View Full Version : Slow feeders for stalls

Dec. 20, 2010, 02:24 PM
I know there have been several discussion here about slow feeders, but they seem to have been oriented to pasture feeders. I'm looking for something I can use for my mares in a boarding situation so they have hay in front of them for as long as possible when stalled at night - but the are easy keepers so I can't just throw a ton of hay at them either. Since this is a boarding situation, ideally looking for something that doesn't have to be fixed to a stall wall but that is portable/temporary.

Dec. 20, 2010, 03:41 PM
Big fan of Nibble Nets. Mine have withstood many months with a very angry and bored Appaloosa on stall rest, along with the attention of mouthy weanlings, and are structurally unharmed!

Dec. 20, 2010, 03:51 PM
I second the NibbleNets. I use them both in stalls and outside when I need an additional slow feeder for whatever reason. They're pretty indestructible.

Desert Topaz
Dec. 20, 2010, 05:06 PM
I use a small hole hay net snapped into a muck bucket.

Dec. 20, 2010, 05:56 PM
Nibble nets are great, well worth the cost

Dec. 20, 2010, 08:21 PM
Try these from Chick's- they are essentially a NibbleNet at a fraction of the cost, and I have had great luck with them. They are indestructible as well.


They're cheap enough that I bought a few and fill them for the barn staff ahead of time when I board my horses for the winters at an indoor. I have a screw eye in their stalls and put snaps onto the bags, so they just have to snap them up. My horses love them and I love knowing that they have hay in front of them 24/7 and aren't wasting half of what I give them. The holes are small enough that they can't get a foot caught in them if they decide to roll. I highly recommend them!

Dec. 21, 2010, 09:04 AM
What size of the nibble nets are you guys using? The most I would want her to have overnight is 3-4 flakes.

Dec. 21, 2010, 09:24 AM
I tried to order a nibble net but got overwhelmed by the number of choices. (Different size bags, different size holes, too many combinations!)

What's working well for folks?

Dec. 21, 2010, 11:28 AM
I have the ones with 2" holes, I think, and a mid-range size: not the smallest nor the largest. Easily holds three large flakes from a 50-pound bale and can be stuffed with four. Takes Keebler about 5-6 hours to finish that much, but that's really variable depending on the horse and their single-mindedness about eating! :) i think the smaller holes would be nice, too, and might eventually get one like that for my fat Shetland depending on the makeup of my "herd" next year. Right now she's the boss of two babies and would ignore the net and force the babies to eat from it while she hogged the free-choice stuff, and the babies are the ones who need to be guzzling hay right now!

I like their sturdiness, the ease of stuffing (unlike the small-mesh nets which do the job well but are a PITA to fill) and the fact that it would take a real genius of a horse to wreck itself on one. Even if they get pulled down, they sort of just lie there and can't get tangled around stuff. Super rugged and they stay put--no drooping down three feet lower when empty like haynets, so you can hang them at a comfortable height.

Dec. 21, 2010, 12:05 PM
Get a bigger Nibble Net than you think they need. I've found that the number of flakes quoted on the site is a good bit higher than what I can actually fit. I think the bales/flakes the manufacturer uses (in CA) are different than what we have here in VA. I have the 2nd to largest model, and it fits about 3 flakes of timothy/orchard grass mix (4 if they are particularly skinny). My horse is very messy, so I got the 1.5" openings.
I think the Nibble Nets work great. My horse actually eats MORE hay from his NN than he does from a regular haynet or on the ground. The NN forces him to take small bites, so he's not dropping half of it on the ground.
I bought the model that has the mesh on the front and bottom, since it hangs against the wall in his stall. It's much easier to fill than the small mesh haynets I was using before.
My horse is the only one in the barn who has a NN, and when I arrive early in the morning before the BM has fed, he's typically the only one who still has hay left from the night before.
I've used the NN for over 18 months, and it's held up great. Aside from a few wear spots, it looks almost new. My small mesh nets frayed and their drawstrings broke after a few months.

