How to Make Hay for Pets at Home

hay for pets

Seeing the photo above, some might ask: what on earth are we doing here? Making hay. But why?  In an inner city backyard?  There are no big meadows or cows close by!

Well, we are using it as the chicken coop bedding for our pet chickens! Instead of buying hay or wood shavings for the bedding, we tried to make some. It works!

In our bid to live more sustainably in the city, making hay is one little step towards greener living. It reduces waste and saves money. It might seem insignificant, but all the little things do add up. Here is how we make hay for our chicken pets:

How to Make Your Own Hay at Home

Hay is basically cut and dried grass. It’s usually made on farms to feedstock during the winter or dry season, but also as bedding and/or food for pets. Straw on the other hand is a byproduct of grain products like wheat.

traditional haystacks
how the traditional haystacks look like

Although you can’t make haystacks as above from a suburban lawn (you’ll need taller grass and lots of it), grass clippings are excellent for making hay in smaller amounts. The two most important things to check are:

  1. The lawn shouldn’t be chemically treated: no weed-killing solution or chemical fertilizer is used.
  2. The weather: do it on a sunny and wind-free day.  As the saying goes: Make hay while the sun shines!

The first point is obvious and if you have kids playing on the grass area you probably don’t use chemicals anyway. When asking the lawn moving guys to leave some grass clippings, I always remind them not to put any from the nature strip between the pavement and the road as it might contain dog poo or cigarette buts.

When is The Best Time to Make Hay for Pets

A perfect day for making hay is when it’s sunny and calm. Spread the grass clippings in a thin layer on the ground, preferably on the concrete. Turn it and mix it around a few times during the day. It shouldn’t take more than half a day or so until it’s completely dry. Before nighttime, gather it in a pile and store it in a box or another container and leave it in a dry place.

On a rainy day, I don’t bother making hay, even in the sheltered area as it’s too humid. I can’t choose the day as the grass is always cut on Tuesday. Instead, I give a portion of freshly cut grass to our pet chickens to eat (only on the first day!) and the rest goes in the veggie garden as mulch. The grass breaks down into organic matter enriching the soil. It is also beneficial to leave some clippings on the lawn. Alternatively, toss it into the compost bin, but no thicker than 5-6 cm.

If you have rabbits or guinea pigs, you might like to try making hay for your pet as food.

Hay as Chicken Coop Bedding

Hay as Chicken Coop Bedding

Here you can see our pet chicken Sunflower, the boss, inspecting the fresh hay layer in the coop!

As said, we use hay as bedding for the chicken coop. We have 3 backyard chickens and they use the coop only for sleeping. In the daytime, they are in their chicken run.  Fresh hay has a lovely smell, at least until the chickens go to sleep (yes, chickens poo during sleep, too!). The coop is cleaned once or twice a week and the whole hay bedding and the chicken poo go into the compost bin and make great fertilizer for the veggie garden. Grass clipping recycling at its best!

More Ideas on How to Recycle Grass Clippings

  • Make hay for pets’ bedding/food
  • Feed it to the chickens (freshly cut only)
  • Leave them on the lawn as a fertilizer
  • Mulch the garden
  • Incorporate into the soil in the garden
  • Compost the grass clippings
  • Put them into the green waste bin, anything but…
  • Just don’t throw the grass clippings into the rubbish and add to the already full landfills.  Only…
  • In one instance throw the grass clippings in the bin: If the turf was treated with chemicals! That grass has been killed long before it was cut!

Let us know how you make hay for pets and what is your experience.

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  1. This is exactly the sort of article I was looking for! I live on a remote island in Indonesia with no pet stores yet I really would love a pet rabbit (I can still get the commercial pellets from the friend who is bringing me the rabbit) I needed some way to get hay and you’ve given me the answer. I mean there are so many articles about how unhealthy it is for rabbits to eat hay OTHER than timothy hay… but seriously… what do they do in the wild then? Go look for timothy hay? Haha no.

    Thanks for posting this, it is a really great idea.

    1. Well actually when animals are in the wild they do go looking for the right things to eat… timothy hay (or something of similar nutritional value) is probably common in the rabbit’s original habitat. But even here in Ohio timothy-grass is an introduced species. I don’t think it is invasive Ohio but that might be a concern on a remote island in Indonesia… But living on an island you are probably already well aware of the environmental impacts of introduced species.

  2. Great advice. We haven’t mowed our acre all summer and are about to buy the DR mower trimmer to clean up the place for the fall. So, can we make the weeds and grass into hay?

  3. Thank you ever so much for this article. Were having to pay for the collection of our lawn cuttings now and we have a rabbit and 2 guinea pigs who love to eat hay. All in all i no longer have to buy the hay from the pet store and i saved on having the cuttings collected. I hope there hungry because its a huge lawn.

  4. Yes I was thinking this might be a good idea too. Thank you for your article. But before using grass clippings as their only source of feed hay; readers should keep in mind that not all hay is created equal. The blades of grass do not have the same nutritional value as the blooms or seed. Our yard is covered with clover. It doesn’t make for the most attractive lawn but clover is supposed to make good hay so that is what made me curious to find out if it could be done.

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