Can Chinchillas Just Eat Hay? Facts & Answers!

One of the most controversial questions surrounds whether Chinchillas can eat just hay and how often they should be fed it. 

What can be found is a mixture of opinions on what should and shouldn’t be fed to Chinchillas and how often they need to be fed.

It’s understandable that this can cause a lot of confusion and often leaves owners none the wiser. 

We decided to clear up this very topic in the post to help give you a much better understanding of the official line so you can be more confident before feeding your chinchilla just hay.

So, can Chinchillas just eat hay? Chinchillas can technically live on just hay, however, it’s not recommended to feed your chinchilla on just hay and nothing else. Chinchillas that are fed a balanced diet containing pellets and other recommended foods will likely be much healthier than chinchillas that are not fed a hay only diet.

Can Chinchillas Just Eat Hay (More Info)

The question of can chinchillas just eat hay? Is quite a controversial one, as chinchillas can, for the most part, survive on only hay.

With this being said, it doesn’t mean that your chinchilla will be at its healthiest, fittest, happiest and live as long as it can in captivity whilst only eating hay.

In fact, wild chinchillas are estimated to live approximately 8-10 years, whilst domesticated chinchillas can live 15-20 years. Source:

Whilst there can be many factors that determine how long both a wild and domesticated chinchilla lives, it’s safe to say that domesticated chinchillas have a much more nutritionally varied diet and this could certainly go somewhat to extending their lives in captivity.

It is perfectly fine for Chinchillas to just eat hay as the main part of their diet. Hay is a valuable type of roughage that Chinchillas need to stay fit and healthy. 

Most owners will choose to leave hay in the rack for their Chinchillas to munch on throughout the day and replenish where necessary.

It is always best to ensure your Chinchilla has plenty of hay available to them. Chins love to graze and therefore like to have a consistent stream of food available. 

You can find out exactly what hay we recommend by heading over to our new guide that also shares the best place to purchase hay from too…

Approx. 75% of a Chin’s diet should be made up of hay or fresh grasses. Hay is a rich source of fibre with a low-calorie content. It also contains about an 8% protein ratio which is an added benefit.

Feeding Chinchillas can be a rather controversial subject and many believe that Chinchillas can survive on hay alone. 

Others believe that adding a bit of variety into their diet is crucial such as the addition of pellets, fruit and vegetables. 

There are however a multitude of safe feeds you can offer to your Chin in either portion controlled quantities or as treats whilst still keeping hay as the main food source (We will take a look at these alternative feeds in much closer detail later)

How Much Hay Should My Chinchilla Eat?

Hay should be the staple diet for Chinchillas and you should ensure there is always plenty available for them to munch on. 

When we say plenty available, ideally, they have access to hay at all times and their hay rack is kept topped up. 

With most pets, it is always advised to not have food readily available to them, however with Chinchillas their feeding habits are rather different. 

In the wild Chinchillas are grazers and will always have access to fresh grasses to eat as and when they wish.

Without good quality hay available frequently Chinchilla’s digestive systems will not function properly which can lead to gastrointestinal stasis, otherwise known as ileus. 

This is a very common problem with Chinchillas and usually boils down to them not getting enough of the right type of feed such as hay and grasses. 

Although this is reasonably treatable, it is best to try and avoid this scenario completely to be on the safe side. Dental disease can also be an issue if your Chin is not having the correct diet.

What Type of Hay Should Chinchillas Eat?

Choosing the right type of hay for your Chinchilla is very important. There are many types out there available to buy, but choosing one with all the right nutrition that is vital for Chinchilla health is a good call. 

You will notice that there are lots of brands available to buy that are specifically for Chinchilla consumption and we would advise you stick to these to ensure your Chinchilla is receiving all the right amounts of goodness in their diet.

Make sure you buy enough hay in bulk to see you through a decent amount of time as Chinchillas get through a lot of this throughout the day. 

You will often find that refilling hay racks twice a day is not uncommon.

Here are the best types of hay that can be seen sold frequently for Chinchilla use…

Timothy Hay

Timothy Hay is quite possibly the most popular and best-selling hay for Chinchillas. It is the most highly recommended hay out there for your Chins to consume.

