Discarded chicken feeders and waterers can be repurposed as rustic garden planters. Wooden trough feeders will work well for a season or two but then are likely to rot. Galvanized feeders and waterers will last longer and give a great look to a patio table, porch or backyard.
How to Find Chicken Feeder Planters
If you know any current or poultry farmers, you may be able to get discards for free. Otherwise, try farm auctions, rural yard sales or flea markets. If you really like the chicken-feeder-planter look and can’t find used ones, new ones are readily available at farm and garden stores and even Amazon has great prices on them.
Here are some great sizes and shapes that make cool planters:
Cylinder Chicken Feeder Planters for Larger Plants:
Trough Chicken Feeders and Shallow Root Planters:
Wall Mounted Chicken Feeder Planters:
Chicken Feeder Types
Chickens may eat out of long shallow troughs made of wood or galvanized metal, which are suitable for growing small plants. These will require 1/2″ drainage holes drilled every 6″ or so along the bottom.
Larger plants will grow in cylindrical-style chicken feeders. These feeders have a metal ‘saucer’ underneath into which feed flows slowly through small apertures from the open-topped barrel above. This type does not requite drainage holes, since water will flow freely out into the saucer. Waterers also work, but make sure to create some drainage holes.
The wall mounted chicken feeders make great planting pockets if you’re going for that rustic gardening look. They can be attached to anything from fence posts, mailboxes, or entryways. Vines will look great growing from these.
Keep an eye out for large chicken trough feeders. These are at least four feet in length and shaped similar to a rain gutter. These larger metal feeders make great strawberry planters.
What to Plant in Chicken Feeders
Troughs less than 6″ deep should be used only for the smallest flowers and succulents. Troughs at least 6″ deep can be used to grow most annual flowers as well as basil, chives, lettuce and spinach. Large troughs at least 8″ deep work well for peas, bush beans and radishes. Short-stemmed, spreading flowers like impatiens and lobelia are suitable for troughs.
Cylinders at least 12″ deep and 8″ wide will sustain peppers, eggplants and even cherry or patio tomatoes. Taller ornamentals like Artemisia, geraniums and babies’ breath also thrive in deeper soil. Trailing or weeping plants like petunias and bacopa will also grow in cylinders. They will hang down over the sides, presenting more flowers and less metal to the viewer.
Mixing Soil Media for Chicken Feeder Planters
You need a growing medium that will hold water well and allow adequate aeration and drainage. If you’re going to be harvesting vegetables or herbs from your container you also need a mix that will feed your plant. If you’ll need to move your planter with the plants still in it, consider how much your chosen material will weigh.
Ornamentals can be grown in standard potting soil. Herbs and vegetables need a richer mix unless you’re going to feed them heavily with liquid fertilizers. A heavy and nourishing mix for vegetables might include 1 part loamy soil (your own garden soil, or good topsoil from a garden store), 1 part organic matter (compost or well-rotted manure), and 1-part coarse aggregates (perlite or sand; perlite is costlier but lighter-weight). Some sources suggest a 50-50 mix of organic matter and coarse aggregates.
Planting Your Poultry Feeder Containers
For deep containers, put an inch of sand, gravel or crushed rock on the bottom to facilitate drainage.
Mix your growing medium thoroughly. Wet it so that it clumps together but doesn’t ooze water when you squeeze a fistful.
If you’re planting seeds directly, fill your container to within 2″ of the top, pressing the soil in gently. Don’t pack the soil hard. Set your seeds in and cover with soil, pressing that top covering down very lightly.
If you’re putting in transplants, fill cylinders about 2/3 of the way, then set your transplant in and keep filling in around it.
Tending Your Container Garden
Container plants don’t have the same reserves of water and nutrients to draw on that garden plants have. Check to see if they need watering daily. Most plants want to be kept moist but not soggy. Vegetables should be fertilized weekly. Organic gardeners can use homemade compost tea or purchased seaweed extract (for micronutrients) and fish emulsion (for macronutrients).
Here is a great video showing the prep for metal succulent containers:
Want to learn more about planting in chicken feeder containers?
Check out these websites:
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