Dec. 21, 2010, 01:27 PM
Freedom Feeders work well in stalls:


Dec. 21, 2010, 01:44 PM
What size of the nibble nets are you guys using? The most I would want her to have overnight is 3-4 flakes.
I got the biggest one. I hate trying to cram hay into haynets.

Dec. 21, 2010, 03:12 PM
After a few trials, my favorite is a large net made from hockey barrier netting.

It cost me about $15/per net and I can fit almost a whole small square bale in it. I can fill it every few days and know exactly how much my horse is eating.

I've also used the Chick's small mesh nets and found a way to fill then that's not too difficult. I don't stuff them, I lay the 2-3 flakes on a flat surface, lay the net over the top and basically turn it inside out over the flakes. It works great for single feedings. My air fern gets these twice/day, instead of the large free feeding stall net.

My rescue horse will get the larger net, so she can eat as much as she likes.

Dec. 22, 2010, 06:12 AM
I have been using small mesh hay nets for a couple years now and love them. http://millerharness.com/Product.aspx?p=X4-27286
I can easily fit 2-3 flakes in each net (I put the net in an empty muck tub, with the top opened around the brim of the tub, very easy to fill that way). It takes the horses quite a while to finish one, and they seem to enjoy playing with it like a stall toy occasionally. There's almost no waste, so I can leave plenty of hay out 24/7 without them making a mess. The nets last for a loooong time, I'm only on my second set of them, and this is the 3rd winter using them.

Dec. 22, 2010, 01:06 PM
I have been using small mesh hay nets for a couple years now and love them.
I can easily fit 2-3 flakes in each net (I put the net in an empty muck tub, with the top opened around the brim of the tub, very easy to fill that way).

I also am using the small mesh hay nets (got mine from VTO Saddlery and Schneider's) and found they slow down my horses somewhat. Work great for soaking hay as I can fill the nets (using the same muck bucket method above), soak the whole thing, and then pull it out, drain, and ready to hang.

I had bought a couple of the Health EZ hay feeders (plastic suitcase type feeder -- Valley Vet carries them) but didn't find them to slow the horses down that much. Plus just after the warranty expired, my one horse smushed his into oblivion scratching his butt. So don't recommend those at all.

Dec. 22, 2010, 01:15 PM
I have a small mesh hay net (well, I did, until my mare chewed the NET and destroyed it) but am trying to make things as easy as possible for the boarding staff - the Nibble Net will be easier to fill. I ordered 2 medium sized ones with the 1.5" holes and will get both my mares used to them here before we move to the boarding barn in a couple of weeks - I'll let you know how they work out.

Dec. 22, 2010, 10:39 PM
Where did you purchase your Hockey barrier netting?

Dec. 23, 2010, 12:34 AM
Arizona Sports Equipment

I get the 10' wide by how ever long I want.

Watch Wee Willy
Dec. 23, 2010, 10:07 PM
I love my nibble net!!! Definately weigh how much hay you feed, then buy one size larger.... I have the large size, that says it holds 10-12 lbs.....:no: I can barely get 10 lbs in it. My horse loves it though. I think it really keeps him entertained. I can offer him lose hay, and he'd rather eat out of the NN. I definately suggest anyone to get the 1.5" holes!! I decided to get the 1.5" after watching that goregous tb in the youtube video eat out of it. I think the 2 inch holes would be too easy. My guy can eat 10lbs of lose hay in one hour!! The NN makes it last 6+ hours. I was one their website the other day, and saw they now have a 1.25" holes.... I was tempted to order one!

Dec. 24, 2010, 06:30 AM
Simrat- I'd like your opinion on this since you have them already, and I'd be making one out of the netting you suggested! (Very resourceful, btw!) - I was thinking of using this netting as a way to cover entire bales, but out in the field. My question to you is if this were 'tied' shut somehow securely, would it be something you personally would think would be safe? (being stepped on, walked over, etc? also- does this netting have any stretch to it? I looked on the site and it seems the way it's written that this actually doubles when stretched? ...just wanted to double check that...