It can be purchased very easily online and in pet stores however is not the cheapest hay around. It can be quite pricey depending on where you purchase it.

It is a great type of hay for Chinchillas to consume. It has a soft, leafy type texture with soft stems and usually contains no added ingredients or unnecessary bits.

Orchard Grass Hay

Orchard grass hay is not the most popular for Chinchillas in terms of owner’s choice however it is widely available to buy online and in store.

It is however much cheaper in general to purchase than Timothy hay and can usually be bought in bulk in much bigger bags. Orchard grass hay is usually very appealing to Chinchillas thanks to its soft texture and sweet smell and taste. Feedback suggests that Chinchillas really like this type of hay.

Alfafla Hay

Alfalfa hay is usually mostly associated with a horse’s diet, but since the bulk of their diet also should consist of good quality hay providing lots of nutrients it makes complete sense as to why you would also feed this to your Chinchilla.

Alfalfa is readily available to buy and is high in protein and fibre, but low in fat. It has a sweet flavour and soft texture that even you will find tempting!

Meadow Hay

Meadow Hay is basically the same as Timothy Hay. You won’t find much difference in the two except you will likely find it to be much cheaper to purchase than the latter.

It is also more widely available and can be bought in varying quantities right up to huge hay bales. Meadow hay is known to be more generic and for that reason may contain a variety of grasses which can also include the addition of plants.


There are lots of types of hay available in addition to the ones we mentioned above, but you must ensure if purchasing these that they are safe for your Chinchilla to consume.

The list above is all safe for Chinchillas to eat daily and provide them with the right type of nutrition their delicate bodies need.

Fresh grass is also an option however this can be a real pain for you as an owner to collect enough grass clipping to feed your Chinchilla daily.

You can’t use grass clippings from a mower as these will likely be contaminated so you would need to handpick yourself. This is usually not an option for most owners but could work as a treat every now and again to provide a bit of variety to your Chinchilla.

What Should I Do If My Chinchilla Is Only Eating Hay?

It is possible for your Chinchilla to only want to eat just hay and this is the main part of their diet and you would have much more a problem if it was the other way round and they chose not to eat hay at all. 

If you find that you are in the situation where your Chin just wants to eat hay this is definitely not the worst-case scenario however it is a wise idea to try and expand their palate. 

Although hay is a great dietary option, it might be worth trying to get them to eat some Chinchilla pellets which will have been specifically formulated to fill in the nutritional gaps in your Chin’s diet.

One great thing to try is to provide a small handful of pellets in a bowl and put these into the cage with your Chinchilla when they are at their most active and likely to eat (late evening/early morning). 

Remove the hack rack temporarily and see if your Chinchilla will go for the pellets instead since the hay has been removed. 

Do not do this for too long though and if it looks like your Chin is not interested in the pellets leave them in there for a bit longer, but replace the hay rack so they have the option.

You could also look at trying to give your Chinchilla some foodstuffs that are classed as treats such as dried fruit and root vegetables. 

This could entice them to try something a bit different although try not to overdo it with the treats. If they won’t take either the pellets of treats from you whilst in the cage, try to encourage them to eat these when they are out of the cage for exercise and play. 

They may find these alternatives more interesting when outside the confines of their cage, however, they will likely be far too busy running around, jumping and climbing to pay any attention. 

It is most definitely a trial and error type scenario that may or may not work.

Are Pellets Important For Chinchillas?

Pellets are important as far as to provide your Chinchilla with all-round nutrition. 

Your Chin should be receiving the right amounts of protein, fat and roughage daily and pellets have been specifically formulated for this purpose. 

We have created a guide that shares the pellets that we recommend you feed to your chin and you can check it out here…

Plenty of daily hay provides the right amount of roughage your Chinchilla needs in their diet however protein and fat intake are likely to mostly come from pellets.

A Chinchilla’s intake for protein and fats is indeed far less than their intake and need for roughage (hay) however the right balance is crucial to their well-being.

