HUBBY BUILT A HAY STEAMER FOR ME: Make your own hay steamer instructions!

Monday, February 20th, 2012 | Filed under Handy Tips

So, for Valentine’s Day this year, I asked Hubby for a homemade hay steamer.

Yes, there are a few not homemade hay steamers out there, but Hubby would have a fit if he saw the prices… so until the less expensive varieties are created here in the US (there are a few easily affordable models in the UK), we had to make our own.

(For those of you who missed my previous post on Hay Steamers, click here.)


I’ve never needed to steam my hay previously because I was always able to get lovely hay at reasonable prices all year round.  This lovely hay lived in my hay barn and was used in a timely manner.

Well… around the end of summer last year, I decided to stock up on hay because I knew hay prices were going way up.  So, I used all three stalls plus the hay barn as storage.

I was quite pleased with myself.  I had stockpiled enough hay to get me through April and maybe May of this year.  <pause> …but then as I started getting into the middle and bottom layers of the stacks… I found some bales that the horses wouldn’t touch.

Hmmmm.  What was wrong?  After some close sniffing and examination, I determined that the suspect bales were either extremely dusty, somewhat mildewy or just old and dry.  I’m not sure.  But, to absolve the hay grower, I saw all the hay myself before I purchased it and have been purchasing from this farmer for a few years.   Hence,  I knew the issue had to do with the dust, moisture and air of my barn.  Plus, I think the ground water can seep up into the stacks because I thought my mats covered every inch of the dirt floors.  But, they don’t.   I should have used pallets.

Anyway, bottom line, the horses are pushing the hay around instead of eating it thus totally defeating the purpose of stocking up on hay.

Since I had written about hay steamers previously, I knew steaming the hay would kill any bacteria (has to heat up to 180 degrees), evaporate the dust and moisten the dry.

So, I re-read my post about hay steamers and gave it to hubby.  He scratched his head and drove off to Home Depot.


So, I started with a plastic storage box that I got from Home Depot:


The nice thing about this one is that it has wheels (although I’m not sure how durable they will turn out to be).  It’s big enough to hold about 7-8 flakes of hay (flat, instead of vertically – and I now think vertically would be better).  The steamer was also from Home Depot, a steal at $12.50:


Only $12.50!!

The fitting at the end of the hose is just about 1” diameter, so it fit nicely in the hole I drilled with a spade bit in the middle-bottom of the box.  I glued it into place with Gorilla Glue.

hose hole


This is the view from the inside of the box.

The hose end fitting also fits nicely into a ¾” I.D. PVC Schedule 40 slip coupling, so I went with ¾” PVC for the diffuser.  Easy to make from a few feet of pipe, a tee, a couple of caps, and the slip coupling:




I drilled ¼” holes every 2” across the top.

Getting a seal between the hose end and slip coupling proved to be a problem.  The hose end is ribbed (and the inside is threaded, to attach the wallpaper steamer attachment), so just gluing it in there wasn’t going to work.  I made a foam gasket out of pipe insulation, glued it inside the coupling:


foam gasket

And then hand-drilled a hole in it with a ½” spade bit:

Not pretty, I know, but I think it will work.  You could use the remainder of the pipe insulation to cover the hose for better efficiency.


not so pretty but it works

I then used Gorilla Glue to join the diffuser to the hose end.  Gorilla Glue is perfect in this application because it expands as it dries, and will (hopefully) seal any spots where steam could leak out.


Diffuser in place.

To keep the flakes of hay off the bottom of the box and ensure we have good steam circulation, I put a few pieces of 1-1/2” PVC in there as well.


Keep the hay off of the bottom (good idea, doesn't really work...)

To seal the top, I used some adhesive-backed foam tape, also from Home Depot.

When going around the corners, make sure to cut out a notch on the inside of the corner so it doesn’t bunch up.

Adding sealer to get a snug fit for the top

The steamer took about 30 minutes to start producing steam, and about another 30 minutes to cook the hay.  The taste testers approved, I am told!

Hay loaded and ready to go.


Ready to test the maiden voyage!


This is the hay after the steam. It reduced a bit and became much more green and fragrant



Sterilite 45 gal wheeled tote                                          $25

Wagner 705 wallpaper steamer                                   $12.50

3’ of ¾” Sched 40 PVC pipe                                         $3

5’ of 1-1/2” Sched 40 PVC pipe                                    $4

¾” Sched 40 slip x slip coupling                                 $0.25

¾” Sched 40 tee                                                             $0.30

2 – ¾” slip caps                                                              $0.70

Gorilla Glue                                                                     $5.50

PVC Cement                                                                    $6.50

1/8” x 2” Armaflex insulation tape                             $7

¾” x 6’ Armacell pipe insulation                                $2

(Sorry, I couldn’t get this list to line-up nicely… it looks fine on my screen but not when published.)

