What is a Flake of Hay: How Many Flakes of Hay in a Bale?

I have decided to buy a horse so for the past few days, I have been researching this majestic creature. What they eat, how they live, living arrangements, and so much more. This research has helped me learn a lot about horses and their habits.

As I proceeded forward, I looked into horses’ eating habits. I searched for what constitutes the regular diet, mineral supplements, healthy snacks, and how much does a horse eats in a day. Turns out, horse owners buy flakes of hay to feed them. Maybe you have seen hay bales in the field.

New to the equine world, I had little knowledge about the flakes of hay. I decided to see vendors and farmers obtain more information about what is a flake of hay and how many flakes of hay in a bale. Turns out, it was not as simple as I thought it would be but with little difficulty, I wrapped my head around all the information I acquired regarding flakes of hay.

I saw many other new horse owners struggling with the same questions, not knowing what to do or where to look for. Getting a horse is overwhelming as it is so I decided to make it easier for you by providing all the information about hay flakes in this post. Here’s a detailed answer.

What is a Flake of Hay?

Horses have been evolved to graze on pasture fields most of the day, however, that is not an affordable or practical option for most barns. That’s why they turn towards the next best alternative, feeding bales of hay to the horses.

Must be wondering what is a flake of hay, flake of hay is formed by pulling in the dried legume/grass from the row by the baler. Most equine lovers raising horses for years know the term ‘flake’ has a deeper meaning, it is used to describe a thin, convenient, easy to ‘flake off’ portion of a rectangular bale.

Bales are made in the field with about 10 – 13 “clumps” of hay, it is safe to say that flake is a slice of a bale of hay. Most people confuse flake with a unit of weight measurement, hate to break it to them, it’s not true. Each bale of hay is formed with different layers, these layers or sections are referred to as flakes.

How is a Flake of Hay Made?

Flakes are formed through the compression/release phenomenon that happens in the bailing process. This process is divided into a few simple steps: cut, compress, tie with wire or twine, and spit out in a rectangular shape.

  • Step 1 – The first step included in making a bale is to cut a row of hay, leave it to dry, pick it up, and place it in the bailing chamber. 
  • Step 2 – The row of hay then goes through compression, cut on one side, and the pressure is released.
  • Step 3 – The process gets repeated when another row of hay is cut, placed in the chamber, compressed, and released. Repeat the process till the bale is full size. We use hay streamers to prevent moldy hay.

The bale is tied with wire or twine, when it is cut, hay tends to fall apart into layers. These easy to separate layers are dubbed as ‘flakes’.


How Many Flakes Of Hay in a Bale?

The answer varies from flake to flake and bale to bale. Typically, a hay bale contains, on average, 12 flakes. The number of flakes in a hay bale is also relative to the size and weight of the bale. Not all bales would have 12 flakes, it would be more or less than the said number.

If we take a three-string bale of hay into consideration, it usually has 17 flakes each weighing about 8 pounds. Hay splits and turns into flakes, each bale contains a different number of flakes with varying weight.

On average, a two-string bale of hay has 16 flakes, the average weight of each bale is around 5 lbs. It is also important to check the weight and number of flakes per bale before making a purchase to make sure the horse gets a sufficient amount of hay.

If you are purchasing a 20 lbs bale of hay, you may want to know how many flakes are in it. The answer is 4 flakes, as the average weight of a flake is about 5 pounds.

Are All Flakes Made Equally?

You can not expect all hay bales and flakes to be equally created. Different amounts of hay are fed into each hay bale and flake, relatively. The size of the flake depends on the amount of hay and how much is compressed. 

More hay equals larger flakes and more compression leads to denser flakes. So, are all flakes created equally? The answer is resolute and resounding no, it’s different for each flake and hay bale.

Note – According to a recent study, Horses generally need pasture or hay about 1.5% to 2% of the body weight, therefore, horses should not be fed with a specific number of flakes but according to the percentage of body weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many flakes horses should eat in a day?

Horses should be fed a small portion of the flakes throughout the day. Most people go for 5 flakes a day. However, it is better to weigh the flake first and feed hay about 1% to 2% of the horse’s body weight.

What is considered a flake of hay?

A mix of dried legumes and grass from the row weighing about 5 pounds. The hay is put into a baling chamber, compressed, and released as a flake. Different numbers of flakes are put together to form a bale.

How much does hay bale weigh?

It depends on the size, a large bale weighs more than the smaller bay, no surprises there. The average weight of hay bales may range from 40 to 140 pounds or more, in some cases.

In a nutshell, hay is compressed to form flakes with the help of a baler. Different flake layers are put together to form a hay bale. The number of flakes in a hay bale varies but it is close to 12 to 16 flakes per bale.

Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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