Poultry Feeding Systems
Many types of feeding methods exist and are used in South Africa. From scattering feed by hand, to highly mechanised chain feeding systems and pan feeding systems that feed 30 - 40 000 birds at a time. The type of system you choose when asking how to give chickens food will depend on your budget, the number of chickens you plan to raise, and the type of poultry farming you are doing. (broilers, layers or breeder broilers).
Tube Feeders and Chick Trays
Depending on your resources and the number of chickens you plan to farm - with a bit of research, you will find the right method. Generally if you have a small house - up to 2000 birds, a manual feeding system is fine. You would use plastic tube feeders chick trays, with bell drinkers to give the chickens water. These are placed on the floor of the house or suspended from the roof. They require cleaning every day and refilling as they empty. The plus side is that you are not throwing your feed on the floor - where it is mixed up with the shavings. The chick trays are made from plastic, and as the name implies, are used for feeding baby chicks in the first few days. Once the birds are big enough they will use the other systems you have installed.
Chain feeders are for really large houses - not because they will not work in a small house - but because they are fairly expensive. They pay themselves back when you have many birds. They require some knowledge to install and maintain. The consist of galvanised troughs, chain and a series of motors or power heads as they are known. These drive the chain around the troughs and distribute the feed. The troughs are joined by couplers, made from galvanised steel. The chin feeding system is pulled around the corners with special units called chain feeding corners that have a cast iron wheel with bearings. You will, from time to time need to replace your shafts and bearing.
The system is suspended from the roof, so you chicken house needs to be robust to hold the weight. The poultry drinking system is usually nipples and pipes, also suspended from the roof and fed from a header tank on top of your poultry house.
Pan feeding system
Pan feeding systems, in my opinion, are by far the best form of feeding chickens. The are also suspended from the ceiling. The poultry feed is distributed through the house by and auger running through auger pipes. The feed is supplied from a galvanised silo outside the house. By adjusting the pan feeders you can change how much food is given to the chickens. This system can be used in both large and small houses but is also sometimes too expensive for small poultry houses.
When choosing poultry equipment for chicken farming make sure the the company you are dealing with has some history - the equipment you buy - especially the automatic feeding systems and automatic drinking systems will be in operation for many years in your chicken house. The equipment company must be able to offer back up and spares, and be prepared to come out and service your systems if need be. It does not help that you have saved some money on the initial instalation, only to have no back up 2 years later. Very few poultry companies are prepared to look after someone elses equipment - especially if it is unknown and has no spares - this could result in you having to redo the whole system again. Poultry equipment, if cared for, can last a lifetime. All that will be needed is regular servicing - things like sprockets and gears will wear - but if replaced regularly will ensure your farm runs smoothly. Items like plastic drinkers and plastic feeders will need to be replaced - they are after all, made of plastic. They should not be left in the sun - often this happens at cycle change whilst they are being cleaned. Your gas heaters should not be left in the house for the whole cycle - take them out once you are done with them and clean them, then store them. When you have a cycle change over service equipment, replace shafts, reset and clean your drinking system. This is for closed environment housing also. Your curtains for chicken houses should be wound up and down every day - otherwise, if left down for the whole cycle they will become home to rodents and rats - they will chew through the curtain. All the pulleys and winches should be oiled and serviced, replaced if needed. Your chain feeders, the power heads, the corners etc. will need to be oiled and cleaned.