You heard you should be feeding your rabbit with grass hay and wonder if that is true. And what is the difference between grass and hay (dried grass)?
Go for a wander in the countryside and chances are you will happen upon a bunny hopping about merrily nibbling at the grass. This is their natural diet. Rabbits are selective eaters, so forage around looking for tasty food like succulent grass shoots and nutrition filled green grasses. Whilst foraging, they will also eat plenty of roughage to balance things out.
Now, look at the bunny at home. A selective eater in this environment can be quite a challenge. They are your pet, and you want to treat them, so you give them nice chunks of fruit, seeds and some grass. Your rabbit will happily eat all the fruit and seeds and ignore the grass. Imagine putting ice cream in front of a small child and next to it a bowl of vegetables, and you’ll get the picture.
This is why grass and hay for rabbits can be such an essential staple of their diets. You can always treat your rabbit but do it sparingly. This way you know your rabbit has the best chance of a long and happy life with you.
Grass and Hay for rabbits
You want to feed your rabbit a healthy balanced diet and want to use hay and grass to do that. However, you may not be able to provide constant natural grass for your rabbit.
A rabbit should consume the same amount of hay or grass as its body size. If kept outside your bunny will soon hoover up any grass growth in its hutch and exercise pen, so your natural sources will quickly run out.
This is where Little Hay Co can help.
Hay is in essence dried grass. At the Little Hay Co, we have spent years testing and researching the perfect way to create hay for smaller animals. In the UK, the weather is unpredictable, and this can seriously affect how hay is harvested, dried and its condition when it reaches the consumer, your rabbit.
The Little Hay Co harvest our grasses and then bring them inside to dry. This means we control the environment and can dry our hay the perfect amount to seal in all the nutrients and keep it tasting great. If you see rabbits ignoring hay, then chances are it's already too dry, or there are other more enticing food options available.
We create the best tasting hay, so your rabbit will happily eat its way through its body-sized portion each day and enjoy the odd provided treat along the way. We recommend treating rabbits with green vegetable treats rather than sweet fruit ones. Be strong. Ignore those floppy ears and doe eyes as much as you can. Easier said than done, believe us we know!
Health benefits of hay for rabbits
Rabbit hay and grass hay are high in fibre. This is crucial to help keep your bunny healthy through food. The hay will help with good dental hygiene as it is not too soft and will keep their teeth down to a good size through their chewing. The fibre in the hay will also help your bunny’s digestive system, which will help reduce the chances of gut disease and gut stoppages.
Hay as a staple diet will also create a more natural feeding routine for your bunny. Eating unusual sweet food not usually encountered in the wild means your rabbit could change eating habits or chewing styles to accommodate. This could have unforeseen consequences.
What is the difference between grass and hay?
Grass and hay are the same things except for the dryness. Hay is often seen as just any old dried grass, but hay is specific types of grass or mixed grasses dry cured into a preservable state.
When hay is dried, it can be used throughout the year, particularly in seasons when fresh grass is unavailable. Hay still contains all the nutrients needed to provide a healthy diet for animals. Hay is also easier to store and ship, making it such a popular feedstock for all sorts of animals.
Grass is classified as a herb and is a graminoid, a herbaceous plant. There are many subsets of grasses, but only some are used to make hay.
Types of Grass Hay for Rabbits
Timothy Hay for rabbits
Timothy Hay has long soft stems with soft full flower heads. This hay is high in fibre, green in colour and fragrant. It is one of the most popular hay types for keeping a rabbit healthy.
Orchard Grass Hay
Characterised by a sweet smell and overall soft texture that encourages consumption.
Meadow Hay for rabbits
Usually, soft-stemmed native grasses often include other small edible plants like dandelions and daisies but can also sometimes include weeds like nettles, docks and thistles.
This hay is high in protein and energy but is usually only fed to horses and cattle. Mixed hay bags for smaller animals can include Oat Hay.
