Can Chickens Eat Timothy Hay? What You Need to Know

Timothy Grass - The Grass Species The Timothy Hay is Derived

Article Summary

  • Timothy hay is safe for chickens, but it may not offer complete nutrition; it has lower protein and high fiber content, so it’s best when supplemented with higher-protein grains and pellets.
  • Using timothy hay as coop bedding is not ideal due to potential waste, mold risk, grain mites, respiratory issues, and compaction.
  • Timothy hay is not recommended for newly-hatched chicks under 4 weeks old due to its high fiber content, choking hazards, minimal protein for rapid growth, and potential mold spores.

Raising chickens can be a very rewarding experience. Watching your flock happily foraging and pecking around the yard is a joy. But besides letting your chickens roam, you’ll need to provide them with a proper diet to keep them healthy and productive. This leads many chicken owners to wonder: can chickens eat timothy hay?

Timothy hay is a common forage crop used primarily as feed for horses and other livestock. But just because horses can eat timothy hay doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suitable for chickens too. There are a few important factors to consider before feeding timothy hay to your flock.

In this article, we’ll dive into all the details you need to know about feeding timothy hay to chickens. Read on to learn about:

  • The nutritional value of timothy hay for chickens
  • How to feed timothy hay to chickens safely
  • The pros and cons of using timothy hay as coop bedding
  • Which types of chickens can eat timothy hay
  • How much timothy hay chickens need

Let’s start by looking at the biggest question chicken keepers have about timothy hay.

Do Chickens Eat Timothy Hay?

The simple answer is yes, chickens can eat timothy hay. Timothy hay is not toxic or harmful to chickens when fed properly.

Timothy hay is a grass hay made from the timothy grass species. It’s a common hay choice for livestock due to its nutrition and palatability. For chickens that have access to fresh pasture, timothy grass would naturally be a part of their diet.

However, there are some important caveats to feeding timothy hay to chickens. The nutritional value and fiber content of timothy hay may not make it an ideal feed source for chickens on its own. It’s best to feed timothy hay as part of a balanced diet.

Next, we’ll look more closely at the nutritional profile of timothy hay.

Is Timothy Hay Safe for Chickens? Nutritional Value and Fiber Content

Timothy hay is safe for chickens, but it may not offer complete nutrition. Here is the typical nutritional breakdown of timothy hay:

  • Protein – Timothy hay averages around 8-10% crude protein. This is lower than the 16-18% protein chickens need.
  • Fiber – Timothy contains a very high fiber content, around 34% or more. This is too much fiber for chickens.
  • Fat – Around 2% fat, which is a healthy level for chickens.
  • Calcium – 0.4% calcium, a good amount for chickens.

As you can see, timothy hay lacks sufficient protein for chickens but provides an excess of fiber. The high fiber content can actually cause digestive upset if fed too liberally.


For timothy hay to work as a chicken feed, you’d need to balance out the nutrients with higher-protein grains and supplements. On its own, chickens will not thrive on a pure timothy hay diet.

Next, let’s look at the best ways to feed timothy hay.

How to Feed Timothy Hay to Chickens

Timothy hay can work as part of a balanced diet for chickens in small amounts. Here are some tips for feeding it safely:

  • Chop or grind timothy hay into smaller pieces to make it more palatable and digestible. Long, tough strands are hard for chickens to break down.
  • Limit timothy hay to 10% or less of the total diet. Feed higher-protein grains and pellets as the main ration.
  • Supplement with a poultry feed containing 16% protein minimum to balance out the nutritional deficiencies.
  • Provide a calcium supplement such as oyster shell to balance the phosphorus in timothy hay.
  • Feed mulched hay in limited amounts directly on the ground of the run for chickens to peck through. Scatter it thinly to prevent waste.
  • Mix timothy pellets or cubes into feed in small amounts according to package directions. These provide more concentrated nutrition.

Free-choice hay should not be used to replace proper chicken feed…

With the right supplements and in moderation, timothy can be a beneficial part of a varied diet for chickens. Free-choice hay should not be used to replace proper chicken feed and protein sources.

