The Best Rabbit Hay to Keep Your Rabbit Healthy and Thriving
Written by The Rabbit Hole Hay Team
Do you know what kind of rabbit food you should be feeding your rabbit at different stages of their life? Do rabbits eat hay? What is the difference between pellets, Alfalfa Hay, and Timothy Hay? When should you switch a bunny from Alfalfa Hay to Timothy Hay? What are the risks of feeding them the wrong food at the wrong age? Read on to find out!
For adult rabbits, Timothy Hay is widely accepted as the best choice to keep your rabbit happy and healthy.
With a great balance of fiber and nutrients, Timothy Hay should be a mainstay of their diet and can make up as much as 80-90% of their food intake. This will keep them at a healthy weight while maintaining their dental and digestive health. Did you know that rabbits teeth don't stop growing? It's important to provide them with a good source of coarse fiber (such as Timothy Hay) to make sure their teeth get evenly worn down. If left unchecked your rabbits teeth can overgrow and case all kinds of health issues.
Young rabbits often eat Alfalfa Hay, which is fine when they are growing, but as they mature you have to transition them off of Alfalfa or they will gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Timothy Hay on the other hand can be fed free-choice to your rabbit, meaning the hay can be constantly available for your rabbit to eat it's fill whenever they want. Our Timothy Hay provides the following benefits to you and your rabbit:
High Fiber - Promotes digestive & dental health
Low Protein - Lowers risk of digestive impaction (GI Stasis) and weight gain
Low Calcium - Prevents urinary tract issues
Low Moisture -Keeps hay from growing mold
Coarse Timothy Hayis the first harvest of the season and has more large seed heads compared to other cuts. Coarse Timothy is also lower in protein and higher in coarse fiber than Medium or Soft Timothy Hay. This is important for rabbits because it will help wear down the rabbit’s teeth and avoid issues that can arise from overgrown teeth, such as molar spurs.
The second harvest of the season, known asMedium Timothy Hay, is easier for rabbits to eat because it is softer than the previous cut. Unlike the first cut of timothy hay, the second cut has fewer stems and smaller leaves and seed heads compared to the first cut.
The third seasonal harvest is rare, but with the right growing conditions, it can be harvested in September or October, which is why it’s calledSoft Timothy Hay. It feels more like what we know traditionally as grass and is good for small pets that have soft or weak teeth. It’s also fantastic for small pets who are extremely picky about what they eat. Since Soft Timothy is so soft, you'll want to occasionally add some coarse hay or natural chew toys to keep their teeth wearing down properly.
When rabbits reach about 3 weeks old, you can start mixing in Alfalfa Haywith pellets to get your rabbit adjusted to the new type of food. Alfalfa Hay is high in minerals like calcium as well as other things like protein. It has a thicker stem and lots of elliptical leaves compared to the long thin leaves found on grass hays. It is known to be a warm weather crop and it offers nutrition to young rabbits including the following:
Good for younger, growing rabbits
Because most rabbits prefer to eat alfalfa hay, it is important to know that by the time rabbits reach about seven months of age, you should start weaning your rabbit off of alfalfa hay and start feeding him or her timothy hay. Alfalfa hay provides great nutrients, but it also can make your rabbit very obese if you continue feeding it this type of rabbits hay throughout its life.
Rabbit pellets consist of hay as well as different nutrients to keep your rabbit well-balanced and in good health including vitamins, minerals. Rabbit pellets can greatly differ from one another but all brands should have the contents of the pellets on the back of the package. DO NOT feed pellets that include corn to your rabbit, this can cause serious health risks. It is important to note that the ingredients that make up the majority of the pellets by weight will be listed in order on the package from the ingredient that contributes most to the pellets to the ingredient that contributes the least.
Indiana House Rabbit Society suggests that you “Look for one (pellet) that is plain-no colored pieces, crunchy puffs, seeds or nuts in it.” They also suggest that you look for a pellet that is higher in fiber and lower in protein. We recommend Organic Alfalfa Pellets, which are perfect for rabbits younger than 7 months, guinea pigs younger than 6 months, and chinchillas younger than a year.
Knowing what type of food to feed your rabbit is essential to rabbit care. While your rabbit may love to eat Alfalfa Hay, eating it throughout his or her whole life can cause harm to your rabbit’s health. By buying the right type of hay depending on the age of your rabbit, you can help him or her to live a long, healthy, happy life. Check out the helpful life stage feeding guidelines below.
Birth – 3 weeks: Mother’s Milk
3 – 4 weeks: Mother’s Milk, nibbles of Alfalfa Hay and Pellets
4 – 7 weeks: Mother’s Milk, access to Alfalfa Hay and Pellets
7 weeks – 7 months: Unlimited Pellets and Alfalfa Hay (plus see 12 weeks below)
12 weeks: Introduce vegetables (one at a time, quantities under ½ oz.)
7 months and older - Timothy Hay with occasional pellets and/or vegetables
If you really can't decide what type of hay is right for your rabbit, guinea pig or chinchilla, you can always try a sample of the hays you want your small pet to try to see what your small pet will like.
Want to learn more about the benefits of hay for your small pet? Download our free resource below...