Chickens don’t have teeth. Old jokes, apparently, used to focus on this fact to humorous effect. The reality of toothlessness for chickens means that they need alternatives to chewing in order to grind their food. For this purpose, they use stones that act internally as teeth would, enabling the chicken to reduce their food into usable particles. I won’t go into a full blown chicken anatomy lesson, suffice to say that for chickens to be happy and healthy they need a supply of small stones, called grit.
Calcium is another thing that chickens need. In order to produce eggs with nice, strong shells chickens need to take in calcium. This is sometimes added to their feed, but most organic farmers seem to agree that the best method of adding calcium to a chicken’s diet is to make it available in the form of ground shells, to be taken whenever the chicken feels the need.
So, in my tiny chicken coop and run area I find the need to add two feeders – one for grit and one for shell. But where to put them? Chickens are indiscriminate about where they put their feet. And about where they poop. I have had to lift their water fount off the ground in order to keep the water clean, and often the feeder gets knocked over due to the enthusiasm with which my girls chow down.
I puzzled over how to solve this dilemma until I stumbled upon a blog entry by a chicken enthusiast, advocating use of old tuna cans as feeding dishes. Hmmm. So here it is – the tuna can feeder…
Stakes (I had these left over after some fence post repair)
This whole project takes just as long as you need to allow the paint to dry – dead easy! Remove the labels from the tuna cans, then wash and dry them.
Drill a hole centered between the top and bottom edges of the side of the can. Doing this before painting saves the inevitable touch up needed after the drill slips, the can rolls over a stone or some other mishap gouges the finish. I used a spade bit, which I basically poked through the can to start the hole. Do this on a hard surface that won’t be damaged by the bit.
Paint the cans inside and out with paint that is non-toxic. I used craft paint left over from a project with my daughter. This is easy enough that you can enlist the kiddos for help too. Allow the paint to dry completely! Really, I hate waiting – but you just have to do it.
Using a small brush, I painted on the words Grit and Shell. No, I don’t imagine that the hens will be reading the labels. But it makes it easier to refill with the correct substance. Be sure to paint the opposite side of the can from the hole.
Again, wait for the paint to dry. Drill a hole in the stake to accommodate the screw. Position the hole so that the edge of the can will be at least an inch below the top of the stake. I missed the mark on my first feeder, making it really hard to pound the stake into the ground without totally deforming the can.
Now comes the fun part. Most screw drivers are a little big to fit nicely inside the tuna can. The can tends to bend as it is being attached to the stake. Just bend it back into shape and try not to gouge the paint as you tighten the screw.
Once the cans are mounted to the stake they are ready to install. The great thing about these feeders is that they are elevated, so the chickens won’t kick junk into them, and they require little area in which to do their job.
I am participating in my first ever blog hop! Please visit the other fine blogs included in the Clever Chicks blog hop…