...the Coolest Chicken Feeder in the World
The bad stuff...
The first strange thing I noticed after just a few days was the cable ties. Some would keep flopping over, then later would be standing up again. They were very long to begin with, and with 10 layers of paint and 6 of epoxy, they have doubled their weight.
I expected they would bend over when it's warmer, but strangely they seem to do the opposite?!?!? Either way, they are still very effective at keeping the girls off. I have never seen even one dare think about jumping up on the freaky prickly thing. But if I were to do it again, slightly shorter cable ties would have been fine.
The lid gathers a lot of dust in the hen house, but still glows awesome at night, and it quickly cleans back up with a cloth wipe.
After a few months use, I found the spill tray plug had completely 'popped off' from the tray. All of the silicon was still very firmly stuck to the clear acrylic cake cover, and none of it was left glued to the HDPE plastic of the tray.
I am still baffled how this happened. I was dubious about how well the silicone would hold both plastics together, but after it cured, the spill tray plug was very firmly stuck to the tray. It might get the odd peck or two, but the girls don't get in there to kick it.
The only explanation I can think of is, as temperatures rise and fall, the air pressure locked inside the acrylic dome would be different to outside. Maybe after many cycles it weakened the bond and under pressure one day it popped off? I wonder if I had drilled a very small air release hole in it somewhere, if it would still be stuck down?
I'm contemplating how to restick it, but for now it works fine leaving it sit there loose in the center. I'm also tempted to drill a hole in the center bottom of the tray, run in a wire, and install some UV (365nm wavelength black light) LED's inside the spill tray plug cavity. That will really crank up the 'fire under the barrel' glow!
The protective epoxy coating is working very well on everything I put it on, except the top edge of the drum. I was dubious that I didn't have enough coats to protect over the flames, and was worried how flexible it would be as the drum sides can flex.
After 7 months, it is starting to peel in a couple of places just along the top line. Maybe I also could have used a clear, industrial strength sticky tape to skirt off over the top epoxy edge?
The flames do look cool at night, and I installed some efficient LED spot lights in the coop that help charge up the paint when they are on. So with time and effort invested in the paint work, I want to repair and fix it for good, but am still unsure how to go about this. I will find a solution, but if anyone has experience with paint and coatings on HDPE plastic, and has some good ideas, I am keen to hear them =)
Because the bottom of the barrel is flat, not all of the food drains out. About 1/2 a bag remains, but can be moved back over the holes with a stick if needed to be drained fully. Usually we just add more bags on top when it gets low anyway.
I thought of adding a cone shape in the center, inside the drum, to direct all the food to the sides. But then it would just store less and I like knowing there is still 'a little in reserve' if we run out.
The drum is sealed, so the food seems to stay fresh. But to make sure any old stuff at the bottom eventually gets used, about every third fill up I tip out the remnants into a bucket. Then I put in 1 fresh bag, tip the remnants back in, then add more bags on top. This soon flushes the old stuff through and it's quick to do.
That's all the negatives I can come up with, nothing too serious. The floppy cable ties and the 1/2 bag remnants in the bottom of the drum are trivial, and I want to further 'enhance' the spill tray plug anyway. So I'm only concerned about protecting the flames paintwork, and hope to find a solution to fix that for good.
The good stuff...
After building 'The Coolest Chicken Feeder in the World!'...
...I was glad to have it finished and felt a little silly for using so much time and effort on a chicken feeder. But we quickly found that it was all well invested and has been paying back big returns. It is fair to say, in a small but measurable way, it has changed our life!
We quickly forgot how things used to be. But every so often we look back and remember... How we used to keep refilling the dodgy feeders every second day, and when we were too busy and forgot, how cranky and frantic the girls were. How much mess those flimsy feeders made, that we tried to keep cleaning up. How much food was wasted, lost in the straw and dirt, and all the poop that got mixed in. A lot of good food, money, time and effort was lost over 6 years.
And attracted by the spilt seed came the mice, and then 'Cyril' the Carpet Python and her many kids visited more often. Over the years, we have lost many chooks to 'Cyril's family chicken dinners'. But keeping the pythons helps keep the poisonous snakes away. So we don't want them to go, just to be less attracted to the chook house.
Also, for years I took the dogs on a 'mouse hunt' every night to hopefully catch one or more. The dogs became very effective at 'deactivating' the mice within 10-15 seconds if they caught one.
Consistently, for every 1 mouse caught, they were all rewarded as a team with 2 Schmackos each. They understood the deal very well and I'm almost convinced they learned to count small numbers and basic multiplication. If we caught any that night, they would keep begging until they got the correct number owed to them (dogs really do go wacko for Schmackos).
Sadly for the dogs, the hunts have stopped now =(
With no food laying around or being stored in bags, the mice stopped coming a few weeks after the world's coolest chicken feeder arrived.
Now with half the attraction gone, Cyril and her kids only visit the 'chicken pantry' about half as often, and I just move them back up to the shed where they occasionally find a mouse and a few possums. Cyril's really small kids (<1m (3feet)), who eat the mice but can't get their chops around a whole chook, they don't come at all any more.
Everything has changed. The girls can't get into the food, and I have never seen any poo in the tray or seen any grains of food fall out (or bounce out) of the tray. Nothing is wasted, there's no mess, and the tray didn't need cleaning for 7 months!
The bump sticks work perfectly, never get clogged up, and have barely worn down at all. There are no bags of seed stored, waiting for the mice to chew into. We get 7 & 1/2 bags of seed or pellets into the drum (150kg / 330 lbs). We don't even think about checking it for over a month, and it's a lot longer before it needs refilling! The girls have a constant, reliable supply of food, are not frantic about 'feeding time', and are more relaxed overall.
Unfortunately where it lives, it doesn't get any direct sun to charge up the glow paint, but even ambient light does something. To extend the winter days (as per the common egg production technique), I installed 4 low energy, warm white, LED spot lights in the coop. These run for only an hour or 2 at night, but they make a difference, everything in the coop that glows, keeps glowing for hours. But I am still seriously thinking of putting in some UV LED's under the spill tray plug, that will put some fire in the belly of the beast!
Some of our girls are 'Araucanas' so they lay green eggs (to go with your Ham, Sam I am). I like to tell people that the eggs turned green after we made half of the 'disco chicken coop' glow in the dark. Usually gets an interesting response =)
So Happy Days!!! The only real negative is the dogs disappointment. They used to get hyper excited when night came, and that meant 'time for a mouse hunt'. I have only seen 2 mice up there since, when we used to see 1 or more almost every night.
No, the dogs are not happy about this feeder at all. But we do get more time to give them a good scratch! And Jana and I now get a little more time to give each other a good scratch too!