A lot of rodents, no matter the species, refuse to eat hay or do not eat enough. It can cause a lot of digestive or dental disorders, because hay allows to regulate rodent’s health, such as degus1. Whether it is for fibre digestion, which allow to follow its physiological needs or jaw movement, which uses the teeth. In every case, hay is essential and degus need to eat it regularly. Before “forcing” it to eat hay, one must find why it refuses and there are several possibilities.
The degu is either overfed or poorly fed
Degus that are not correctly fed can prefer pellets or seeds rather than hay. It is due to the better attractiveness of this food. In the wild, they prefer protein and nitrogen-rich food rather than fibre-rich food2 although most of their diet is comprised of stemmed plants3. Thus their diet must be rebuilt from the ground up. Food has to be selected in order to match the degu’s needs. The ration also must be limited to avoid overfeeding.
Hay is not available in a suitable way
Sometimes, hayracks are not adapted to the degus’ needs. They are ground animals and they like digging. If they do not eat in the hayrack by themselves, a hay-filled tray will be better. Partitioning the hay is not suitable, because it prevents a lot of natural and selective behaviours.
Hay is not “interesting”
A lot of rodents avoid hay because they do not find it interesting. Displaying hay in a ludic way through y enhancements is essential to “force” the degu to get used to it. Whether it is a cardboard roll or in a tunnel, it is always funnier to eat hay when we can play with it. It is also possible to mix dried plants with hay, to make it more attractive.
Hay is not appealing
In most cases, hay is just cheap. If it is poorly dried, Octodon degus won’t eat it. Hay must be clean, with nice fibres and not dusty. It os often necessary to test several brands or types before finding the good hay for our degus. One must also choose a suitable hay for these rodents in order to provide them a suitable diet.
Translation by Matthieu Selles.