Over the several years that we have had horses we have used and observed several different types of hay feeders for horses.
This article is not a recommendation for any specific type of feeder. It is intended to provide some information and observations about how different types of feeders work, what problems we have encountered and what features work well.
Home Made Feeder:
It seemed to me that it would be pretty easy to build a feeder for my horses. I cut a 45 gallon Plastic barrel into two halves. Then I built a wooden frame to hold them in place. The picture shows this wonderful creation in use by the two horses. It took them about 30 seconds to push all of the hay out of the feeder and onto the ground. Because the feeder was rounded and very smooth it was super easy for them to just flip the hay out.
It wasn`t a total loss. I now use the feeder as a planter for tomatoes.
Metal Round Feeder:
There are many variations of this type of feeder. It was the feeder that was used at the boarding stable where we bought our first horse (Bob). They are primarily used with the large round bales and accommodate 4-6 horses. As long as you have the equipment to handle these large bales , they work quite well. I did notice however that there is quite a bit of waste as the the horses pull hay out of the feeder openings and onto the ground. Also because of the large bales and the weight of the feeder they stay in one place for quite some time. This can result in the area becoming very muddy and mucky.
Plastic Dome Feeder:
This was our second feeder. It is a four sided dome shaped plastic structure that is large enough for a large round bale. There are two openings on each of the four sides. It is delivered in two halves. They can be bolted together to form the dome or, each half can be used separately and mounted on the ends of a run in or a barn. We have used them both ways.
If you are using them with large round bales you will need the equipment to handle the bales. The feeder is supplied with a lifting loop on the top so the feeder can be picked up and then lowered over the bale.
If the halves are used separately they work with small square bales. Used in this way one can alternate feeders and reduce the wear and tear on the grounds surrounding the feeder. In either configuration there is very little waste of hay.
We have had this feeder for 6 years and we have noticed that the plastic is starting to break down as shown in the photos.
This feeder is the favourite of the horses. Given the option they will use this feeder every time. It is easy to move around which reduces wear and tear on one area of the paddock. If there is water or snow in the feeder it is very easy to empty, if you are using small bales. Because of the shape of the bowl the horses can not easily flip the hay out and as a result there is very little waste. We have had this feeder for 2 years and it has proven to be very durable and certainly would be our first choice in the future.
The corner feeder is used in the run in barn. We simply installed a 20 inch high piece of plywood across the corner at the back of the run in. We use it during inclement weather. It is really only usable with small bales. We installed two, one in each corner of the shelter. This works well for two horses and it could be adapted to accommodate more.
This is the simplest. No feeder at all. Some people use this consistently, and there is nothing wrong with it. It allows for maximum flexibility of location. I don`t use it because it leads to a lot of waste. It also allows the horses to pick up undesired things and critters off the ground.