How to Make an Almost Cost-Free Livestock Feeder

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My husband is the king of re-use. As a matter of fact, we are kind of amused at all the hoopla surrounding the renew-reuse-recycle movement. Successful ranchers, homesteaders and small farmers have made this a way of life for years if not centuries. Glad the rest of the world is catching up! I have written before about our “junk pile,” which is not junk but actually a storage yard for things that can be re-purposed into useful items with a little ingenuity, the right tools and a bit of skill.

One of the most ingenious things my husband has made are our livestock feeders. When I first saw him make one I was a bit non-plussed as to how they would work but now I am a 100-percent convert.

The happy recipient.

Tools needed:

A pick-up truck to transport the tires or a really sturdy car with a big interior or trunk

3 truck tires all the same size (22 to 24 inches is a good size) with an opening that isn’t collapsed

A drill that can reach in tight places

A drill bit that can drill rubber and is two sizes larger than your bolts



Nuts, washers, bolts (one feeder requires 6 sets of nuts, washers and bolts)

A piece of OSB board or other lightweight board the size of the circumference of the tire

Here’s how you go about doing it:

First you go down to your local ag tire store or any tire store that services trucks. Depending on how many feeders you are going to make ask them for three tires for each tire feeder you plan to make. They will give them to you gladly because they have to pay to have them hauled away. Basically, you are doing them a favor by taking them so they won’t charge you for them. If they ask you to pay, I would find another place, but that’s just me. If they only want something small then I wouldn’t quibble, I guess, but you really should be able to find them for free.

When you get the tires and you’re ready to start, assemble them where you intend to use them. Once you’ve assembled them you won’t be able to move the feeder without mechanical assistance or Arnold Schwarzenegger!

My horse JB wants to know what’s going on.

If your board is not the right size use a Skilsaw or some other cutting tool to cut your board down to roughly match the circumference of the tire. Drill about 10 holes in it in the middle. This is for drainage. The bottom of the feeder won’t be sealed so you’ll have some additional drainage there, too.

Cutting the board to size.

Then position your board over the bottom of the tire and drill a hole all the way through the board and the tire. Don’t move or jiggle the positioned board at this time. If you bump it you will probably have to re-drill the holes because it will be too hard to line up the holes.

Hardware and a drill for small places.

Drilling the holes.

Put your bolt through the holes. You might have to tap it in. Put in another bolt same as you just did but this time across from the first one. (We have found that the weight of the tire and two bolts is enough to make it sturdy.) Carefully turn over the tire/board assembly and get your washer and nut tightening started on the inside.

Tightening the bolts takes a contortionistic style.

This is why you don’t want tires whose openings are collapsed. It’s too hard to get into. If you have to, you could use a small jack to hold it open. Best if you just get tires where the opening is wide.

Turn it back over and use a ratchet to finish tightening the bolt/washer/nut.

Finish tightening nice and tight!

Now turn the whole business over so the board is now on the ground in the place where you will be using it and place your second tire on top of the first lining them up.

Place No. 2 tire.

Drill your holes through both tires and place your bolts.

Drill holes inside the tire through both and assemble it the same way as you did before with the bolts, washers and nuts. Once all is tightened, place the last and third tire on top assembling it the same way you assembled the other.

Stack on No. 3.

Drill your holes again and tighten your bolts ….

You’re done!

If you’re taking photographs, don’t forget to give your sweetie a big hug and kiss!

We have tried less than three tires and I suppose, depending on the livestock you have, you could make a feeder with less than three tires. For horses, which is what we have, we have found that three tires works best. They can’t pull all the hay out and dump it on the ground.

The beauty of this system is that it’s virtually free, the animal can’t move it, and the feed stays inside (for the most part) so less hay gets wasted. Also the animal isn’t eating off the ground so there’s less chance for them to pick up sand or rocks. If you’re feeding good quality hay – which you should always do anyway – you won’t have a mold problem. But just in case you have a picky eater, check from time to time and clean the feeder out if you’re concerned about moldy hay.

We live in rattlesnake country but we have never had a snakes get in the feeders. They are too securely attached together and the snakes find it too hard to get in. Some people might think these feeders aren’t attractive but when I think of the expense of store-bought feeders, these feeders start looking real good to me. I must mention they don’t have any parts an animal can get injured on, too. Yes, they are very attractive indeed.

Additional note – For people who live in wetter climates: You can consider using some kind of welded wire on the bottom. If you live in a very wet climate I suppose these feeders would be better suited for use inside a roofed structure.

And as a final note here’s something fun I noticed as I stood there taking the photos ….

Where’s Waldo? First prize goes to the person who can find the Jerusalem cricket.