I am actually just a little concerned though about how much the horse can consume in a day...in other words if they can eat only 10 pounds in 6 hours, would they be consuming enough hay if this is the only access they had to...through the netting, that is? I mean, how many hours a day would they really eat? and at that point, it's eating without moving since it's stationary... Just a thought. I guess the easy keepers would be fine...the hard keepers probably need just bulk hay in their stall.

I like the idea overall and would love to know that anytime I work a horse he has a belly full of hay...BUT NOT TOO FULL! lol

Dec. 24, 2010, 10:43 AM
A Consumer Report on Several Slow Feeders

I bought several Nibble Nets, they are easier to load than the small mesh hay bags, but not easy to repair. Everyone of them has come unstitched at the bottom where the canvas is sewn to the nylon mesh, and the stuff is too thick for me to repair or my blanket person to repair, so that is $$$ down the drain. Where I hung these against pipe gates outdoors, the nylon wore through. These are too expensive to have to replace every six months, so they are off my list. [I do like the design as I think there is an opportunity for a pawing shod horse to catch the heel of a shoe in netting, but not in the Nibble Nets (unless they get a leg through the strap).]

I then tried the Chick's SMHB. Very inexpensive. I remove the draw string. Then take a nylon strap with hooks at both ends. I hook the strap to a top loop of the bag, then over a pipe fence or a stall bar, and hook the other strap to another loop. This helps keep the bag open for filling, and speeds things up quite a bit and loading time. Then I use the same strap for hanging the bags outdoors for feeding (hook each end to several loops at the top of the bag, where the draw string had run through). The Chick's bags have stretched and torn, so they don't slow the hay consumption as much as when they were new. I've been able to put some patches in using baling twine, but they are getting pretty ragged. Six months of Chick's bags for less than one Nibble Net, and they both needed replacing at the same time. (Actually, the Nibble Nets are completely out of rotation, the Chick's have been patched and are still getting some use.)

So recently I ordered some of the SMHB that Miller's and some other places carry, that have a metal ring at the bottom. These are definitely heavier duty than Chicks, and a bit more expensive, but nothing like the Nibble Nets. They are not as big as the Chicks, a bit smaller volume. Had to open them over an upside down muck bucket for filling at first, but now that they've been in use a couple weeks I use the same "hang from strap" method as I use with the blue Chicks bags. I suspect these will hold up a bit longer than the Chicks as they have heavier nylon roping, and the ring at the bottom disperses the pressure. My Chicks bags all have gotten torn at the bottom or near the bottom.

I also ordered one of the Freedom Feeders from SmartPak at the same time I ordered the Millers bags. It was backordered and just arrived yesterday. I have one horse boarded that is being put on a strict diet (new barn feeds WAY too much hay for mister easy keeper). BO was using the Millers SMHB I'd taken there, but said there was no way her husband was going to use that when it was his turn to feed. The Freedom Feeder is WAY easier to fill and use! Really simple. Just hang it against the stall wall by tieing the attached strings to two stall bars at the corners of the bag. The top opens like an envelope with one hand while you toss hay in the other. The three attached lightweight carabiner hooks quickly clip the top closed. Very easy. It does not look or feel like "heavy duty" net, though, and since I just started using it yesterday I have no idea how well it will hold up. If it works indoors for the warmblood, I will get another to try in the draft-crosses' dry lot at home. That is the real test of a feeder!

If it does hold up, I am SOLD on using the Freedom Feeder or the similar barrier netting that was listed above. Way, way easier than messing with the SMHB or Nibble Nets.

Dec. 26, 2010, 03:06 AM

I now use caribiner clips to close my nets. I've also used bucket straps and then attached that to a post. Don't worry about your horse getting enough to eat. My air fern was able to get good enough at eating from the net to eat 40+ lbs. per day! That's why she now gets meal sized nets.

I liked it when I could feed her free choice. After a few weeks, she calmed down around food, as it was always there. They will eat more at first, then usually self regulate. She stopped doing that with this year's hay crop. It must have been tastier than the previous hay.

The barrier netting is safe, as long as your horses are not shod. They can step on them and not get caught. It doesn't stretch. I think that they just mean "doubling" when the squares are flattened to be diamonds, if that makes sense. My stall nets were large enough to use for a small square bale. Put the net over the bale, close it up and THEN cut the strings and pull them out. Here are some photos of the first time I tried a full bale.

