Surprises in Your Guinea Pigs’ Hay Unlikely but Possible

Isabel guinea pigImage courtesy of the Daily Mail

Isabel Henderson, 11, with one of her pet guinea pigs.

You might have seen an article on the Daily Mail or Guardian about a young girl in the UK who found a surprise in her guinea pigs’ hay. We can’t verify any more than the photos pictured on the site, however, unbelievable as it might sound, finding a surprise in your hay is possible.

In the recent news story, eleven year old Isabel Henderson of South Woodford, UK was getting ready for school when she stopped for a moment to give her guinea pigs, Ginny and Squeak, fresh meadow hay. She opened the 3.5kg bag her father had purchased at nearby Sainsbury’s supermarket when she discovered a cloven hoof poking out. Her father, James Henderson, 53, who was making breakfast in the kitchen at the time, said his daughter came running through the house screaming, “Dad there’s something dead in the bag.” Upon investigation, they discovered an estimated one foot long decomposing deer leg inside their bag of Bob Martin “My Little Friend” Meadow Hay.

James Henderson immediately called the store and spoke with customer service, who apologized, and took the £1.99 bag back to the store later that same day. The father wants compensation from the supermarket. While he was concerned and upset that his daughter had to see such a thing, he felt the biggest fear was that more parts of the animal could be in other bags for children to find. He will now be personally opening each bag of hay for his daughter before she feeds her guinea pigs. The store is investigating the situation with their supplier.

Both Guardian and the Daily Mail are reporting the following quote from a spokesman for Bob Martin. “Before being packed into little bales, the untreated natural hay is visually inspected and mechanically screened to get the undesirable material out. However, due to the nature of the harvesting and automated packing processes, preventing foreign objects from ending up in the hay, including plant life and, on extremely rare occasion’s animal matter, cannot be guaranteed.”

guinea pig hayImage courtesy of Guardian

James Henderson, 53, and his daughter, Isabel Henderson, 11, with the object they found in their guinea pigs' hay.

A personal story from a veterinarian friend of ours claims a client came into their office one day with a bag of timothy hay. They wanted the vets to look at a dead animal they found inside and give advice on what to do. Completely concealed inside the bag was a dead baby groundhog. The client left the office and it’s unknown what, if anything, they had done about it.

I have personally found a grasshopper and a moth inside my hay on two separate occasions. I find it quite interesting myself. Like the spokesman for Bob Martin said, I’m sure it’s difficult to find these tidbits in the packaging process.

When it comes to hay, a brand rarely comes from a single field. Like many products produced on farms, a single bag of hay didn’t necessarily come from the official farm of the brand owner, but a network of contracted farmers across the country which have little or nothing to do with the brand itself. Farm quality varies from season to season and farm to farm, so it’s best to stabilize resources by having many people involved in supplying a single brand. For local farmers, it’s better to sell hay to a national brand than to try and sell locally or pay expensive distribution fees that eat up profits. Therefore, both benefit from the process. In the example of the recent news story, it’s probably quite difficult to find the farm which was the origin of the deer leg.

Finding something surprising in your hay can happen, but it is highly unlikely. Stories like these really are one in a million compared to the amount of hay sold each day. Still, if you’re concerned about stories like this coming true in your home, open your hay and dump into a dry storage container. Then give it a rough inspection before giving to your children or your guinea pigs.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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4 Responses to “Surprises in Your Guinea Pigs’ Hay Unlikely but Possible”
  1. alexis says:

    i’ve found a flat dried-out frog and a mouse in the same state in my hay. i buy it in bales direct from a farm which has it’s own feed shop. it’s awful, but it can’t be helped. i’d hate to find something as big as a deer’s leg though!!

  2. Pam says:

    Thistles, grass, sticks, other plants/weeds, and lots of dead crickets. When I complained to the store, they asked me if I knew that hay grows outside. *facepalm*

    I’ve never had any unpleasant surprises with Oxbow Hays.

    • Stephanie Umbro says:

      Pam… what on earth are you supposed to say after a smart-ass comment like that? oh my goodness lol

      I’ve found LIVE mice in bales of hay before. Thankfully this was the hay for the animal shelter & the bale was outside. I don’t think I would have recovered from my shock if that had happened in my house!

  3. blip says:

    This is why I’ve been sticking with Oxbow’s smaller bags of hay. I was using their nine-pound bags, and then I realized that, with the 90-ounce bags, Oxbow is still hand-inspecting the hay– which means less “rust,” less dust, no grasshoppers (though I think I’ve only found two in ten years, using Oxbow), and more good, usable hay all around. It seems more expensive up-front, but in the long run there’s actually more clean, tasty hay for the pigs!

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