Introduction: Easy Free Feeder Made From Trash
This kind of solution can be used for any number of animals, such as chickens or even a free fed dog. In our case, this is made for quail. Quail are “game birds”, which means they’re allowed in our neck of suburbia, whereas chickens aren’t. They’re also quieter and don’t stink unless you’re sticking your face under their coop, which I for one would not recommend. The issue comes from the fact that, while quail are quite easy to take care of, if we were to leave for a week or so, we’d have to have someone refill the food and water. Additionally, a kid’s on the way and we don’t want to let them starve during the months of sleeplessness.
The solution: make a feeder that allows us to drop in food that will last them a very, very long time. This requires a large amount of storage space for the food, as well as an enclosed and waterproof solution. Only the part accessible to the birds should be open to the elements. Additionally, the current solutions require actually opening the coop and adding or replacing food/water by reaching in which isn’t super convenient and spooks the birds. Since we’re doing this project anyway, we’ll make it so that we have a bit more ease of access by making it such that we’re able to add food from outside the coop. With the intention of extruding filament for 3d printing, I’ve been saving plastic for a while now. Plastic is easy to cut down while also providing a long-term and waterproof solution. So, let’s jump into the making of it!
- Empty plastic containers, such as old shampoo bottles and coffee canisters.
- An exacto-knife
- Strong glue, such as Gorilla Glue
- Duct Tape
Step 1: Foraging
What to look for -
- The feeding tray should be something that can conveniently hold all the food while also having a bit of space for the dispenser to rest on it as well.
- The bottom piece should be something that fits the feeding tray well. You’ll be cutting it a bit so it doesn’t have to be a perfect fit if it’s close enough to work with.
- The top piece should be something with a large, open lid so that you can easily add the food. This should be at least as large, or larger than, the other pieces.
- The middle pieces should be the intermediary between your starting piece and your smallest piece. That means you’ll want to match up sizes, such that your previous piece is the same size at the bottom as the current piece is at the top. Conveniently, a lot of plastic containers have exactly the same size, from shampoo bottles to vitamin containers.
Note: If you don’t have the exact same size, you can use something slightly larger and pinch and seal part of the container to match the size you need.
This is just one style of free feeding food dispenser, so feel free to take liberties. The reason for this design, wherein we start with the largest piece and end with the smallest piece, is that the smallest piece fits the food tray that suits quail and the largest pieces are able to sit on/connect to a solid piece of wood, which makes them really easy to secure and stabilize. Having the largest piece on top also makes it much easier to add the food.
Remember to wash out any containers you need to, such as old bleach bottles. This is going to be used for food so there’s no reason to risk giving your critters bleach flavored dinner.
Step 2: Measure
We actually don’t need a 100% perfect fit with this setup, as we’ll get to, but we do definitely need to have the measurement that goes from the top of the coop to the bottom. Next, measure out the pieces you have. The goal is to make it so that without the last piece it’s too short, but with the last piece it’s too long. An initial measurement will help you get an idea of how many pieces you need, but keep in mind that these pieces will be overlapping and that they’ll have their overall length reduced a bit as a result.
Step 3: Cutting
Cut each piece where you plan to connect the next piece to it. If it’s funnel shaped, cut it where the size of the funnel matches the size of the next piece. For the most part, this will just mean cutting the top and bottom of most pieces and lining them up. If the pieces are curved at the top or bottom, it can be slightly easier for the glueing stage if you leave a small amount of the curved segment so that it can fit within the next piece more easily.
Cut a half circle into one face of the intended bottom connecting piece of the feeder. This will be what sits on the feeding tray, so we need a place for the food to come out. The cut doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to provide an opening.
Not all pieces will be an ideal fit. Below is an example of how to work through it.
This piece is a nice funnel shape but also has a handle. The 2 options are to cut the funnel where it matches the size of the next piece and close off the handle so food doesn’t get into it, or cut all the way up to the handle and pinch the plastic so that it still ends up being the same size as the piece below, but without the handle. Both are fine options.