Next up, let’s look at using timothy hay as coop bedding.

Can I Use Timothy Hay as Chicken Coop Litter?

Many chicken owners wonder if timothy hay can double as both feed and litter in the coop. Unfortunately, this is not the best idea for a few reasons:

  • Waste and contamination – Chickens will poop directly on hay used as litter. This contaminates the hay so it is no longer safe to eat.
  • Mold risk – Damp, warm hay is prone to mold growth. Moldy hay can make chickens sick.
  • Grain mites – Hay litter can harbor tiny grain mites that bite chickens. Mites thrive on hay and grains.
  • Respiratory issuesDusty particles can cause respiratory problems if chickens breathe it in.
  • Compaction – Loose hay doesn’t compact down well. It needs frequent replacement as litter.
Timothy Hay in a Barn
Timothy Hay in a Barn

While timothy hay isn’t ideal as a main coop bedding, it can work well when mixed into the litter. Try these best practices:

  • Mix in a flake or two of hay with deep litter beddings like wood shavings. Hay adds cushion and absorbency.
  • Use hay in nest boxes only, not the main coop floor. This reduces contamination while giving chickens comfortable nesting material.
  • Replace hay litter frequently, at least weekly. Don’t let it get too damp, dusty, or caked.

Overall, alternative litter choices like pine shavings or sand tend to work better than hay. But sprinkling in small amounts of timothy can enhance absorbency and give chickens something natural to pick through.

Next, let’s look at which types of chickens can eat timothy hay.

What Type of Hay is Best For Chickens? Timothy Hay vs Alfalfa

Besides timothy hay, alfalfa is another legume hay commonly fed to livestock. So which is better for chickens – timothy or alfalfa?

Here’s a quick comparison:

Timothy Hay

  • Lower in protein than alfalfa, around 8-10%
  • Higher in fiber around 34% or more
  • Moderate calcium around 0.4%
  • Low phosphorus 0.2%
  • Low potassium 1%

Alfalfa Hay

Roll of Alfalfa Hay
Roll of Alfalfa Hay
  • Much higher protein, around 16-18%
  • Lower fiber around 25%
  • Very high calcium, around 1.2%
  • High phosphorus 0.25%
  • High potassium 2%

For chickens, timothy hay fits the nutritional profile better than alfalfa. Alfalfa is extremely high in calcium and phosphorus, too rich for chickens.

The lower protein and energy in timothy hay makes it a better choice. But timothy lacks sufficient protein on its own, so should be supplemented.

Both hays need to be fed carefully to avoid digestive issues. Overall, timothy is the winner for adding fiber and hay to a chicken’s diet. Alfalfa is too high in minerals for daily feeding.

Can I Feed My Chickens Timothy or Alfalfa Pellets?

In addition to hay bales, timothy and alfalfa can be purchased in pelleted form. The pellets have a few advantages over loose hay for feeding chickens:

Benefits of pellets:

  • Less waste – Chickens can’t scratch out and scatter pellets like loose hay
  • Reduced dust – No respiratory irritation from dusty particles
  • Easier to control portions – Pellets can be precisely measured
  • No mold risk – Pellets don’t go bad or rot when they get damp
  • Concentrated nutrition – Nutrients are compressed compared to loose hay

The biggest downside to pellets is reduced fiber, since the hay is ground up. But the nutrition can be consistent.

Both timothy and alfalfa pellets can be fed to chickens in moderation. Follow package guidelines, and limit pellets to no more than 30% of the diet. Supplement with grain and treats to provide a balanced nutritional profile.


Pellets can work better for chickens than loose hay. But don’t rely on them as the sole food source.

Next, let’s look at how much timothy hay chickens need.

How Much Timothy Hay to Feed Chickens?

Chickens should not be given unlimited, free-choice timothy hay. Too much can lead to digestive upset and nutritional deficiencies.

