Good, cheap, robust hay feeders seem to be the Holy Grail – something from which horses can eat in a relatively normal way (head down, without too much pulling) but which will prevent them from wasting loads of hay by treading on it, pooing in it, dragging it through the bed, etc etc, and something which they can’t somehow manage to strangle/cripple themselves with/on/in/under.
Last summer we managed to get hold of quite a few big plastic barrels, and the experiments began. These bins are the result of over a year of trying out different versions. So far, no horse or pony has managed to injure itself on one of these, and they work as trickle feeders, so I am calling them a success.
You will need: big plastic barrels. We managed to source blue and green ones. I gather that dairy farms go through a lot of these (they arrive full of disinfectant for the milking parlours etc I think?) so you might be able to get hold of some very cheaply, hopefully.
A jigsaw (or a handsaw).
A drill with a hole cutter (round with the blade on the edges, for cutting big holes. We did ours at about 4″-5″ diameter. They need to be smaller than the smallest hooves around on your yard, definitely. The thought of one somehow becoming a bracelet for a pony or horse is pretty horrifying).
A drill with a wood bit on it, about 8mm, to drill a row of holes about 2″ down from the rim of the barrel.
A strip of foam EVA matting (we had leftover strips from making old stable mats fit the stables) at about 1″ x 1″ square, or otherwise wide diameter hose, split lengthways and wrapped around the edge. Basically, something to make a ‘lip’ around the inside edge, to keep the removable lid inside.
Good old baler twine.
A metal file.
A bit of patience and determination!
Cut the lid off the barrel, leaving a lip about an inch deep on it if you can. This will help it to stay in the barrel. Smooth the edges if necessary with a file or even a sharp knife (carefully though!)
Cut the barrel to the desired height. We found that 2’6″ ish is about right. Deeper is fine if they are only going to be used by horses with long necks, though. We have little ancient ponies using them too so didn’t want them to bruise the base of their necks trying to reach the hay at the bottom!
Drill holes about 1.5″-2″ apart about 2″ down from the rim of the bin, to use to ‘sew’ the rubber inner rim to. Knot about 8″ from the end, then wind the baler twine round the rubber rim and through the hole, then diagonally to the next hole. Keep it really tight, and knot extra lengths of twine on as needed. As long as it’s kept really tight and never allowed to get loose, there should be no danger of a horse getting caught. Knot the two ends together as tightly as you can when they meet.
Drill an extra hole or two if necessary to tie the bin to a post (if in the field) or to drill through to attach it to a stable wall. (My latest experiment is with child locks, to fix the barrels to the wall, securely but removably… I’ll see how well that works!)
I find it’s easiest to just attach them at the top, as then they can easily be tipped up to empty out, if your horses are as disgusting as mine and occasionally decide to poo in them!
Add hay (we can fit about 4 flaps from a small bale, or 1 flap from a big rectangular bale, in ours), add lid, squish it down until it’s below the ‘rim’, and you are good to go.