Having sold my big Haygain steamer last year when I realised I didn’t need to do a whole bale at a time, I have been racking my brains to come up with a perfect home-made version. This might be it, I hope!
A boiler unit (a heavy-duty wallpaper steamer unit will do, but it needs a rubber hose not a plastic one, ideally, to make the seal at the other end easier to do)
Small wheelie bin (I bought mine from the council)
Small jubilee clip
Microbore copper pipe (comes in a roll from B&Q) or similar to make the steaming ‘wand’.
Thin strong pointy-ended stake (same diameter as copper pipe ‘wand’)
Cone cutter (or drill bit of slightly larger diameter than the copper pipe.)
Small metal drill bit for drilling small holes in pipe.
My partner is a bit of a handyman genius and worked this all out, credit where it’s due!
He secured the end of the rubber hose (which carries steam from the steamer unit) to the copper pipe with the jubilee clip, and wrapped it with insulating tape, hammered over the other end of the pipe to seal it completely and drilled lots of very small holes in the that end of the pipe, for the steam to be forced out of. A small hole in the middle of the lid of the wheelie bin is the only adaptation to that. (There’s no drain hole at the bottom, I wanted it sealed as completely as possible to keep the steam in, and I turn the bin over to shake out any loose bits every morning.) A knotted bungee cord holds the lid tight to stop steam from escaping.
This set-up does a great job, the hay is totally steamed through. (I’m not sure whether it would be in a full-size wheelie bin, whether 1 steaming ‘wand’ would be enough to thoroughly steam all the hay.)
It’s a simple matter of putting 3 or 4 flaps of hay (from a small bale) in the bin, driving a narrow stake (same diameter as the copper pipe – I use a Fieldguard temporary post with the end sharpened to a point with a grinder) through until it hits the bottom to make a guide-hole for the copper ‘wand’ to follow (the copper is soft metal and will bend if too much pressure is applied to it to force it through the hay), taking the stake out putting the ‘wand’ in until it hits the bottom, turning the steamer on, and giving it about an hour of steaming (can be done on a plug-in timer).
Then I take the ‘wand’ out, and wheel the bin to the stable (or field) for the horse to eat out of. A weight on top of the hay stops too much being pulled out at a time. There’s no handling boiling hot hay, trying to pick bits of it off the manifold in the bottom of the bin, so there’s hardly any mess or waste. If I don’t want to use it immediately after steaming has finished, leaving the lid closed helps prevent the hay from drying out too fast. I fitted two small clips to the top corners to secure it to the bars of the stable so the horse doesn’t play with it all night… so far so good.
I’ve been using this system for a couple of weeks and the only thing I have to remember to do is to hang up the rubber hose after use, so that any water left in it won’t freeze solid overnight. As long as I do that, it all works perfectly, every time. Result!
Disclaimer: this system as described works fine here, but obviously pressurised steam can be very dangerous, so please be careful!