I started by cutting with the intention to close off the handle and decided I didn’t like the handle and instead opted for option 2. Below is an image of what it looks like when the plastic is pinched to match the size of the next piece. To fully close the pinched off segment, thoroughly glue the pinched piece and use tape to hold it in place. Then, bend the pinched piece to press up against the side of the container and tape it in place. This helps to improve the look of it (not that that’s what we’re going for with a feeder made from trash), and helps to remove any room for food to go down the wrong way (the actual goal).
Step 4: Make a Hole in the Top of the Coop
The goal here is to make it so that you don't have to even open the coop to add food. Instead, we'll have a coffee container with a lid sitting on top. To add food within the coop, we just drop it down the hatch! This means, though, that we need a hole. Set the coffee container down on the coop in the place you'd like it to be and use a marker to outline a circle. If you have access to a specialized saw, that would be best for making a nice, convenient hole. However, if you don't have access to one, the back end of the hammer can do the trick. The bright side of the uglier hole this creates is that it will be completely hidden from view. Keep in mind though, that this means projectile wood, so remember to wear eye protection!
Step 5: Connecting the Pieces Together
Once all the pieces are cut down to fit, you can glue them in place. *NOTE* - do not glue the last piece or the top piece yet. You also don’t need to worry about the feeding tray quite yet. As for the rest of the pieces, the glue is the long term solution for holding this thing together, but taping can help hold the structure how you want it and let you work on it without waiting for it to be 100% dry. Since this is an outdoor solution, we can expect the tape to deteriorate over time, so we don’t want tape to be our primary connecting agent, or we’ll have some pretty weak structural stability. For the short run, it definitely helps for getting everything assembled more easily.
To glue the pieces, decide which piece will fit within the other and glue the outside of it where the pieces will overlap. If you left a bit of a piece’s curved top or bottom for easier overlap, this piece will go on the inside, but make sure that piece will be facing downward in the feeder overall to avoid food catching.
If you’re doing a similar setup to what I have here, the top piece is going to set on the top of the coop and will therefore need to be completely separate from the rest of your feeder structure. We’ll deal with that piece last.
Step 6: Putting the Feeder in Place
Now that we have all our pieces connected for the main structure of the feeder, we can start putting them into the coop. Get 4 pieces of tape ready - it will make your life much easier. Add the glue that will adhere the feeder to the top of the feeder. Put the feeder in place and tape from the inside of the feeder up onto the top of the coop on 4 sides. This will hold the feeder in place while you make sure it’s stable. The tape will be the primary force holding it in place while the glue dries, so we want to make sure it will hold for awhile. If you like glue as much as I do, add glue along an additional piece of tape, and then wrap it around the top of the feeder such that half of the tape is pressed up against the top of the coop.
The bottom piece of the feeder and the actual feeding tray both need to be added. Add glue on both the top and bottom of the bottom connecting piece. Put the bottom piece in place where it’s connected to the rest of the feeder, and move it up higher than intended, such that it is overlapping with the piece above it enough that there’s room below the bottom piece. Put the feeder tray in place, and let the bottom piece fall to the bottom. Be sure to turn the bottom piece until the half-circle opening is facing outward toward the open part of the feeder tray. This is an easy/convenient way to get everything in place while ensuring that it will be kept in place long-term.
Last but not least, we need to add the top piece. This one is easy. First, add your glue. Then, set it down on the top of the coop such that the hole is as centered in the middle of it as possible. Optionally, create another strand of tape with glue on it and wrap it around the base of the container, where half of it is connected to the top of the coop, to add a bit more peace of mind.
Step 7: Revel in Your Creation
It may not be the same caliber of art as a banana taped to a wall, but we’re here for functionality and, functionally, we’ve created a very convenient way to add food that also will last the birds much, much longer. This allows for vacations without worrying about bird logistics, or just fewer check ins in general, all with the help of random junk and some glue.
Participated in the
Trash to Treasure Contest