PHOTO: Frank Hyman
Frank Hyman
July 14, 2016

Katie Ford had been feeding her dozens of chickens with only three small gravity feeders that needed topping up every day or two. When I showed up with a stack of 25-gallon black nursery pots, she said, “I need one of those!” She sized it up right away as a ready-made gravity feeder and quickly put one in the run. She then handily dumped the first of several 25-pound bags of pellets in the pot and realized it would hold enough feed for a week or two. That’s a big time-saver for a first-grade teacher trying to expand her backyard homestead.

Ford discovered one of my favorite chicken-keeping hacks. Nursery pots make great gravity feeders for several reasons:

  • They’re free. Just ask your local landscaper or nursery for a few. Or scoop them up when you see a landscape crew doing a planting job. They’ll be happy for you to take them off their hands.
  • They’re built to last. Most plastic objects left in the sun will break down into pieces that blow away and get into everything. Nursery pots, however, have UV inhibitors that keep them from breaking down. They can stand being out in full sun for many years.
  • They’re ready-made. Chicken feed will continuously spill out from day one, thanks to several drainage holes distributed along the bottom edge.
  • They come in whatever size you need. And some are bigger than any gravity feeder on the market. There are also small ones that could serve as gravity feeders for chicks in their brooder. The sizes that nursery pots come in can match your project needs: 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15 gallons—take your pick.
  • They’re easy to handle. The bigger pots have handles on two or four sides, making them easy to move even when filled.
  • They’re easy on the eyes. Because nursery pots are black, they’re less eye-catching. Aesthetics may not be your most important consideration, but a good rule when conditions allow is that any object in the garden that isn’t gorgeous should be a dark color, so that your eye is more naturally drawn to the brighter, more attractive elements in your yard: plants, garden accents and, of course, chickens.

Ford positioned the pot inside the chicken run on her feeding station: a pallet set on bricks, where the small feeders had been parked. The bricks keep the pallet from rotting, and by raising the feeders off the ground, the birds can’t scratch debris into them. A piece of metal roofing overhead keeps the rain off the feeders and pallet.

Being handy, Ford immediately went to work customizing her new gravity feeder. She thought the drainage holes needed to be bigger to allow more pellets to flow, so she took a knife and quickly widened each hole to about twice its size. The plastic is sturdy, but easily yields to almost any knife or even pruners. Next, she cut down an old baby pool to function as a saucer to hold the pellets. And then she went to place an order for more feed.


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