How to make a square bale hay feeder

Written by cynthia smith
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How to make a square bale hay feeder
Stacked square hay bales are actually rectangular in shape. (bales of hay image by Mark Grenier from

Placing hay on the ground to feed farm animals is wasteful. Furthermore, animals that eat hay that has been trampled and mixed with dirt, urine and faeces may be exposed to disease and internal parasites. Building a simple feeder is worth the time and expense. Here is one project you can accomplish with tools you probably have at home. Hay bale sizes vary but finding a suitable sized bin shouldn't be a problem.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1 rectangular, heavy plastic bin with lid (size needed will depend on the size of hay bale)
  • 1 Measuring device
  • 1 Heavy duty utility knife
  • 1 Marking pencil
  • 1 Drill with 27/64 drill bit
  • Wrench to fit bolts
  • 6 1/2-13 standard hex bolts
  • 6 1/2-13 hex nuts
  • 12 1/2 inch washers
  • 2 Lumber spacers (Economy wood 2-by-4 lumber or scrap studs the approximate length of the bin; spacers should be thick enough to allow the lid to move freely when mounted)
  • Work table

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  1. 1

    Measure for size of bolts as directed in supply list. Use this formula: Bin wall + lumber spacer thickness + mounting surface thickness + 1 inch = length of bolts required. For example, if mounting a 1/2 inch thick bin to a 4 inch thick stall panel using 2-by-4 lumber as a spacer, you will need a 7.5 or 8 inch long bolt.

    How to make a square bale hay feeder
    A bin like this would work great for this project! (Recycling bin image by Freeze-frame Photography from
  2. 2

    Cut openings into the front and sides of the bin near the bottom using a heavy duty utility knife. The opening size will depend on the animal you are feeding. Make a large enough opening for it to be able to pull out bites of hay, but not large enough for the entire head.

  3. 3

    On the right side of the back of the bin, measure 6 inches down from the top, and 4 inches in and make a mark. Do the same at the bottom of the right side. Using the measuring device, make a straight line connecting the two marks vertically, and mark another spot on the line centred between them. Repeat this step on the left side of the back of the bin. With the bin on the work table, drill 6 holes, one at each mark, using a 27/64 inch drill bit. Drill 8 drainage holes in the bottom of the bin using the same drill bit.

  4. 4

    Place the bin, drilled side down, over the 2-by-4 spacers. Hold the bin steady and mark the 2-by-4 spacers through each of the 6 holes already drilled through the bin. Place the spacers on the work table and drill 6 holes through the marks in the 2-by-4 spacers.

  5. 5

    Position the bin over the mounting surface at the desired height for your finished feeder. It is advisable to mount a feeder no more than 3 feet high to enable easy filling. Mark the mounting surface using the drilled holes as a guide. Drill holes in mounting surface as marked.

  6. 6

    Place the 2-by-4 spacers on the worktable and place the bin over them, lining up the drilled holes. Slide a washer over the bolt and push it through from the inside of the bin and into the 2-by-4 spacers. After all bolts are in place, lift the assembled feeder and carry it to the spot you've chosen. At this point you may require another person's assistance. Push the bolts through each corresponding hole in the stall panel, wall, or fence and thread the remaining washer and nut onto each bolt. Tighten nuts using open-end wrench.

Tips and warnings

  • If your bin has no lid, you can use a tarp with elastic bungee cords to fasten it. This is a good solution for small animals such as goats or sheep. Horses may require a solid lid that is firmly held in place with hinges and latch, as they are easily capable of removing bungee cords.
  • Secure the lid with duct tape to keep animals from opening the top of the feeder. If necessary, use a snap or latch to keep the lid closed if you are feeding a horse.
  • Always wear protective goggles or glasses when using a drill.

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