Thursday, February 2, 2023

DIY: Chopped Hay

I think I mentioned it in one of last month's posts (but who knows lol), but we started chopping hay for Trigger. In 2020, he lost some molars, and ever since then, we've noticed increasing issues with quidding hay. He's always been pretty messy in a stall, but it got significantly worse, with him spreading hay EVERYWHERE and then peeing/pooping in it #horsesaregreat

Unrelated dog photo because no one likes text walls.

This is also compounded by the fact that he has been having intermittent issues with Fecal Water Syndrome and I wasn't happy with his weight last spring - I talked to the vet about it, and she advised that most cases (of FWS) are idiopathic and a cause can't be found, but that she thought he might improve once the spring grass came in. His weight did get better, but the FWS seemed to come and go with no rhyme or reason. And then winter rolled around, and he started to drop weight again. 

Another unrelated photo. 

I happened to be browsing CoTH one day last fall and noticed a thread questioning whether or not FWS could be exacerbated by stemmy hay, which then led me down a rabbit hole about stemmy hay/older horses missing molars/chopping hay. Our brome is quite soft and lovely, but when he picked through the alfalfa (which I was feeding him to help with the weight), he seemed to leave mostly stems. I started poking around to read more about chopped hay, and also browsed the feed aisle at our local Tractor Supply. Chopped hay seems to run about $20-25/bag, and since I am still a state employee in the state leading the nation in lowest pay for state workers (🙃), I started researching whether or not it was feasible to chop my own hay. I already DIY so much! Lol. There are some helpful threads on CoTH, and fellow blogger Stampy+the Brain also wrote about chopping hay for one of her lovely senior citizens :)

Example of the chunks of hay I would regularly pull out of Trigger's stall prior to the chopping.

It seemed to be universally agreed that wood chippers/mulchers worked, but as with anything, I could spend a little, or I could spend A LOT on this experiment. I decided to start small. 

Well, not THAT small, it still cost $100. 

We picked up a small electric chipper/shredder from Harbor Freight (I think it's this one? We had a 25% off coupon so didn't pay full price) to experiment with. I didn't want to throw money at something bigger until I was sure Trigger would eat the hay, as historically he is very suspicious of anything new or different. This was no exception. 

The first night we gave him chopped hay he very intentionally shit in the bucket 🙃
he hasn't done it since, so I know it was intentional, lol. 

Jack and Trigger are in my old foaling stall with a homemade divider (it's janky, I know lol) and Trigger has a penchant for yanking Jack's hay under the divider and making a massive mess with it. Sooooooo DH spent some time putting a stop to that. 

Lots of scrap wood on the farm thankfully lol. 

Eventually Trigger resigned himself to his fate and started eating the chopped hay. Then he started DEVOURING every scrap - yay! Meanwhile, the small chipper we bought was verrrrrrry annoying to use to chop the quantities of hay we needed on a daily basis. It has a very small hole to feed the hay through, and jammed up pretty easily, especially when I tried to chop the finer/softer brome to mix in with the alfalfa. So we started casually looking for something bigger. We had a couple of promising leads on FB marketplace, including one we arranged to buy and 5 minutes away from meeting the guy (AFTER DRIVING AN HOUR) he gave us a lame excuse and completely ghosted us, which was annoying AF. Finally after giving myself tennis elbow and a very sore wrist, I rage bought a SunJoe mulcher off Amazon with a much bigger hole, to see if that improved the time/effort we were spending on chopping hay.

DH was actually really impressed with it when he assembled it, lol. 

It arrived earlier this week, and luckily it seems to be doing the trick! Chopping hay is SOOOOOOO much faster/easier now - instead of spending 30-40 minutes chopping hay for just Trigger, last night I chopped enough for both Trigger and gave some to Jack (since he is also missing plenty of teeth), and also chopped enough extra to fill half a feed bag for tonight's feeding - all in about 15 minutes!

It is dusty, so eye/nose/mouth/hair protection is warranted unless you want to look/sound like you just ran a marathon through a dust storm lol. 

An example of chopping hay with the original shredder

And with the new one - don't worry, now we do it outside to cut down on the dust lol

Chowing down 

So - does it help? Tentatively yes - I am getting more hay into Trigger than I have in YEARS, and I haven't had to drag hot water out ot the barn to wash manure off him since we started chopping the hay. He's still eating off a round bale outside because there is no feasible way for me to feed him the chopped hay outside, but knock on wood, his stall has been WORLD'S easier to clean and the manure looks well formed (and isn't surrounded by sopping wet shavings like it used to be). Still a bit annoying (and messy) to have to chop the hay, but what the king wants, the king gets, lol. 

July 2023 update: the SunJoe suffered a catastrophic failure and stopped working last month. It was still very much under warranty so I reached out to customer service, who were complete and utter assholes. After exchanging about 8 emails over the course of two weeks and providing multiple videos of the unit NOT working properly, they told me they were out of stock and didn't know when they would get more so I'm basically SOL. So. If you go this route, I do NOT recommend buying a SunJoe. We're chopping his hay with a weed eater in the meantime which is significantly more annoying but I know the minute I drop $$$$ on another mulcher SunJoe will finally ship me the one they owe me 🤬


  1. Oh the new one looks like it does a great job! I use to shell out lots of money for Rio's chopped hay. I considered getting a chopper, but I spent like an hour once chopping up some regular hay for him (with scissors... it was his birthday, I thought it would be a nice treat!) and he didn't want to eat it. So I ended up not getting one. Will definitely consider again with the current herd is older though. You're such good horse parents!

    1. I cannot even imagine trying to hand chop enough hay for my oldies lol. Even jamming it through the smaller shredder took FOREVER and annoyed me excessively!

  2. We have a senior citizen at the barn with this.. I'll have to bring up the possibility of giving him chopped hay

    1. Yeah there's definitely a PITA factor (the actual chopping, trying to figure out how to feed it so they don't waste it, etc etc) but so far it seems to be helping, so that's the deciding factor for me lol. It would be hard to do if they were in a boarding situation though!