Here are some general timothy hay feeding guidelines for chickens:

  • Adults: 1-2 ounces daily per hen
  • Chicks: About 0.5 ounces per day
  • As a treat: Scatter small handfuls in the run
Young Chick Pecking Food

Measure timothy hay by weight, not volume. Fluffed-up hay looks like more than it weighs. Get a kitchen scale to weigh out portions.

Timothy hay should never exceed more than 10% of the total daily diet for chickens. Supplement with 16% layer feed, grains, and treats.

Monitor your chickens’ droppings for signs of looseness or diarrhea if feeding timothy hay. Fiber modulates digestion, but too much can cause issues. Reduce the amounts if any chickens show signs of distress.

Finally, let’s look at whether baby chicks can enjoy timothy hay.

Can Baby Chicks Eat Timothy Hay?

Timothy hay generally isn’t recommended for newly-hatched chicks under 4 weeks old. Here’s why:

  • Extremely high fiber content is hard for tiny chicks to digest
  • Long strands are choking hazards for peeping chicks
  • Provides minimal protein for rapid chick growth
  • May contain harmful mold spores if old or stored improperly

Instead of timothy hay, feed chicks a high-protein starter feed minimum 20% protein. Offer chick grit to help grind up their feed.

Once chicks are fully feathered and active foragers, they can start to pick at small pieces…

Once chicks are fully feathered and active foragers, they can start to pick at small pieces of timothy hay. Wait until at least 8-12 weeks old before introducing timothy.

Always chop hay into tiny pieces to prevent choking or crop impaction in young chicks. Sprinkle just a few strands at a time in their brooder or run.

Putting It All Together

Timothy hay can be a safe part of a varied diet for adult chickens. But it doesn’t provide complete nutrition and must be fed carefully. Follow these tips when offering timothy hay to your flock:

  • Chop hay to small pieces for easier eating
  • Limit to 1-2 ounces per chicken daily
  • Mix in with other feed – do not free-feed
  • Avoid feeding moldy, damp, or excessively dusty hay
  • Store hay properly away from moisture
  • Wait until chicks are at least 8 weeks old before feeding

With the right supplements and balance, a small handful of timothy hay can give your chickens an extra boost of natural forage. Just don’t rely on it or other animal feeds as their sole food source. A quality chicken feed will always be the best foundation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to supplement my chicken’s diet with Timothy hay?

Yes, supplementing your chicken’s diet with Timothy Hay can be beneficial. Timothy Hay is an excellent source of fiber, which aids in digestion and promotes overall digestive health in chickens. It can be given in addition to their regular feed to provide variety and encourage natural foraging behaviors. However, it’s important to ensure that Timothy Hay is offered in moderation, as it should not replace their primary chicken feed. Monitoring your chickens’ response to the hay and maintaining a balanced diet are key considerations when incorporating Timothy Hay as a supplement.

Is Timothy Hay safe for chickens?

Yes, Timothy Hay is generally safe for chickens. It is a high-fiber forage grass that can be fed to chickens as part of their diet. Timothy Hay provides essential nutrients and promotes digestive health in chickens. However, it should be offered in moderation and as a supplement to a well-balanced chicken feed. Always ensure that the hay is free from molds, dust, or contaminants that could potentially harm the chickens.

How to introduce Timothy Hay to chickens?

To introduce Timothy Hay to chickens, start by offering small amounts and gradually increasing the quantity over time. Place the hay in their coop or designated feeding area. You can also mix Timothy Hay with their regular feed or scatter and observe for any adverse reactions. If your chickens are not immediately interested, try adding some treats or mixing other grains with the Timothy Hay to make it more appealing. Additionally, consider providing fresh Timothy Hay regularly to ensure it remains a welcomed part of their diet.

Is Timothy Hay beneficial for chickens’ diet?

Yes, Timothy Hay can be a valuable addition to chickens’ diets. It provides essential fiber, promoting digestive health and preventing issues like crop impaction. Additionally, Timothy Hay offers a good source of natural foraging activity, keeping chickens engaged and reducing boredom. Introducing Timothy Hay in moderation alongside a balanced feed can contribute to overall poultry well-being.