Guinea pigs love orchard grass hay, and it’s a great alternative to Timothy hay if you suffer from allergies. In addition to providing guinea pigs with fiber, it also contains vitamins and minerals they require for good health.
So you got a new fur baby, and now you’re headed to the pet store to purchase everything you’ll need to provide your guinea pig with a happy and healthy life. Toys and food and treats galore! Such fun!
Of course, you spoke with your vet first, and they gave you a list of everything your piggy will need. Timothy hay, high-quality food pellets, and fresh fruit and veg top the list.
Now you’re home with your guinea pig, and it appears they want nothing to do with the Timothy hay. The following day, it’s the same story. Piglet simply can’t be bothered with it. Sigh.
Fear not, fair pet parent! While guinea pigs are herbivores and must have hay to chew on, Timothy hay is not the only option. Let’s discuss.
What You'll Learn
Why Timothy Hay is the “Gold Standard”
Veterinarians and pet stores recommend Timothy hay for two reasons.
- It provides the right nutritional combination.
- It is tough enough to keep constantly growing guinea pig teeth at the proper length.
So when you are considering alternatives, you must meet both of those needs.
Why Timothy Hay Might be The Wrong Choice For Your Piggy
Having an allergy to Timothy hay is pretty common. By some estimates, as much as 30% of the population may be allergic to it. While extremely rare, a guinea pig can be allergic to Timothy hay. Who knew!?
Perhaps it’s not an allergy that’s causing the problem. Perhaps Piglet is simply a picky pig. Say that three times fast. If not introduced to a specific food like Timothy hay early in life, some guinea pigs will always turn their cute cavy snoots up at it. Not a problem.
Finally, perhaps you’re just looking to add a bit of variety to your piggy’s diet. There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide something a tad different. After all, our fur babies bring such joy into our lives, so it’s the least we can do to add a bit of gustatorial delight to theirs.
A New Champion Emerges
We’ve gone over why Timothy hay is the top-line recommendation for feeding your fur baby. Now let’s discuss the preferred alternative. Orchard grass hay.
Orchard grass hay is a fantastic alternative to Timothy hay for a few reasons. First, it also provides the right nutritional combination. It is an excellent source of fiber, plus has just the right amount of vitamins and minerals necessary for guinea pigs to thrive.
It is grass hay, as opposed to legume hay, which is probably given away by the fact that it has grass right in the middle of it.
Legume hay includes alfalfa and clover. These are not suitable choices for your guinea pig. Let me repeat it: these are not appropriate choices for your guinea pig.
They can have twice the protein and triple the calcium necessary for your piggy’s long-term health. Feeding your guinea pig a regular diet of legume hay will lead to bladder stones (also called uroliths) which often constitute a medical emergency for your fur baby. Stick with grass hay.
Second, despite it being softer than Timothy hay, Orchard grass hay is still tough enough to keep constantly growing guinea pig teeth at the proper length.
This comes down to having a similar silica content to Timothy hay. Also, any long dried stalks will require your guinea pig to cut them down to size with their incisors, helping to prevent teeth from becoming too long.
Of course, if you find Piglet has overgrown incisors, you can always provide items such as woodblocks, mineral blocks, or even dried sticks to your guinea pig’s enclosure. This will encourage gnawing.
If overgrown teeth are still an issue, don’t hesitate to take your cavy to the vet to have their teeth checked by an expert.
How Much is Just Right?
Whew! We finally have the right stuff. Piglet seems happy with the Orchard grass hay, and your sinuses aren’t trying to drown you. Now what? Well, now we establish healthy eating habits.
The Cavy Food Pyramid
Orchard grass hay should make up about 80% of your guinea pigs’ regular diet. It will provide them with all the fiber necessary to keep their digestive tract running smoothly.
This means orchard grass hay should always be available in unlimited quantities to Piglet. You can layer it as bedding in the bottom of your guinea pigs’ home, although you should remove any soiled hay promptly.
You can also toss a few big handfuls into their enclosure or provide a rack or tub that keeps the hay contained.
The next 15% of your cavy’s diet should consist of vegetables and dark leafy greens. Look for vegetables and greens that are excellent sources of vitamin C, and avoid feeding your guinea pig large amounts of veg that has high levels of calcium, such as spinach. Think parsley, beet greens, dandelion greens, carrots (including the tops), and kale.
The remaining 5% of Piglet’s diet should be made up of a high-quality pellet that includes vitamin C.
Cavies, like humans, don’t make their vitamin C and must get it from their food. You can also give a small amount of fruit and treats in this portion of piggy’s diet. Nuts, seeds, and sweets are never appropriate treats for your guinea pig.
Keep Up With Your Guinea Pigs Health
As a guinea pig parent, you are responsible for ensuring the health and happiness of your cavies. This means providing just the right grass hay.
Orchard grass hay is an excellent choice. It provides the right nutritional combination, and its rough texture keeps constantly growing teeth healthy. So whether you’re allergic to other hays, have a guinea pig with a picky palate, or you’re simply looking to provide your piggy with variety, Orchard grass hay fits the bill.