How to move a round bale without a hay spike by using the front-end loader instead.

I’ve been using a chain with the tractor and front end loader to move round bales to the horses. We don’t have a hay spike or fork attachment.

This how-to assumes you have a tractor with a front end loader attachment. Before we had a tractor, I used to fork hay each day to the horses, or carry flakes from square bales out to them.

Buying a tractor was a huge investment but it is one we have thoroughly appreciated making every time we use it. And we use it a lot for a variety of farm and homestead chores.

We move round bales without a hay spike with our tractor's front end loader.
We move round bales without a hay spike with our tractor’s front end loader.

While Rob was working an overseas contract, I had to learn how to do some things on it myself. Before he left, he taught me how to go front and backwards on it and then my dad showed me how to use the bucket and supervised a little more learning of the frontwards and backwards skills, ha. I’d never used a tractor before, so I was a little bit intimidated at the beginning.

During very cold spells, the horses need a lot more hay throughout the day and night than they do when there’s grass to be had in the fields. Learning to use the tractor meant I could do this chore only once a week instead of day and night.

We don’t have a hay spike or fork attachment for the tractor, so we use chains to move a round bale with the front-end loader instead.

 

We keep the chains in a tool box mounted to the tractor fender.
We keep the chains in a tool box mounted to the tractor fender.

The chain is a logging chain with hooks on both ends. Rob welded hooks to the top of the bucket and this makes using chains easy for lots of things. I use them for moving the hay and we’ve used them for lifting fence posts, trees, implements, anything at all that needs a chain and lift or pull.

You can do it without the hooks, but it’s more tedious because you’ll have to wrap the chain around the bucket and use the chain hooks to secure it or shackles.

 

The hooks Rob welded onto the front end loader bucket have many uses. I use them for moving round bales without a hay spike.
The hooks Rob welded onto the front end loader bucket have many uses. I use them for moving round bales without a hay spike.

First of all, pull the tractor in front of the bale to be moved and drop the bucket. Tilt it so the blade is downward (in dumping position) and on the ground. You should be flush with the bale at the top of the bucket.

Put the first end of the chain in the hook.
Put the first end of the chain in the hook.

After hooking the chain to the bucket, bring the other end of the chain around to hang low on the hay bale. There’s a sweet spot for placement. Too low and the bale will tip out when you lift the bucket. Too high and the bale will droop too low once lifted.

To lift the bale wrap the chain around the lower half but not too low or it will tip when you lift.
To lift the bale wrap the chain around the lower half but not too low or it will tip when you lift.

After wrapping the chain around the bale attach the other end to the other hooks if you have them, or wrap and secure the chain on the other end. Then tilt the bucket back before lifting to tighten the chain.

When the bucket is tilted up, the chain tightens and then the bale can be lifted.
When the bucket is tilted up, the chain tightens and then the bale can be lifted.

Once the chain is tight you can lift the bale high enough to clear the ground but not so high to put your tractor off balance.

Safety note:

  • don’t lift so high the tractor is off balance
  • don’t lift so high the bale tumbles off the bucket and onto you

I have a long trip through the creek, up the hill and through a few mud holes from springs to go with it, so I have to raise it higher at times, but then I lower it to keep the center of gravity as low as possible without dragging it on the ground.

When I’m ready to set it down I’ll tilt the bucket again to relieve the tension on the chain so I can take it off.

Set the bale and tilt the bucket so the chain becomes slack.
Set the bale and tilt the bucket so the chain becomes slack.

The horses get excited when they see me in their field. They run around, kicking and bucking.

Comanche waiting for Shasta to catch up with him after he ran ahead of her.
Comanche waiting for Shasta to catch up with him after he ran ahead of her.

 

Shasta finally catching up with Comanche.
Shasta finally catching up with Comanche.

 

Comanche playing by jumping and twisting while I'm setting the hay bale in place.
Comanche playing by jumping and twisting while I’m setting the hay bale in place.

Once the hay bale is in place and the chain is put away in the toolbox, I head back to the house.

Heading back to the house now that the job is done.
Heading back to the house now that the job is done.

Have any homestead hacks of your own to share? If you move the round bales without a tractor or hay spike, let me know how you’re doing it. I love using the tractor, but that might not always be an option for everyone and it might not even be an option for us always.



About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


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