Garden and Orchard - The Frugal Homestead

My ‘Redneck’ Hay Baler

My redneck hay baler
My redneck hay baler

My ‘Redneck’ Hay Baler For Small Batch Hay

Many homesteaders face the problem of needing hay to feed their livestock, but not enough land and money to bale their own hay. A tractor, mower, hay baler, wagon…the cost of equipment really adds up. And having enough land for hay fields is not possible for many of us.

We homestead on one acre so there’s no room for a hay field of our own. However, our neighbor has his field mowed once or twice a year…and I can have the hay!

There’s just one problem…we don’t have the equipment to bale hay.

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hay field
The hay field behind our homestead.

Baling Hay by Hand

I looked up my friend Kathi’s post How We Bale Hay by Hand. Her husband built a hand baler that allows you to make small batches of hay for the cost of your labor, some lumber and twine.

I would love to have one of these, but my carpentry skills involve a lot of duct tape and cuss words.

The hand baler allows you to load hay into a box, compress it with a ‘plunger’, and tie twine around it to form a small, rectangular bale of hay. It is a fairly labor intensive process and takes much more time than baling a field of hay with modern equipment. However, it is space efficient, requires little cash, and works quite well for making small batches of hay.

Hay field

How My Redneck Hand Baler Was Conceived

I found myself in need of an ‘instant baler’ to get the hay in before it rained.

I had a cardboard box about the right size and some left over twine so, of course, I wanted to experiment.

That’s how the idea for my redneck hay baler was born.

I rigged the box and twine up to form a bale of hay by hand. Here are some photos and descriptions in case you want to try this at home…

Notches cut into top of box hold twine in place on my redneck hay baler.
2 notches cut into either side of the box to hold twine in place.

Redneck Hay Baler Made From A Box

Start by cutting 4 small notches in the top of the box to hold the twine in place while you add hay to the box. A set of 2 notches are cut into 2 opposite sides of the box.

The twine is pressed down into the notches on each side, with enough twine hanging down inside the box to touch the bottom.

(In the future I would cut 2 tabs into the bottom of the box that would hold the twine in place, then would easily release the twine as it is pulled to tighten the bale. It might be necessary to use a hook of some type to pull the twine through the tabs.)

A small knot in the twine keeps it from slipping through the notch down into the box as hay is added and compressed.

adding hay to my redneck hay baler
Adding hay to the box in layers.

Hay is added by hand and compressed after each layer is added.

adding hay to my redneck hay baler
Each layer is compressed by hand or using a garden rake. You could also use a piece of plywood.

I found that a combination of pressing down by hand and with my garden rake seemed to work pretty well.

tying off the twine to form a bale of hay
Pull the twine as tight as you can and tie it off to form your bale.

Once the box is filled and the hay is compressed, pull the 2 ends of the twine together, tighten and press down on the hay, pull tight again and then tie off the twine.

After both strands of twine are tied off, tip the box upside down to dump out the bale of hay. (I had to shake the box up and down to get the bale to slide out.)

bales of hay made by hand
I was able to make several bales of hay and store them in the barn in one evening. The next morning it rained and we’ve had so much rain now that the rest of the hay will be best used for mulch.

Hay, It Works!

In a couple of hours, I had 7 bales of hay to put in the chicken coop. I admit that this is a very labor intensive way of making hay! The bales of hay are rather loose and lightweight compared to machine baled hay.

Unfortunately, the rains came the next morning, before I could bale anymore hay from this cutting. My neighbor will most likely have the field mowed one more time this season so maybe I can put up more hay this year. I will use it as bedding in my chicken coop.

Is This A Good Solution For Everyone?

If you need a lot of hay, and fast…this is not the best solution.

If you have the time and energy to hand bale, this is a good way to put up small batches of hay without a huge investment of money. Because it takes more time and effort to produce each bale, it may be difficult to put up as much as you need. But for someone with just a few chickens or a couple of goats, you might be able to supply your own hay this way.


For anyone interested in trying this, here are a few notes to help make this a bit more productive…

  • If you need to do this often, take the time to make the wooden hand baler – it will be well worth the energy and materials.
  • If you just want to make a few bales and don’t mind manual labor, the cardboard box should work just fine for small batches. It may require judicious applications of duct tape to keep in it service.
  • Don’t expect well packed, tight bales of hay.
  • Use heavy twine, rope, or wire for tying the bales. I tried a lightweight twine at first and it broke if I tried to tie it very tight. After a couple of bales, I went and found some twine I saved from purchased bales, and that worked much better.
  • If you don’t need to have bales that are the general size and shape of a normal bale of hay, feel free to use another size of box. A smaller box would, obviously, make bales that are easier to move and store.

Have you ever baled hay by hand? Leave a comment!

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7 Comments on “My ‘Redneck’ Hay Baler

  1. I have a 7 yr old sulcata tortoise, this is the best thing I’ve ever come across to store her food for our Michigan winters! Thank you

  2. We’ve recently got several tons of (loose) hay from my folks, I wanted to make something to bale of the hay up so it doesn’t mold being in a huge pile for months. This is an ingenious way to get started baling hay while you wait to get materials to build a wood version, if your like me & have empty cardboard boxes due to moving & no money to buy materials for the wood version, due to moving LOL
    Great idea.

    1. So glad that you found this helpful, Alli! Best wishes baling your hay. This will take some time and effort, but it is a cheap way to put up some livestock feed.

      Let me know how it goes!

    1. Lol! Thanks, AnnMarie! I hope you are able to get some hay made this weekend 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

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