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dumblepaws
21-12-2014, 09:30 PM
So wanted to do something fun and festive for the bunnies, and came up with The Twelve Hays of Christmas as:

a) at the 2014 RWAF conference, Bunny SuperVet Elisabetta Mancinelli, mentioned that some recent research had shown that the best way to give a bunny a balanced diet was to provide multiple hays, as each hay will have a different nutritional balance and the nutrients in hay are more concentrated than in fresh veg, which is mainly water

b) there's been a lot of controversy over the Small Pet advent calendars provided by some pet stores, which contain egg, dairy and high sugar items which are not at all suitable for bunnies so I wanted a fun but also healthy option

The bunnies usually have a "main" hay (Hay for Pets Timothy and Rye) supplemented by treat hays, dried forage, readigrass, so it wasn't too hard to find 12 hays, especially with The Hay Experts taster pack of 6 different hays for £4.99 (the taster pack is enough to fill 3 toilet rolls with each of the 6 hays).

I filled 12 empty cardboard toilet rolls with a different hay, and numbered them 1-12. The hays used are listed below. I wanted to see if the bunnies showed any preference for certain hays, and how much they enjoyed the challenge…

1. Hay and Wild Rose - The Hay Experts Taster Pack
2. Deans Meadow Hay - The Hay Experts Taster Pack
3. Orchard Grass - The Hay Experts Taster Pack
4. Western Timothy Hay - The Hay Experts Taster Pack
5. Green Oat Hay - The Hay Experts Taster Pack
6. Readigrass - The Hay Experts Taster Pack
7. JR Farm Hay with Apple
8. Woodlands Timothy Feeding Hay with Carrot and Apple
9. Hay for Pets Timothy & Rye Hay
10. Hay for Pets Meadow Hay
11. Hay for Pets Ings Hay
12. Burgess in association with RSPCA Timothy Hay (from amazon - got to make up the £10 order value for free delivery!)

Waffles and DP have undertaken hay taste tests before - when I was concerned over the quality of my local farm hay, I gave them a mat with samples of timothyhay.co.uk hay, and hay-for-pets.co.uk hay, and showed a preference for (ie ate most of) the Hay for Pets Timothy and Rye.

Another time, they'd really loved Oxbow Western Timothy hay as their favourite treat hay for ages, and then suddenly stopped eating it, so I ordered them a The Hay Experts Taster pack so each day I filled a food ball with a different hay, and if it had all gone by the end of the day, I presumed they liked that hay. If they ignored it, they obviously didn't like it.

This time, I put all 12 cardboard tubes in a pile, and OH and I settled back with a gin and tonic to observe the bunnies. They'd figured out something was up, as I was waiting for Paul holding the hays they we're both very alert, periscoping up at me, and running round in circles and looking quizzically at me with both ears up, so they were in completely the right mood to excitedly explore the pile of hays.

They both started sniffing round the pile and nibbling tube number 8 (Woodlands Timothy Hay with Carrot and Apple, which is a favourite of theirs). After a quick nibble, DP moved on to 11 (Hay for Pets Ings) and then back to 8, whereas Waffles found the Readigrass in 6 and stayed munching that happliy whilst DP briefly checked out 3 (Orchard Grass), 11 again (Ings), and then joined Waffles at the Readigrass. Eating the majority of this involved moving it well away from the rest of the pile, and at the point it was getting difficult to get the hay out, they forgot about it and returned to the main pile.

They both started with a little bit of 12 (RSPCA Timothy), then a little bit of 11 (Ings) before returning to 8 (Woodlands Timothy). Waffles had a good go at 8, whereas DP went for a wander, hoovering up any Readigrass he could find, and nibling some 11 (Ings) before joining Waffles on 8 (Woodlands Timothy). Most of this got eaten too and it was moved well away from the pile in the process and forgotten.

Waffles nibbled some 11 (Ings) and then had a bit of a break and drink of water. DP nibbled 12, 7 & 5 briefly before also having a break, water.