There is a ton of information on both homemade and commercial slow feeding options at the Paddock Paradise wiki here:

Dec. 30, 2010, 10:04 AM
Update: tried the Nibblenets for the first time last night.

Rina, the Arab, was fascinated with it and was quite happy to figure it out on her own. She seemed to actually enjoy eating out of it.

Mazzie, her royal highness Morgan, was PISSED. She refused to use it while I was in the barn. Even if I pulled hay completely out of it and tried to hand feed it to her - she was having none of it. As my husband said, "well, she'll figure out or it will be shredded in the morning." She figured it out, thank god (she shredded her small hole hay net in the past). She is a diva. She does not like anyone getting the impression that she needs to eat slower, or less. She happens to like her, um, curvy figure.

I know it was slowing them down but not sure how much. This morning I gave them one flake of first cutting grass hay in there. 2 hours later they were still munching on it. I'm sure they'll get faster as they get used to it but I think it is going to work well for what I need. I'm really happy with these initial results.

Feb. 5, 2011, 06:32 PM
Update: after five weeks of use, the Freedom Feeder being used in the boarding stall now has a hole it in. This net cost 4-6 times what the SMHN from Chick's and Dover cost, and has not held up as well. It's never been used outdoors or had multiple horses using it.

The bags I got from Dover (black SMHN with steel rings at the bottom) have been getting used outside at home with the hardcore draft crosses. So far, they are holding up great. They much harder to fill than the Chick's or the Freedom Feeder, so hubby HATES using the Dover ones.

Our older bags from Chick's (blue) have stretched considerably and have multiple holes I've patched with baling twine, but these are the cheapest bags we've bought and they have been in outdoor use. I need to run them through the washer on hot and then dry them and see if I can shrink they down. The holes really have gotten too large over time, but they have been in hard use with the draft gang for nearly a year and cost around $5. (I just checked their webpage and can't find them today. :-( )

The search for an easy-to-fill, durable SMHN continues (considering I've tried both the top-of-the-line Freedom Feeder and Nibble Nets as well as the cheapies and found the expensive ones don't last as long, I guess I will go with cheap and disposable over expensive and disposable; with the expensive ones you pay for convenience at filling time).

May. 30, 2011, 10:03 PM
I"ve been using my XL Nibblenet since February and it still looks good as new! It did take me a while to figure out the best way to fill it. My SO mounted a special board to hand it on and I use a carabiner and eye bolt to attach the bottom. I even post pictures of it on FB!

Jun. 1, 2011, 02:53 PM
I have two Nibble Nets. One for my draft cross mare and another for my sheltland/mini cross. The one the draft uses is showing some wear after about 8 months of use. The nylon backing is starting to wear through. But I have it attached to a pipe fence with cattle panel behind it. I think this allows my mare to actually get ahold of the backing with her teeth occasionally when she really pushes on it. I need to try and move it somewhere that allows it to rest on a solid backing.

The one the shetland/mini has looks brand new and has been in use for about the same amount of time. She is not near as hard on her net as the draft mare! The shetland/mini was a pudgy little thing with a cresty neck when I started her with the NN. I had her down to an okay weight, but she was eating so little at every meal that she spent a lot of time licking her salt block out of bordom and hunger. There were times I had to take it away for a couple days she, she would lick constantly! After she started using the NN she has lost weight and looks fantastic! I give her a handful of alfalfa in her trough then stuff her NN full of grass hay. It takes her about 4 hours to finish the NN. She no longer constantly licks her salt block. I feel that being able to eat slower and longer, might have helped her metabolism, insulin resistance, whatever, that lead to her weight loss.

Love the NN's and feel they are worth the price, work well, and are safe.

