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DO IT YOURSELF GOAT FEEDER (For Square Bales)

By: Gary Pfalzbot
Web Site:GoatWorld
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Do It Youself Goat Feeder Are you still feeding your goats on the ground, letting them waste that valuable hay all the while ingesting whatever worm eggs, diseases and infections that may be present? Well here is a very good and inexpensive goat feeder that you can build in less than a day for under $25 in most circumstances!

I know that many of you, men and women alike have a hard time building things. The way I have designed this feeder and drafted the plans should have you easily tackling and completing the job in no time at all. I will begin by saying that no, this isn't the "New Yankee Workshop" or "This Old House" and I'm not Norm Abrams, but if I can do this, so can you.

The first consideration is a bill of materials and tools that you will need to begin this simple project:

Go to your local lumber yard and purchase eight (8) 2" x 4" "economy studs" for less than $1.50 each. Here I refer to an economy stud that is just short of 8 feet. That is, a stud that is 92-1/2" in length. Just for a quick reference, if you want to purchase full 8 foot studs at a little higher price, by all means do so. But please keep in mind that my plans have been drafted for the 92 - 1/2" stud lengths. You'll need some other hardware items as well so I will make you a reference list below.

BILL OF MATERIALS & TOOLS
  • 8 - 92-1/2" Studs,economy grade
  • 8 - 3" 1/4-20 bolts
  • 8 - 1/4-20 matching nuts
  • 16 - 1/2" 1/4-20 washers
  • 1 box 2-1/2" galvanized nails
  • 1 box 2-1/2" regular nails
  • 1 box 3-1/2" to 4" sinker nails
  • 1 1/4-20, 4 inch or longer wood drill bit
  • Drill or Cordless Drill
  • Good Tape Measure (if you don't have one)
  • Skil-Saw (if you don't have one)
Do It Youself Goat Feeder

A few things you should have on hand at home are: a good pair of safety glasses, a straight edge ruler, an electrical extension cord, a couple of sharpened #2 pencils and a good flat, open working surface where you can make saw cuts without endangering yourself, others or anything else in the way. Be smart and have a clean work area. Safety first!!

Getting Started
Before you make the first cut - The very first thing you will want to do is situate your wood close by where you can easily move it into cutting position. You are going to want to measure your wood and calculate for your cuts - again, before you make your first saw cut.

The pieces are broken down into the following sizes and the number of pieces you will need: (see Figure 1A)

  • 12 - 24" pieces
  • 4 - 40" pieces
  • 4 - 22" pieces
  • 4 - 14" pieces
  • 3 - 25" pieces
Again, before you make the first cut, take into consideration minimizing your overall "wood waste". I will detail the way I made the cuts for this project and lay it out board by board. There may be a simpler and more effective way to do this but the wood waste I encountered was slight and besides, you can perhaps use the leftover blocks for other projects down the road. When cutting your pieces, I suggest that you mark each cut piece the correct size and make separate piles of each piece length as you progress.

#1 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 40" piece; 1 - 24" piece; 1 - 22" piece.
#2 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 40" piece; 1 - 24" piece; 1 - 22" piece.
#3 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 40" piece; 1 - 24" piece; 1 - 22" piece.
#4 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 40" piece; 1 - 24" piece; 1 - 22" piece.
(at this point you should have 12 pieces cut with 4 - 6" leftover blocks)

#5 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 14" piece; 3 - 25" pieces (cut the 14" piece first!)
#6 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 14" piece; 3 - 24" pieces (cut the 14" piece first!)
#7 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 14" piece; 3 - 24" pieces (cut the 14" piece first!)
#8 - 2"x4" Mark and cut: 1 - 14" piece; 2 - 24" pieces (cut the 14" piece first!)

Figure 2A Now that you have made all your saw cuts, you are ready to begin construction of your goat feeder. You will want to refer to Figure 1A for exact placement of your wood pieces. Taking two of the 40" pieces and two of the 22" pieces, set each of the 22" pieces upright on a flat surface and place one 40" piece on top of the pieces, balancing it so it will stand by itself. Now you want to get out your nails and mate flush, one end of the 40" board to one of the upright 22" pieces. Strike a nail in the corner of the 40" piece, making sure to not hammer hard enough to lose the balance of the boards. This is perhaps the most difficult of all the nailing you will do. Tip - have an assistant hold the pieces in place for you while you hammer.

I personally put a nail in each top corner of the 40" piece - 4 nails total, 2 per side. Once you have both sides nailed, then take one of your larger 3 to 4" sinker nails and drive it between the two nails on each end. This will give the pieces more rigidity in the longrun. Flip the joined pieces over and perform the same steps with the next 40" piece. This finishes the first feeder frame component. Using the next pieces (2 - 40", 2 - 22"), perform the same procedure as outlined above. You should now have two separate feeder frames as seen in Figure 2A.

Figure 3A PUTTING ON THE LEGS
You have the option of using any size legs that you wish. I chose the 14" legs simply so I would have room to rake underneath the feeder - and to keep the feeder low enough for smaller goats without fear of it being tipped over. You may want to consider even shorter legs for larger goats.

Stand up one of the two (2) pieces you just constructed so that it is situated laying on the 40" long plane (see Figure 3A). Take one of the 14" pieces and hold it flush to the top right hand corner where the 40" and 22" boards are joined. (You may want to use a C-Clamp to clamp the 14" leg to the 40" board). Using your drill and 1/4-20 drill bit, drill a hole through the 40" board, passing through the 14" board in the bolt pattern seen in Figure 3A. Put a washer on a 3" bolt and place it through the drilled hole. Put a washer on the end of the protruding bolt and tighten a nut to it. It is best to go ahead and tighten the bolt at this point making sure that the 14" leg is sitting flush to the 40" board and the 22" cross piece. Drill the remaining hole and proceed as specified above. Perform the same procedure on the top left hand corner. For the remaining two (2) legs, you will need to flip the frame and block the added legs (as seen in Figure 3A) to balance the frame. Proceed with drilling as specified above.

Using Figure 4A and Figure 4B for reference, set up both frames as shown. Pay close attention how I situated the left over blocks to support each 14" leg and for use as separators for the first vertical cross pieces. Performing the same procedure on both sides of the frames will have the feeder looking like the picture in Figure 5A - you're pretty much on your way to being done!

Your next step should be positioning the 3 - 25" feeder hay bale support pieces. This is a relatively simple procedure but you should keep in mind that you will want to place the right and left 25" pieces before placing the center 25" section. Referencing either the right or left side of the now upright feeder, place the first 25" piece flush to the vertical corner board (see Figure 6A). Perform the same procedure for the opposite side.

Figure 4A

Figure 4B Next, locate the center point of the horizontal 40" board and scribe a mark. You will want to place the remaining 25" piece dead center between the left and right 25" pieces (see Figure 6A). This completes the section of the feeder that will hold the hay bale.

Now you will want to turn the feeder on its side again in the same manner as when you put on the 14" legs. Make the first 24" piece flush with the side of the 14" leg and nail in place. Repeat this procedure for the opposite sides. Then, place two more 24" boards between the three (3) upright 25" pieces - you can eyeball these to sit near center (see Figure 7A). You will want to repeat this procedure for both sides.

This pretty much completes the front and back of the feeder and now all that is left to do is the sides and an optional top. Refer back to Figure 1 to see the sides. You should have 4 - 24" pieces left at this point and what you will want to do is to nail the remaining upright side pieces in place, using a block width as a spacer tool from the right and left corners of the feeder. The section between the two uprights will be about a block and a half width - you can adjust this accordingly if you wish. I just found it easier to use the leftover block method for a spacer. Looks neater too!

A FEW OPTIONS
Some people may be concerned about the width of the legs, that is, being made out of a 2"x4" instead of a 4"x4". Yes, this is of consideration. However, the reason that I chose 2"x4"s instead of 4"x4"s is because I wanted to save on the overall cost. Another consideration as well is that some skil saws do not have the depth to cut a 4"x4" in one pass. This means that the feeder can be wobbly if the legs are not cut as evenly as possible.

Figure 5A You may be wondering about a roof or cover for this hay feeder. Certainly a good idea and there are several ways to go about it. One can simply take a piece of utility plywood and cut it the length and width of the feeder top. Add a few hinges and a handle and you've covered your hay! Well, in my case, it was using an item my wife brought home (See Figure 8a). It was a plastic culvert pipe halve and let me tell you, these are not cheap. They will run anyway from $15 - $30 but will definitely keep the rain out. So you can easily see that a simple $25 feeder turns into a $50 hay feeder with just one piece!

Painting the feeder - I'm not sure it's a good idea but you can if you want. If you live in an area that receives alot of rainfall, I'd definitely consider painting the feeder. Select a good quality wood primer and spray/paint the entire feeder first. Then, once the feeder has dried, select a high quality finish coat and spray/paint the entire feeder. I'm not certain if lead based paints are still available, but I'd double check to make sure the paint you select contains no lead.

Figure 6A Better yet, you may want to consider staining the entire feeder with a high quality varethane finish. I'm not certain if there are any finish ingredients that may lead to poisoning if gnawed on by goats so this is just a consideration. You'll notice that I left our feeders unpainted and unfinished. My thoughts are that these feeder are so easy and inexpensive to build - it's not worth the hassle of painting. I'll simply replace the wood pieces that may deteriorate with time and weathering.

Another consideration that I myself may incorporate into future feeders is using "all bolt" construction. Of course this adds the expense of extra hardware but I prefer to build just about everything using this method. Nails are great for some things, but bolts make life alot easier - especially if you plan to refurbish from time to time. Bolts make this much, much easier.

USING THE FEEDER
Using the feeder is simple but please keep in mind that I did not construct this feeder to simply drop in a hay bale and forget about it. With the particular dimensions of this feeder, you will need to break open the bale (while stuck in the feeder) and use the remaining hay on top of the bale. Why did I do it this way you ask? Simple - I like to inspect the hay before I feed it. Quite often hay bales may have some mold in the bale where you can't see it. This gives me a chance to take a look. It's a real good idea to "fluff up" the hay in the feeder as well. This is the perfect way to do it. Just make sure you take off the bale string and throw it away!
Figure 7A

FOR ALL GOATS - HORNED OR NOT!
Whether or not your goats have horns, this hay feeder will be safe for both types of goats - IF YOU KEEP THE FEEDER FULL AT ALL TIMES!. You must realize that this is an important point because if the hay level in your feeder reaches the point where you can see through the feeder, your goats are going to try and get their heads into the feeder to get out the hay. As long as the feeder is full, your goats will be content to pull out the hay from the sides, never needing to put their heads into the feeder.
Figure 8a

CLOSING COMMENTS
Either I'm plainly uninformed or it's just one of those "slang" words, but I've never seen a "square" hay bale. I've seen round hay bales, rectangular hay bales, piles of hay used for mulch, but never a square bale. For the person who builds this feeder exactly to my specifications, you are sooner or later going to ask yourself, "why didn't Pfalzbot make it the full length of a bale?" Well, as I explained previously, I like to break apart the hay instead of just throwing the goats an uninspected bale with possible mold growth. But, you will soon notice something else. If you want to bypass inspecting your hay bales and just put them in the feeder, stand two on end. They will fit perfectly! Do you have something you'd like to see built step by step? Drop me an email and I'll see what I can do. Until next time, Happy Building!

CLOSING COMMENTS FROM READERS/BUILDERS
"I just want to tell you that I have just completed building my hay feeder and it is fantastic! Thank you for posting the instructions on the web. I would how ever like to make one correction. The 3" 1/4-20 bolts should be 5" 1/4-20's because the 3"won't go through two 2x4's (4 inches). Other than that it is wonderful. I have also added a shingle roof with hinges. keep up the fantastic work. Goatworld.com is wonderful thank you." --- Erik Bernhardt

About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is the webmaster of GoatWorld. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides near Branson, Missouri where he and his wife Pam raise a few breeds of goats, mainly precipitated for the control of Kudzu vine.

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