Rabbit hay plays a pivotal role in the health and development of a rabbit. Its high fiber content helps to maintain their digestive tract and also wears down their teeth, keeping them in good shape. Although there are many hay varieties out there, we’re going to cover the healthiest and most nutritious. In addition, we’ll look at the benefits of hay consumption, and how to encourage your rabbits to eat hay, among other related frequently asked questions.
The best hay for rabbits
- Timothy Hay
Timothy Hay is among the top recommended hay for adult bunnies. It’s low on protein and high on fiber which are essential components that help keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning properly. In addition, Timothy hay also has less calcium which prevents urinary stones from developing.
- Alfalfa Hay
This particular hay is high in both protein and calcium compared to timothy. Alfalfa is ideal for developing bunnies that have completed weaning. On the other hand, feed adult bunnies sparingly, since excessive intake often leads to urinary stones.
- Herbal Hay
Another rabbit diet that’s among the top healthiest is Herbal hay, which is basically a mixture of hay and herbs. Not only is herbal hay rich in vitamins and nutrients but it’s also ideal for providing your bunny with forage variety. Some of the popular herbs include chamomile or dandelion which is mixed with this particular hay.
- Meadow Hay
Meadow hay is a mixture of different grass hays with a variety of textures and flavors. In addition, it also comes with plant debris. Although meadow hay has protein and calcium content, the percentage varies depending on the type of grass choice. Therefore, it’s always ideal to check the ingredients beforehand.
- Oat Hay
Oat hay is another hay type that is suitable for rabbits that are picky eaters. The ingredients can include either barley, oat, or wheat. In simpler terms, Oat hay is rich in fiber, vitamins, and essential minerals. In addition, it’s also low in protein and most bunnies will love to nibble on its crunchy seeds.
- Orchard Grass Hay
Orchard hay is also a good rabbit diet since its high in fiber and low on protein. It comes either in soft or coarse textures. However, the coarser a rabbit’s hay is the better it is for their dental health. If your adult rabbit prefers soft textured orchard hay, try mixing it up with other coarser hay varieties, excluding alfalfa.
Benefits of rabbit hay
Not only is hay highly nutritious but it also helps keeps a rabbit’s gut healthy. It essentially keeps things moving as a result preventing any blockages. Additionally, eating hay constantly also keeps a rabbit’s ever-growing teeth in check by wearing them down.
Can rabbits live off just hay?
Yes, ideally hay should be their main diet and they can live off it and water alone. However, it’s always good to feed them a balanced diet containing additional nutrients. In other words, besides hay, occasionally feed them pellets, veggies, and fruits if you want them to live longer and healthier. Compared to hay the three contain more nutrients such as fats, vitamins, and minerals which are vital for a rabbit’s overall growth and development.
What percentage of a rabbit’s diet should be hay?
A rabbit’s diet should primarily consist of hay around 80% to 90%. The hay should be fresh, dry, and readily available for them. To be specific, a bunny’s daily intake is normally a large handful of hay.
Is grass better than hay for rabbits?
They’re more or less the same, hay is technically dried grass. Each has its pros and cons, for example, the latter is more nutritious than hay. However, rabbits need to feed on large quantities of grass to get satisfied. This is usually unsustainable if you have a small backyard. Hay on the other hand is readily available in most stores and it can also be easily stored.
What type of hay is best for rabbits?
For adult bunnies’ timothy hay is the best choice even for picky eaters. It’s packed with timothy grass leaves and stems which are not only tasty but also highly nutritious. On the other hand, bunnies that have completed weaning up to six months old should eat alfalfa hay. However, depending on your bunny’s taste, herbal, meadow, oat, and orchard hay are also great choices for their main diet.
How do I encourage my rabbit to eat hay?
Although hay should be a rabbit’s primary diet, you’ll find that on some occasions rabbits are reluctant to eat it. In most cases, if they are not ill, there’s a high likelihood that they have a sweet tooth for treats. Below are some of the various ways to encourage your bunny to eat hay.
Since hay is consumed daily, bunnies can get bored with it. A simple trick is to introduce different hay types or try to mix up different flavors per serving to restore their appetite.
- Minimize treats
There’s no doubt that treats such as veggies or fruits are tastier but not healthier when you feed your rabbits excessively. In most cases, when they’re well-fed with sugary treats, they’ll develop a sweet tooth and over time will be reluctant to eat hay. It’s therefore advisable to feed them treats sparingly, about two tablespoons twice per week.
Rabbits are most likely to eat hay when it’s constantly available for them. Place hay on their favorite spots whether it’s where they like to hide or play. Either way, make hay available for them to feed on 24/7.
- Hide treats in the hay
Another way to make your rabbits eat hay is by mixing it up with some of their favorite treats that you feed them occasionally. You’ll notice that over time, while they’re searching for treats, they’ll eventually start nibbling at the hay. In no time they won’t get enough of it.
- Place hay in their favorite toys
Placing hay in their favorite hiding tunnel, hay feeder or chew toy is ideal when you want to encourage them to consume it. In other words, when a rabbit chews, bites, or pulls hay unintentionally, eventually it’s going to taste it and by default even eat it over time.
Although there is a wide variety of hay available, the six mentioned above are a cut above the rest. However, for optimum nutrition, you should consider spicing things up by mixing their hay up per serving or providing them with variety. Finally, healthy hay should be dry with a sweet scent. In addition, it should also be free from dust, sand, or mold.
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