What is a treadle feeder?
A treadle just refers to the mechanism or lever that’s operated by foot. Which is why people often then refer to treadle feeders as ‘step on’ feeders.
How does a ‘step on’ treadle feeder work?
The bird walks onto the cantilevered treadle [base or floor plate], the weight of the bird then pushes down that plate and this action opens the lid on the feed trough. The bird can then happily feed, when it has finished feeding and steps off the treadle, the lid covering the feed tough closes.
The principles of a treadle feeder are simple, it’s too keep the feed covered, making it accessible only to the chicken(s) using it. Treadle feeders are therefore totally rat proof as the rats aren’t heavy enough to operate the treadle.
Will a treadle feeder work with just 1 chicken?
Yes. The weight of one chicken is enough to operate a treadle feeder.
How many chickens can use a treadle feeder at once?
2-3 chickens can comfortably feed from a treadle feeder.
Can chicks use a treadle feeder?
No. The weight of young chicks isn’t sufficient to operate a treadle feeder.
Do chickens need training to use a treadle feeder?
Some wont, some will. Generally the best way to ‘train’ chickens to use the treadle feeder is to start with the lip propped open. Let them all feed from it, so they know where the feed is and that its safe.
Next, remove the prop opening the lid, so the feeder functions normally again and allow them to begin exploring it again. Placing some treats into the feeder will help enormously.
*I had to manually show our Silkie how to operate it. I did this by placing her on the treadle so she could see and feel how it works. She saw the feed and I allowed her to feed a little from it. I then took her off and straight away encouraged her back on to the treadle this time by herself. She was more comfortable the second time and fed from it normally.
What chickens using a treadle feeder can find difficult at first is the motion of the treadle moving downwards. This motion can be unsettling and can take chickens a few attempts to get used to. But when there is food involved they are incentivized to learn and will learn quickly!
Are treadle feeders dangerous?
Initially the worry for most chickens owners is that their heads will be injured when the lid closes. This won’t happen for a few reasons:
Firstly the lid only closes after the chicken has step off and walked away. Every part of the chicken is therefore well out of harm’s way by the time the lid actually closes.
What happens if there is another chicken on the treadle feeding and one jumps off, will that other chicken still feeding be harmed? No, as weight on the treadle will mean the lid remains open. Only when there is no weight on the treadle i.e. no chicken present, will the lid close.
What happens if chickens are feeding and a chicken tries to sneakily eat from the side whilst the lid is open. Will that chicken eating from the side be injured when the other chickens correctly feeding step off the treadle and the lid closes? No. Good treadle feeders [which I show further down] have side wall dividers stopping incorrect ‘side feeding’ an therefore any injury occurring.
Benefits of Treadle Feeders
It serves 3 main purposes; to keep the feed dry, out of direct sunlight and to stop anything other than your chickens from eating the feed [rat proof!]
But the treadle style also means you can fill it up and chickens just help themselves whenever they want. They are automatic, just fill up and forget.
Waterproof treadle feeders
If you plan to keep the feeder outside or in any area where there is rain or snow, it has to be waterproof. Any ingress of water into chicken feed will ‘spoil it’ and it will go moldy very quickly.
Chickens can’t eat moldy food as it makes them sick, so all that feed that has got wet has to be thrown out. It’s a waste – it’s the time spent removing the moldy wet feed and the money it costs to replace it.
Treadle feeders are rat proof
Treadle feeders stop anything but your chickens eating the feed! Most folks who keep chickens in their backyard have seen or had to deal with a rat issue. We had a rat issue and a treadle feeder put a complete stop to it. Looking back now it seems silly to just leave feed out in the open. It just puts out a sign saying, anyone welcome for lunch – I’m paying – so of course we were going to get unwanted guests!
Rats not only eat the chicken feed but they also have other very serious consequences around chickens. Rats carry mites, and those mites cause chickens to get ‘scaly legs’. The name doesn’t tell the full story as these mites burrow into the skin of the chickens legs and their feet. [They actually can affect the comb and wattles too].
Scaly leg mites are extremely uncomfortable for chickens and makes walking painful. The symptoms are the scales on the legs and feet hardening and lifting up. It can also cause deformities of the toes. If left untreated it can sadly kill chickens.
Scientists have shown that these mites, carried by rats also carry Newcastle Disease. Yet another disease that can ruin your flocks health.
It’s not just chickens they affect either, rats urinate where they eat and this is proven to cause leptospirosis within humans, so be careful next time you touch a chicken feeder where a rat has been.
Multiplying every 21 days two rats can turn into 40 odd in just 6 weeks so the message then is simple, vermin spread disease and treadle style feeders put a stop to vermin.
Wild Birds – Squirrels – Raccoons…
Again just another list of the willing takers of free lunches offered out by ‘open’ style chicken feeders. Wild birds also spread different diseases than rats. Wild birds feeding from your feeders will poop and as chicken scratch and peck around in that area, they are coming into contact with parasites that cause coccidiosis. It’s a very common cause of death around within chicks and something that needs to be taken very seriously. Medicated feeds are the best way of preventing coccidiosis in chickens.
