding food (starving them or forcing them to eat by withholding food), because they use a lot of nourishment to produce an egg a day. I want them to have plenty.