After more than three years of struggle, dozens of wasted bags and bails of hay, allergy attacks, and one starving tortoise I am happy to report that I have finally succeeded in getting Frankie to eat hay as a primary food source. Boy am I tired. This has not been an easy road to go.
Tough love failed to get Frankie to eat hay last winter. He simply went without food, his immune system slowed and he caught a upper respiratory infection. Caught early I was saved having to needle inject him with antibodies. Anyone with a ten pound or heavier sulcata can attest that this is a job for superman. Prevention is key to avoiding this impossible task. Food is necessary.
The sneaking favorite snacks into a pile of hay resulted in Frankie learning to shift through hay with his nose to get to the tasty tidbits. Occasionally he would eat hay: One bit of hay would sneak past that talented nose of his and ta-daa hay eaten. Chopping favorite foods in to itty-bitty pieces and mixing into the hay was only slightly more successful. The best results were feeding the itty-bitty favorite finely diced items mixed well with hay to a completely starving sulcata. It was the most I ever saw him eat hay. The result was a slimmer cranky Frankie. Not a good route.
My friends on Sulcata Station Yahoo Group were encouraging Frankie's conversion to hay. Lots and lots of advise about hay preparation has waffled in and out of my brain. I would wonder daily which trick would work. I mean this sulcata is getting BIG and winters have a huge effect on available grass outside. Its easy to pick grass and weed for a twenty pound sulcata. But for a fifty pound sulcata there just isn't enough live material outside to feed him. Advise kept coming in.
It was mentioned that the best results came when hay was soaked in hot, hot water for five to ten minutes. With nothing to loose, I tried it.
So I present Frankie of pile of steaming hot, wet, droopy hay. And he eats it. I think I stood there for about two minutes not believing he was actually eating hay. Okay, so I give it another. First time is beginners luck (I mean the sulcata is hungry), but a second time shows some kind of learning going on. Day two. Present Frankie with another pile of steaming hot wet droopy hay. And he eats it.
Frankie is happy. He gets to eat even when its 15º degrees outside and mommy will not go out and pick grass. Mommy is happy because she can prepare Frankie his breakfast in her nighties instead of getting completely dressed at 6:00 in the morning with coat and hat and gloves and scavenge the neighborhood for enough grass to feed a fifty-six pound sulcata. My neighbors think I am nuts.
Is there a bad angle to this? Hmm. Yes, I will now have to pay to feed an animal who is perfectly contented to eat free food growing in the yard. My Frankie food budget of $15 per month for carrots, cuttlebone, and vitamin supplements will now go up, up, up. Do you know how much hay a 56 pound sulcata can eat? A lot.