Ideas for goat hay feeders and how to DIY a goat hay feeder! These are some methods for storing your goat hay so they waste less of it.
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One of the biggest issues for most goat people is that goats waste a ridiculous amount of hay. If you’re new to goats, you may not be aware that goats do not actually eat everything. They will eat everything you don’t want them to.
But in terms of hay and other treats, they can be very selective. Buying from the local farmer, second cutting orchard hay runs about $7.50 a bale where I’m at. If you buy at the wrong time of year, it’ll cost more. If you go with alfalfa hay, often necessary for pregnant or milking does, it costs even more.
And for what it’s worth, goats generally will not eat hay off the ground. This is actually a good move on their part. Goats were made to browse off branches high above their head, not necessarily to eat grass from the ground.
Eating above their head means they’re not also eating their own poop or soil, like they would if they were eating grass. Goats are prone to issues with worms and you’ll see an increase in those issues if you feed on the ground.
Needless to say, the one thing that can make a goat person cry is seeing hay spilling onto the ground, and trodden into the mud. Goats waste a lot of hay.
Over the year we’ve had our goats, I am forever trying to find a better way to store hay so it doesn’t go to waste.
I still haven’t found the perfect solution and I think you’ll always see some waste. But here are some of the options I’ve tried.
Goat Hay Feeder Ideas
Here’s some of the ideas I’ve tried or that are on my list to try. Scroll further down if you want actual DIY instructions! But I want to explain some of the pros and cons for the different options first!
Hay Feeder on the Goat House Door
This option was pretty good when I first started because it was easy. You can see more info on my post about goat house accessories.
You shove the hay behind the 2×4 and they eat from that area. There was still a lot of hay waste, however, and the excess hay falling would block the door from opening and closing easily.
Also the hay that went into the soil tended to get kind of yucky which required me removing the hay into the compost bin every once in a while.
The soil was just stinky. If I keep the hay off the ground and use wood chips instead, that doesn’t happen.
It was just a bad area to have the hay fall.
Milking Stand to Hay Rack Hack
Once our doe wasn’t in milk anymore, I moved our DIY milking stand into a corner of the goat house. This made it more convenient for me to clip their hooves and do other maintenance. I also used the grain feeder on the milking stand for giving the goats access to their loose mineral.
The goats are forced to put their head through the head piece (left open) to eat their mineral. I like this option because I wanted the younger goats to get used to standing on this stand for when they’re in milk or when I need to do healthcare for them.
On rainy days, I will keep the headstand open and shove a few flakes of hay on top of the mineral feeder.
There is still a lot of waste but it ends up in their bedding. So it gets dual use. I pile wood chips for bedding on top.
It works, but you obviously need to clean everything out regularly.
I would never do this full time because I want them to have access to the mineral and this is the ONLY method I’ve found that keeps them from pooping in their bin of minerals.
Feed Bag Hay Feeders
I used feeder bags and cut holes in them to hold hay at one point. This actually works pretty well but I didn’t like trying to clip it onto the fence. The bags also don’t hold more than a flake of hay easily.
The benefit to this is that any waste that falls along the fence line tends to build up around the fence line, preventing grass from growing up there. This means I have to do less weed whacking. If you’re new to goats, they are not going to weed whack for you.
I would rotate where on the fence line I placed the hay bags and usually would put out several each day. This forced the goats to move around, not stand in one place all day. It also meant goat poop is distributed more evenly around the goat area.
It was free to make them so the price was right too. It’s more time intensive to feed them this way, however.
It’s great if you have a pet sitter coming though because if you make enough bags, you can ready them all in advance.
The main downfall to this method is that the hay gets wet. It’s not ideal for rainy days and I don’t like how the wet sits at the bottom of the bag. You might be able to avoid this if you add a few holes to the bottom of the bag for drainage.
This is probably best for folks with no more than a few goats.
Old wire dog crate
Our dog crate likely holds one bale of hay, although I probably would need to separate the flakes out a little to get it in there. I usually don’t put more than half a bale in there though.
This works pretty well, particularly with the top to prevent the hay from getting wet. The problem is that my goats keep climbing into it to have a little rest. If goats are on it then goats are pooping in it. And goats don’t like to eat their own poop. So you still have some hay waste.
This is a fairly new setup for me so I’m probably going to give it a few more tries and see if I can block them from getting in.
initially I set it up with the doors on but they were having trouble reaching the hay to eat it through the wire. I think I may add a bar across to keep them from getting inside.
What I’m still trying to strategize is how I can add that bar without blocking myself from easily adding more hay. I try to make my job as easy as possible because I’m usually dealing with three kids and have other chores to do as well.
