Hay is the most basic food of most herbivore rodents. These are dried plants and herbs that grow in fields in order to feed animals. Hay consumption is important for Octodons degus because it allows the intestinal system to work properly. It also contributes to the wear of the molars through long chewing. We can find plenty of hays on the market.
O. degus diet
Degus are frail rodents that require a specific diet to avoid serious health issues. Hay is part and parcel of its diet. When degus get appropriate diet, hay consumption has no impact on its calcium needs nor the Ca:P which are essential. Indeed, the degu requires 1-1.2% calcium rate to its diet along with a Ca:P ratio of 2:1 to avoid dental issues. They represent 70% of veterinary consultations1.
To avoid this kind of problems, one is to learn how to feed a degu properly.2.
The degu is a folivorous animal, it mainly feeds on stems and leaves. In the wild, its diet mainly consists of 60% of herbs3 which during the dry season can feature the same consistency as hay. However, in captivity, its diet is often dry.
How to dispense hay?
Hay must be available at will. It is essential for its nutritional role but also for its well-being. Indeed, degus enjoy seeking among strands to get the best. They also enjoy lining their nest with hay. It must be placed in a corner which is not soiled by animals. As soon as the hay is dirty, it must be replaced to prevent degus from eating it. Most of them will not eat inedible food, but it is better to avoid it. Moreover, hay tends to rot quickly, leaving a strong smell with urine.
What hay to choose?
Hay as little importance when it comes to feed a degu with SAB degu mix. This diet allows to maintain a suitable calcium rate for its species. Thus, the amount of hay consumed by degus is already taken into account in the final calculation. Hay is mainly comprised of fibers and proteins but also contains plenty of essential minerals for the good health of animals. It is a low-fat and NSC (starch and sugar) food which is then a good choice for feeding degus.
Regardless of the brand or the hay type, it always has to be dry. A too wet hay could rot. It must not be dusty. It must have a varied composition (except for hays comprised of only one plant). Generally, it has to be clean and green. The better would be that it is naturally dried under the sun. Thus allowing an optimal drying and conservation of vitamine D, which is essential for degus.
Reminder of the nutritional needs of the degus:
|NSC||Fiber||Protein||Lipid||Calcium||Phosphorus||Ca : P|
|⩽ 30 %||⩾ 25 %||15 % to 18 %||3 % to 7 %||1 % to 1, 2 %||0,5 %||1,6:1 minimum
Calcium and Phosphorus rates depend on climatic conditions and soil health. Cutting period, weather, and sun exposure shift the hay composition as well. These rates may change according to a lot of parameters, thus are for guidance only and represent averages.
|Name||Calcium %||Phosphore %||Ratio Ca:P|
|Orchard grass hay||0,4||0,32||1,25:1|
|Meadow fescue hay||0,33||0,25||1,3:1|
Hay choice has little influence on degus’ global diet. But it is of utmost importance in its diet for its health. It is essential to choose an appealing hay. Degus must eat their hay daily in order to ensure a good teeth wear and to digest properly.
Translation by Matthieu Selles.