How to split flakes of hay

Apparently this was last discussed in Oct 2013, so I think I’ll give it a go again. The weather was so bad this year that for the first time in 35 years, I’ve not been able to get local hay. Luckily I’ve been getting some nice Canadian hay in 45-50 lb square bales. But the flakes are about the size of two of my usual hay and packed terrifically tightly. This isn’t a problem when feeding hay in the stalls overnight: we just adjust what we dish out. But I feed out breakfast and lunch to the horses in the paddocks to supplement the dormant winter grass. The big flakes are just too big and the wastage is dreadful.

I’ve been trying to tear the flakes apart, but that really doesn’t work and the wind just blows most of it away. I got creative (aka desperate) today and actually used an old saw to try to cut the darn thing in half. It sort of worked, but not optimal. If that becomes my only choice, I’ll really have incredible biceps.

Any ideas?

electric hedge trimmer, I’m told.

Are, these actual compressed flakes? Bound up with plastic tape?

I just rip flakes in half by hand very messy or adjust to feed the size of flake I’ve got.

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rip them in half, but feed in a low rubbermaid tub so they don’t blow away…

Rip or cut the flakes inside a large contractor-type (thicker plastic, several mils) trash bag or empty shavings bag so that the little stuff, leaves etc. get saved. I carry the bag to the stall, then dump into the feeder. Greatly reduces wastage.


Some great ideas. We have wooden hay boxes in the paddocks but the wind here can cause hay to fly anyway.

Keep the suggestions and encouragement coming COTHers!

in the paddocks that do not have wind breaks we would use a water trough for the hay, also found if placed in a cart it could very easily be moved


My paddocks have “tire feeders”, which hold the hay from getting mixed up with the sand, AND stop it from blowing away. They are big, have to be moved with a tractor- weigh several hundred pounds each. They sit in the middle of the paddock, and are big enough so several horses can use them at once. They are made from worn out “log skidder” tires, about 5’ across and 3’ high when on their sides on the ground. The old skidder tires are free to take home from tire stores that serve the logging industry (they collect a “recycle” fee from the owner and have to pay that when the tire recycle company shows up to collect them, so if you take them away for free, the tire store gets to keep the $$$$, and you get a hay feeder.). Then you take a saw and cut one side of the tire off, leaving a curved rim at the top, and you can cut holes in the ground level side for any water to drain away. Check for any nails or foreign objects impaling the tire- remove them if you find any.

These feeders are heavy enough that horses can’t shift them or move them around or dump them over, and there is nothing to get caught up in, or caught under. Highly recommend.

If you are feeding compressed bales, I haven’t actually found that the flakes are difficult to pull off, or fold in half, if that is what you are looking to do. But I prefer to not limit hay for horses, keep hay available at practically all times, it’s healthier for horses to be able to eat hay at will. So I would not split flakes of hay.


all of my horses have freefed hay 24/7. If i had compressed bales i’d like that because maybe it would slow them down some!

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If my horses had 24/7 access to hay, they’d be morbidly obese.


I’m with Ghazzu on that one! While my (quite rotund) air ferns are on a hay based diet, getting only a cup of ration balancer twice a day in addition to the hay, I notice that many of the other horses waste lots of hay if it’s “unlimited”. I’m not saying you’re wrong to feed your horses that way: not at all. I’m just saying it doesn’t work in my setup. All too often I’ll find a flake or two just scattered around the stall rather than eaten when their owners decide to give them extra. And outside, if too much is given, the leftovers either build up in the bottoms of the hay feeders, getting damp and moldy, or scatter to the winds. There’s a sweet spot when they get enough to finish it all up and aren’t losing weight or chewing everything down because they’re hungry. And those hefty flakes are way beyond the sweet spot for the outdoor feedings.

I’m actually considering the hedge trimmer idea! (Please tell me now if you were just kidding.)

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New to home horsekeeping but looks like with the 2 at home they can be free-fed bermudagrass hay but alfalfa has to be weighed and apportioned; can’t free-feed the latter or they would balloon up.

Not joking. Can’t recall who suggested it to me, but am considering one, as lately, I’ve been having to buy big squares.

If you’re not feeding many horses and they can eat from piles together, I’d get a few slow feed nets and feed them in those. I clip the nets to a chain tied around a cinder block so the nets don’t get dragged all over the place.

For horses who must be slowed down in their feeding to restrict the amount of hay they eat, the slow feeding nets can be snapped onto the top of the feed tire, by drilling some holes in the top of the rim, putting some quick links in there, and snapping the slow feeding nets to the quick links. Tires of any size can be used, but you just have to make sure that the sidewalls can be cut (some can’t). This puts the net inside the tub, not on the ground where a horse may paw at it, which is an advantage.

I already use slow feed nets.

I double hay net small flakes in the stall and outside but also feed alfalfa 1 ton round bales in the winter with double hay nets that are inside a hay hut. Very little wastage but weight gain can be a problem. I’m the only person selling/growing grass hay, lots of dairy so everyone grows alfalfa.

OK, thought I’d give a good hedge trimmer a try. That’s just a big ol’ NOPE. It would take a good 20 minutes to slice one flake of alfalfa from a big square into two halves. Made it about an inch and a half in to the hay in a couple of minutes. Taking that thing back to the store.
It was a nice thought. @Ghazzu

Thanks for the warning!

@Unforgettable, you beat me to it. Today, because I had nothing else to do (HA!) I decided to experiment. My plan was to set the bale on end and then slice it in half down the middle, parallel to the baling twine. That would cut each dense flake into two “bricks” equalling half a flake.

As Unforgettable said, the hedge trimmer really didn’t get too far, maybe 1/2 an inch into a flake in 10 min. Clearly suboptimal. Working with a manual rip saw was no better. Well, maybe a little better, but no way I was going to get through a bale that way. I thought about a chain saw, but that would get oil on the hay.

But then, an idea. I tried an electric reciprocating saw with a pruning blade. That worked pretty well! I only had a 6 inch blade but I’m going to get a 10 inch which I think will work even better. It’ll require a run from each side of the bale, but that’s actually better because then the half bale holds together.

So I was able to throw “bricks” to the horses, and they enjoyed eating them. I like that the density of the hay slows down wolfing of hay without additional slow feed hay nets which I use in their stalls.