The good news is that the experts agree when it comes to what to feed your small pet. Knowing if and when to change your small pet's diet can be the difference between one who is healthy and one who is fighting to survive.
What Do Small Pets Eat Early On
Just like a human, a baby small pet’s diet should look different from that of an adult.
For baby rabbits: They should be nursing from their mother till about 7 weeks of age, which is when the weaning process begins.
For baby guinea pigs: While they can digest solid food as soon as 24hrs after being born, they still need to nurse from their mother. This will last somewhere between 3 to 6 weeks, at which point the weaning process begins.
For baby chinchillas: They should be nursing from their mother till about 4-5 weeks of age, which is when the weaning process begins.
While still nursing, Alfalfa Hay should be in introduced from rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas at around week 3. They should continue to have it in their diet as an unlimited option till around 6-7 months for rabbits and guinea pigs, and till around 6 months to a year for chinchillas. Alfalfa Hay contains high protein, fiber and calcium. Plenty of good fresh Alfalfa Hay should be fed to a young rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla daily along with vegetables and pellets in small amounts.
Bringing Up Your Small Pet
By the time a rabbit reaches about 7 months, a guinea pig 6 months, and a chinchilla anywhere between 6 months to a year their diet should begin to transition from Alfalfa Hay to Timothy Hay in order to ensure their health. Timothy Hay has a high amount of fiber but has a lower protein and calcium content than Alfalfa Hay. Continuing to feed a small pet Alfalfa Hay after it is no longer a baby could result in obesity and other health concerns, it’s also not the best hay to keep up their dental health.
Exceptions to these diet guidelines would be small pets who are pregnant, nursing, recovering from surgery, underweight or elderly. In many of these cases feeding an adult rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla Alfalfa Hay may be necessary in order for them to put on weight but with any of these conditions, discussing your small pet’s diet with a veterinarian who specializes in rabbits, guinea pigs, or chinchillas is highly advised.
Note: Just because Alfalfa Hay can no longer be there main source of hay doesn't mean you have to cut it out of their diet completely. Alfalfa Hay makes a great treat for adult small pets!
Making The Switch
Your small pet will naturally prefer to eat Alfalfa Hay over Timothy Hay at first so a good way to switch over to Timothy Hay is to mix the two types of hay together as your small pet learns to adjust to the change. As time continues you should begin to mix less Alfalfa in and introduce more Timothy Hay.
It is normal for your small pet to not want the Timothy Hay at first but eventually they’ll get hungry as long as they aren’t being filled up with an excess of vegetables and pellets. For rabbits, pellets should be decreased to 1/4 cup per day for every six pounds of your rabbit’s weight. For guinea pigs, pellets should be decreased to 1/8 cup per day for a two pound guinea pig. For chinchillas, pellets should be decreased to no more than 1-2 tablespoons a day.
Though it may be difficult, resist giving you small pet more pellets, vegetables, or treats when they won’t eat the Timothy Hay. Offering these other foods will only delay the transition to Timothy Hay and too much of these foods can really mess with their digestive system. Fresh Timothy Hay is the most nutritious food for your adult small pet to be eating and eventually they will adapt and grow to love it.
One reason your small pet may not be eating the Timothy Hay you are supplying to them could be due to a poor quality product. Timothy Hay that has gone stale is as unappealing to eat for a rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla as rotten produce is for you. If the hay doesn’t have a pleasant smell or if the texture is dry and powdery you may want to throw it out and start over.
Your small pet will not eat food that is not appetizing to them, and you probably wouldn’t even want them to because there is also a chance that it could be moldy. A way to ensure freshness is to buy your hay regularly and in small amounts. This way you have the option of buying only what you need, removing the risk of having a large amount of hay go stale.
Find a supplier who is honest about where their hay is grown and how fresh it will be once it gets to you. One good place to find farm fresh quality Timothy Hay is online from a trusted retailer (Like us!). Learn more about why you'd want to purchase from us.
Your small pet's transition from Alfalfa Hay to Timothy Hay can be a slow and gradual process. Stay strong and follow through with making the switch. Timothy Hay is the best hay for rabbits so it's important to remain patient with your rabbit, knowing that he will eventually enjoy his new diet and so will his body.
Did you know that we sell samples of our hays? It's a great way to not only get started with transitioning your small pet but to also find out which hay they like the best!
You can also download our Hay is for Rabbits eBook to know all about the different types of hay, the best ones to feed your rabbit based on their health status, and more!