The importance of hay in a rabbit’s diet cannot be overstated enough. It should make up 70-80% of their daily intake of food. It should be offered in unlimited quantities, and kept fresh, so that they are attracted to it as much as possible. The high fiber content of a quality hay will help your rabbit maintain proper digestive balance, help prevent dental issues, and it will encourage a natural foraging instinct.
Just like people, every rabbit has their preferences, and hay is no different. Some rabbits will love one type of hay and hate another. It is a learning process, but purchasing small bags and creating a mixture is an awesome way to give them a variety to pick through, play with, and hopefully they will eat the majority!
Many people struggle getting rabbits to eat hay, and they eventually give up. This is detrimental to your rabbit’s overall health and well-being. While many rabbits do love their hay, most will tend to prefer a nice crunchy pellet, and if freely available will always choose that over a hay. While we do recommend giving a high-fiber, high-quality pellet, they should be given in a limited amount. Please note the quantities suggested on the bag of food.
Many people, after bringing home their new rabbit suddenly realize that they are allergic to the rabbit! Well, at least that is what they think. In reality, while you can be allergic to a rabbit, there is a much greater chance that you are allergic to the hay that they are being fed. Timothy grass pollen is a major allergen, and more than likely is the #1 type of hay that you have been told to purchase for your rabbit. If you have developed a sudden allergy after bringing home a rabbit, I would suggest cleaning their area completely. Remove all Timothy hay, clean their litter box, bedding, and everything the hay has come into contact with. Then, purchase small bags of these other types. Test each one to see if it causes a reaction. Over the course of a few days, and some allergy pills, you should be able narrow this down and eventually find a hay that your bunny will love, and your allergies can tolerate. However, if you are not allergic to it, timothy hay is the easiest hay to locate, and most rabbits will enjoy it.
Here are some of your other choices when you are shopping for hay. Each of these hays you will soon notice has a distinct smell, texture, and color. If you are brave enough, chew on a fresh piece yourself. You will notice that some are actually sweet, while others taste like cut grass smells. I will say that a big mixture of all of them is the best way to go.
(I do tend to be very careful feeding alfalfa. While it is very sweet and rabbits love it, it is generally recommended for very young rabbits, and pregnant female rabbits. But, you can offer it as a treat anytime you want, just don’t make it the single source of hay for your little one.)
Where to purchase?
You can generally purchase hay anywhere you purchase small animal food. When I want to purchase more, I try to go somewhere like Tractor Supply because I know they go through a lot, and what they have on the shelf will be fresh. Fresh is definitely best, and always check your stock to be sure nothing has molded.
I choose to purchase smaller quantities because of this threat. If a rabbit were to ingest moldy hay, it could be devastating. The weather has been awful here for months. It has been raining non-stop, and last summer, so many farmers lost a massive amount of stored hay to mold and mildew from the extremely hot and wet weather. So, the smaller quantity bags offered by Oxbow Animal Health are the perfect solution. Yes, they are more expensive than a massive 20-50 pound bale, but that bale will mold if it isn’t cared for correctly. I can store this bag in my garage, out of the moisture, and be assured that is safe.
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