Fresh hay and/ or grass should make up 80% of your rabbits daily diet. Rabbits teeth continually grow, this means that they require a diet high in naturally abrasive foods to help keep them worn down. Hay, grass and other natural plants contain, in part silicate phytoliths, lignin and cellulose. These are the essential elements that help keep your rabbits dental health in tip top condition.
Hay and grass is also high in fibre, this helps keep your rabbits gastrointestinal tract healthy and moving.
How much is 80%?
It can be difficult to work out exactly how much 80% is, an easy way to think of it is a bundle the size of your rabbit, that is replenished as and when needed. For more information on what and how much your rabbit should be eating head over to our diet and nutrition page.
What types of hays are best?
There are many good quality hay products that can be purchased through specialists and online retailers, but the range of choice can be confusing. So which type of hay is best for your rabbit? In truth the best type of hay will be dictated by your rabbit’s own personal preference. The hay they like and therefore eat the most is the best hay to choose, as the more hay they eat the better their dental health and digestion will be. A mix of the hays can also prevent boredom and encourage foraging.
There are some important aspects to consider though, the hay should be dust extracted, free from mould and kept in a damp, moisture free area.
Varieties of hay
Meadow hay is a grass hay that is generally known as being soft and sweet. The sweetness of the hay can be beneficial in encouraging your rabbits to consume more. Like other grass hays this is a good choice for everyday eating.
Timothy hay is also a grass hay, depending on the time of harvest it is usually a darker green then other types of grass hays. It has a coarse texture and a strong aroma that can be enticing for your rabbits. This is a good choice for everyday eating.
Orchard hay looks similar to Timothy hay, but has a softer texture and is flat bladed. It has a fruity aromatic smell and taste to it. Like the other two grass hays this can be fed freely to your rabbits.
Oat hay can be fed to your rabbits like grass hays before the seed heads have ripened. Most manufacturers will ensure that this is the case when marketing it for rabbit consumption. It has a thick stem a generally includes leaf and green oat husks.
Believe it or not, dried grass is not just hay. It is grass that has had the drying out process artificially sped up, this keeps those essential nutrients locked in. The cut of the grass will depend on the season so can fluctuate between dark green and rich to a light green, coarser cut. This can be fed everyday or mixed with other blends of hays. If you have a richer variety introduce this slowly to your rabbit to avoid any stomach upsets.
Herbal hays can be a mixture of any hay with any added herb as advertised. This type of hay can include additional nutritional benefits depending on the herb mixed in as well as encouraging your rabbits to forage.
Alfalfa hay is a high fibre legume, it is higher in protein, calories and calcium then other types of hays. It should only be used for young growing rabbits (under 6 months) or underweight rabbits. It is important to note that rabbits under 6 months can be fed any other type of hay mentioned as part of a healthy rabbit diet. The high calcium content also makes it unsuitable to feed to your rabbits on a daily basis.
Hays and Grasses to avoid
Do not feed your rabbit haylage or similar products, the fermentation process can lead to bloat if fed to rabbits, this is a very serious and highly fatal condition. For the same reason grass clippings should not be fed to your rabbit.