Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caught in a Net

Almost two years ago, I fabricated a couple of these barn-wall feeders.  In the comments after that post you'll see info from Lisa at Laughing Orca Ranch and Paddock Paradise on her past research into slow feeding methods.  It was these sites and Sarah's posts at Food for Founder that inspired my first efforts at slow-feeding.  (Sarah, or dp--dangerous penguin--is also probably the person who started me on the road to blogging.)
It was nice because I could feed from inside the barn--in one case, straight from the haystack.
The girls all did pretty well with these feeders.
But they have a couple of drawbacks:

  • First, the girls have to twist their necks a bit to access the hay;
  • Also, their noses get sort of grubby looking from rubbing on the galvanized screen;
  • The mesh is a little big: 3" by 3"--optimal for slow feeding is 2" by 2" or less;
  • Last, the horses' polls get dripped on from the overhanging roof above the feeders.  (This last will be remedied, hopefully this next summer, when the last wing of the barn is  added.)
So when this box arrived from Arizona Sports Equipment a few weeks ago, it was time for the next generation of EvenSong slow feeders.
(PanKake wonders what's in the box...)
(...down to investigate.)
("The dog will never find me here!")
I purchased 16 feet of 60 inch wide hockey goal netting, thinking to do one big feeder for Kate and Maddie, and a smaller one for Misty.  Then I decided to allow Maddie a little relief from Kate's bossiness, so I cut the netting in three equal pieces.  The strands are actually woven together, making a very strong mesh, that I couldn't even hope to unravel when I tried.  I melted the ends where I cut, as well as reinforcing the heat seal at the two manufacturer's ends, just to be sure.
I had hoped to hang the netting from the factory edge, but it stretches better the other direction.  I wrapped the mesh over the second rail of a fence panel, and wove baling twine through to secure it; then I repeated the process with the other end on the next rail down--leaving an open gap between.  Then baling twine to close the sides, and secure them to the vertical stays of the panel.
Maddie says "I'm ready!"
Each "hay pillow" holds two generous flakes, and there is still a bit left at the next feeding (12 hours).  I just drop the hay in from the outside of the panel, between the two horizontal rails to which the netting is attached.
Both girls figured out how to get the hay out within a couple of days. (I left some loose hay on the ground for them at first.) Notice that, though there is another feeder less than 5 feet away, the girls choose to share.  At least Maddie has the option to leave if she wants.
These little wispy mouthfuls more closely mimic the rate of eating in grazing--resulting in a slower, more natural consumption.  The hay lasts longer, and less boredom ensues.
Not only does very little hay fall to the ground, it is very quickly Hoovered up, as it is much easier to get to than that in the feeder.  There is very little waste (though their are a couple of not so little waists that we'll be working on diminishing this winter).
I haven't put together the last one for Misty yet.  My debate is whether to put it in place of the current galvanized feeder, thereby avoiding the dirty nose and twisty neck issues, but still having the drips on her head.  Or I could put it on a panel of her paddock, requiring carrying hay outside to it, as I already have to do with the girls.  When the new wing is added to the barn (again, hopefully next summer), there will be three run-ins and three paddocks, so feeding over that wall will be really quick and easy with the nets build into the wall.


  1. I've heard of people making slow feeders from hockey nets but not actually seen pictures before. They look very functional!

  2. I was just looking at Lisa (Laughing Orca)'s feeders and wondering if I should follow suit. Hmmm. We have lots of hockey teams here locally, I wonder if I can get used netting that doesn't have bits of hockey player stuck in....

    Although Fee is a pig in her stall (ugh) she does usually eat every stick and leaf of hay, even the stuff she pees on (I did say she's a pig), and she's holding weight well (last year was the first winter that I could actually not worry about her being too thin, and she's still fine now, I had my vet look at her this morning, just in case!).

    Also, they graze all day; the hay is only for night-time entertainment in the stall.


  3. I feel guilty for not blogging any more. We've been using hockey nets for quite a while now and I really like them. I find that ours need to be replaced every 6-8 months because they eventually break. I suspect the wet weather has something to do with it, but the horses sure are happy when they manage to make a bigger whole. I find that 20lbs of hay lasts 3-4 hours between the two horses. Love 'em!

  4. Melissa--they seem like they'll work out well. If I get more, I may go to the next wider netting, to hold a bit more hay fore longer availability.

    Aarene--I would think used would take a risk of worn out (why else would they get rid of them?). But new IS a little pricey.
    Mine have access to pasture all day, too, but my pasture is pretty much dormant at this point--they're out mostly for boredom relief and wandering exercise (since some of us are weenies, and don't ride all winter...).

    dp--I have missed your blog, and am glad I can at least keep up a little on FB.
    I DO hope these last longer than one season! Lisa says hers have lasted 4 years! Where did you get yours? The netting I got from ASE looks really sturdy (tho it also looks really dirty now, too!). We'll have to see how they do...

  5. I wonder if old fishnets would also work, and maybe be a cheaper option? or perhaps the fabric would be less durable and more likely to be chomped through by the horses? We see lots of old fishing net around here, at garage sales and often free on the online classifieds.

    @dp - I have also missed your blog! Waaaaah!