For this reason, we would say that it is very important for your Chinchilla to eat pellets which will bridge the nutritional gap. 

Pellets also have the added benefit of helping to assist good dental health by aiding in the wearing of their ever-growing teeth!

In terms of exact nutritional content for your Chinchilla you should be aiming for the following:

Chinchilla | Recommended Nutrient Percentages

Fats3.5% or less

One to two tablespoons of pellets a day should be roughly the right amount for your Chinchilla. Try to aim for a tablespoon in the evening and one again in the morning. 

It is not a wise idea to feed any more than this although there may be the odd exception here for Chins that struggle to put on weight. 

Most Chinchillas are prone to obesity if they eat too much and therefore monitoring their weight and food intake is vital to their overall health and wellbeing.

The addition of pellets in a Chinchilla’s diet is quite a controversial one and where many believe that a Chinchilla diet consisting of small amounts of pellets along with the bulk being hay is best, a limited amount of research that has been carried out has suggested that Chinchillas do not need hay at all and can live solely on a pellet diet. This is definitely an ongoing debate!

Are Greens and Vegetables Important for Chinchillas?

Fresh greens and vegetables are a great addition to your Chinchillas diet however they should be seen as supplementation and not part of their main meal. 

It is important when feeding veggies to your Chin that you monitor their intake. A single teaspoon of veggies a day is usually a safe amount to offer. 

They can be fantastic treats for your Chinchilla to enjoy and can give them a bit of variety in their diet that most need.

Some great examples of vegetable that you can feed your Chinchilla are as follows; Source:

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potato 

You can also check out our full chinchilla diet guide that shares all the greens, veggies, fruits pellets and hay we recommend for your chin as well as the quantities to feed them.

Are Fruits Important for Chinchillas?

In the same way, vegetables providing your Chinchilla with fresh fruits can be a great way to supplement their diet and offer them a tasty treat. 

Chinchillas tend to really love fruit and when you think about how boring eating hay and grasses all day might be you can clearly see why a sweet, juicy fruit might float their boat.

Fruit intake should always be monitored closely and should be offered as a treat every now and then rather than the main part of a chin’s meal. 

Banana is often offered to chinchillas as a treat but is it safe? You can find out here…

As with vegetable quantities, the same applies to fruit and a teaspoon a day or slice is usually enough.

Always make sure you are chopping fruit (and veg) up into small pieces so it is easy for your Chinchilla to consume. 

Big chunks of fruit are hard for them to eat and also end up becoming pretty messy in the cage. Old pieces of fruit at the bottom of the cage can rot and end up smelling pretty bag. 

Always ensure you remove the remnants shortly after they have finished eating.

Some types of fruits you may want to consider feeding to your Chin are as follows:

  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Dried Fruits
  • Raisins

These can make such wonderful treats for Chinchillas and they absolutely love eating bits of fruit particularly the fleshy parts. You may find some go for the skin too although this tends not to be quite as nutritious for them.


Overall the key takeaway here is to feed your chinchilla a diet consisting of plenty of hay but not just hay. It is true to say that Chinchillas compared to some other animals seem to have rather boring diets, but nevertheless it seems to work for them.

Always feed good quality hay that is safe for Chinchillas to consume and make sure you allow them access to hay at all times. 70% of your Chin’s diet should consist of roughage (hay).

Pellets should be fed in controlled amounts daily. A couple of tablespoons per day is usually enough. 

Fruits and vegetables can be fed in small amounts daily or 2-4 times a week depending on the fruit and the serving size.

Always keep a close eye on your Chinchillas overall intake of feed. Chin’s are very prone to obesity and even that extra treat here and there can make all the difference to their weight and ultimately their wellbeing. 

If you are at all concerned about the dietary needs of your Chinchilla you must speak to a qualified veterinary professional who will be able to advise you.


Adam Woods

Hi, My name is Adam. I'm the main author of Pocket Pets Forever. I'm a pocket pet enthusiast and I love sharing my knowledge and passion for these amazing animals. Thank you for supporting us on our journey as we continue to publish content with the aim of helping owners care for their pets in the best way possible!

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