There was then lots of alternating between 11, 5 & 12 (Ings, Green Oat Hay, RSPCA Timothy) with Waffles showing a preference for Green Oat, and DP for the RSPCA Timothy.

DP came to check out my gin & tonic, have some nose rubs and do a bunny 500 before settling down to groom himself. Waffles ate some 5 (RSPCA Timothy) whilst DP was having a break from it, and then went for a wander and re-discovered 8 (Woodlands Timothy) with DP joining her a bit later.

There then followed lots of exploring, gnawing a willow twig, having water, and nibbling the hays (mainly 5 (green oat), 4 (Western Timothy) & 9 (Timothy & Rye) ).



So readigrass was the clear winner with definite enjoyment of Woodlands Timothy with Carrot and Apple, and Green Oat Hay, Burgess/RSPCA Timothy, Hay for Pets Ings, and still very happy to eat Hay for Pets Timothy and Rye. 1,2 & 10 were completely ignored.

It was interesting to see how they taste changes, as they'd previously really enjoyed the JR Farm Hay and the Deans Meadow Hay, but weren't bothered this time. On the other hand, they'd not shown any preference for the Ings during their first hay taste test, but really enjoyed it this time. Although they didn't touch the Meadow Hay this time, they have had it in their litter tray over the last few weeks and been happy to eat it there, so I think they enjoy variety and will continue to follow Elisabetta Mancinelli's advice and feed multiple hays.

I also think they prefer hays that aren't as good for them - ie Readigrass (higher calorie and high in calcium so should only be fed sparingly) and ones containing carrot/apple - so shouldn’t get to make all the decisions on their diet!! Some of the hays I get for them on a regular basis already and have in stock, but I will be getting Waffles some Green Oat Hay and DP some more RSPCA Timothy Hay.

The 12 Hays of Christmas Challenge kept them very focussed on eating hay for about 40 minutes, and then they spent another 30 minutes exploring and grooming and so on, but still kept going back to the hays, so they very much seemed to enjoy the challenge - not sure if it was the cardboard tubes or the variety of hays or the combination of both.

Obviously the next day, they were completely disinterested in the hay filled toilet rolls, and didn't go anywhere near them. There was lots of binkying and chasing and flopping and climbing all over us. And the day after they were all snuggles and litter trays and grooming. So there's never a dull moment, and I will try and make sure I keep trying new activities with them and making sure they have variety in their hays.

Tamsin
21-12-2014, 10:29 PM
Interesting, and definitely a healthy Christmas treat. I tried Scamp on the taster packs, he loved the oat hay but totally ignored it when I bought a bag full. I think they detect a lot more difference in cuts, years and storage times than we see looking at it. He loves readigrass too and he really loves Oxbow orchard grass at the moment - I got that because he was eating fresh orchard grass over summer.

I think you are right, their instinct is to go for higher calorie foods which is fine when they are limited in the wild, but not so healthy all the time.

It's interesting how ideal diets are evolving over time. I like the move towards a lot more grass/hay and natural/foraged plants.

Miss Binky Bunny
21-12-2014, 11:00 PM
A very interesting read. Was almost about to try the Hay Experts Taster Pack this month, but put it off as have 5 sorts on the go already and lack storage space for any more.
Current open packs are:
1. Oxbow Western Timothy
2. Burgess Excel Timothy
3. Readigrass
All go in hay box currently and all well enjoyed.
4. Burgess Excel Forage (a dried grass than dandelion, etc. type forage...)
5. Morrisons Meadow Hay
Last 2 in litter tray, both well enjoyed. Excel Forage, the most recent new introduction, may be getting a bit more munched on the the Meadow Hay. Could be the novelty factor as the Morrisons Meadow is well liked also here.
:)

tulsi
22-12-2014, 12:28 PM
What a brilliant idea! Love the title as well. This is the kind of thread that makes this forum so interesting and inspiring and shows what dedicated rabbit keepers are on here.