Wheat and Barley Hay
If harvested before the seed heads ripen, wheat hay and barley hay can be used as a feedstock for rabbits. Mixed hay bags for smaller animals can include Wheat and Barely Hay
Dried Grass for rabbits
This can be a good choice if your bunny is fussy and not a hay fan. The drying of the grass is sped up to lock more nutrients in and keep its green colour, making it more like fresh grass. Just be sure to introduce it slowly to their diet until they are used to it.
Alfalfa Hay for rabbits
This hay has a higher protein content than ordinary grass hay, which means it is not an ideal feedstock for adult rabbits as it is too fattening. Alfalfa Hay can be fed to young bunnies to help them grow or for underweight rabbits. It also has a high calcium content which can cause issues to any rabbit with a history of calcium problems like bladder sludge.
Herbal Hay for rabbits
Herbal Hay includes other elements found in a rabbit’s natural environment. Trace elements of other plant-based nutrients in the hay can be more enjoyable for some rabbits to eat than one hay type alone.
Rye Grass Hay for rabbits
Rya Grass Hay has long coarse strands, is green in colour, fragrant and high in protein. This makes it an excellent choice for benefitting teeth health and general wellbeing.
Mixed Hay for rabbits
This is where popular hay types are combined to more closely mimic what your rabbit would find in the wild. Our specially mixed Meadow Hay contains Rye Grass Hay, Timothy Hay and Seeds Mixture Hay. Mixed hay for rabbits can use many other types of hay too.
How much hay should a rabbit eat?
Rabbits are selective eaters. When feeding them hay, you should aim to give them roughly the same amount of hay as their body size each day.
How to encourage my rabbit to eat hay
Changing a rabbit’s diet or introducing hay should be a gradual process. In the wild, a rabbit will eat through lots of roughage to get to the nutrient-rich plant they are after. This naturally creates the ideal balanced diet. To recreate this for your rabbit, you can add hay gradually to find out which one is their favourite. There are a lot of variants to try that all offer benefits to your rabbit’s health. Many rabbit owners will have to change hay types to keep the rabbit interested, often mixing throughout the year.
To encourage your rabbit to eat hay, try adding the hay in clumps, perhaps blocking off a tube or hiding a small treat inside the hay. This will encourage their natural foraging instinct as they munch through the hay to get to the treat.
Be creative in how you deliver their hay, and soon you'll find they see it as their staple diet with the occasional healthy treat discovered as they eat.
Frequently asked questions about Hay
What is Hay?
Hay is cut and dried grass. The nutrients are sealed in by harvesting the grass at the correct time and drying it to the ideal amount to keep the nutrients intact. Hay is made from many different types of grass and has different nutritional values.
What type of hay do rabbits eat?
This will depend on the rabbit. There are many types of hay available for rabbits including Timothy Hay, Orchard Grass Hay, Rye Grass Hay and Mixed Hay. Your rabbit will have their own tastes, so experiment until you find the hay type they enjoy most.
What is grass hay?
Grass hay is either warm-season or cool-season, so the type of hay depends on the season it is cut in. Timothy Hay for example is cool-season grass hay. As hay can be made from wheat, oat or grass hay refers to the type of grass used to make the hay.
How much hay should a rabbit eat?
Give your rabbit roughly the same amount of hay as its body size per day.
How long is hay good for?
Hay can last for years if kept dry. As some moisture is usually present in most places, you should use the hay within three years. To keep it green, keep it out of the light.
How much is hay for rabbits?
Hay prices vary depending on the quality and amount you buy and also where you buy it. Some hay is imported from abroad, which will make it more expensive due to shipping costs. As we recommend feeding a rabbit with hay that matches its body size every day, you will need a good regular supply of hay available.
We are in the UK and our grass hay prices start from as little as £10.49 per box. Visit Little Hay Co Shop to explore the types of dust-free hay we make and prices for different sizes.