Safe Tractor Tire Hay Feeder

This is our solution for a safe feeder for our horses fed in their paddock.  It allows the horses to eat in a fairly natural, head-down position.  The rounded edges prevent the horses from "flinging" the hay out.

We have made several styles of feeder - some without plywood (just tires [with the beads removed] stacked and bolted together) and some with plywood in-between tires.  Some are 2 tires tall, some are 3.  For horses that really like to toss their hay - we usually skip the plywood and stack 2-3 tires depending on the size of the horses.  For a very tall retired warmblood we have, we made the feeder above which has plywood between the bottom 2 tires.  He finds it easier to eat slightly off the ground.  It all depends on your horses.

  • 2 bias tractor tires
  • A reciprocating saw with a wood blade
  • A handheld drill with a drill bit to match the bolts you choose
  • At least 6 sets of (1) bolt / (2) flat washers / (1) lock washer / (1) nut, with the bolt being a minimum of 1" longer than all the layers (tires and plywood).
  • 2 wrenches to fit the bolts/nuts
  • A hammer
  • A pencil or marker (optional)
  • A sheet of plywood - 3/4" thick minimum (optional)
  • Blocks to set the feeder on when bolting it together (optional)

Amount of time to build
An hour or more

Note:  One person can build and move the feeder by themself - it is easier with two people though, especially for moving the tires around.

Acquire 2 appropriate size bias ply (not radial) tractor tires.  I like ones that are approximately 5 feet outside diameter.  We got these from our township's recycling center, free of charge.  For other feeders, I got some tires from a farmer friend of ours.  People usually need to pay to get rid of tires, so they are generally happy to give the tires to you.

The tires can be in fairly rough condition.  For example, one of these is dry rotted.  They do not need to match exactly, either.  Just try to get them approximately the same outside diameter.

The first step is to remove the bead of the tire - this is the inside of the tire where it is in contact with the wheel.  There is wire going through the bead, and the rubber is thickened.  It is important to remove the bead to remove the risk of the horse being injured or ingesting any metal pieces, and to allow the tire to be flexible, so a horse or foal does not get stuck in the feeder.  You should remove all beads that the horse could contact - even if it is right up against plywood.

To get started, drill several holes a couple inches in from the bead.  Work the drill to make it a single, long slot.  This will allow you to get the blade of your reciprocating saw into the tire.

Insert the reciprocating saw blade into the drilled hole.  Cut around the whole tire.

This is what the tire will look like with the beads removed. The white part is the tire cords, they are a fabric-like material.

Next, lay the tire down on the plywood - if you are using it.  Mark the outside of the tire treads.  You may need to piece the plywood.  Connect the marks and cut the plywood with your reciprocating saw.

This is the size we make the plywood for our feeders.  I had to piece the plywood for this feeder.

Place the plywood on the intact tire, and place the tire with the bead removed on top of the plywood.  Put everything up on blocks, high enough so you can slide under to fasten the nuts on the bolts.  The feeder needs to be somewhat level, otherwise the tires will be bent slightly and it will be difficult to bolt them together.

Drill down through the top tire, the plywood and the bottom tire.  Hammer the bolt, with a flat washer on it, down through all three layers.  Slide underneath and put another flat washer and either a lock washer and nut or a lockable nut on the bolt.  You don't need to tighten the nut yet, just get it all hooked together.  Drill and secure each set before moving on to the next - it is easy for something to get misaligned.

After all the sets are secure, lift the feeder so it is on its side and tighten all the nuts.

Finally, roll the feeder out to your pasture.  This feeder will hold at least 50 pounds.  Be sure to tuck the hay into the tire on the sides.  We place a small rock or other spacer between the tire and plywood - in a space between bolts, to let any water drain out.

* Please excuse the muddy horses - spring is just beginning!