Frank Hyman has been a columnist for Chickens magazine for several years, so of course someone was going to ask him to write a book. However, a simple text about keeping chickens doesn’t fit this lively, humorous writer, who has covered chicken-related topics including coop construction and building a worm-bin buffet for his hens. No, he’s not interested in just keeping chickens but creating a hentopia for them, which is the name of his new book: Hentopia: Create a hassle-free habitat for happy chickens. His book offers 21 innovative projects, including this feeder, for chicken-keepers all of skill levels and is on sale now.
Here’s a sample project from the book on how to create a vending machine feeder.
What You’ll Need for the Feeder
- A 5-gallon bucket with tight-fitting lid
- Drill with a 5/8-inch spade bit and a 3/16-inch bit
- Two wine corks
- Pair of pliers
- Two 4-inch eyebolts with 1/4-inch diameter threads
- A 4-inch hook with a threaded shaft
What to Do
To create your own vending machine feeder:
1. Drill Holes in the Bucket
Using the 5/8-inch spade bit, drill two holes in the bottom of the bucket. The eyebolts’ shafts will hang down through these. Put each hole roughly below the spots where the bucket handle attaches. (How this factors into the feeder function will be clear later.)
2. Prepare the Corks
Using the 3/16-inch bit, drill into the bottom of each wine cork a little more than half the distance from one end to the other. This size hole makes room for the eyebolt shaft to enter without splitting the cork. Hold the cork with a pair of pliers so you don’t hurt your hand if the bit goes awry. (In the photo, I’m using a champagne cork for a more celebratory look.)
3. Attach the Corks
With one hand inside the bucket holding the eye of one of the eyebolts and the other hand outside the bucket holding one of the corks, screw the cork onto the shaft of the eyebolt. Repeat with the other eyebolt and cork.
4. Select a Spot to Hang the Bucket
With the eyebolts and corks in place, choose a spot in the pen or coop from which to hang the bucket feeder. You want the corks at the height of the chickens’ heads. Mark the spot for the hook.
5. Screw the Hook in Place
As with the corks, use a drill bit that matches the diameter of the hook’s shaft so that there is room for the shaft to enter the drilled hole while allowing the threads to bite into the wood. Screw the hook into place.
6. Add Feed, Hang the Bucket Feeder and Observe the Feast
Fill the bucket with feed and put the watertight lid on. Hang the bucket from the hook. Tap the corks so that some feed drops out of the bucket. Now you see why the position of the holes matters. If there’s a hole at the back of the bucket, much of the feed will bounce outside the fencing.
Make the Feeder Work
Remove other sources of food to focus the chickens’ attention on their new vending machine. Depending on how smart your chickens are, they will learn in a few minutes—or, like ours, a couple of days—how to trigger the corky toggle switches. Some will get it right away from watching you. With others, you may need to take them and tap their beaks against the cork until you see them get the idea.
Some hen-keepers have had luck shining a red laser light on the toggles to get the hens to peck, but ours weren’t interested. When they got hungry enough, tapping on the corks started making sense to them. Now they seem to really enjoy tapping the cork on their new vending machine. And the marauding sparrows have disappeared, too.
Excerpted from Hentopia by Frank Hyman, a designer, builder, gardener and freelance writer who leads workshops on designing and building chicken coops and hen habitats. He lives and maintains his own flock’s hentopia in Durham, North Carolina. Excerpt used with permission from Storey Publishing. Photos by © Liz Nemeth.
This story originally appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of Chickens magazine.