Hay is the most important ingredient to a bunny’s daily diet, which is why rabbits should have unlimited amounts of good quality fresh hay available to them 24 hours a day. Listed below are the reasons why hay keeps rabbits happy & healthy.
##How hay helps
* Hay is high in fibre – Essential for a rabbits digestive system to function properly & to keep the stomach moving.
* Rabbits need a constant supply of hay to keep their digestive system working correctly. They have digestive tracts that are specially adapted to break down fibrous foods.
* If they do not have hay, then their intestinal functions could slow down – this then causes numerous health problems such as a blockages from fur or items they have eaten & GI stasis
* Constant grazing on hay helps to wear the rabbit’s teeth down, as rabbit’s teeth constantly grow.
* The side to side action of chewing hay is what is needed to keep the teeth at a suitable length and to stop them overgrowing.
* If their teeth become overgrown, this can cause many health issues, such as abscesses & eye problems.
* Chewing hay also helps to prevent sharp hooks forming on their teeth known as Molar spurs, which can be very painful. If a rabbit finds it too painful to eat, they will stop eating. Once a rabbit stops eating, this then causes their digestive system to stop moving, which can then cause GI Stasis.
##What makes good hay
* Hay should be slightly green in colour and smell sweet. Hay should not be dusty or smell damp & fusty.
##Hay prevents boredom
* Having a constant supply of fresh hay available to your rabbit, diverts their attention & can help stop them getting bored and becoming disruptive.
## How much hay should rabbits eat?
* Ideally rabbits need to eat a bundle of hay the size of themselves every day. Always provide unlimited amounts of fresh hay as some rabbits may eat even more than that (which is great)
##Which type of hay?
* Meadow hay and Timothy hay are the most popular.
* Oat hay & Grass hays are also great.
* Alfalfa hay is very rich and only best for baby bunnies up to 1 year old and for senior rabbits over 6 years old that need to gain weight.
## Why not straw?
* Feeding straw is not the same as hay, as it is fully matured when harvested and has very little nutritional value.
* Most rabbits won’t feed on it as it has so little nutritional value.
* Straw is safe to feed, but make sure you have plenty of hay too, which will provide the correct nutrition.
##What if my rabbit won’t eat hay?
* Don’t give in! If your bunny is not a keen hay eater, keep supplying the hay, but supply different types. All bunnies are different and some will prefer other hay types to what another rabbit likes.
* Scatter dried tasty herbs amongst the hay to encourage them.
* Provide fun hay racks for them to pull the hay out of. Or stuff hay into toys like willow balls or cardboard tubes.
* Always provide plenty of hay in litter trays, as bunnies love to graze whilst pooping.
Find lots more tips here in our blog ‘Clever ways to encourage your rabbit to eat hay- no matter how stubborn!’
##Where to buy
* For bedding and good quality meadow hay, you can look for a local hay & straw farm to provide bales of hay, which will be much cheaper than buying bags from a pet shop.
* For different types of feeding hays – nowadays there are many online retailers that specialise in good quality hay for your rabbits.