Chinchillas require a steady supply of good quality hay and/or grass to stay healthy. Hay and grass provide chinchillas with the bulk and roughage they need to maintain a healthy digestive system. They also serve as an important source of key nutrients. When selecting hay or grass for your chinchilla, keep the following points in mind:
- Timothy hay – This is usually considered the best type of hay for chinchillas. Timothy hay is low in protein and calories but high in fiber. It helps promote healthy teeth and good digestion. Offer timothy hay in unlimited quantities.
- Orchard grass – Orchard grass makes a good alternative or addition to timothy hay. It has a similar nutritional profile with high fiber and low protein and calories. Orchard grass may have more vitamins and minerals than timothy.
- Oat hay or other grain hays – These hays are higher in protein, calories and phosphorus than grass hays. Use them more sparingly, no more than 20% of the total hay ration. Too much can lead to obesity and bladder stones.
- Fresh grasses – Offer small amounts of fresh grasses like rye, bermuda, or wheatgrass as an occasional treat. These provide variety but are too high in moisture and nutrients to be a primary food source.
- Avoid alfalfa – Alfalfa is too high in protein, calories and calcium to feed on a regular basis. Limit alfalfa to young, pregnant or nursing chinchillas. For other chins it can lead to liver and bladder problems.
Whenever possible, buy hay from a trusted supplier. Store it in a cool, dry place to preserve freshness. Discard any hay or grass that is soiled, damp, or moldy. Provide hay in a rack to minimize waste. Let your chinchilla have unlimited access to quality hay and grass for good health.