TOTAL                                                                                          $67



There is no question that they like the steamed hay more than the non-steamed hay!  I used halves of a bale as an experiment.  I put out one flake from the steamed half and one flake from the non-steamed half to all of my horses.

They all ate the steamed flakes and pushed around the non-steamed flakes.

Case closed.

This is Gwen eating the much more green, steamed hay... she pushed the nonsteamed hay around.


However, there are a few things to add to this process as I’ve been using it.

1)  You have to make time to steam the hay.  It takes half an hour to heat up and about 25 mins to steam the hay, maybe less if you use less.  I filled mine to the top.

2)  If the steam gets ‘drippy’, something is wrong.  You have to level the bin to make sure the steam flows correctly.

3)  I added pvc pipe pieces between some of the flakes to get more even steaming.

4)  DO NOT reach in and grab the hay immediately after steaming with your bare hands – it is HOT!

5)  I have been taking the steamed flakes and transporting them to my wheelbarrow.  As I do this, I flip the flake so the more moist side is now UP.  This dries them out quickly.

6)  I have been doing ‘power steaming’ blocks of time – steaming a few bales in one sitting so that I have some ready when I need it.

7)  If I was purchasing the tub, I would have gotten a bigger one that could take an entire bale and steamed them vertically instead of horizontally.  I think that is the mistake we made here.  You want a tub that is big enough to steam your flakes horizontally, if possible.

8)  The top of the tub will get HOT while steaming so don’t lay anything on top of it.


This is Tess who didn't eat up her non-steamed hay but dived right into the steamed version.


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30 comments have been posted...

  1. chris layton

    Building the hay teamer…would it be just as effective to put the hose through the end of the tub instead of the side? The diffuser would cover the same area but no tee. Attach bushing from hose to diffuser directly..??

  2. Erin

    I just finished building my steamer, waiting for it to heat up! I hope it works well! My horse has heaves, and steaming is our best option at the moment. thanks for making this post!

  3. jacynthe

    Hi,I tryed to make a hay steamer with a refrigerator,but the temperarure is not 90celcius it’s just 75 celcius..I have wallpaper steamer and I putted a sqare pipe with a many old..i dont know why it does’nt work ..Thanks

  4. dawndi Post author

    Our barn only freezes once a year and our tack room never freezes… so I am sorry that I cannot answer this for you.

  5. Toby

    How do you handle freezing in the winter if there is no heat in the barn?

  6. Michelle

    In the process of making our hay steamer, thanks to your directions. My mustang has Inflammatory Airway Disease (diagnosed after a long, drawn-out saga I shared on my blog) and I’m hoping this helps and reduces the need for medication.

  7. Kimberly

    Great idea!
    Quick question, if you don’t mind! We’ve essentially made the same steamer as you, but I notice the PVC piping gets very soft. Are we using the wrong PVC piping? Does yours get soft? I was wondering because I am concerned that there may be leaching of PVC into the steam – unsure if this would be a problem, anyway, but if I knew that there was stronger piping, I would change it, as I don’t think the cost of replacement would be prohibitive. Thanks for your help!

  8. J lewis

    Steaming is labor intensive, but choices are very limited once a horse develops chronic lung inflammation. Our 20 yr old arab endurance horse lost a season of competition and incurred around 600$ vet bills to treat lung inflammation which we believe was caused by loading large bales (naturally more prone to mold than small bales with better air circulation around the bale) into a commercially built plastic feeder enclosure designed to keep water off the bale, but restricting air in the bottom where the horses are digging in for the leafy parts of hay.
    Our vet confirms this is a common problem in the Midwest climate. Better field drying and stacking small bales with passages for air to move through the stack can cut down on mold growth. We are considering suspending hay in a large net directly below an open shed roof feeder to maximize air flow while the animals pull hay through the net

  9. Julie

    Courtney, from post 10/1/16. I have a mustang gelding who has had CAO heaves for years. He is getting worse, and I can’t get it under control with meds anymore. I was thinking about trying the turmeric paste. I happened upon this blog searching options for hay steaming. I would be willing to try making one, but after reading your recent post I am wanting to know if you’ve tried the paste and if it is working.

    To the author, I think your DYI is great, as most of us can’t afford the commercial steamers.

