6 Best Hay For Sulcata Tortoise [Expert’s Recommendations]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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For some unknown reason, many tortoises hate hay. Maybe it is the texture or the pleasant fragrance that most hays miss. However, tortoises will forage and much on the hays if they are crunchy, soft, and smells good.

Considering the texture, fragrance, and nutritional values, the best hays for Sulcata tortoises are,

  • Timothy hay
  • Oat hay
  • Alfalfa hay
  • Grass hay
  • Orchard hay
  • Meadow hay

Mixing up these hays, you can prepare the ideal meal for the tortoises.

In one of my precious write-ups, I have discussed the perfect diet for these creatures. Therefore, narrowing down the topic, I will focus solely on the safe hay choices for the Sulcata tortoises in this article.

6 Best Hay For Sulcata Tortoise

Tortoises have a very different diet than turtles. These creatures do not require bulk protein to survive. Instead, they are in need of fiber and other minerals.

Considering the requirements, grasses and hays are the ideal diet options for the Sulcata tortoises. Let’s find out the best hay for these tortoises below,

1. Timothy Hay

You will find abundant fresh green timothy grass fields in European countries. Both timothy grass and hay play significant roles in the pets’ diet due to their mineral contents. Apart from Sulcata tortoises, this timothy hay is a perfect meal for many other tortoise species, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, and small animals.

Timothy hay includes 7 – 11% of crude protein, which is enough for the Sulcata tortoises. Besides, this hay has a calcium percentage of up to 0.51%. Therefore, it perfectly balances the phosphorus ratio and makes the hay healthy for the Sulcata tortoises.

Moreover, timothy hay also contains vitamins A, D, E, and other minerals. However, the best feature why we choose timothy hay is because of its high fiber content.

The low protein percentage and high fiber and energy content have made timothy hay perfectly digestible and healthy.

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Though timothy hay seems the best option for your Sulcata tortoises, it has some downsides. For the starter, timothy hay has lots of stems. Yes, the sharp jaws of the Sulcata tortoises can easily crush the stems, but softer hay is a better choice. Hence, the experts advise buying 2nd or 3rd cut timothy hay for the soft texture.

If your Sulcata tortoise does not like timothy hay, go for the timothy pellets. Similarly, orchard grass is a good alternative for this hay type.

Check More Details On Timothy Hay

2. Alfalfa Hay

Alfalfa hay is undoubtedly one of the best diet options for the Sulcata tortoises. Besides, this hay is a popular meal for cattle, chicken, sheep, goats, etc.

Unlike timothy hay, alfalfa hay is high in protein, approximately 12 – 15%. This hay also includes an average amount of fiber, about 20 -28%. Not to mention the other vitamins and minerals this hay carries. For example, vitamins A, B, D, E, K, Biotin, Folic acid, niacin, etc.

Instead of being high in protein, alfalfa hay is digestible. However, keep in mind that alfalfa hay is more soluble in cells and has less cellulose.

Sulcata tortoises love munching on alfalfa hay because of its palatable size and soft texture. But, there is an issue with the alfalfa hay. Due to the high protein and low fiber percentage, alfalfa hay is not always ideal for the Sulcata tortoises. Therefore, mix this hay with other grass and hay to balance out the mineral values.

Overfeeding the Sulcata tortoises with alfalfa hay can lead to pyramiding and kidney diseases. Thus, make sure this hay does not exceed 50% of the diet.

Check More Details On Alfalfa Hay

3. Meadow Hay

For small pets, meadow hay is a winter feed. But to the Sulcata tortoises, it is an all-season diet.

While timothy hay or alfalfa hay is a specific term, meadow hay represents a group of different hays. For example, ryegrass, orchard grass, fescue grass, etc. In other terms, meadow hay is a mix of a variety of grass, leaves, clover, or plant bits.

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Meadow hay is the favorite of the Sulcata tortoises because of the soft-combined texture, sweetness of the mixture, and pleasing fragrance. Moreover, this meadow hay has a significant nutritional value.

The fiber percentage of this hay is 33%, protein content is around 7%, and calcium quantity is about 6%. Thus, you do not have to worry about the mineral deficiency of the Sulcata tortoises with this hay.

Check More On Meadow Hay

4. Orchard Hay

Many beginners mistake orchard hay for timothy hay because of the identical size. But orchard hay has a different shape.

There are many more similarities between the orchard and timothy hay. For example, both contain a moderate amount of protein, 10 – 12%. Also, they have a balanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.

The only difference between timothy and orchard hay is the fiber and calorie percentage. Apparently, orchard hay is richer in fiber and calories than timothy hay.

Orchard hay has a fruity smell which makes this hay more appetizing to the Sulcata tortoises. Small bags of orchard hay are perfect for large tortoises. Also, this is a great addition to the diet of a growing Sulcata tortoise.

Check More On Orchard Hay

5. Grass Hay

Grass hay is an umbrella term for bahiagrass, sorghum hay, coastal bermudagrass, reed canary grass, etc. This grass hay is perfect for the Sulcata tortoises as they love foraging.

The grass hay includes high fiber content, 8 – 14% protein, and 0.25 – 0.65% calcium. Such nutritional balance promotes proper digestion in the Sulcata tortoises without impacting their digestion.

6. Oat Hay

Though oat hay is the favorite of the Sulcata tortoises, it can not be their primary food source. Reportedly, the oat hay is low in calcium and fiber content. On the other hand, it is high in nitrates, which is not suitable for the Sulcata tortoise’s health. Such imbalance in the nutritional value has made this hay unfit as a primary food source.

So, you can not feed the Sulcata tortoises the oat hay in bulk. But you can mix this hay with other diet options to complement the mineral value.

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Check More On Oat Hay

Baby Sulcata Tortoise Feeding Guide For Beginners

How To Select Hay For Sulcata Tortoise

Of course, you can not just select hay for the Sulcata tortoises. Hays high in nitrate, oxalate, or protein is dangerous for these tortoises. For example, feeding the tortoises high protein or oxalate hay can cause pyramiding, kidney stones, or liver failure.

Hence, while selecting the hay, go through the nutritional chart. You should focus more on fiber content. Hay, with a high fiber percentage, low protein content, and the proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, is perfect for the Sulcata tortoises. If the hay lacks nutritional value, mix it with other hays to back up the deficiency.

Moreover, hay with a pleasant fruity smell and sweet taste is always a plus point.

Is Hay Healthy For Sulcata Tortoises?

Experts always advise adding more grass and hay to the tortoise’s diet list than vegetables, leaves, and plants. According to most professionals, each meal of the Sulcata tortoise should include 75 – 90% grass and hay.

So, it is obvious that the hay contains significant vitamins and minerals to promote healthy growth for the Sulcata tortoises. For example, alfalfa hay or timothy hay is rich in fiber and minerals. Also, these hays include a balanced amount of phosphorus and calcium.

Such meals suit the digestive system of the tortoises better and keep them healthy. Moreover, tortoises love foraging and so, hay fulfills their habits. Furthermore, hay and grass are cheaper than veggies. So, feeding your Sulcata tortoises hay is both healthy and economical.

Newbies often get confused about where to buy grass and hay. Obviously, you can grow grass in your backyard and process hay from there. But it is a long process. So I always recommend buying commercial hay packages after reading the label thoroughly.


Timothy hay, orchard hay, alfalfa hay, rye hay, Bermuda hay, etc., are suitable for the Sulcata tortoises. When selecting hay, make sure it is high in fiber and low in protein. Mixing up different types of hay is the best way to prepare a balanced meal for the Sulcata tortoises.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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