Building things on the farm often falls into two categories: beautiful and expensive or functional and cheap! Oftentimes, “beautiful and expensive” also means slow-going whereas “functional and cheap” is often quicker. So you make choices on the farm to choose where your investment should be really be spent; our fencing, barn, and workshop were built slow and beautiful. But quick and cheap is evident in sagging bits of fence secured with baling twine, a grain feeder made with a roof gutter, a quick hoop shelter with a tarp roof. Usually a farm is sometimes beautiful but always functional. And it’s almost always do-it-yourself (DIY). Like our new, low-cost, easy to make DIY hay feeders!
When it comes to feeding your animals, building feeders often occurs as you observe that they are needed. As such, they tend to be needed right now! At Phoenix Farm Fiber, we have more animals this winter than we had last winter. So that means more hay feeders are needed this winter than last. Unfortunately, this didn’t really occur to us until it was time to start dishing out the hay! That meant that we needed more hay feeders right now. So guess what? We went with “functional and cheap” and made these hay feeders with materials found on the farm. We were able to build 6 hay feeders and get them setup in just a couple of hours!
Here is our step-by-step process:
- 1 50-60 gallon food-grade plastic barrel — we used the white barrels that used to be our rain collection barrels before we upgraded; these white barrels are food-grade plastic containers that used to hold cooking oil. It is very important for the safety of your animals to only use food-grade barrels that contained consumables; don’t use barrels that held crude oil or fuel. If you don’t have any of these laying around, you can usually find them on Craigslist for about $15 to $25 each.
- 1 T-post per barrel — we used 4-foot t-posts that we got from our feed & seed for about $3.50 each
- T-post tamper or sledgehammer (to drive the T-post into the ground)
- 3 cinderblocks / mason blocks (per barrel) — usually about $0.99 each at any outdoor supply store
- Drill with larger drill bit (we used a 3/8″)
- Reciprocating saw or Dremel tool with a cutting attachment
- First, prep your barrels. Use your drill to create an opening for your saw (or Dremel tool) to cut all of the openings that you need.
- On the bottom of the barrel, cut a square opening that will easily fit over a t-post.
- Toward the bottom of the barrel, cut several round, oval, or square holes around the circumference of the barrel — these will be the holes where the animals will access and eat the hay. Cut them at a height that is suitable for the animal that will be using the feeder and just larger than the animal’s mouth. We built ours for angora goat kids, so we put our holes low on the barrel — remember that the barrel will sit on top of the cinder blocks, so keep that in mind for the height of your openings. We cut 6 to 8 small openings around the barrel. The goal size of each opening is a size bigger than the animal’s mouth, but not as big as its head. If you have animals with horns that can fit their whole head inside of the opening, they might get stuck. (Yes, we learned this the hard way!)
- Cut the entire top off your barrel — this will be the end that the hay goes in, so the more open, then better.
- Choose the location of your hay feeder and, using your tamper or sledgehammer, drive your t-post into the ground in the center of desired location.
- Now arrange your three cinderblocks around the t-post as shown. This configuration allows for the least amount of barrel slippage. Also, the animals like to stand on the edges of the bricks while they eat and allowing them adequate space to stand might allow you to trim their hooves less frequently! Let the bricks do the work!
- All you need to do now is take your barrel and set it on top of the cinderblocks by lining up the hole in the bottom to slip over the t-post. The t-post will hold your barrel in place on top of the bricks. With this setup, you won’t be able to toss an entire bale of hay into the barrel, though, because the t-post will get in the way. Instead, break up your bales and toss sections into the barrel so that they fall between the t-post and the barrel wall.
- Now just add hay in the top and watch your goats/sheep/alpacas/cows eat it from the bottom!