Jun. 3, 2011, 02:02 PM
ok we have a new product called the grazer, its pricey 169.99, however it works...perks of working here i get to test everything, and it seems indestructable, and idk if this is a factor, but it looks nice lol any how here is a link so you can see it http://www.timcohorseandfarmsupply.com/grazerrevolutionaryhayfeeder3ormoreshipfree.aspx

Jun. 3, 2011, 02:04 PM
oh and one other thing, it says it fits a whole bale....more like a healthy couple flakes

Jun. 22, 2011, 11:21 AM
the Health E-Z Hay Feeder? It slows my piglet of a mare down (she removed a Best Friend muzzle after an hour, destroyed her nibble net and I can't put a regular hay bag or hay net in her stall or the vet might as well move it). I can put about 3 - 4 flakes in and she just gets little bites from it. The thing I love about it the most is that there is so little hay waste from it. When she is finished there is really nothing on the floor of her stall/run in to make into a giant hay waste ostrich-sized poop nest.

I got mine from Valley Vet.:)

Jun. 22, 2011, 08:54 PM
thats whats nice about the Grazer too! There is just so little waste all the leaves get pushed up on the mesh loader, after trying out the nibble nets a couple weeks ago, we decided the Grazer was the way to go, our horses play with the net to much.

Jun. 22, 2011, 09:46 PM
I've been using SMHN's for years, and the ones Millers hold up the best. I got a cheaper Chick's one but don't like it near as much, so that's set aside as a back-up.

All have been a breeze to fill using the method someone else mentioned that involves simply putting it inside a muck bucket and folding the top edge of the net over the rim of the bucket to open it up. Takes about 30 seconds to fill that way.

Jun. 22, 2011, 10:22 PM
I use the Millers SHHNs too.
I have no problems filling them. In the hay room I just screwed in 2 hook screws 18" apart. I hang the net on the 2 hooks and just stuff the flakes right in. I fill 6 of them in the morning (2 for breakfast, 2 for lunch and 2 for dinner/overnight) and it takes me all of 5-10 minutes tops.

Outside I feed them either on the ground and loose when it's dry out (I knot the top of the bag closed, then use the long leftover string to knnot again to the bottom metal ring...makes a pillow they follow around the paddock) or I tie it to the bottom of a wooden fence post if the ground is wet so it doesn't get muddy getting flipped all over the place.

In the stall I tie them like a pillow and I have a snap hanging from the front stall bars. I snap the loop on the top string makes between the top and bottom of the net. So mornings I have all their hay done for the day, I toss the breakfast ones outside, the lunch ones outside the paddock or in the barn for later and the dinner ones I hang in the stalls. Then I just toss in the lunch ones at lunch time and the dinner/overnight ones are ready for when they come in.

Breakfast and lunch bags I put 7 lbs per net in per horse and overnight hay nets have 10 lbs in each one. The 7 lbs nets last 3-4 hours and the 10 lb nets last about 5-6 hours. On average.

When tied to something they do get holes in them because my horses know if they grab it in their teeth and yank hard, they can snap the nylon and make a bigger hole. (gluttons!) When a net only has one or 2 small holes, I fix those with cable/zip ties. (heavy duty ones) Once they get more holes, I just replace them. They usually last about 7-9 months for me before I replace them. They're about $9.99 each.

If I'm feeling extra mean (or will be away for longer times in between feedings) I use my extra SHHNs with a couple holes in them and I double net them. :D That stretches the amount of time it takes the horses to finish, LOL!

I've been toying with making a couple hay boxes with small hole grills for slow feeding hay, but those aren't as easy to move around if needed. And I like to feed the nets in the shade in summer, and that moves around the paddock during the day. And in a stall they'd probably get gunky and gross over time and just be one more thing to clean. (my horses get soaked cubes every night, it gunks stuff up)

Jun. 23, 2011, 07:34 AM

For paddock hay slow feeding, consider a California Hay Net from the gals at www.cinchchix.com (http://www.cinchchix.com) - It holds about 80 pounds of hay at a time. Can be left as a ground "pillow" (for the shoeless horses) or hung up as a giant sausauge or hammock (I added a heavy duty carbiner to the bottom ring for hammock-style hanging).

I can stuff 1 and 3/4's of my square bales in and it'll last my big Percheron (who's dry lotted) 2 days. VERY tough net. We're on season 2 and no holes.