Are your chins hysterical for hay?

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Nov 25, 2022
Kansas City, MO
When I had guinea pigs, I would go through 10lbs of hay every 6 months for 2 boars. So when I adopted my first chinchilla recently, I figured that he'd eat about the same (adjusting for weight, and 1 chin vs. 2 pigs, obviously) knowing that hay is an integral part of a chin's diet. He had just run out of hay they day I brought him home, and I was still waiting on an order from SPS, so I stopped by the store for some Oxbow in the meantime (which is what he was eating previously).

Fast forward 1 week and he hasn't gone through much, if any, of the Oxbow hay. He happily noshes on his Oxbow pellets and chews on apple sticks and lava rocks, and otherwise doesn't show any sign of dental issues, so I think maybe it's the hay. Luckily the SPS arrives and it's green and fresh and leafy and I think "oh boy, he's gonna love this!" Swap out the Oxbow with the SPS and still he doesn't seem to care about hay. Hmm. Back to the store. Alfalfa? Nah. Orchard? Meh. They were out of oat at the time, so that's what I'll be trying next. I've had him a month now, though, and it seems like he never touches his hay. I've tried putting hay in different containers and in different parts of the cage, and I have shoebox lids of hay around the house during floor time so that he always has access. He checks out these boxes when he runs by, so he knows it's there, but he just doesn't seem interested.

The weird thing is, he does eat hay when I hand it to him. We'll sit on the floor with a pile of hay between us and I'll pick through for pieces I think he might like and offer it to him. Most of the time he eats what I hand him, but even though the hay is literally right next to him, he doesn't pick out any pieces by himself. Thankfully he does nibble on pressed hay cubes, so he's getting something, but the amount he eats of those still feels inadequate for his diet.

His weight has been consistent (~777g) and his poops look healthy (and plentiful!). While he won't yet let me manhandle him into opening his mouth, I've seen him yawn and he has "taste-tested" my hand a few times and his teeth seem to be healthy. I'm working on getting an appointment with an exotic vet just to have him checked out to be safe, but in the meantime I wanted to get an idea of how other chins feel about hay. So tell me: are your chins "hysterical for hay"?
Some chins go crazy for hay, others it's just food. Ideally a chin should eat at least a small handful worth of hay per day. I just tossed about what I give my boy per day on a scale, and it's about half an ounce so about a pound of hay per month, but some is wasted since he of course has to sort through it to pick the pieces he wants, lol. That is more the ideal amount, but some do eat a bit less then that, and some chins go through fazes where they eat lots of hay and then ignore it for awhile, so it kind of evens out in the end. So long as they are at least eating some hay and the poops look fine I wouldn't worry too much about it day to day. Also some chins if given unlimited pellets will fill up on pellets and ignore the hay. An adult chin only need roughly 30-40g of pellets per day to get the nutrients they need, the rest of the diet should be hay.

Some things to look at though, how long have you had him? If it's only been a week he could simply still be adjusting. Also some chins if offered to much hay all at once end up not eating it. I'm not sure the logic behind it in a chin's mind, but try offering smaller amounts at a time rather then filling up the holders. Also don't change the hay out daily unless it's been peed on, if he hasn't eaten it yet just leave it. Unfortunately hay cubes don't really work to replace chewing long strands, it gives the chin the fiber they need so long as they eat a few a day, but since it's made of chopped up hay it requires less grinding with the molars. I like to give them in addition to loose hay just as something different though. In chins all 20 teeth (4 in front and 16 in back) grow so while chew toys and even hay cubes can help wear down the front teeth they require hay long strands of hay that require lots of chewing to wear down the back teeth effectively.

You ideally want timothy as the primary hay, but so long as it's a grass hay it's ok. A lot of chins also like mixed hay, so rather then just timothy go with a timothy/orchard or timothy/meadow blend. I've even heard of some people adding treats (like mint or chin safe flowers their chin likes) in a loose weave bags to the bag or box you store the hay in so the has the smell of treats to encourage them to want to eat it without over doing it on giving them treats. Legume hay like alfalfa for adults should be limited unless you aren't feeding an alfalfa based pellet, too much calcium can cause urinary tract stone in some chins. Grain hay like wheat and oat should also be limited not the primary hay, too much can be gassy as well as fattening.
Thanks Amethyst! This is exactly what I was looking for! I've had him for a month now, so I do realize that it's still early. And I definitely don't throw it away every day, lol, that would put us both out of house and home!

I think you might be onto something with restricting his pellets though. I don't keep his bowl full of pellets, but I realized that I don't let it run completely out before I give him another "scoop" (roughly a tablespoon). Tonight while he's running around outside the cage I took his bowl out and put an small pile of hay where his bowl was. He usually hops into his cage on his own for a pellet or two between his zoomies so when he jumped in, he actually stopped and ate a piece of hay instead! Maybe all that worry was for nothing. 😜
Tonight while he's running around outside the cage I took his bowl out and put an small pile of hay where his bowl was. He usually hops into his cage on his own for a pellet or two between his zoomies so when he jumped in, he actually stopped and ate a piece of hay instead! Maybe all that worry was for nothing. 😜
That sounds great.
I bet he won't be hysterical for hay anymore!:D
Lol I was going for alliteration, like cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. 😜

The good news is that the solution did seem to be less hay. I’ve been keeping a small pile right outside of his sleeping box and I see him munch on it before and after he goes to the other level for pellets, so I feel a lot better about his hay consumption now.
I know, it wasn't about haysteria.:LOL:

And that's certainly good news. It appears he's just following a good diet plan.😀

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