How to build a Hay Grazer

Homemade grazing box saves hayThis sturdy wooden hay grazer is the BEST way to feed hay to horses. Three horses can demolish a bale in under three hours if it is thrown in front of them, but with the hay grazer that same bale lasts 24+ hours. Eating in a neck down position and picking hay through a heavy grate mimics the natural grazing habits of a horse who, if you watch in the field, can pick the tiniest blade of grass with giant dextrous lips. When I rotate my horses off their summer pasture and bring them home for the winter I utilize two grazers – one outside, one in the barn – plus 10 acres for the roaming. This system puts less stress on the land, especially during the winter months, as the horses choose to spend their days close to the hay grazer.

Building a hay grazer is not difficult. I put mine together with 2x4s, 1x4s, 1x2s, 3/4″ plywood, ring nails, 3″ screws and gridwall. Gridwall is sold at store fixture stores, it can also be purchased on the internet but the shipping will be exorbitant due to the weight. I found two pieces – 4ft x 4ft and 4ft x8ft – in Albuquerque and paid $35 and $15 respectively. The grid squares are 3″ x 3″, just big enough to grab some hay through.

frameThe 4’x4′ piece of gridwall measures exactly 48 1/4 inches by 48 inches so I built a square footing frame out of 2x4s with a slightly bigger dimension of 49″ x 49″. This will form the interior dimensions of the box. Secure corners and brace pieces with 3″ drywall screws and/or ring nails for a tight fit. Use shims if the corners don’t quite come together.

box on frameMeasure the length of each side and cut that length in 24″ widths until you have all 4 sides fitting tight at the corners. It helps to have someone to hold as you measure, cut, screw and nail.

bottom

Cut the plywood so it sits flush on the frame. Drill holes for water drainage – a 1 1/4″ paddle bit works well for these. Make sure to line your holes between your cross braces! Once the ‘floor’ is finished put it to one side while you build the walls.

Brace the corners with 1×4 or any scrap 2×4 you have and then run 1×2 around the top in case a horse decides to crib. Use any waste 1×2 to frame the bottom.

cornerbrace

crib

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Lean inside the box and screw 2 evenly spaced eye bolts to the floor frame and line-up with 2 eye bolts on the outside. Run a loose piece of chain between the 2 bolts. The chain needs to be threaded through the plywood floor – you will need to line up and drill holes – through the gridwall and then clipped to the outside of the box. I use carabiners for clips. I ran two chains on one side, and a single one in the middle on the other. The chain stops the horses pulling out the gridwall, while allowing it to fall to the bottom of the box as the hay is consumed.

treated skidsTurn the box over and attach two 2×4 treated lumber ‘skids’ which will sit on the ground and protect the box. I did this in the field. Turn the box the right way up, put the plywood floor back in and attached with screws to the 2×4 footing. Get some hay. Fluff it up. Put the gridwall on top of the hay, thread the chain through it and clip in to the eyebolts on the side. Voila! Your very own hay grazer and some very happy horses!

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