The term “rabbit food” has long been used to describe salads and anything healthy us humans don’t want to eat. However, there are some misconceptions about the best food for rabbits. Hay is actually a massive part of their diet and you need to provide the best products and supplementary items for their health and happiness. But what is the best hay for rabbits?
In this guide, you will learn all about the best hay for rabbits and why we must give it to all of our pet rabbits. We will start off by looking at the purpose of hay and the different types that are available. Then we will go a little deeper into some of the top brands and their best products to show you your options. From there, we have a short buyer’s guide on choosing quality hay. Finally, we have some tips about feeding rabbits.
Why Do Rabbits Need Hay?
Let’s start with the reasons why your rabbit needs hay in the first place. Hay is an important substance that, with the right product, provide a great source of nutrients and a great taste. Hay can help with the following.
- Improved levels of fiber in their diet. Fiber is important for improved gut health and regularity. Hay-free diets don’t offer enough and this can lead to many health problems for your pet rabbit.
- Digestive stasis. This is a dangerous condition where the gastrointestinal tract stops functioning properly due to a lack of fiber and other nutrients. It is a big issue for rabbits and avoidable with adequate use of hay in their diet.
- Lower calcium levels. It is easy for rabbits to end up with too much calcium in their diets through pellets and other sources. Excess calcium can lead to the formation of kidney stones and other calcified deposits in the body. Reduce the treats and use more hay.
- Hay encourages foraging behavior. Rabbits are grazers and grass eaters by habit. It is nice to allow your pets to do this outside where possible, but they can’t 24/7. So, hay gives them the chance to do so and pick away at their food throughout the day. You can also hide tasty treats in there for enrichments.
- Hay grazing also helps their teeth. Finally, all that grazing on hay is perfect for keeping your pet’s teeth in good shape. Rabbit teeth constantly grow and wear down in the wild. You need to provide a way for them to wear down those teeth naturally.
If you want your rabbit to live a long and healthy life then make sure you take care of its health. How long do pet rabbits live? If you follow our advice on diet and feeding habits for your pet rabbit, he will be able to live longer and happier.
What Kind of Hay Do Rabbits Eat?
Next, we need to look at the different types of hay that you can get. There are different forms that have their own look and feel with different nutritional contents. Once you find the right type, you can then move on to finding your brand.
First up, we have one of the most popular forms of hay – Timothy Hay. This one comes in three forms and you can choose between them for the best fit. They are:
This high fiber hay is perfect for rabbits that currently lack fiber in their diet. It is also a low-fat option, so it is great for maintaining weight. This all comes from the fact that this 1st cutting has a lot of stems and very little leaf.
This is where we get into the more everyday kind of hay for a typical rabbit diet. There are good levels of fiber, fat, and protein for a nice balance. At this point, you get a nice blend of the flexible stems and a good amount of leaf.
Then there is the 3rd cutting where it is all about the green leaves. This can be a great tasting option with a lot of protein. But, be aware that there is also a higher fat content. Some rabbit owners use this to feed up underweight pets or as a supplement to other hay.
Oat hay is a great alternative, especially if you need to increase the fiber content in your pet’s diet. In fact, a lot of rabbits adore it. Don’t be put off by the more yellow color. It is still fresh and beneficial.
This alternative hay isn’t going to be the best choice for a regular diet but can still work as a supplement or a starter when switching diets. Add it into the Timothy hay now and then to keep things interesting.
This is another hay that works best as a treat hay or supplement because it is so rich in fat. But, the high fiber content could make it useful for some health conditions too. Some pet parents prefer to use this with their younger rabbits before moving onto an adult diet. It gets the youngsters used to hay from an early age.
The Best Brands Of Rabbit Hay
Now you know more about the different types of the best hay for rabbits, you need to find a brand and an appropriate product. The following are all highly rated with great ingredients and benefits.
Kaytee does things a little differently with the more traditional sealed bag of hay. They claim to be America’s number one brand. This isn’t a surprise because of the range of products. That is why we have included two options here.
The first is this simple bag of timothy hay. This time, there is a blend of both 2nd and 1st cut hay. The idea here is that you get the best of both worlds without too much fat content. Just open it up, grab a handful and seal it tight.
Then there are the Alfalfa cubes. As we mentioned above, Alfalfa can work well as a treat or supplement. So, adding these cubes to hay is a nice touch. They are dense little cubes of quality hay with a lot of fiber. Although they look processed, they are 100% natural with no preservatives. The shape simply comes from tight compression.
