Hay Net Helpers

I'm a big fan of slow feed nets for my horses.  Not only do they slow down my hungry hippos, keep them busy and their bellies full until morning, they also help reduce waste.  I used to simply hang a net or two in each stall, but filling them got to be a chore, so I fixed half the net to the bars to make them easier to fill and then tied the pull-rope off to close them.  That worked well for a while until I saw a neat idea on another site and decided to give it a try.

Someone had woven two poles through either side of the top of the net so it could be opened and closed like a sandwich bag.  I bought a few Freedom Feeder nets because of their size and square shape, got some dowels from the hardware store and made some up.  I used the big sturdy snaps I normally hung my hay nets with, which have a 1" ring at one end, to slide over the ends of the dowels.  They were secured to the wall with some screw eyes.  Then all I had to do to fill a net was unsnap two snaps, drop in the hay, and snap them back up.

This worked great for months, and the Freedom Feeders held up pretty well, but our biggest, hungriest hippos eventually ate through the nets.  While researching new materials, I came across these hockey nets which are sold in bulk and cut to the desired length at Arizona Sports Equipment.  They are super-sturdy nets available in a variety of sizes and lengths, they are fairly chew and paw-proof, and the cording is wide enough that it's unlikely a shoe will get caught in it, so they can be hung low to the ground.  Another nice bonus is that they are woven rather than knotted, so I think the smoother texture must be easier on the horses.

Since this system has worked so well in our stalls, first with Freedom Feeders, and now with the "hockey hay nets," I decided to try an experiment for making outside hay feeding easier using these sturdy hockey nets.

Up until now, I have been stuffing upwards of 10 slow feed nets per day to allow the seven horses enough to eat while also playing their little game of musical hay nets. But stuffing those nets, even when you've got it down to a science, is a pain in the butt, especially in these cold temps where the nets and ropes are frozen stiff, the snaps are ice-cold and often stuck shut, and your fingers don't work anymore.  Necessity (or maybe in this case, laziness) is the mother of invention. To make morning chores easier and quicker so I can maybe get to work on time one of these days, I came up with this net:

I bought the 90" net and had it cut to 8', the length of fence board between two posts.  Here I wrapped the top fence board with one end of the net.  A length of clothesline was woven through the net and tied to the posts on either side to hold it closed and secure the net.

Then I did the same, wrapping the bottom of the net around the middle fence board, weaving a line through and tying it off on the posts.

Then I laced up the open sides of the net, leaving a nice pouch hanging inside the fence line to hold hay.  From the outside of the fence line, I can now just drop hay in between the fence boards and it falls into the net.  No more tying ropes or messing with snaps.  Each nets fits an entire 50-80lb bale of hay, and is big enough for at least two horses to share. 

Nate supervised the entire operation to make sure it was to his specifications.  Can't tell if he's happy with the progress or maybe this is just him smirking at the involuntary snow angel I made while attempting to climb over the snow bank next to the fence - and yes, there are pictures of that too (thanks a lot mom! ;-) but I won't be posting them here!

The nets may not be beautiful, but they are handy.  The small holes still slow feeding and prevent a lot of waste, but now without the hassle of stuffing, tying and hanging individual nets.  I put up a total of five of these nets, so even if a few don't want to share or they want to play musical hay nets, there's still enough to go around.

Here's Nate testing one out for himself.  Hope it's up to his high standards!

It looks like so far the herd approves! 


  1. That is a very nice idea. I use hockey nets to line standard welded hay feeders, but I find that the traffic around the permanent feeders is making the paddock look sloppy, so I am thinking of a more movable solution. We have wire fencing, but I think that I could make something similar work with eyebolts and clips along the top rail. Hmm...

  2. Very clever - thanks so much for the link to the hockey netting!

  3. dp - that's what happened around our racks and hay trees too. it's such a mess!

    originally i bought two 9' long 1" dowels like the kind you use in a closet to hold the hockey nets, but ended up not using them. if you painted or varnished those i'm sure you could use them to make a movable net :-)

  4. funder - thanks! if you plan to order you may want to call them directly rather than order through their website - you get your stuff much faster by phone with them!

  5. These nets were a great idea. But then again you're so smart,guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.;)

    This saves a lot of work in the mornings and it's just easier not fussing with frozen nets. They all seem to like the new feeding arrangements too.

  6. GHM - :-) well thanks for the help!

  7. I'm currently filling the small hay nets for four horses, and yeah, even with five bags it takes forever. When I *finally* get my own place I'm planning on have a few sections of fence set up specifically so I can feed the way you are now.

    Did you get your info from here: http://paddockparadise.wetpaint.com/page/Hay+Net+Comparison+Chart?

  8. That looks good. While feeding in snow isn't an issue here, waste from the hay is. With the cold, I'd been putting out Oat hay in a feeder.for my horse to eat bt he seems to scatter it around more than anything else, Combined with rain, it really makes a mess. I'm going to try this out. :-)

  9. smazourek - yeah, i think you'll find it a real time saver. i was actually done this morning before the horses had finished their grain! that's a record for me ;-)

    i didn't see that page but it looks like they have some great info there - thanks for the link! it's one i'll have to bookmark for future use!