Feed exposed to direct sunlight
This point I find is very often overlooked or not fully understood. Heat and direct sunlight totally degrades chicken feed. Chicken feed is designed to give chickens all the nutrients they require for a balanced diet. These nutrients when exposed sunlight can degrade very quickly. Having a lid covering the feeder trough is the big bonus of treadle feeders.
The Cost of Wasted Feed in Real Terms [$£]
So what’s the cost of all these free lunches. Well when I sat down and ran the sums to work out over a month how much feed was getting through without a treadle feeder I was amazed. Put it like this an adult chicken will eat on average 3.5oz [100g] per day. So that’s 6.6 pounds a month. On a per bird basis I was getting through nearer 10lb per month!
We had 12 chickens, so I ran the math using 12 chickens but this time not on a monthly basis but over the year. I nearly fainted. [I actually installed a go pro camera inside the coop as I couldn’t believe where the feed was going – sure enough I caught them in the act. Even drinking from the waterer on the way out]
What had prevented me from getting a treadle style feeder was the cost. Plain and simple. Or the thought that one day I would make one myself. We live on a farm and have a workshop and so I hate buying what I can usually fashion from old bits of metal lying around. I was wrong to wait though, as actually the cost of not getting one was so high with all the food that was being wasted. So I began to see it as more of an investment.
I get my money back on the ‘investment’ with the feed no longer being wasted – a big tick in my book and there’s no vermin, birds or squirrels around, keeping my hens safe. It was a big win-win.
Metal treadle feeders vs wood or plastic
Galvanized metal will win hands down every time, here’s why:
- Wood will need repainting after a couple moths in the sun [It can’t be treated as this could risk contamination of the feed] and it will likely start to rot in under a couple of years.
- Plastic wont rot like wood will or need painting or treating, but left out in the heat and cold it will start to crack. Even a tough HDPE won’t last long. Chicken peck at each individual bit of food, that’s a lot of pecking and in just a few months, results in more cracks. Plastics are also light and get knocked over really easily, spilling and spoiling the feed – this actually happens a lot. [I only use plastic within the brooder as they make them small enough for chicks to drink from.]
- Metal that’s galvanized however, well this will probably outlast us all! It won’t rust so can be used outdoors all year round, it’s easy to clean down, it’s heavy duty, it won’t be knocked over, the list goes on and on.
The 3 Best Rat Proof Waterproof Metal Treadle Chicken Feeders
Grandpas Chicken Feeder [The Best of The Best]
Grandpas was first to market, they basically created the treadle style chicken feeder! In the time since, they have built up a very good reputation and have excellent reviews from thousands of customers. Infact they are so confident that you will like it they offer a 2 year ‘no quibble’ guarantee – that’s unheard of these days.
It contains an anti-flick grill which is what you can see in the feed trough. This prevents chickens from flicking food around [which they always try and do given any chance!] and that saves waste.
Grandpa feeders are available in two different sizes holding two different amounts of feed and works great with bantams.
This one is treadle feeder royalty. Has a 2 year warranty and is made with exceptional quality.
Rent a Coop Treadle Feeder
‘Rent a coop’ have built up a good reputation for customer service and have offered a cheaper alternative product to grandpas to the market with this treadle feeder.
Available in two sizes they either holds 25lb or 40lb worth of feed. It does come with a 2 year ‘we will fix it’ warranty too [if you register for it on their website within 20 days of your purchase.]
You can adjust the amount of pressure/weight required to operate the treadle, this is great if you have small chickens or bantams.
XL flock? – well this feeder has a 15lb feeder addable extension so you can fill it up further and go longer without having to top it up.
Cheaper, weight adjustable and a rain lid can be added for when it’s in the ‘open’ position.
Doesn’t have the non-slip treadle that’s grandpas has and also uses lesser grade materials.
Happy Hen House Treadle Feeder [houses both feed & water]
The USP of this rust proof aluminium treadle feeder is that the lid is ‘soft close’. This works when the chickens step off the treadle, the lid will close slowly as its attached to special hinges. Perfect if you worry about chickens being injured using a treadle feeder.
Ideally for indoor use as there is only one lid that opens. This differs from the previous two designs I reviewed above, which have a separate lid to fill up the feed with.
Having just one lid means when it’s in the open position everything inside is exposed to the elements. They have this ‘one lid’ design so you can use it for both feed and water. Or just one or the other and this is actually an awesome benefit for some people.
Inside in the feed trough, it comes with 3 plastic food safe containers which can really handy to easily add in seeds, nuts or fruit and veg to their diets.
Can be used for standard size chickens, bantams and ducks!
The soft close hinged lid! Can be used by ducks and can be used with water as well as feed.
One large opening lid exposes everything inside when in the ‘open’ position
What you DONT want to buy
Perhaps I should have started with this point, but its here non the less!
As there are now so many ‘copycat’ treadle chicken feeder designs I thought I should just quickly run through the 2 worst design features but it’s fairly common sense stuff.
- No plastic!
Most animals will chew through anything plastic, it’s just not suitable for this application.
- Poor quality materials or craftsman ship
Anything sharp can and will injure animals. Things breaking whilst in use will also severely injure.