This company is popular with pet owners because of the focus on quality and freshness. They go out of their way to make sure that they package the best hay and do so in eco-friendly cardboard boxes. This option is their “Perfect Blend” 2nd Cutting Timothy Hay. This means that it is quality hay for all rabbits with good stems and flower heads. You can also choose the size of the box from 2lbs up to 25lbs.
If you like the idea of these compressed bales, these cookies may also be of interest. These cookies take large amounts of hay and compress them down into tiny bundles. It is easy to place them in the hutch and let rabbits gnaw on them. These are said to have over 20 different plants with quality hay and 54% fiber.
This brand has a lot of impressive claims about their product. This is a 100% natural hay grown in the USA that is high-quality Timothy Hay. It is hand-sorted and hand-packed for quality control. The smallest is 15oz and the largest 90oz.
Then there is Vitakraft with their own take on American-grown, naturally-sourced hay. Again, this is Timothy hay, which highlights the popularity of this form over other options. They class it as sweetgrass hay, which suggests freshness and great enjoyment for your pet. They also work to compress the bales tightly for a lot of hay in one package.
How To Choose High Quality Hay for Rabbits
The products above are all great examples of what you can get in a high-quality hay. But, if you are ever in a pet store looking for emergency supplies, consider the following. This can separate the best hay for rabbits from the worst.
Look at the color of the hay. Hay shouldn’t be the color of straw. Instead, it should look more like grass to be sure of the nutritional content.
Look at the texture of the hay. Has it dried out and gone past its expiration date? Or it is really damp due to poor storage and at risk of having mold?
How does it smell? This might not be apparent with shrink-wrapped bundled but it should have a sweet smell with no sign of any mold or dust.
10 Tips For Feeding Rabbits Hay
Before we give our final thoughts on the best hay for rabbits, here are 10 tips and facts that you should know about feeding your rabbit. These should help you give your pet the very best feeding experience and nutrition for their health and well-being.
1 . Make hay the dominant part of your rabbit’s diet
Did you know that hay should make up 80 – 90% of a rabbit’s diet? That sounds like a lot but it is essential for those health benefits mentioned above. This means at least one bundle per day and that bundle should be the same size they are.
2. Be careful when choosing the other 10-20% of their food
Leafy greens are essential for your pet’s nutrition. They are also a great way to add some more vitamins and minerals to their diet. A good handful of these each day is enough. Cabbage, kale, dandelions, and herbs are all great, and remember to wash them first.
3. What about carrots for rabbits?
There isn’t anything wrong with giving your rabbit a carrot as a treat occasionally. But, don’t trust all those Bugs Bunny cartoons. This isn’t a primary part of their diet.
4. Give them the chance to graze on grass
5. Don’t feed them lawnmower clippings
This is an easy mistake for rabbit owners to make if they decide to add grass to their pet’s diet. You might think that this is just the same and an easy source of food. But, the lawnmower destroys the grass blades so much that they lose nutrients and freshness. In turn, this could make your rabbit ill.
6. Use rabbit pellets as a treat
Rabbit pellets are a simple, and accessible way to feed pets. But, they shouldn’t be necessary if you have a nutritious diet of hay, grass, and greens. Rabbits that are used to this sort of food may have some as a treat.
7. Don’t forget about their water
Fresh clean water is essential for health and hydration. Try and use a ceramic bowl where possible as this is a cleaner, more rabbit-friendly approach. A water bottle can be trickier to use and get jammed. They also carry risks of plastic leaching into the water.
8. Try and put the hay in a safe place.
This is their daily supply, so needs to be fresh, healthy, and tasty all day long. Don’t leave it somewhere where it can get dusty and damp. Dampness just invites mold.
9) Make sure to remove old hay and add fresh each day
Your pets deserve fresh, clean food every day that may taste dry and be spoiled. Make a point of removing all the old stuff so there is no health hazard and put the new bundle in their favorite feeding spot.
10. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact your vet
There will be times where rabbits go off their food or go through health issues that require additional nutritional help. Your vet will be able to point you in the right direction and make recommendations. They can also give your pet a check-up to be sure there are no additional medical issues.
What should you do if your rabbit won’t eat hay?
If your rabbit turns its nose up at its hay. Try adding some of the treat hays mentioned above for more taste and scent. Another option is you could throw in some herbs or flowers to pique their interest. You may also find that the food isn’t in the best place for them. Try moving it to a more secure place.
Conclusion – The Best Hay For Rabbits
The best rabbit hay does depend on your rabbit’s medical needs and age. But, a quality 2nd cutting Timothy Hay will help, especially with some additional treat hay. Compressed bundles are also helpful for a cleaner hutch and for gnawing. Just make sure to give them the right amount as part of a healthy diet and find what suits them best.
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