Monthly Archives: January 2014

Product Review: Brower Equipment Poultry Reel Feeder 

One of my largest frustrations in starting our farming enterprise has been that of figuring out what equipment works and doesn’t work.  The wrong selection ends up costing you time, mental health and most importantly money.  And trust me, I’ve made my fair share of poor choices.  Anytime you can learn from someone who “has been there and done that”, make it your business to do so!  It will save you a lot of heartache in the end, and is quite frankly the reason this website even exists.

In an attempt to save money, I have re-purposed, salvaged and built all kinds of equipment for the farm.  And yes, there are some designs out there to build poultry feeders using PVC that work pretty well.  My experience with them was that they allowed the birds to waste a lot of feed.  A lot of feed!  With that in mind, this is one area where spending some money makes a lot of sense to me.  That grain you are setting out each day costs way more money than a good functioning feeder that keeps the feed off of the ground, and where it belongs: in front of the birds so they can eat it and fatten up!  Such is the case with the Brower Equipment Reel Feeder for pastured poultry operations.  This is a piece of equipment that doesn’t really care if you are a homesteader or commercial producer, it will serve you well and is worth the cost.

These feeders are molded, heavy duty plastic and work great for chickens on pasture aged 3 weeks up to maturity.  We also double purpose them and raise our Thanksgiving turkeys with them as well.  They don’t tip, they hold an enormous amount of grain and will take a beating.  Holding enough grain is something that is often overlooked when raising fast growing meat birds.  These birds are high octane sports cars, and if you don’t have adequate fuel in front of them they can stress out and really hurt your performance in a hurry.  And, the design really keeps the feed in the feeder and not on the ground so long as you don’t overfill them.  That simply is not the case with home made PVC feeders that I have seen.

As your birds grow, you also need lots of linear footage so that a good percentage of them can belly up to the bar at once.  The Brower feeders are 4′ or 5′ long respectively.  In our 120 square foot tractors, one feeder will suffice for the first week to ten days on pasture and a second one can be added after that thru maturity.  These are well built and when I say they can take a beating, I mean it.  I have run over these with my 1/2 ton truck and had ice build up bust holes into them.  The darn things are so thick that you can literally just bolt or screw scab pieces of lumber or plastic onto them and repair them.  We have some really ugly looking Brower feeders here, but they are still doing there job and some of them are going into their 7th year of use!

So is there any downside to this equipment?  Nothing is perfect and these feeders have two negatives, one of which is easily remedied but creates an additional problem.  The one physical flaw is how the handle is attached to the feeder itself.  A single, not terribly long, really small screw is provided to thread into the PVC cap on each end of the PVC handle to attach it to uprights on the feeder.  In practice, it’s good because it allows the “reel” feeder to do it’s job.  The handle will spin freely if a chicken attempts to roost on the handle (and they will), throwing them off so they can’t poop in the feed ruining it.  However, after a season or two of use and being moved each day out in the elements, the screws become loose and fall out.  I’ve taken to putting lag bolts in the end so the handles remain in place, but then they don’t spin as freely allowing the birds to roost more than I would prefer.  In time, I’ll figure out a better solution (or so I hope) but for now this is my one frustration with the design.  It works really well initially, but the guy who designed it doesn’t have to use it everyday until that part fails.  The second issue is simply cost.  A 48″ feeder will run you $60 plus shipping and a 60″ feeder $65 plus shipping.  But in my view, they are well worth the high expense.  Easy to move, easy to fill, holds a lot of feed and will give you years upon years of solid service.

In the end, this is a great piece of equipment even with the two issues mentioned above and I highly recommend them.  To view the feeders and download a PDF brochure or instruction booklet, you can visit Brower Equipments website.  However, Brower doesn’t sell anything direct so you’ll have to order them from an authorized distributor.  Never fear, I have two resources for you to consider that I have personally used and had good success with!  My absolute favorite place in the world to buy equipment, laying hens, ducks, etc is Meyer Hatchery located in Ohio.  This is a GREAT family owned business that once ran thru a wall for us to correct a problem on their end.  They carry both the 5′ long feeder and the 4′ long feeder.  Your other option is an outfit in Florida called Double R Supply, and they carry both feeders as well.  The pricing at each place is about the same, so use the one who can ship it to you less expensively.  These feeders are also easy to put together in just a few minutes with basic PVC primer and glue, and will be ready to use in no time at all after opening the box.   Good luck!

Southern Indiana Grazing Conference

If you have been around me for more than 5 minutes or read my blog posts, then you know that I’m a huge fan of continuing education in the form of reading, and specifically conferences.

One of my favorite events to attend each February is the Southern Indiana Grazing Conference located in Oden, IN.  Yes it is a smaller, one day event out in the middle of nowhere!  But it is an extremely reasonable event to attend, considering they charge a whopping $30 if you register by January 22nd, and only $40 after that date – both of which include lunch!  On top of that, the speakers are second to none.  The last two years I have met Greg Judy, Gabe Brown and many more renowned grazers at this small conference.  Thanks to NRCS funding, it’s the best bang for the buck out there in educational conferences.

This year grazer and author Jim Gerrish and weed grazing expert Kathy Voth are the featured speakers.  I’m certain that as usual when I attend a conference, I’ll walk away with several pearls of wisdom that will save me countless dollars and heartache for years to come.  If you are within a few hours drive of Oden, it would be well worth your while to attend this conference.  There is even a small trade show that you can walk thru during the breaks.  And if you happen to run into me, please stop and introduce yourself!  I love chatting with all of you in person when the opportunity presents itself.

To learn more, you can visit the Davies County Soil & Water District website.  I hope to see many of you there!