We built a new hay feeder this past week. The goal was to build something that was easy to fill, but that the sheep could not climb into, and that would not waste too much hay.
We have two other hay feeders. The first one is based on a design that has a grate that slides up and down. You raise the grate, put the hay in the feeder, and lower the grate. The sheep pull the hay through the gate to eat it. This works fine, until someone decides that it would be more fun to actually climb in and stand in the middle of the feeder and eat it that way. Of course, hay goes in one end, and we all know what comes out the other. This results in soiled hay that no sheep wants to eat, and it's not fun to have to clean it out every single day. It needs to have a bar fastened across each side so that the sheep have to put their heads underneath the bar to eat, but are then discouraged from climbing in. We did have these installed, but over the winter the rams broke them off with their big horns.
The second one was a quick-n-dirty feeder that was built so that our house-sitter could just throw hay over the fence into it, without having to go in with the sheep. A frame was built out of rough lumber, and two galvanized tubs were bolted onto it. The frame keeps the tubs from being overturned or pushed around the paddock. The problem with this feeder is that in the process of eating the sheep drag the hay out of the tubs and spread it on the ground, and again, end up wasting a lot. And after a year or so of use, the sheep managed to break one of the tubs right off the frame.
We still like the first feeder, but we wanted something easier to fill, and something that the sheep definitely could not get into. I went searching the net and found some pictures of a feeder that I thought would work. And here it is:
This combines the best of both worlds. It keeps the hay clean and dry, reduces waste, and it can be filled from outside the fence, which makes it super easy. It's built with a combination of pressure treated and regular two-by-fours and plywood, and the roof is salvaged metal roofing we found on Freecyle. The grate pieces form a "V" and the sheep can eat from either side.
We'll still use the first feeder (with bars installed) but will take apart the tub feeder and recycle the lumber somewhere else on the farm.
I'm happy to report that the new feeder got a good test of its weather resistance today. We had a major T-storm and downpours that lasted about an hour, and the hay remained totally dry.