Despite their vast difference in size, both horses and guinea pigs are hay eaters. In fact, much of the hay that is sold for horses is very similar in type to what’s sold for guinea pigs (except the quantity!).
One main difference to be aware of is very important though: if horse hay contains alfalfa then it’s not suitable for adult guinea pigs because of its high calcium levels. The same applies to any hay containing clover.
Horse hay that contains grasses that include Timothy, Ryegrass, Oaten, Paddock, Pasture, Orchard Grass, and the other known healthy guinea pigs hay grasses are fine – even if the packaging states it’s made for horses to eat.
There can be some benefits to buying suitable horse hay for guinea pigs, once you’ve determined that it’s safe:
- It is sold in larger quantities so you’re essentially buying in bulk (it might be overkill if you only have a couple of guinea pigs though and have nowhere to store it properly)
- Horse hay costs less compared to the small hay packages sold specifically for guinea pigs. On a per pound or per kilogram basis, horse hay can be significantly cheaper.
- Good horse hay will be fresh and green and soft. It should not be hard and full of stems and sticks and weeds that you have to sort through (this is the big benefit of buying reputable guinea pig specific hay products).
Just because you’ve found a horse hay that contains the right ingredients, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s entirely suitable for your guinea pigs.
The hay needs to be high quality: it has to have been stored correctly to avoid molds forming, and it needs to be quality controlled to ensure there’s no unknown bits and pieces in it like weeds.
It should be fresh (the fresher the better, obviously). Freshly cut hay within the past few months is the ultimate buy.
It should not be a dusty hay – ask to see a sample before buying to be sure.
Last but not least, you want a chemical-free hay source. If then supplier can’t guarantee the hay or grass wasn’t exposed to chemicals, give it a miss.
The cheapest hay might be enticing with its low price tag, but you get what you pay for. Only consider high quality horse hay from a reputable supplier if you want to go this route.
Where can you buy horse hay?
Usually these come in a bale, and are available from feed stores or farm stores. Depending where you live (i.e. if there are farms or rural areas within close proximity), you might have stores of this type locally, but they’re generally not going to be accessible for those living in built up cities.
Local farmers sometimes make up their own hay, so if you’re lucky enough to find a trusted source like that, consider yourself fortunate! It allows you to discuss the hay quality, ensure it’s very fresh and of course: organic.
A lot of people who have a quality horse hay supply source find that it’s of higher quality and more enjoyable for guinea pigs than commercially bought guinea pig hay: but they key is to be able to find that horse hay to start with. Once you’ve got a source, you’re set. Not everyone will be able to go down this path though, and regular guinea pig hay is just fine as well.
A large horse hay bale can last for many months (depending how many piggies you have of course), so if you have the opportunity to get some high quality, suitable horse hay then go for it!