Hay is the single most important part of your rabbit's diet. They need it to keep their teeth trim and they need it to keep their digestive system working properly. Foraging around grass is what rabbits naturally do, and the closest we can give them to this is hay. So if you haven't already guessed, in this post we're going to learn a little bit about . . .hay!
Hay vs Grass
First of all, hay is simply dried grass. It's cut, dried and (in the case of hay for rabbits) dust-extracted grass. So why can't we feed just let our bunnies outside for a while to eat some grass? Well, we would run out pretty quickly! Wild rabbits cover huge territories, and these areas of land produce a lot more grass than we possibly could out of our back gardens.
But that's not to say that your rabbits can't still enjoy some fresh grass. If you have somewhere you can let them outside for some supervised time on the grass, or you have somewhere you can pick clean grass for them, they'll love it! As always, remember to introduce it very slowly if it's not something they're used to eating.
Keeping Their Gut Moving
A rabbit's gut is adapted to eat a large quantity of fibrous foods- and for our pet rabbits, this means hay. A rabbit who isn't eating enough hay is at a high risk of their gut slowing down and stopping (GI stasis), which can be fatal. So hay is an incredibly important part of your rabbit's health.
**If you have any concerns about your rabbit having gut problems / GI stasis, get in touch with a vet ASAP.**
Keeping Their Teeth Trim
It's also important for their dental health. Rabbits have open rooted teeth, which means that their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. If they're not worn down properly, they can can cause a lot of pain, prevent your bunny from eating properly ( which leads to GI stasis) and they can eventually end up cutting into your rabbit's mouth (which as you can imagine is going to be very painful).
Teeth problems in rabbits , in particular with their premolars and molars, are often related to just not eating enough hay. The specific way a rabbit's jaw moves when they're eating hay or grass, helps to grind down these teeth and prevent them from getting too long. As always, if you have any concerns about your rabbit having dental problems, get them checked out by a vet.
Keeping Them Busy
Another reason that hay is a super important part of your rabbit's diet, is that it keeps them busy. Rabbits in the wild spend a large amount of their time foraging around for food and it's a natural behaviour that's really important to encourage in our pets. A lot of bunnies love nothing more than foraging around in a big pile of fresh hay!
How Much Hay Does A Bunny Need?
So now that you know how important hay is for your rabbits, you might be wondering how much they should be eating in a day. The most important thing to know here is that your bunny can never have too much hay!
A good guide to go by is that your rabbit should be eating at least their own body size in hay each day. This is the ideal amount for their gut to stay healthy and their teeth to stay trim. Things can still go wrong of course, but to give your bunny the very best chance at staying healthy, do your best to get them eating as much hay as possible, every single day.
What Do Rabbits Like From Their Hay?
First of all, rabbits like their hay to be fresh and clean. Although some of what they have left over from a previous day might look alright to you, your bunny is unlikely to be impressed, and they won't eat nearly as much as they would if it was fresh. So to make sure they're eating as much hay as possible, make sure you're giving them at least a day's worth of fresh hay, every single day. (Old / used hay can be used for bedding if it's still fairly clean)
Rabbits can also have different preferences in whether they like their hay softer or stalkier, more green or less green, longer strands or shorter strands. The best thing to do is try out different kinds (without making any sudden changes of course) to see what your bunny likes best.
How Can I Get My Rabbit To Eat More Hay?
So you're giving them fresh hay every day and your rabbit's just doesn't seem interested? Here are a few things you can try:
Thanks for reading, and I hope this post was helpful to you and your bunnies 🙂