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What is Orchard Hay? (Is It Better Than Timothy Hay?)

orchard hay

It’s time to talk about Orchard hay. Timothy hay steals the show a lot around here. But it’s important to know about all the contenders! And Orchard hay is a great choice for many animals.

Orchard hay and Timothy hay are surprisingly very similar when it comes to nutrition. Which makes both of them great options for rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas. But let’s get into the nitty-gritty details. Because you know us, how can we not? 

Due to Timothy hay being a more popular choice among growers, it’s often less expensive than Orchard hay. Which makes it a more popular choice among small pet owners. 

But there are some subtle differences that can make a big difference for picky eaters or people with allergies.  And even if Timothy hay is the favorite, sometimes a little variety is good. As long as that variety is a nutritional powerhouse full of fiber…

what is orchard hay?

Sara is talking all about Orchard hay on YouTube!

What Makes Orchard Hay Different From Timothy Hay?

We all know the most important player in these small animals' diets is fiber. So you’ll be happy to know that Orchard grass has about the same amount of fiber as Timothy hay which is the perfect amount for our friends.

The most important thing is that your rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla is getting plenty of hay. So if there’s anything getting in the way of your animal eating plenty of hay, then you might want to consider switching the type of hay you’re feeding.


Softer and More Fragrant

Orchard hay is softer hay, which means it’s easier to eat (less chewing). So older animals, sick animals, and animals with a princess crown might not want to do the work involved with chewing a tougher hay. 

This isn’t the best-case scenario since all of these animals need to do lots of chewing in order to keep their teeth worn down and their mouths healthy. But sometimes we must compromise with the princesses. 

And providing plenty of natural toys and chews keeps them in an environment where they will be tempted to use their teeth! 

Toys For Chinchillas

When shopping on our site for chinchillas, use the drop-down menu to see products made for chinchillas as some of our toys safe for rabbits and guinea pigs aren’t recommended for chinchillas.

Orchard hay is often more fragrant than Timothy hay which makes it get more attention!

Sometimes hay just needs a loudspeaker to get the small pets’ attention when they aren’t very involved with the hay pile. And you know all of these small pets love a good smell! 

Slightly Higher In Protein

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of nutrition, then orchard grass hay is slightly higher in protein. Which could be a plus or minus depending on your animal. We know younger animals need more protein as they are growing. 

orchard hay

However, the difference is pretty small and when it comes to young animals you probably want Alfalfa hay which has a larger difference when it comes to protein. Alfalfa hay has twice as much protein as 1st Cutting Timothy Hay

Less Common Allergen

If something isn’t working for the pet parent, then you need something different for the fur baby. Don’t let something like a Timothy hay allergy come between you and your fluff ball.

People who have an allergy to Timothy hay should certainly try out Orchard hay! In most cases, people who are allergic to Timothy can handle Orchard grass hay better.

Grows Better In Drought Conditions

Orchard grass hay is also a cool season grass like Timothy hay but it grows better in drought conditions! So a little less fickle. 

what is orchard hay?

Timothy hay is low-yielding when cut early. Which is why you see so many flower heads in Timothy hay. Orchard grass can be cut earlier (before the seed heads emerge) with a fairly high yield.

This gives you more leaves and fewer stems overall, making orchard hay softer than Timothy. The flower heads of Timothy are where you have the most allergens, which explains why people have an easier time with Orchard hay! 

Both Timothy and Orchard Hay Are Low In Calcium

It’s very important that these animals keep a diet that is low in calcium, which Orchard grass hay and Timothy hay both provide.

Too much calcium can lead to urinary tract issues and kidney disease. This is why it’s important that you don’t feed Alfalfa hay to adult rabbits, chinchillas, and guinea pigs. Alfalfa is much higher in calcium than Orchard and Timothy. 

Finding High-Quality Hay Your Pet Loves

The most important factor in your small pet’s diet is making sure they have high-quality hay that they love. They need to love it enough that they’re eating a good amount consistently.

And as always, check for quality first. Your pet gets the final say in whether or not the hay is getting the stamp of approval.

If you’re trying different types of hay and all of them are stale and dusty, then you’re not going to find hay they will consistently love.

When it comes to Timothy hay, there are different cuttings that yield slightly different results. So if you’re looking for a softer Timothy hay, then 3rd Cutting Timothy hay might be what you’re looking for. Check out our Timothy Hay Guide for more information on the different cuttings of Timothy hay.

Any hay is better than no hay. So keep trying and experimenting to find the perfect hay for your picky eater. Orchard hay may be just that! Many animals find it more palatable. 

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