  10. Laina

    My 15 year old Arab mare has copd we use to steam hay with sone improvement but I switched to timothy hay cubes and briefly steam these. All coughing stopped and she has been medicine free for two years now. I can’t tell you what a difference cubes vs hay made and I fully believe steaming makes a difference

  11. Courtney

    Thank you for sharing this! I made my own, using a Conair fabric steamer (buy from bed bath and beyond w/20% off coupon for ~$55) and a 45 gallon trashcan. The drain is a must – and make it bigger than what you think – you will need to clean it regularly to avoid mold growing inside. I installed a thermostat mine gets to 125 degrees F, we steam the hay for about 45 minutes all of the dust is gone. It costs us about $250 – including a basket to hold the hay to reduce loose hay in the bottom of the can.

    This did NOT cure my horse of COPD/HEAVES. She has been receiving steamed hay for one week. She improved for 2-3 days and then the cough is back worse than ever (day 6). I will continue to steam hay until the cough is under control, but will not continue after we find a solution. I made a Turmeric paste with Licorice root, and started her on Zyrtec today.

  12. dawndi Post author

    Yes, it is normal to have some water at the bottom… but if it is pooling, either the holes in the PVC are too
    large… or? I think if you put the steamer on a pallet and drilled a few holes in the bottom, it would be fine!

  13. Melissa

    Is it normal for water to collect on the bottom after steaming? Can I put holes in the bottom to drain this water or will it effect the steaming process?

  14. Rebecca

    If you ere to it the steamer vertically how would you arrange the pipes in the bottom. thank you for your time

  15. dawndi Post author

    Our tub is not large enough to steam a full bale… I thought vertically might work better because
    there would be less concentration of water on the bottom levels. Good luck and they work great!

  16. Verkade


    We are thinking of making a hay steamer ourselves and your DIY is wonderful. Does your hay steamer still work? And why would it be easier/better to steam the hay vertically? Was your steamer big enough to steam a bale of hay at the Time?


    Kind regards, Marlies

  17. susan

    I live in the Northeast so it is hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, what are your experiences when it is hot? I can not soak my hay too far in advance as it gets rancid in hot weather so I wet the hay right before feeding. In the winter, how would you handle sub freezing temperatures? Would you only use it in a heated room (or one above freezing)


  18. dawndi Post author

    I haven’t done it vertically, so I don’t know… As far as dirty? Not really. Easy to clean, though.
    Simple, lightweight – hose it out.

  19. Laura

    This is wonderful as the commercial versions are outrageously expensive!
    You mention vertical steaming would be better, like in a tall garbage bin. How would one remove the steamed hay from the bottom? All the elements would need to be secure so your steamer wouldn’t fall apart when tipped over to get the bottom hay.
    Big question: when soaking hay, the water gets very dirty. Does the bottom of the steamer collect the same particles? Seems it would get messy and require cleaning after every use.
    It would be great if you could post answers to this and the above questions. Thanks!

  20. dawndi Post author

    It still works great! However, I am having to soak all of my hay for my mare so I use it less…

  21. Verity

    Hi There, Just wondering how your steamer is going now?
    I was thinking of using the Wagner DST 5800 and using a Wheelie Bin. for the container.
    Cheers – all the way from New Zealand

  22. Val

    Hi There,

    Saw your directions on how to build a hay steamer. Thought I’d give it a try. Have you made any modifications or adaptions to the original plan that has improved the product. If so, we’d love to hear about it before we start building….thanks for sharing.

  23. Laney

    Thank you for sharing your experience! We just found out that our horse has the heaves and steaming sounds like it’s worth a try, but we couldn’t possibly afford to try a commercial steamer. I was wondering if some creative person hadn’t come up with a way to make their own and then I came across your blog. I am so thankful!

  24. Valerie Gray

    You are awesome, for the past 3 years my horse has been suffering from Chronic Inflamatory Disease. The Vet has wanted me to soak hay for 12 hours before feeding, and the logistics kept defeating me.

    the Hay Steamer was the answer, and you sharing all your research saved me sooooo much time.

    My steamer was done in a day & works like magic. What a answer it is for me and Shadow. He has been coughing so incessantly for the last few months, and I did everything beside soaked hay to help him and it wasn’t enough.

    Just in the last 2 days, since I have steamed his hay, I have not yet heard a single cough.

    Thank you thank you thank you.

    In appreciation, I created a word document with step by step instructions and photos of how it was done. This in anticipation of women (or men), who have no building knowledge or experience at all.

    They can still build it. I would like to send you the document and you can share it however you’d like. Please let me know how I can forward a MS Word document to you.

    I know there are others who could benefit from this simple solution to a knotty problem.

  25. dawndi Post author

    We found ours on sale… just keep checking back for coupons or sales. You can get them on Ebay but they are usually around $49. Sometimes there are deals, though. Good Luck!

  26. Molly

    I checked with Home Depot in Southern California and the Wagner 705 steamer cost around $50.00, where can we get one for $12.50?

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