Collard is a member of the Brassica family, along with cabbage, broccoli, and kale. This leafy green is often hailed as a superfood due to its wide variety of vitamins and antioxidants.
But can guinea pigs reap the benefits of collard greens too? Let’s look into it!
As a general rule, guinea pigs can eat collard greens in limited quantities once a week. Collard is very high in calcium, so feed in moderation!
This nutrient-dense veggie has a lot to offer both people and guinea pigs alike. But there are a few things you should know before making it a regular addition to your piggy’s diet. Throughout the article below, I’ll cover everything you need to know.
You can also check out the Guinea Pig Food Chart for an alphabetical list of everything your piggy can eat and how often they can have it, along with calcium and Vitamin C levels for each food.
*Important Note: The quantity of collard greens shown in the photos is for visual purposes only and not indicative of the correct amount to feed your guinea pig in one serving.
Benefits of Feeding Collard Greens to Guinea Pigs
Collard Greens Are Vitamin-Rich Super Greens
Collard greens are one of the most nutrient-rich green vegetables you can feed your guinea pig. They are low in calories and high in several vitamins and minerals. Collards are exceptionally high in Vitamin K1, which is crucial for normal blood clotting and good bone health.
Vitamin C deficiencies can lead to a compromised immune system. It can also cause a disease called scurvy. This is a condition that causes pain and weakness in the joints, trouble moving, and extreme lethargy.
Guinea pigs require an average of 10-30mg of Vitamin C per day, which is why it’s a good idea to offer daily vegetables that are high in Vitamin C.
Collard greens are also pretty high in Vitamin A. Additionally, they contain two antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds are excellent for maintaining good vision and preventing common eye diseases.
In addition, this vegetable is a great source of potassium. This nutrient is responsible for regulating fluid in the body and ensuring the proper functioning of muscles. It also helps to flush out excess sodium from the body and may even reduce the chances of kidney stones developing. Collards also contain a decent amount of folate and magnesium.
Lastly, collard greens offer a great source of fiber. The high fiber content in collards keeps your guinea pig’s digestive system functioning normally and feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut.
Collards Are Rich in Antioxidants and Cancer-Fighting Compounds
In addition to the variety of vitamins, collard greens are rich in many different kinds of antioxidants.
These healthy compounds target and neutralize free radicals that build up in the body. When not kept in check, free radicals can cause a condition known as oxidative stress.
This condition greatly increases the risk of many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and accelerated aging of the body.
Consuming vegetables high in antioxidants is a great way to combat this risk.
Risks of Feeding Your Guinea Pig Collard Greens
Cruciferous Vegetables Can Cause Gas and Bloating
This family of veggies has a lot of health benefits, but it also has the potential to cause gas and bloating in guinea pigs. In some cases, bloating can lead to GI stasis which can be fatal if not immediately treated.
However, this risk can be significantly reduced by slowly introducing collards into your guinea pig’s diet. Observe your piggy for several hours after eating the collard greens to make sure they are not acting bloated and lethargic.
Increase the amount you feed very gradually each time so your guinea pig’s body has plenty of time to adapt. Also, be sure to provide plenty of hay, as grass hay reduces gas in the body and keeps your piggy’s digestive system running smoothly.
Calcium Content in Common Vegetables
|Vegetable||Calcium (per 100 grams)|
Collard Greens Are High in Calcium
Another significant concern associated with feeding collard greens is the calcium content.
As you can see in the chart, collard is quite high in calcium compared to several other commonly fed vegetables. It contains a whopping 232mg of calcium per 100 grams, or about 48mg per one medium leaf (21 grams).
This is excellent for young, growing guinea pigs. However, too much calcium in adults can easily contribute to bladder stone development. This is a very serious and painful condition for guinea pigs that requires surgery to remedy.
For this reason, collard greens should be fed sparingly to full-grown guinea pigs. If your guinea pig has suffered from stones or bladder sludge in the past, you’ll definitely want to avoid collard greens entirely.
In addition, collard contains some phosphorus which can contribute to stones as well.
Potential Allergic Reactions
Like other foods, there is always a chance that your guinea pig is allergic or has a bad reaction to collard greens. This is rare, but it’s always important to introduce new foods gradually and keep an eye on your guinea pig in case they have an adverse reaction.
How Often Can Guinea Pigs Eat Collard Greens
Due to the high calcium levels in collard greens, adult guinea pigs should eat them once a week at most. Avoid feeding it at the same time as other high calcium veggies such as mustard greens, turnip greens, mint leaves, bok choy, and parsley.
Growing guinea pigs under 6 months old can eat collard greens a couple of times a week because they need a higher amount of calcium for bone development. You can offer 1 small leaf or half of a large leaf for each serving.
Collard greens should never be fed to guinea pigs daily due to the high levels of calcium.
