To you, hay may not look like much, but for a rabbit, hay is a highly important part of their daily diet. In fact, it is recommended that a rabbit’s diet be about 80 to 90 percent hay or fresh grass, which should be fairly easy to achieve. As the owner of a rabbit, knowing this fact about your pet is important, but it is just as important to understand why hay is such a crucial part of the bunny’s diet. Take a quick look at just a few of the reasons why hay is important to your bunny, along with a few facts you should know.
Hay helps to keep your rabbit’s digestive system moving.
Hay is a high fibre food that offers long strands of fibrous material into the digestive tract. This is crucial for the bunny’s gut health because it helps to push everything in the system through. Because rabbits are not picky eaters, it is not uncommon for them to munch on things they really should not, which can cause blockages in the stomach and intestines. With a diet rich in hay, these blockages are pushed through naturally. Plus, consuming an adequate amount of hay means your bunny will not have issues with GI stasis, which is a problem with slow intestinal function.
Hay helps to keep your rabbit’s teeth filed down to a normal level.
The rabbit’s teeth, even those in the back of their mouth, actually never stop growing throughout their adult life and can grow as much as 12 cm in the span of a year. Therefore, if the rabbit does not chew and nibble enough, these teeth can grow to an uncomfortable length that may require vet attention because they can grow into the rabbit’s face and eyes. Chewing hay requires a side-to-side chewing action that grinds the teeth to a safe level with time.
There are other reasons why rabbits need a healthy amount of hay in their diet.
Not only is hay important for digestion and keeping teeth ground to a safe level, there are a few other reasons to provide hay and grass as the primary diet for your bunny, including:
- Providing hay keeps the rabbit busy so they don’t become bored and chew things they really should not, such as the edges of the hutch or wiring of the cage.
- Providing hay offers females a good nesting material to use when they are expecting young.
- Providing an ample amount of hay helps to encourage good litter habits.
What kind of hay should you give your bunny?
Rabbits can actually be a little picky about the hay they consume. These little critters actually have about 7,000 more taste buds than a human, so their food preferences with hay can seem odd. Not all hay is the same because it can be made up of an array of different grasses and plants, so choose carefully. Usually, hay that is sweet smelling, with both tender and coarse bits, will be preferable by your bunny. Meadow hay, oat hay, and timothy are some popular hay varieties. Rabbits do also like alfalfa, but alfalfa can contain higher levels of calcium so must be fed in conservative amounts.
Keep in mind that grass is mostly the same as many types of hay. Therefore, if you do not have hay to offer or your rabbit hutch allows your bunny to access the grass on the ground, your bunny gets about the same level of nutritive benefit from the grass. Just remember, your bunny can eat quite a bit of grass in one day, so if you are relying on the grass available around the hutch, you may need to occasionally move the hutch or pluck handfuls of grass for your rabbit around the yard.
Keeping your pet bunny healthy is absolutely one of your top concerns, so understanding hay is a must.