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.
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!
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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..... 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!
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