Last Updated on December 7, 2022 by keno
Hay is a rabbit’s main diet and normally comes with a variety of health benefits. Although hay is abundantly available at local or online pet stores, it can be costly for rabbit owners who keep more than one rabbit in the long run. However, the question that lingers in most owners’ minds is, how to make hay for rabbits at home. Keep reading to find out.
How do I make hay for my rabbit?
Making hay is a process that involves turning green grass into forage that can be stored over long periods while maintaining all the nutrients. In other words, the procedure entails reducing the moisture content from grass that has been cut and dried.
To make hay at home, you’ll need to first of all plant timothy or orchard grass if you’re keeping adult bunnies. Alfalfa on the other hand is a great feed for developing rabbits that have just finished weaning. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to make hay for your bunnies.
1. Hay grass choice
Depending on the nutritional value you want for your rabbits, below are the main nutritional values each particular grass provides for your bunnies.
This particular grass also known as meadow cat’s tail is perennial and is also a great choice for making homemade hay for rabbits. Timothy grass is typically high in fiber and low in calcium and protein.
Orchard grass is another great option for making rabbit hay considering that it’s high in fiber content and low in protein. Although this particular grass is slightly similar to timothy hay, orchard grass has open or broken cattail-looking tips, unlike timothy which has solid tips.
Another type of grass that’s recommended for developing or recently weaned rabbits is alfalfa. This is mainly because its high in calcium and protein content which are essential for the growth and development of young bunnies.
2. Growing hay grass
All three types of grass mentioned above will grow best in organic nitrogen-rich soil. You can attain soil fertility by adding fertilizer occasionally. On top of that also use nontoxic pest repellent on the grass to protect it from pests and enable it to grow healthily. Using a rotary tiller, loosen the dirt by tilling the ground, then plant the hay grass seeds evenly. Proceed by raking the tilled area to loosen the dirt and keep it smooth. After planting the seeds, water them immediately and do so repeatedly three times per day for the next couple of weeks. In the third week, water the grass only once per day up until harvest season.
This stage involves cutting the grass before it peaks maturity. This essentially helps to keep all the nutrients in place and also makes the stem fibrous and fit for consumption. You can use shears, a scythe, or a sickle mower to harvest the hay grass by chopping about one or two inches from the roots. Below are the different stages of harvesting also known as hay-cutting.
This is basically the first-ever harvest of the hay grass. The first cutting should happen when the grass is near the maturity stage. In other words, ensure that the grass has soft small stems prior to harvest. The meadow at this stage is essentially palatable and easily digestible for rabbits.
- Second Cutting
The second harvest takes place after 40 to 60 days after the first. To be specific, alfalfa and orchard grass need around 40 to 45 days to re-harvest, while timothy takes between 55 to 60 days. The grass in this particular stage is finer and softer compared to the one in the first cut. In addition, it’s also high in protein and low in fiber.
The last or third harvest is essentially made up of small soft stems and leaves that are highly nutritious. Although the meadow in the third cutting is low on fiber it can be added to the main hay diet to keep it balanced.
3. Drying and raking
After cutting the grass, the next step is drying it. This involves leaving the cut grass in the field on a sunny day to help it lose moisture. This is should take around 5 hours before evenly spreading the grass out using a rake or hay tedder. Spreading typically allows the grass underside to dry completely besides lining it up for baling.
For this particular phase, use a baler to compress the hay and also turn it into a large round or square neat bale that’s easier to stockpile.
Since hay is flammable, it should be stored in a cool and dry place preferably in a shed, especially if it’s bulky. On top of that, also elevate the bales from the ground to prevent moisture or molds from forming. In other words, proper hay storage can make it last for several years.
Knowing the different types of hay, and the quantity to feed your rabbits is not only enough, you also need to feed them a balanced diet that consists of pellets, veggies, and fruits as treats. Hopefully, this article has answered the question, of how to make hay for rabbits at home.