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Hay Guide

Posted by Joe Morton on

Oxbow Hay

Hay, Who Needs It?

Hay is a long-strand fiber that helps keep your small animal's digestive tract functioning properly. It should make up 75% of any small herbivore's diet and helps satisfy their natural urge to chew, so make sure your pet always has access!

Hay is high in fiber while being low in protein and calcium, so you don't have to worry about your animal over-eating. A high-fiber diet will also lower the chance of bloating, trapped intestinal gas, and soft stools. 

Eating hay promotes their natural chewing behavior, which helps prevent dental problems, such as overgrown teeth or molar spurs.

Some hay is appropriate to be free-fed at all times, such as Western Timothy hay. Other hays, such as Alfalfa, are much higher in fat and should be fed to mature animals in rotation with other types of hay.

Check out our hay guide below and find out what types of hay you should be rotating through!

Small Animals That Eat Hay

  • Rabbits
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Chinchillas
  • Tortoises
  • Prairie Dogs
  • Others

Small Animals That Nest and Play in Hay

  • Rats
  • Hamsters
  • Mice
  • Gerbils
  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets 

Get Their Brain Going

Hay is not only essential to their diet, it also promotes natural foraging behaviors. To turn hay time into play time - try some of these tricks:

  • Stuff your pet's favorite toy or basket with hay
  • Encourage foraging by hiding fresh vegetables or treats within the hay
  • Some hides and burrows are made out of hay, so your pet can explore and chew on their surroundings
  • Fill a cardboard tube and place it in your pet's favorite play area
  • Place hay everywhere to encourage more consumption! 

Different Types of Hay

Western Timothy

  • Western Timothy is a staple hay in any small animal's diet; its fresh fragrance promotes consumption.
  • Western Timothy hay will help prevent obesity, maintain a healthy urinary system and improve overall health
  • One of the most popular types of hay due to being high fiber, low protein, and low calcium content.

Feeding Directions

All Animals: Unlimited amounts

Orchard Grass

  • Orchard Grass is a fruity-smelling, green grass hay
  • To our eyes, it may look identical to Western Timothy, but the seed heads are different shapes and it can be rougher to the touch.
  • Mixing Orchard Grass with other hays can encourage more hay consumption. Animals like variety!

Feeding Directions

All Animals: Unlimited amounts

Alfalfa

  • Great for young small animals (up to six months old) and for animals trying to gain weight.
  • Alfalfa is a source of important minerals including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, zinc and selenium.
  • After six months, animals should be gradually transitioned to an all-grass hay diet.
  • Alfalfa Hay can be fed daily to growing animals as 25% of their total dietary intake.
  • Due to its higher protein and calcium content, Alfalfa should be offered sparingly to adult small animals.
    • Animals prone to kidney/bladder stones or calcium crystals should avoid this hay altogether.
  • Adult animals should be limited to very small amounts as an occasional treat.
    • The extra protein can help give your animal an extra-shiny coat.
  • Can be used as an appetite stimulant 

Feeding Directions

Young Animals (under 6 months) and Nursing Mothers: Unlimited amounts, plus free choice grass hay.
Mature Animals: Occasional small amounts (think pinches)

Botanical

  • Blended Western Timothy with botanicals and herbs for extra palatability to encourage consumption.
    • Extra enticing fragrant herbs include: chamomile, lemon verbena, hibiscus, lavender, rose hips, comfrey, borage, or red clover blossoms.
  • Mix with other grass hays to keep meal time from becoming mundane!

Feeding Directions

All Animals: Unlimited amounts

Oat

  • Oat hay is harvested at an early stage of maturity ensuring that the seed heads are primarily oat husks, which are rich in fiber.
    • Due to the time of harvest, the hay is a light green/tan color with flaky oat husks.
    • While there are no mature oat kernels in the hay, it retains the oat smell and is extra-appealing.
  • Animals love the smell and will benefit from the extra fiber in the leaf and stem.
  • A great bedding alternative to wheat straw.

Feeding Directions

All Animals: Unlimited amounts

Organic Meadow

  • Grass hay is absolutely vital to the health of small herbivores, and this hay provides all of their nutrients while being organic!
  • Over 95% of the ingredients in this product are produced by certified organic farmers, as evidenced by the USDA Organic Seal.
  • The farmers chosen are passionate about energy conservation, renewable resources, and creating the best product possible.
  • Comprised of multiple types of grass hay to provide a variety of textures and fragrances. 

 

 

Feeding Directions

All Animals: Unlimited amounts

Harvest Stacks

Oxbow has taken their Western Timothy hay and compressed it for you and your pet's convenience! The unique shape and texture will encourage greater hay consumption.

When feeding stacks, simply twist the puck and pull off your desired amount to feed your animal. Stacks are 80% less dusty than loose hay and allow for less food waste due to their consistency.

They have three varieties: classic Timothy hay, Timothy hay with carrots, or Timothy hay with chamomile.

Feeding Directions

All Animals: Unlimited amounts 

Storing Hay

Store your hay in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight and in its original packaging. No refrigeration or freezing is needed. If you choose to store it in another container, be sure it has adequate ventilation.

Do not refrigerate or freeze hay as exposure to moisture will produce mold. 

How much is too much?

There is no such thing as too much hay for small animals! Hay should be free fed to small animals since it makes up a significant portion of their diet. When they finish their hay, provide them with more!

 

Remember, Oxbow has a frequent buyer program at Pets On Broadway. For every six bags of hay you buy, we'll give you the seventh bag free