Well, I finally got all the requisite parts assembled all in one place. And 8 days ago, I turned on my fodder system. After a couple days of tweaking, I have most of the kinks worked out of them system, all of them associated with the shelving unit itself. What looked like an open grided shelf that would easily let water fall through, turned out to be not so open, but not in a way you would notice until the water pours out onto the floor.
Anyway, the set up is pretty simple. On the bottom is a reservoir containing a pretty hefty pump. (Has to be fairly powerful to lift the water about 7 feet up to the top of the shelving unit. Above the reservoir, are four shelves, each holding two plastic bins with a few small holes drilled in the bottom of one end. Above the shelving unit is the tubing from the pump. The end of the tubing is plugged and there are tiny holes in it to allow the water to drip into the topmost bins.
The whole system is on an automatic timer that turns the pump on every six hours. The water comes out over the top bins and then drains out into the bins on the shelf below, etc, until finally the water returns to the bottom bin. Fresh seed that’s been soaked for 24 hours goes into a bin on the bottom, and then gets moved over and up each day until it reaches the top and it is ready to feed to the chickens.
Other than the occasional overflow caused by the design of the shelves, the only issue I am having with the system is a funky smell and fungus gnats. Starting on day one, I noticed a bit of a funk and fungus gnats in the presoak tub. By day six, I noticed a fairly strong aroma when I opened up the barn. It was a sort of sewage-like smell. So I added just a touch of bleach to the reservoir and a little bleach to the presoak bin. That seemed to help with both the odor and the fungus gnats.
What did I spend constructing this? Good question. The bins and the shelf unit I bought last year and they cost around $130 (70 ish for the shelves, 20 ish for the reservoir and 8 bins about $4 a piece). This year, I bought the pump, tubings and a few fittings about $70.
Today was day 8 in the system, which meant I fed my chickens sprouts for the first time. Since I am always chunking garden stuff over the fence at the chickens they weren’t too shy about trying the sunflower sprouts, even with the funky smell. Ate them all.
Okay, so here’s what you really want to know. I have 27 chickens and 6 ducks and I go through 100 pounds of feed every two weeks. The ducks get around a pound a day, which means the chickens are consuming around 6 pounds per day. The current price on feed is $25/100 pounds, not including tax. Including tax, the price per pound for store bought feed is 26 cents a pound.
The current price on black oil sunflower seed is $20/40 pounds. From 1.6 pounds of seed, I was able to produce 8.3 pounds of sprouts. (Conversion rate of 5.12 to 1) Including tax, this yields a price per pound of 11 cents.
So theoretically, this should be a significant cost savings, but at this point I can’t say for sure. I have left the ready-made feed in the coop. I also have quite a bit of garden tidbits to toss their way as well. At the moment the chickens do not have access to pasture due to predator pressures.
In a few weeks I should be able to report on the amount, if any, of reduction in feed consumption as well as changes in rates of lay or general health. (Although egg info will be suspect as the days are getting shorter and it’s getting close to molting time.) For now, ducks won’t be getting sprouts.
I shared this post at The Backyard Farming Connection.