Timothy hay and pellets.
If you’ve read my article on what chinchillas eat, you know that’s all these animals need.
In fact, it really the only thing you should feed them, though they certainly appreciate the occasional treat.
But does it have to be Timothy hay?
Can chinchillas eat alfalfa instead, or is Timothy hay the top recommendation for a reason?
Keep reading to find out.
We are going to cover everything you need to know about feeding alfalfa to chinchillas. The key lies in the nutritional profile. There are a few things in there that make alfalfa very different from Timothy hay.
Can Chinchillas Eat Alfalfa?
Yes, chinchillas can eat alfalfa. It can make a great treat for your pet, but it is not the right hay to feed your chin as the bulk of its diet. The reason is that this hay is high in protein. Too much of it could result in weight gain.
There are much better types of hay to feed a chinchilla. We will get into that below. First, let’s find out what alfalfa is exactly and why it is not as good as some other hays.
What Is Alfalfa Hay?
Alfalfa hay is a type of legume that is usually fed to baby animals to help with growth. It is high in protein, so it is ideal for this purpose. But that is also what makes it unsuitable as the primary hay for chinchillas.
And protein is not the only issue. Its overall nutritional value just doesn’t match what chinchillas need. Along with being high in protein, it is also high in calcium. Too much calcium can cause your chinchilla to form bladder stones.
Thanks to the high protein and calcium content Alfalfa hay is also high in calories. All of this adds up to a food you should only give to your chinchilla as a treat. It can have a small amount once or twice a week. And by small amount, I mean no more than two strands of hay at a time.
Alfalfa Hay Alternatives
There are many alternatives to Alfalfa hay that are much healthier for your chinchilla to chew on. These include Timothy hay, Meadow hay and Bermuda hay.
Timothy hay is the most common type of hay for chinchillas. This type of hay is made from grass and is usually transported over from Europe to the United States.
Timothy hay is the most nutritious hay for chinchillas and also helps to keep their teeth at a healthy length, thanks to them being able to gnaw on the hay.
You can purchase a hay rack to ensure that Timothy hay is available at all times for your chinchilla, just in case they become a little peckish and you’re not around.
Meadow hay is also a popular choice to feed your chinchilla. You can use it if your chinchilla is allergic to Timothy hay. Or if Timothy hay is harder for you to get a hold of.
Meadow hay is a mixture of different grasses and may even contain some dandelions or thistles, making it a much tastier option for your chinchilla. You can even mix Meadow Hay with Timothy Hay, giving your chinchilla the benefits of both a nutritious and nicer tasting food.
Bermuda Hay is a less common type of hay which is commonly grown in the Mediterranean area. IT does not quite have as much nutritional value as Timothy or Meadow hay, but it is still a tasty option to feed your chinchilla. And you can always mix it with Timothy hay for added nutrition.
There are certain differences to look for with hay to work out how healthy it is for your chinchilla. The main difference is the color. If the hay is more brown than green, that means it has aged. It won’t be as nutritious for your chinchilla. Green hay is riper and holds higher amounts of nutrition, due to it being fresher.
You may also want to try and stay clear of yellow hay. This means the hay was harvested when it was over-mature. As a result, it may also lack nutritional value.
It could even have been exposed to elements such as rain for too long which may even cause the hay to go moldy. You don’t want your chinchilla to be in for a nasty surprise when it starts tucking into its breakfast!
The cutting of hay can also impact its nutrition. There are usually three cuttings during the year and the first cutting is the one that’s most nutritious for your chinchilla. It will then go to the second, with the third cutting being the one with the least nutritional value.
Can Chinchillas Have Alfalfa?
Chinchillas can eat alfalfa hay, but it does not have the best nutritional profile for them. It contains too much calcium and protein to be their main source of nutrition.
Timothy hay is the best type of hay to feed your chinchilla on a daily basis. Alfalfa hay can be a nice treat, but it should never be more than that. In addition to the Timothy hay, you should feed your chin pellets once or twice a day. Those pellets will also consist primarily of Timothy hay, usually mixed with some other types of hays.