How to: Simple DIY Chicken Feeder and Waterer

If you have made the decision to get serious about self sufficiency and start your own little chicken flock in your backyard, here are a few quick tips that will save you some money.

If you have a spare hour of time, you can make your own chicken feeders and waterers. These are all over the internet so if you don’t like the way I did it here – just search for “homemade chicken waterers and feeders” and you find at least a half a dozen approaches to them. This certainly isn’t unique – but it isn’t something most feed stores will show you either, and why would they? They sell them for $20-30 a pop.

Not completely innocent I too have bought a few store bought feeders, however, since I have learned to make my own I would not waste my money on store bought ones. Most of the supplies I use are re-purposed items and the finished products come in at a fraction of the cost. As a bonus, I can tell you for sure two things: This is easy enough for a girl with little interest in tools to do. AND I have, in fact, done this myself so I will try to include the things I wish I would’ve read in other “how-tos” before I started.


  • (1) 5 Gallon bucket with lid (any will do) and a metal handle, don’t use the ones with the plastic handle as pictured, they don’t hold up to the weight.
  • (1) Oil pan (plastic or metal it doesn’t matter)
  • A screw, (2) washers and nut
  • A little bit of loctite

Cut four to six two inch holes around this base of you bucket, as close to the bottom as you can get. This allows the food to fall out as the chicken eat it. When it runs low – they can actually stick their heads up in the feeder and eat the food.

You put the holes on the bottom of the bucket (by marking them with a pen first so your spacing is good), so you can set the bucket in you oil pan right side up, this allows you to open the lid and add more food, then close the lid to keep the little buggers from perching up there and pooping in their food, if you can’t place the feeder out of the weather, this protects a bulk of the food from rain.

If the bucket has a nice metal handle you have the option of using to hang the feeder up. Hanging feeders are nice because they get less debris in them, mice can’t get into them, and therefore it’s a little healthier for the chickens, besides I hate feeding mice.

Since I didn’t have a fancy paddle drill bit that would cut nice big round holes in my bucket I started the hole with a smaller bit and used a little hand saw to make bigger holes. They aren’t pretty, but the chickens don’t care.

Next, pick out a drill bit of appropriate size for the screws – you picked out. Mark the center in the bottom of the bucket. Drill through the bucket first. Use that hole to center your bucket up with the oil pan and mark another hole for your oil pan (or plastic relish tray or whatever you are using).

Then drill a hold through the oil pan. Line both holes up then stick a washer on the screw, and add the screw from the bottom of the oil pan so it will set level on a flat surface. Next add the washer from the top and use the nut with a bit of Loctite on it to tighten everything down securely.

The washers will insure you don’t pull the screw threw the bucket and oil pan when the weight of the chicken food is added. I have made two of these, each have one screw, I hang them, and have had no problems (aside from the plastic handle eventually breaking off of the one pictured above). If you are the cautious type you can feel free to add more than one screw to secure the two parts together.

As you move the feeder and as it hangs there, the bottom will spin. Someday it will spin that nut right off when you are moving a full 5 gallons of chicken feed and it will spill on the ground all over your feet right when you have 15 other things to do. This is what the Loctite prevents.


  • Bucket – I get them used from a fast food restaurant they smell like pickles, but the chickens don’t mind. $2
  • Oil Pan – I can get nice metal oil pans from the local farm supply store for $4 new, but you can use the cheaper plastic ones or even a large round plastic relish/veggie tray left over from the holidays.
  • Screw, washers and nut – I pillaged mine from my Hubby’s supplies, but last year I walked into a hardware store and told them what I wanted, since they sell them by the ounce, and since I bought other things they just gave me the two washers, one nut and one screw for free.
  • Loctite: Again I had this already so it didn’t cost me anything – a new bottle will run you $3-10 depending on which kind and size you get.

My End Feeder Cost: $6


Now for a waterer. Not a nipple waterer but just a simple oil pan bucket waterer. The picture below shows one that is done from the top instead of the bottom. You would simply drill the holes at the top of the bucket instead of the bottom well below the lip of the oil pan, fill the bucket full of water, top it with the oil pan, then flip it over. This design is handy for if you need to take your bucket over to a source of water and then bring it back to the coop full of water using the handle to carry it. A bottom hole design is handy for when your water hose reaches the coop, this way you can just pop the lid off and fill it up. For this design, make sure that you have “gasket seal lid” for your bucket, which is air tight, this is very important as the waterer won’t work right without an airtight lid.

  • (1) 5 Gallon bucket with gasket or gamma seal lid (the used pickle buckets I get come with gasket lids).
  • (1) Oil Pan
  • 3/8 Drill bit

Mark two holes two inches up from the bottom of your bucket, but well below the lip of the oil pan, on opposite sides of the bucket. Then take a 3/8 drill bit and drill out those holes, you can use a small size bit if you are nervous. Then set your oil pan (and oil pan really works better in this case) in your coop at a height you prefer, so they don’t have to dip down too low or reach up too high, use bricks or wood under the pan to adjust the height. This waterer is NOT meant for chicks, so don’t use it till they are about 3 months or older, as baby chicks could drown in the water.

Then set your bucket in the center of the pan and run a hose over to it. Fill it up to the very top and snap that lid on securely and quickly (some water will run out, then it should stop as a vacuum forms in the bucket). If you are lacking in grip and upper arm strength find one of those lids with a bung in it so you can just unscrew the bung and add water that way, or try a gamma seal lid. This will save you the trouble of snapping and unsnapping the gasket seal lid. If the lid is not air tight the water will continue to flow and flood your coop, so having an air tight lid is very important.

When the bucket is sealed, the water will flow into the oil pan until it covers those two holes that you drilled and a slight vacuum forms in the bucket stopping the flow of water. Then it will stop until the chickens drink the water down below the holes, then air will enter the bucket releasing the vacuum and more water – and it will then fill back up again. Viola!! You have just saved your self a bundle of money. This waterer will last my laying flock of 23 for a week. Only down side to this design is you can’t hang it, BUT there is a solution to that problem in the article for hanging waterers.

Final Cost of Waterer $6


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