Wondering if you should feed your rabbit hay or not? There are a lot of people out there that think rabbits should eat more hay than pelleted feed.
After raising rabbits for most of your life you start to find things that work and others that don’t.
Before we dip our baby toe into this pool of controversial water… I NEVER want you to think that you “have to” take my word for it. Because the truth is you don’t
I share my real-life rabbitry experiences when it comes to the care side of the rabbit info. What works and what doesn’t. If you want to do it the way I do, awesome! Welcome aboard groupy! But if you disagree that’s ok too.
Many people are shocked when I tell them I don’t feed hay to my rabbits. My decision to do so has mostly come from observations of other breeders and hearing of issues that they have experienced, such as issues with blot and even loss of animals.
The common theme in most if not all cases I heard about was that the breeders were feeding hay. I can honestly say that I have never lost a rabbit to bloat and hay is not a part of their feeding routine. Like ever.
Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive system, if something goes wrong it will most often be fatal. In my opinion feeding, hay is optional.
There are many benefits to feeding hay, but there are also many risks that can come along with it.
A Rabbits Nutritional Needs
First, let’s get to know a little bit about rabbit nutrition. What exactly do they need? Most rabbit pellets contain everything a rabbit needs nutritionally on a daily basis. On a feed tag, you should see percentages at least in the ranges below.
- Protein 14%-18%
- Fat 2%-4%
- Fiber 16% or more.
Most rabbit rations contain an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals needed on a daily basis.
You will on occasion see rabbit raisers adding water-soluble vitamins and minerals to the water. If you are at a fair or show and you see that the water is colored then likely they have added something to their water.
This is not necessary on a daily basis unless the rabbits have been exposed to stress such as shows, or travel. Adding vitamins and minerals to the water should be done on an as-needed basis.
If you choose a feed that has all the basic requirements, feeding hey is not necessary for the health of your rabbits.
Why I Don’t Feed Hay
My main concern with feeding hay is connected to the mold that can grow on hay so easily and you may not even know it. Something as simple as a humid day can cause moisture to get in the bale and there really is not much you can do about that.
Mycotoxins produced from mold are deadly poisons that cause major health issues that are often fatal in rabbits.
Illness Mycotoxins Can Cause
Gastrointestinal issues: Such as colic, hemorrhages of the large intestine, shock, reduce intestinal flow, refusal to eat, weight loss, increased water consumption, and a VERY common problem in rabbits is bloating.
Central nervous system issues: Twitching, wobbling, seizures, paralysis, tremors, depression, headaches.
Eye: discharge, corneal ulcers.
Lung: pneumonia, lung lesions, respiratory distress, bleeding.
I don’t want to scare you with some of these symptoms but I want you to know what could happen.
These are just a few of the many issues that can be caused by giving bad feed to your rabbits.
How To Tell Good Quality Hay
Alfalfa- should be a nice dark green color.
Grass Hay- should be light-to-medium green.
Texture- should be soft and easy to bend. Not stiff and brittle.
A bale should be light and easy to lift. I bale that is heavy would indicate that has excessive moisture, which is the perfect start for mold. It could also indicate that there has been mud or rocks mixed in with the bale.
To get a bale this good you would need to look for hay intended for horses or buy it form a pet supply store and to be honest the price is really high and not worth the extra price.
What Bad Hay Looks Like
- Will be turning light to medium brown.
- If the hay is dark brown or black it has been kept in the rain or heavy fog and has lost most of its nutrition.
- Light yellow faded color indicates that the hay has been left in the sun and bleached by the sun. The light color could also mean it is aged.
As a rabbit raiser, you have to do what works for you and your animals.
If You are feeding good feed with 16-18% protean your rabbits shouldn’t need hay.
What I Do Instead Of Hay
The main reason people will feed hay is to aid in digestion and avoid bloat. I have and always will be an herb user with the rabbits. If you notice your rabbit having a firm belly then feed about 5 inches of herb twice a day until the issue subsides. It shouldn’t last more than a day or two.
Rosemary is a great herb to feed your rabbits if you notice a digestion problem. You can read more about how to use rosemary In your rabbitry here.
Raising rabbits is a whole new world especially if you are going to be having them as more than a backyard pet.
Do what is best for your animals, love what you do and if you find what works for you then stick with it.