Is Dried Grass the Same Thing as Hay?

The difference between dried grass hay can be confusing. Dried grass shows up on our lawns if we don’t water them enough, and hay is the dried grass we see farmers bale up and give to animals. So are the two the same?

Dried grass and hay are not technically the same thing. Hay is a specific type of dried grass that has been cut and stored to be used for animal consumption. It can also be made out of legumes or herbaceous plants, or a combination of the three.

The dried grass you have in your backyard isn’t hay until you bundle it up and turn it into hay. Below, I’ll go deeper into the differences between hay and grass. I’ll wrap up with a description of how the grass is turned into hay and how you can turn your overly dried grass into hay.

Differences Between Dried Grass and Hay

Dried grass often makes up hay, but hay isn’t always dried grass. Sometimes, hay is also made from legumes, which are things like alfalfa and clover. Additionally, hay may have stems, seeds, leaves, and other plants within its composition.

Hay isn’t a “naturally” occurring substance, such as dried grass or even straw. Grass grows on its own and dries out or dies when it hasn’t been watered enough. Straw comes from grain crops and can be gathered for various farm supplies.

On the other hand, hay is not naturally grown. It is intentionally cultivated to produce food, shelter, or bedding for farm animals.

Dried Grass Isn’t Hay

Dried grass is grass that has dried. If you haven’t watered your lawn in weeks or during a super hot summer season, you won’t have a lawn full of hay. You just have a lawn full of dried grass.

However, if you gather all your dried grass, bundle it together and make hay bales to feed your livestock, line your rabbit cage, or use as mulch, you’d have hay. See the difference?

Dried grass is commonly used to make hay, but hay isn’t always dried grass. Hay isn’t naturally occurring and requires intentionality and purpose to be classified as “hay”.

Usually, the dried grass used to make hay is specifically grown as loose grass. It’s then harvested or dried in a particular way to ensure the best nutritional quality and easiest harvest. Most farmers cut the grass when it is still alive and then leave it to dry before harvesting it.

Hay Can Be Made of Dried Grass or Other Things

In addition to its intentionality and the purpose behind hay, hay isn’t always made of grass. Some common ingredients in hay are:

  • Grasses – such as ryegrass, oat, barley, wheat timothy, brome, fescue, bermuda, orchard, or other species depending on where the grass is growing
  • Legumes – alfalfa or clover
  • Straw – a byproduct of corn plants

You Can Turn Your Dried Grass Into Hay

If you want to, you can turn your dried grass into hay. Farmers often cultivate entire grasslands to produce hay for their crops. Alternatively, they may just gather up any dead grass, herbaceous plants, or legumes and use these to make hay.

Hay serves a few purposes outside of farming. Furthermore, turning a dead lawn into something else may eliminate waste and give it more purpose. You could also use hay to:

  • Make bedding for small gerbils or pets such as rabbits
  • Create nesting or bedding for chickens or other livestock
  • Make mulch for your garden
  • Stuff dolls or create kid-friendly hay activities
  • Bundle up and sell to farmers

I’ll talk a little more about turning your dried grass into hay below, but for this section, remember that you can turn your dried grass into hay if you want to. 

The Bottom Line: Dried Grass and Hay Are Not the Same Thing

Think about it this way. A piece of cotton cloth can be made into anything.

You can make it into a shirt, a dress, a pillowcase, or a blanket. However, these items can also be made from a cotton blend, silk, flannel, or other fabrics. Regardless, your piece of cloth and your cotton blend t-shirt aren’t the same things. They serve different purposes altogether.

Dried grass is like a piece of cloth, and hay is like a cotton blend shirt. You can make dried grass into hay, but you don’t have to. Hay is sometimes made with dried grass, but sometimes it isn’t.

While they aren’t the same thing, there’s some overlap. However, the dried-up grass on your lawn isn’t hay unless you decide to gather it up and feed it to your rabbits, cows, or other hay-eating animals.

Can Dried Grass Be Turned Into Hay?

Since dried grass and hay aren’t the same, you can’t point out a dead lawn and say, “look at all that hay.” However, you could turn dried grass into hay if you wanted to.

Dried grass can be turned into hay. Hay is intentionally cultivated to create food, shelter, bedding, and entertainment for livestock animals. However, it doesn’t always consist of dried grass and often includes other things beyond dried grass.

How Is Dried Grass Turned Into Hay?

The process of turning dried grass and other herbaceous plants into hay has changed drastically throughout history. What farmers used to do by hand or by horse-drawn carriage, they now do with specialized tools.

Dried grass is turned into hay using tools to gather the dried grass together and bundle it. Farmers typically cut the grass when it’s still living and then let it dry out for a few days before gathering.

In addition to the dried grass, most livestock hay also contains legumes such as clover or alfalfa to add nutrition. Depending on its purpose, some hay also includes other herbaceous plants, seeds, leaves, and twigs.

How Hay Is Made

  1. Farmers usually grow a field of grass, legumes, or herbaceous plants (or a combination) on a section of their land.
  2. Then, they cut the grass and let it dry out for days or weeks before they gather it up with their rakes. They don’t use a garden leaf rake like you might use to gather leaves. Rather, they use a large attachment on their tractor to rake up the dried grass.
  3. After gathering it with a tractor, they bale the hay and use it as livestock food or bedding.

This video gives a great visual of the process. You can see how farmers grow, harvest, bale, and then use hay:

Some farmers use various methods and hacks to get the best harvest with the least effort.

Making Your Grass Into Hay

If you want to turn your grass into hay, you don’t have to use all the specialized tools hay farmers use. It’s advisable to use a raised garden bed to cultivate a section of specialized grass and legumes if you just plan to feed a small pet or line your chicken coop. Use a mower to cut the grass and leave it to dry before raking up and bundling it yourself.

Final Thoughts

Dried grass and hay are not the same thing, though sometimes dried grass makes hay. Hay isn’t naturally produced or something that just grows out of the ground – you won’t find any wild hay patches. Instead, hay is cultivated by farmers or animal caregivers to produce food, bedding, and shelter for their animals.

If you want to turn your dried grass into hay for whatever reason, it’s not too difficult a process. You can utilize a lawn-gone-wrong and use the byproduct as a gerbil or rabbit bedding or feed it to any of your livestock.



Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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