There is no doubt that hay is the staple food of guinea pigs and that they need an unlimited supply. In fact 80% of their diet should consist of hay, but what kind of hay?
Types of Hay for guinea pigs
There are mainly 2 types of hay: grass hay and legume hay.
This should be the staple of your guinea pigs diet.
What grass hay can I feed my guinea pig?
- Timothy hay
Timothy hay is a firm favorite of guinea pigs and their owners. Guinea pigs love the taste and smell of timothy hay and it’s packed with all the right stuff that your guinea pigs need like fiber, fat and protein in the right ratio (High fiber and low protein, calcium and calories). While Timothy hay is the best hay for guinea pigs, they can benefit from adding some variety once in a while.
- Orchard hay
Orchard hay is also a grass hay and is the next preferred hay for guinea pigs. Orchard hay has a slightly lower fiber and protein count than timothy hay, but is still a great option. Guinea pigs love the soft texture, sweet smell and taste.
- Oat hay
Oat hay has a higher amount of fiber, fat and protein than timothy and orchard hay and should only be fed once in a while
- Bermuda hay
Bermuda hay has a good fiber and protein count and a bit more calcium than timothy hay and should also be fed once in a while.
Legume hays are high in protein and calcium and lower in fiber. This type of hay doesn’t provide the optimal ratio of nutrients for guinea pigs and shouldn’t be fed everyday.
Types of legume hay:
- Alfalfa hay
- Clover hay
Clover and alfalfa hay should only be fed to very young or pregnant and lactating guinea pigs who need a higher protein and calcium intake. Adult guinea pigs should rather avoid alfalfa and clover hay.
When choosing a type of hay for your guinea pigs the deciding factor should be quality and the nutritional needs of your piggies.
There should be a proper stem to leaf ratio. Guinea pigs love the leafy hay, but it is lower in fiber than the stems. A better stem to leaf ratio will support healthy digestion.
To have a happy and healthy guinea pig they must always have access to an unlimited supply of hay.
How to store hay properly?
Hay should be stored in a cool dry place. All hay should be free of dust and mold which can be harmful, while too much sunlight and heat can decrease the nutritional value of the hay.
Why should guinea pigs eat hay?
- High fiber
Fiber is a vital part of a guinea pigs diet for a healthy digestive system
- Source of Nutrients
Hay isn’t only a great source of fiber, but it also contains protein and fat that are important for a balanced diet.
Other nutrients that hay may contain includes: calcium, phosphorus and vitamin c, but different types of hay contains different amounts of nutrients.
- Provide variety
Guinea pigs thrive on variety in their diet. They need plenty of hay and water and a portion of fresh veggies and pellets daily. Also see our article What can guinea pigs eat?
The best choice for hay is timothy hay, but your piggies will benefit from adding some orchard and oat hay for variety.
- Encourage foraging
Guinea pigs have a natural instinct for foraging grasses and this behavior should be supported by providing unlimited hay to nibble and burrow in.