Making your own mini hay baler that can be operated without anything but a little elbow grease is a great way to store hay more efficiently than loose stacks. Mechanical balers cost thousands of dollars and require other heavy equipment to operate, including the tractor, mower, and rake. If you aren’t making hay on tens of acres, doing the whole process by hand may be for you!
What You'll Learn Today
Baling Hay By Hand With A DIY Mini Hay Baler
Here is a forewarning: baling hay by hand will never be as efficient as baling with machinery. However, it is much more cost-effective and if you have the extra time to build your baler and bale each bale of hay, then it can be useful for a few acres of hay.
Baling by hand uses a DIY mini box baler to create rectangular bales. Most who hand-bale make two-twine bales that weigh around 15-30 lbs, depending on your box baler’s size and how firm your press your hay together.
Making small bales like this allows for smaller storage space than if you were to put up the same amount in loose hay, and makes for easily stackable bales. You can use this to bale your yard, a friend’s yard, or a few acres of actual hayfield! Use these bales to feed your livestock, from rabbits to cattle.
Doing this also allows you complete control over the hay quality so you can match it to your animals’ needs. Baling different qualities of hay and different species of grass and legumes make it possible to pick and choose what and when to feed your animals, based on their need. With a hand baler, you can meticulously bale hay by quality and species for seasonal, size, and sex requirements.
How To Build A Mini Baler
Building a mini baler to make bales by hand isn’t particularly difficult, and there are multiple plans available for free online.
The baler will feature a crate/box that functions as the container of the loose hay that is to be baled and a press that is used to condense the bale itself. Features like a door and holders for your twine will also make your job easier.
Here is what you’ll need to build:
Decide on the dimensions you desire for these handmade hay bales. Construct a box with plywood and dimensional lumber to fit this size.
While I could recommend exact sizes, it’s best for you to decide what size you need based on the size of bale you need, the total weight of the baler (which should be portable), and your available tools and budget.
Slats & Door
On the front side of the box, install a door with vertical slats, as seen in the video above. The slats allow for easier tying of bales and the door allows you to release the bale when it is tied.
Place two eyebolts next to each other where they will almost be touching on the bottom, back, and top of the box. This is where you will thread your hay twine through to keep it in place.
The eyebolts keep it in place while still allowing the twine to be easily released when pulled once the bale is finished. If you are making two-twine bales, you’ll make two of these paths of eyebolts.
Build your plunger press with heavy and stable lumber. Utilize the right angles for your height to maximize your leverage when making bales. This will allow you to create more dense bales.
Operating The Mini Hay Baler
When you are ready to bale, string your twine through your eyebolt paths, leaving extra in the front and top to wrap around and tie. Load the box with loose hay and hand-pack the hay.
Once you reach the top of the box, press your plunger down to compact the hay. Load it up again and repeat until you have the right dimensions for your bale. Then tie it off and open the door!
Factors To Consider When Building Your Baler
When building out your mini hay baler, you need to consider the weight of the baler. If you plan on cutting all of your hay by hand you’ll either be raking all the loose hay to where the baler is or bringing the baler to the hay. If you want to make this easily transportable, ensure the dimensions you use fit on a dolly cart that you can wheel through your field.
Another factor to consider is the time it takes to make these hand bales. It may take you 5+ minutes to make your first few bales. Even when you have practiced multiple times, it’s doubtful you can make a bale in less than 2 minutes with all of the loading, pressing, and tying. If you have the room to store loose hay, it may be more efficient.
Lastly, consider how much hay you will be processing. If you have multiple acres that are flat and accessible by tractor, it may be worth it to hire a local hay farmer to bale your field for you unless you have ample time to do it yourself by hand.
It’s great to do things for yourself by hand, but missing out on hundreds of lbs of hay because you couldn’t cut and/or bale it on time would be a shame!
Ready To Hand-Bale?
Now you know how to make a mini hay baler with the freedom to choose your own dimensions for your needs. If you have small livestock, like rabbits and chickens, your hay bales may only need to be 5 lbs.
If you have cattle or horses, you may want to build a larger baler to satisfy the needs of these large animals. Either way, the layout and process are the same. Enjoy the fun of hand-baling!