  10. adam - i know what you mean - i use them in the summer too after i saw my horses loved to pee in the hay on the ground. :-\ i only tried oat hay with my guys once and they did waste it a lot, but then the odd thing is, when i used oat straw for bedding, they did nothing but eat it! hope the nets work out for you if you try them!

  11. filling hay nets is a chore. I can't imagine doing it with as many horses as I have but their use does cut down on waste. This looks like a great idea.

  12. rising rainbow - thanks! if you have a lot of horses to feed, i saw how someone covered a big round bale with the nets, if you ever wanted to give it a try :-)

  13. I thought I had left a comment last week but I must have messed it up - to say what a great idea and thanks for all the links and how to info - will def. be looking into this for stalls!!

  14. billie - sorry, that may have been my fault - i've been having trouble with all of my e-mail notifications coming through, so i miss some comments too :-\

    i'm really loving these in the stalls. no more mucking out wet hay and it keeps them busy and happy until morning :-)

  15. My hay net arrived Saturday and I put it up yesterday. Dixie is sure it's a trap and she can't possibly eat out of such tiny holes. She is plump and has a healthy appetite, so I'm going to give her at least a day to get used to this strange new net.

    I'd been using a net I tied together out of hay strings with much bigger holes, so it's nothing new for her to eat out of, just smells/looks different and has smaller holes.

    (The goats, of course, think it's business as usual.)

  16. funder - cool! hope it works out for you. the nets must have a bit of an odd smell (the guy i spoke to at the company assured me they were completely non-toxic) and my guys were a little unsure about them at first too. and the thicker webbing does make it a little harder to get at the hay. but now that they're 'broken in' and they've got the hang of them, they dig right in!

  17. Nice topic I had fun reading it coz I’m a horse lover.

  18. horse for sale - thanks for stopping by!

  19. How your hockey nets holding up? I tried the same thing with the Freedom Feeder Nets but it didn't last....kept getting holes. I am ready to order some hockey nets now so thanks for the idea!

  20. hi michael - so far they are holding up great! most of my freedom feeders are on their way out too... they were nice while they lasted, but just not tough enough for my hungry herd. the hockey nets seem to be just the thing. i'm planning on redoing all the stalls with them in the spring. thanks for stopping in - let us know how you make out! :-)

  21. Great post. I came over here from your Mom's blog after she shared your link in the comments. Just wanted to check out your set-up. Your nets actually do look very nice.

    Mine are more "farm-ghetto-ish" because instead of using clothesline to seal the edges, I used what I had: different color hay twine...I figured, it's a hay net. What better rope to use, but what comes with the hay, right? lol!

    I started using the hockey nets back in 2009, over 2 years ago, with my previous mare, Baby Doll. She took right to it and never caused any holes or destruction. I did a post about that here:


    And then after I got my current horse, I decided to start using them with her. She likes to use her hooves to smack the haynets and shake the hay out. eeek! So, for her, I had to go and make some repairs to all her holes....again using hay twine...very colorful at least. lol! And then I raised the hay nets higher, out of her hoof hitting range. Now she respects the net and takes her time. I have two hockey hay nets. One in her paddock and one in her barn stall. They are the best for keeping a horse occupied for long periods, while slow feeding.
    You can see what I did with my current mare in this post:


    Take care,
    New Mexico

  22. hi lisa,

    thanks for the links. it's great to see how many farms are using slow feed nets. i think all horses can benefit from them.... and these hockey nets are the best i've used so far - it's encouraging to see how long yours have held up! it's funny, now when i call to order nets, they always ask if they're for horses, so they must be getting a lot of horse business!

    i love the farm-ghetto look! ;-) and believe me, i have plenty of hay nets with baling twine cords and repairs - it makes perfect sense to me (and i'm a big believer that there's nothing you can't fix with some baling twine, baling wire or duct tape ;-)

  23. Just curious....what size net did you make for the stalls that keep them busy all night?
    Thanks again!

  24. Just curious....what size did you make your nets for the stalls at night? Thanks!
    PS - I still need to get more netting but I made some for outside using your idea and it cuts chore time so much!!! So much easier for 'pet sitters' too! = )

  25. hi lisa,

    thanks! i am so glad the nets are working out for you! they are still working great here and holding up well so far to their second winter....

    the nets in the barn are about three foot across the top and about 3'6 long (7' total, doubled up and laced on the sides) to fit into the space below the window, but i did another in one of the stalls that doesn't have the feeding area facing the window that was about 4' across the top and 3' deep (4' x 6' total net) which works really well if you aren't trying to fit a specific space like that.

    hope that helps! good luck :-)

  26. This turned out so beautifully. Out west we have this stuff called horse panel -he item shown is the 8' 3-Piece horse or Horned Cattle hay Feeder Open w/Loop Legs - Red, for the Horse Hay Feeder described.. I use it as a kick barrier on the inside walls of my metal barn. horse feeders The hog panel version has 4" x 4" squares. Problem is it only comes in huge sheets. But I think it would work if your lattice idea doesn't.


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