DIY Barrel Hay Feeders

January 12, 2015

If you feed hay, I am sure you have experienced some aggravation.  Filling nets to hang is time consuming and messy.  I consider it a giant pain in the butt.  Round bales in round bale rings is also messy, and those rings are expensive, and if there is no top on the ring they hay gets rained on.  Throwing hay on the ground is messy, and the ponies tend to poop and pee in it and then won’t eat it.

Too much waste.

I saw a few designs for slow feeders and other DIY (do it yourself) homemade hay feeding structures.  And I really liked the barrel ones.  So Rich and I decided to give it a try.

I needed to get some 55gal plastic barrels.  Preferably ‘food grade’, or ones used for non toxic stuff.   In the past Rich and I had made rain barrels and were able to pick them up from the local recycling center for $8 each.  But the recycling center no longer sells them.  I looked on Craigslist and did not see any listed locally.  So I posted an ISO (in search of) add. I got a response from a dairy farmer almost immediately and I swung by and picked a couple up that day.


We have three white and one blue.


First we cut a lid that I could use to fill the barrels and then latch them closed.  Rich sawed around the outside, and then across the top.  He then dripped holes across the top, and using zip ties, we made hinges.

NOTE: after a bout a week, the ponies had busted several of the zip ties hinging one top.  I have found that they smash the lid down, which is breaking the ties.  Ill be replacing the zip ties on the lids with wire or sturdy rope.


There were two designs I wanted to try.  One –  Net Out The Bottom – was one I saw frequently on the internet.  The other – Net Inside – I sort of pieced together from several other designs.  We wanted to try both and see which we liked best.  So we made one of each, keeping two barrels in reserve, and then would use the design we liked best on those two.

These photos are of the NET INSIDE design.

Next, Rich drilled holes around the top of the barrel and I zip tied a slow feed net into the barrel.



The ponies have not broken a single zip holding the net on, or put any holes in the nets.

Lastly, we cut a hold into the front of the barrel leaving a tall lip at the bottom.  We also drilled holes into the bottom, so if any rain did get inside it would be able to drain out.




Lastly we put a screw eye on either side of the barrels top and hung it from a tree.





NET INSIDE THE BARREL – What do I think of this design?

What I originally really liked about this design is that I figured all of the hay would be inside the barrel with very little falling onto the ground.  This ended up being true in practice too!  They hay stays inside the barrel.  What I did not really think about was that I would not be able to fit as much hay in this feeder as I would be able to in the other design.  I can generally fit about half a bale.  I could probably fit more if I took the barrel down and fluffed the hay more as I loaded it, shoving it down more.  But that defeats part of the less mess, easy and quick requirements of the barrel.  When I do fill it, I leave it hung up.  I can just reach over the lip to put hay in.  I fluff the hay just a little once it is over the lip into the barrel, but not before (I don’t want it falling all over the ground – like in the photo above).  The other draw back, is when my ponies do decide they will share, this barrel does not really allow that.  So it is a one pony feeder.

Positive – no hay on the ground

Negative – does not hold as much hay, only allowed one pony to eat at a time.

Moving onto the other design below.






For this barrel, we did the same lid, and again drilled holes into the barrel to zip tie on the net.  The difference here is we zip tied the net on much lower in the barrel.  In the photo below you can see a line of ties about a third of the way from the bottom.  This allowed the net to stick quite far out of the bottom.  (Note – when installing the net, make it a lot tighter than you think it needs to be.  It will hang down and expand just fine.)



What did I think?

With this design I was concerned that there would be a lot of hay on the ground, and that the ponies would mess with the net hanging out.  Neither of these ended up being the case.  I can fit just shy of a full bale of hay without fluffing the hay up or packing it too tightly.  It also allows more than one pony to eat from it at a time.

Pros – Fits more hay, allows multiple ponies to eat at the same time.

Cons – I have not found any.

In Conclusion – I love the Net Out The Bottom feeder and will be making the other two barrels into two more of these.



Leave a comment


  1. This is such a cool idea, I’m going to try this!

    • riderofchaos

       /  January 12, 2015

      I cant wait to make the other two. The time this is saving me already is awesome. I fill them in the evening and theres still plenty in the morning so I don’t have to hay in the mornings now. with two more I can probably go every other day easily.

      • Ah, that is so brilliant! How many horses do you have eating?

      • riderofchaos

         /  January 12, 2015

        I have three. Two of then mostly share the net out the bottom one and the third pony mostly uses the other one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: