Monday, January 24, 2011

Sheep Feeder Design

Through the years we have gone through various iterations of hay feeders for our sheep.  The first ones were made of leftover or scrap lumber and worked okay but were either too heavy, or allowed too much hay chaff to get into our fleeces.  We tore them apart and rebuilt them a few times but finally scrapped them altogether and came up with a new design.
These feeders are great and work well for us.  They have a nice deep tray for the hay to sit in while the sheep are sifting through to eat the best morsels first.  We have a lot less wasted hay and our fleeces are much cleaner now.

The bottom tray is made of a frame of 2 x 6's screwed to a 2 foot x 8 foot plywood base (sheet of plywood split the long way).  The top frame is 2 x 4's in the same configuration.  The top frame and bottom tray are then attached with six legs made of 2 x 6's.  Finally, sixteen 1 x 4 slats finish things off...

Pictures say it best!

These feeders are pretty inexpensive to make and are an easy day project.  We usually get all of our lumber cut first and then assemble it with wood screws.

We have a few minor changes for the "Outside Feeder" version (cleverly named as it is intended for use outside of the barn...  sometimes I amaze myself with these moments of genious).  The plywood base is replaced with rough cut planks from the Amish Sawmill and 1 inch drain holes are drilled in each corner.  We are also working on making covers for the outside feeders which seem to help saving hay from rain, snow, and sun bleaching.

They are made from the same rough cut planks we used for the trays and have slats screwed to the bottom which hold them from sliding and falling in.

We do not use any treated lumber for these feeders, but this spring/summer I would like to power wash them and protect them with something safe that will not harm the sheep...  Any suggestions?

I am no carpenter but I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist.. you can imagine that these homemade carpentry projects can be a little frustrating when they don't turn out exactly "perfect".  I have learned to accept these "little mistakes" as my signature.  A split board here, a crooked cut there...  That is how you know it is my work (I think they call it "folk art" on Antiques Roadshow).

So remember when you are working on your own projects and things aren't going exactly as planned - life is a canvas, don't forget to sign your work!


  1. They look great to me! I struggle with feeding my goats in enough places that the top feeders and the bottom ones all get something.


  2. The feeders look perfect to me. Plus you made them yourself.You must feel satisfied in a job well done. Congratulations!

  3. Thank you for posting these plans! Very clear and easy. I'll definitely be building a pair in the coming months.

    I used treated decking and legs for my old hay feeders, because I had it on hand. I must say I've never seen the sheep chewing or licking the wood. However when I build next I will use the new ACV treated plywood, which is not toxic, as it is not arsenic-based like the old green ACA ply was.

    Thanks again for the clear plans!

  4. p.s. I meant to ask, did you use 1/2" or 3/4" ply for your bases? 3/4" treated ply is very heavy to move, though I do it!

  5. Selden, We use 1/2" plywood. It has held up very well and definately is lighter to work with than the 3/4".

  6. just nominated you for an award! enjoy!

  7. I live in the southwest and the wind is a huge problem. Everything is outside! I've been thinking of building feeders like yours with 2 sides,1 long & 1 short solid wood, faced towards the windy direction. Thinking about placing 2 t-posts to help from the wind blowing the feeder over. I was thinking that I would make the top and maybe cover the solid sides with corregated aluminum so the weather wouldn't destroy the feeder. I'm thinking of raising 2 corners higher to allow for rain run-off


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