DIY: Barrel Slow Feeder
I’ve been using small mesh hay nets and other types of slow feeders for years. Having had an insulin resistant horse previously, and two easy keepers currently, slow feeders are very important in my barn. I like to have hay available most of the time for gastrointestinal health, but not an all you can eat buffet for the chubby ponies. Enter slow feeders. Most of them are tedious to fill and labor intensive. I’ve been meaning to make an easy to fill barrel feeder that deposits hay into the net below for a while now. I finally did it!
I installed it in my run in shed where I can fill it from the other side of the wall, which is where the hay is stored. Super convenient, fast, and easy. I really like the result. I haven’t filled it to capacity yet, but I’m guessing it could hold almost two bales. That large capacity could come in handy in the coldest of winter when I don’t want them to run out of hay, or when I’m out of town to make chores easier for someone else.
First, acquire a food grade barrel. I found mine on craigslist.
Next, cut out the top and bottom. Cut the inside of the lid, leaving the rim intact, as this will help support the barrel staying in its round shape.
Count how many loops there are in the top of your hay net, measure the circumference of the barrel, and divide by the number of loops. This will give you the hole spacing. Drill holes at that spacing along the bottom. Put the holes up high enough that the loops will be on the outside of the barrel, and the netting will begin by the bottom of the barrel. This will help hay fall easily into the net instead of getting hung up in the wider spaced loops at the top of the net.
You could use any hay net, though I would suggest small enough holes that a hoof can’t fit into them. I chose 1″ holes to try to slow down my chubby speed eaters. The net I used is an extra large capacity size, so it will hold tons of hay.
Use caution if your horses are shod. It is possible for a shod horse to paw the net and get a shoe stuck on it. In that case, you may choose to hang the barrel higher to keep the net above the pawing zone. I wanted to hang mine as low as possible to encourage a natural head down eating position.
I used baling twine to lace through the holes and the net loops along the back of the barrel before hangning, since that area would be hard to access once hung. You can’t lace the net all the way around until it is hung though, as you’ll need to stand inside the barrel to hang it.
You will need lag screws and large washers to attach the barrel to a vertical post. I used 2″ long 3/8″ lag screws, and since my hardware store didn’t have any large 3/8″ washers, I used normal 3/8″ washers over larger 1″ washers. Hold the barrel up where you want it and pre drill the first hole through the barrel and into the post. I used a drill bit just slightly smaller than the shank of my screws.
Hold up the barrel and use a ratchet to install the first lag screw with washers. Then drill and install screws all the way up the barrel. I used 4 lag screws. I didn’t pre-drill all the holes at once, because I didn’t want the barrel to shift and get out of alignment, so I drilled each hole as I was ready to install the screw.
Lace the baling twine the rest of the way around the barrel and tie to itself on the inside.
Fill with hay and watch those horses dig in!