How to make a hay feeder out of a plastic barrel

Every horse owner's worst fear is a horse contracting colic. Use a plastic barrel to make a hay feeder so that you can reduce the risk of colic by keeping the horse from ingesting dirt or sand while eating hay off the ground. Using a plastic hay feeder will also reduce the amount of hay wasted and can be used for many different types of farm animals such as goats, cows or miniature horses.

Purchase a plastic barrel in the size of your choice from your local feed or farm store. If you are able to get a free plastic barrel, be sure it was not used to contain toxic materials.

Use a black marker to draw the opening size for the feeder. You will be cutting this part away from the plastic barrel. For an average-sized horse or cow, the opening should be approximately 20 inches wide by 20 inches high.

Use a hacksaw or jigsaw to cut out the marked section of the barrel for the horse or farm animal to eat through.

Use a grinder or file to grind down any rough edges around the cut edges of the plastic barrel.

Clean the plastic drum with warm soapy water to remove any plastic particles or dust that may have resulted from cutting the front hole section. Dry thoroughly.

Drill 1/2-inch holes in the bottom of the feeder spaced approximately every 4 inches. This will enable rain water to drain out the bottom of the barrel.

Drill 4 holes in the back of the plastic barrel to attach the U bolts. Place the U bolt over the section of rail fence to which you are attaching the hay feeder and secure on the inside of the barrel with a nut and self-locking washer. Position the bolts so that only the bare minimum of the bolt sticks through to the inside of the barrel; this way, the animal won't scratch its nose while eating.

The height of the feeder will be determined by the size of the equine or other animals (such as goats) on your farm.


Periodically check the feeder for sharp edges and grind or file them back down. For horses that eat their hay too quickly, place large rocks in the bottom of the feeder to make them slow down.


If using the hay feeder to feed horses, locate the hay feeder low enough so that the horse can eat with its head in a natural, downward position as opposed to having to reach up to eat.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic barrel
  • Jigsaw or hacksaw
  • Mild soap
  • 2 U bolts
  • Drill
  • Grinder or file
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About the Author

Kay Baxter is a freelance writer that has been writing articles since 1999 on a variety of subjects such as small equine and art instruction. Her book "Miniature Horse Conformation" was published in 2007. Baxter has also had articles published by "Better Homes & Garden" and "The Horse Magazine." Baxter attended Illinois Central College, majoring in art.