Rolling Garbage Bin Hay Feeder
I have not tried this yet. While I understand that a lot of people find this to be a less waste option for goats, I think it’ll have the same amount of waste as some of these other options. It’s just sort of the nature of goats. They’re sloppy eaters and some will end up on the ground.
The nice thing about this option is that there’s a cover that prevents rain from getting inside. It’s big enough to hold a lot of hay. And if you get a garbage bin on wheels then it’s very easy to wheel the hay back and forth from the goat area.
I anticipate that this would reduce the amount of time you spend feeding your goats.
The problem with this option is that garbage bins aren’t cheap, they aren’t necessarily something you want to reuse for hay if they were used for garbage in the past, and you really want a pretty sturdy garbage bin. If the bin isn’t sturdy enough, you’re likely to see it go flying across the field on windy days. The solution to this is to attach it somehow to your fencing.
I may try this eventually because I really like the idea of being able to move the hay feeder around to make the goats get more exercise. I don’t like that they’re sitting in one area all the time eating and pooping.
I’ve also discovered that sometimes I break out from holding the hay as I carry it across to the goat field. So it’s appealing to put it into a bin and wheel it over. It just reduces how much contact I have. I doubt that I’m allergic to the hay itself but suspect some of our hay had poison ivy in it. The latest hay batch that I purchased hasn’t been a problem.
Safety Considerations for Feeders
The biggest struggle with DIY feeders (or purchased feeders) is keeping in mind safety. You don’t want your goat to be injured by the feeders, but at the same time you can’t guarantee any option will be 100% safe. We haven’t had issues with any of the options we’ve tried- yet. But you never know. If we had baby goats, some of these options might be less safe.
You want to ensure they can’t get their legs stuck in anything or horns. All of our goats are hornless so that piece hasn’t been an issue. Just keep in mind that you do run a risk whenever you make something…
… but plenty of animals get injured on store bought solutions too. It’s just a matter of who you get mad at when you have an animal injured- yourself or the company you purchased the item from…
How to DIY a Goat Hay Feeder
Alright so these are all fairly simple projects, although my wood feeder was a bit more work as it requires some woodworking tools if you do it like I did!
How to Make a Feed Bag Hay Feeder
These are very simple to make if you have a lot of empty feed bags. Clean them out, if necessary. Use scissors to cut a hole towards the bottom that’s big enough for the goat to fit his nose through.
Cut the top 1/3 of the bag off… then cut two holes in the top of each long side to thread old hay strings through. Tie your hay strings for each side.
Hang on fence.
Here’s a video to show you how it’s all done:
How to Make a Covered Dog Crate Feeder
To begin, you need a wire dog crate that you weren’t using. I don’t recommend buying one new for this project… it’s probably not worth the expense. This old crate had the plastic bottom chewed out of it so it’s 100% wire.
I started by building a base for it.
Initially I put the base on 4x4s under the goat playground and the crate inside it. This kept it covered and was a good option.
Eventually I decided to move it higher so the main area under the playground could be used for goats to hide in icky weather if they didn’t want to stay in their goat house.
At this point, I added legs, attached the whole thing to the side of the goat playground, and added a roof. Here are some photos of the process. I used a bunch of scrap wood that I had on hand… I am trying to use old scraps because otherwise they go to waste and take up room.
The roof was an old cover for a feeder my neighbor was getting rid of. I want to add a broken pool noodle to the edges to prevent getting scratched (me or them). It’s on “the list.”
I may want to add a catch “pan” underneath for the hay that falls through the bottom.
I’m still working on the blog post about the playground itself, but you should be seeing that soon!
How to Make a Rolling Garbage Bin Feeder
For this, you just need to cut one or two holes in the bottom sides of a clean garbage bin. Make sure to sand the edges so they aren’t sharp. I think a jig saw might be a good tool to use for this, although a utility knife might work. Just be careful not to cut yourself!
I’d suggest finding a way to attach this to a fence post so the goats or wind don’t take it for a run around the field.
Do you have any ideas for goat hay feeders? Leave me a comment or a picture! I love seeing new and creative ideas for goats.
Honestly I love caring for my goats but I’d prefer to keep it as simple as possible for those days where it’s really miserable outside or when I just want more time to snuggle them!
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Danielle Pientka is the sewing and DIY blogger behind DIYDanielle.com. She taught herself to sew in 2011 when she wanted to make cloth diapers for her first son. She’s been sewing everything from ecofriendly items to kids products to clothing since, as it has become a passion. She loves learning how to do new things and teaching others in the process. She hopes to inspire other moms to take time for themselves to find their own creative passion.
Danielle lives in Maryland with her three young sons and her husband, Brandon. In her spare time, she gardens, reads, horseback rides, and has a small homestead with goats and ducks. Visit her shop to buy patterns or her sewing eBooks. Subscribe to her newsletter to get blog updates, free patterns and other printables by clicking here.