Have you ever wondered about what’s the best hay for guinea pigs? New guinea pig owners are often surprised to find out just how much hay guinea pigs require! Guinea pigs absolutely love hay! They chew it, play in it, hide in it and sleep in it! Our guinea pigs wheek at the sight of it! (not sure what wheeking is? check out our guide to guinea pigs sounds)
Thankfully guinea pigs love hay since it is vital for their survival. Around 80% of your guinea pigs diet should be made up solely of hay. Here we explore why hay is good for your piggies along with the best hay for guinea pigs.
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Why do guinea pigs need hay?
Eating hay is an alien concept for us humans and yet to guinea pigs it’s their favourite food! Whilst hay appears bland, tasteless and contains no nutritional value, it’s vital for the health of your guinea pig.
Hay is actually a rich source of fibre for guinea pigs which helps with healthy digestion. It acts as a prebiotic and can assist your guinea pigs intestines during the breakdown of food. Hay also contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Wears down teeth
Similar to our ever-growing fingernails and toenails, guinea pigs teeth keep growing. Luckily your guinea pigs natural instinct is always active and so your guinea pig will attempt to wear them down.
The most effective way is to provide plenty of hay. Chewing the hay stimulates normal chewing and dental wear patterns. This also helps decrease the risk of dental disease. Every cage or hutch should contain fresh hay along with some wooden chews to assist your guinea pig with wearing down its teeth.
Source of Entertainment
Guinea pigs have lots of fun with hay! We often find it all over the cage and on our piggies heads! Hay is a great boredom breaker and will provide some entertainment to your guinea pigs. It shouldn’t be the only source of entertainment, however. A bored guinea pig becomes depressed and ill.
Encourages Natural Behaviour
Ever notice your guinea pig digging, burrowing and nesting in the hay. This is all completely natural behaviour that our domesticated pets share with their wild cavy cousins. It’s wonderful to watch and is one of the best ways to stimulate your guinea pigs natural behaviour.
Types of Hay
Interestingly, not all types of hay are suitable for guinea pigs. Also, not all hay is created equally. It’s important to become familiar with the types of hay your guinea pigs can and can’t eat.
This is the best hay for your guinea pigs! Timothy Hay is often assumed to be a brand name or make of the hay. It actually refers to the type of grass that is turned into hay. It can also be referred to as grass hay.
Timothy Hay is high in fibre and low in sugar. Guinea pigs that aren’t provided with enough hay often overeat other foods and become obese.
Meadow Hay contains more leaves than Timothy Hay which results in it naturally being softer. This means it is perfect for bedding.
Oaten hay is typically grown in Australia and is another type of grass hay. It is low in protein making it a great addition to your guinea pigs diet. We wouldn’t recommend this being your guinea pigs main source of hay, but it makes a welcome addition when mixed into Timothy Hay.
Lucerne / Alfalfa and Clover Hay
Never feed your guinea pigs Lucerne / Alfalfa and Clover Hay. They are both extremely dangerous to your guinea pig. Both Lucerne / Alfalfa and Clover Hay are too high in protein and calcium for your guinea pig.
Whilst this isn’t technically hay it is worth mentioning. Straw is not suitable for guinea pigs under any circumstances. It is too sharp and is void of any nutritional value for your guinea pigs.
How Much Hay Does Your Guinea Pig Require?
We never measure out the hay we give to our guinea pigs and we never have. Guinea pigs are pretty good at self-regulating their food unless they are left alone with something sweet!
On average a guinea pig requires at least 1 oz / 28 grams of hay per day per guinea pig. This is in reference to how much they need to eat. More will need to be given in order for them to sleep in it.
Since guinea pigs soil where they sleep (unless they are toilet trained – learn how-to here), it’s a good idea to provide a mixture of hay in various places. Hay racks and bags are great for keeping hay off the ground to ensure a clean supply of hay is available for eating.
Don’t stress out about measurements too much though. Provide fresh hay daily for your guinea pigs and ensure it’s roughly a large handful each of hay for each guinea pig you own.
The cheapest isn’t always the best in the case of hay for guinea pigs. Never feed your guinea pigs straw as it can poke their little eyes out.
Always check hay for mould and ensure it is dust-free – your guinea pigs will thank you for it!