Hay and Grass
Hay and grass are the most important foods of a rabbit’s diet. Providing unlimited amounts of hay forms the basis of a healthy diet because of its fibre and protein content. Buying good hay/grass is essential and meets some of the nutritional requirements of a rabbit's unique digestive system
Hay and grass also have other vital benefits. Chewing hay for hours every day will reduce boredom and can even solve some behavioral problems. Chewing the strands of hay will exercise the rabbit’s teeth. When a rabbit is eating grass or hay, it will chew in a sideways movement, wearing the teeth surfaces down. Also a constant supply of both hay and grass (dried grass can be fed in addition to or instead of hay) helps the rabbit to maintain good gut movement.
If a rabbit has teeth problems (they’re having their teeth burred every few weeks) try a hay/grass diet only with a few veggies each week, this will help the rabbits teeth to become worn. It will work in most cases, if not or in sever cases seek vetinary attention.
To determine how much hay to feed a rabbit; feed a large handful which is roughly the size of your rabbit, so feed a body seized amount of hay each day. I.e. the bigger the bunny the more hay needed. If you feed long strands of hay, these need to cut shorter so that they don’t become entwined round a rabbit’s foot
Never feed freshly cut hay, it should be at least 6 months old, sweet smelling and dust free. However, freshly cut grass can be given straight away. Make sure its been washed, to prevent the rabbit from catching any illnesses.
Rabbits don’t have to eat pellets, most will be happy on a hay/grass diet with vegetables/fruit once a day. Overweight bunnies should be on this diet with vegetables once a week. This will also solve the issue of ‘sticky bums,’ as this is an obvious sign that they are eating too many pellets.
Hay can be made exciting by putting large amounts in their litter boxes, card board boxes, toilet rolls and in their toys. If your rabbit is not keen on eating hay this may encourage it to eat a bit more if hay is available in their favourite places.
There are different types of hay, the 3 main ones are:
Meadow Hay (Pet/Farm shop hay)
Timothy hay is probably the most recommended as it is higher in fibre and doesn’t contain as much calcium as alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay should be fed in small amounts and should not form the basis of a rabbit’s diet as too much calcium might promote problems with crystal formation in the urinary tract. Timothy is much healthier, dust free and sweet smelling. It’s a little more expensive than the other but its far better quality.
Written by Sam (missblondebunny) May 2006.