Do Guinea Pigs Like Collard Greens?
Generally, guinea pigs love leafy greens like collard. While the taste can be bitter, many guinea pigs are very tolerant of bitterness and often prefer it over sweet foods.
Many piggies will start nibbling on collard greens almost immediately, while some may take a few nibbles and leave them be.
This is quite normal for guinea pigs, so try offering it to them multiple times over a few days. Usually, guinea pigs will start trying a bit more each time.
If you continue to offer it and your guinea pigs still refuse, they may not like it. Piggies have likes and dislikes when it comes to food, just like people.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Collard Green Stems?
All parts of collard greens are safe to give to guinea pigs, including the stem. However, most guinea pigs are not a big fan of the bitter stems and much prefer the leafy greens.
Like the leaves, collard stems are high in calcium and should not be fed frequently. However, it’s perfectly fine to feed your guinea pig a leaf of collard with the stem intact.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Eat Collard Greens?
Baby guinea pigs over the age of 3 weeks can be introduced to collard greens gradually.
This leafy veggie is high in Vitamin C and many other essential nutrients that are needed by growing guinea pigs. It is especially rich in calcium and Vitamin K, two nutrients that are necessary for strong bone development.
However, collard is a member of the cabbage family so it’s important to introduce it slowly to avoid bloating or gas in your baby piggy.
As long as it’s introduced properly, collard greens are a great choice to feed your young guinea pig 2-3 times a week.
How to Prepare and Feed Collard Greens to Your Guinea Pig
To feed collard greens to your guinea pig, choose a healthy green leaf or two that is not rotting or overly wilted. Rinse it thoroughly under cool water to remove any traces of pesticides, dirt, and germs.
Offer your piggies a whole collard leaf, or break it in half if you want to limit their calcium intake.
There’s no need to chop the collard into smaller pieces, as guinea pigs will happily munch on the whole leaf. If your guinea pig is not fond of the hard, bitter stem, you can remove that part, but it’s not necessary.
To store the remaining bunch of collard, place it in the vegetable drawer in your fridge. To preserve the freshness for as long as possible, store it in a perforated bag.
For best results, wait to wash it until just before feeding. For the best taste and quality, it’s a good idea to use up any greens within 5 days.
It’s important to always feed your guinea pig raw, uncooked collard greens. Cooked vegetables lose many of their nutrients and are also more challenging for guinea pigs to digest than raw.
How to Introduce A New Food For The First Time
If your guinea pig has never tried collards, introduce it gradually. Start with about half a leaf the first few times. As a cruciferous vegetable, it’s important to introduce collards slowly into your guinea pig’s diet. Also, make sure your piggies have free access to hay to balance out any gassiness they may experience at first.
Many guinea pigs will eat it right away, while others may take a few nibbles and ignore it. Sometimes you’ll need to leave it in the cage for a while to give them a chance to eat more at their own pace.
Often guinea pigs take a bit of time to adapt and try a new type of food, so if they don’t eat it right away, try it for a few more days. It is quite normal for guinea pigs to take their time accepting a new food.
In the wild, their ancestors would avoid poisonous plants by trying tiny amounts of unfamiliar plants and seeing if they made them sick before eating them again. Pet guinea pigs often do the same thing when presented with a novel food.
To get them to eat something new, it often helps to give the new veggie separately from their regular vegetables (i.e., new veggie in the morning, regular veggies at night.) Guinea pigs are often more willing to try something if they have fewer options. You can also try shredding the collard greens up very finely and mixing them with other veggies to get your piggies used to the taste.
Keep an eye on your guinea pig for several hours after they try the new food to ensure they act normal and have no signs of diarrhea or stomach discomfort. As long as there’s no diarrhea or odd behavior, you can gradually increase the amount of collard next time.
It’s also a good idea to introduce no more than one new food at a time. This way, you can easily identify which new food is causing problems if you notice any unusual behavior from your piggy.
Fun Facts About Collard Greens
- Collard greens are a member of the Brassicaceae family, along with cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale
- Collard greens are one of the oldest members of the cabbage family, originally cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans
- The peak season for collard greens is in late winter – it requires short periods of frost for the best taste and quality
- Collard green plants can reach 3-4 feet in height
- Collard takes about 6-8 weeks to mature from seed to harvest
- Collard greens contain a chemical compound that makes it taste bitter to people with certain genes. About 70% of people have these genes that make collard taste bitter; the other 30% of the population will not notice the bitterness
- Collard plants are biennial, meaning they live for 2 years – however, they are usually cultivated as an annual
More Fruits and Vegetables That Guinea Pigs Can Eat
Did you know that guinea pigs can also eat dill, basil, and raspberries?
For a complete list of all the fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs can eat, check out our article, Complete List of Safe Foods for Guinea Pigs.