Hay: The Bunny Superfood
Hay is the primary source of food for your rabbit, it should be available all day for your rabbit. Rabbits are grazers and it’s normal for them to pick off their favorite parts of the hay and leave the rest behind, like most of the indigestible stems. I like to say rabbits are foodies, they love new tastes, smells, and textures. I find the more variety of hay you offer them the less likely they will try to eat carpet fibers, clothing, papers, and wood.
At cuddly buns we send our babies off with a healthy appetite for hay for many reasons. It encourages proper dental tooth wear, a healthy micro flora of the gastro intentional tract, it gives a slow and steady growth rate, and it prevents obesity.
** The greener the hay the more Vitamin D is trapped in it, which is important to for rabbits who may not have access to direct sunlight.
** Alfalfa is not a hay it is a clover. It’s overly nutritious and delicious and rabbits will lick every crumb off the ground, but that doesn’t mean it is healthy for them. A Holland Lop raised on an alfalfa will easily reach sizes of 5+ lbs. Not to mention they may develop a condition called sludge bladder. After your bunny is 6 months old I recommend Alfalfa only be used as a special treat once in and while.
Rabbits eat lots of hay and I always recommend buying it in bulk. When stored properly hay can last years. At the pet store you may be paying up to $4-5 per pound. while ordering in bulk online the price may be $1-2 pound for premium hay.
Hay Buyer’s Guide
** Cheap hay tends to be dusty, these small particles tend to get lodged in tear ducts and nasal passes that may end requiring medical assistance to remove them.
** http://www.smallpetselect.com Their Timmothy hay and Alfalfa are the best. They have a point system and a good picky eaters refund policy (which comes in handy!)
** Oxbow can be ordered in bulk at your local petco, amazon or chewy.com. I find their oat and orchard hay to be better than small pet selects here on the east coast.
** Timmothy 2nd cutting has more stems than 3rd cutting. This hay is considered the best for adult rabbits (6months and older). It has a good balance of nutrition and insoluble fiber which keeps the gut and teeth healthy.
** Fiscus, Brome, Crab Grass and many other yard grasses you find in your back yard is not only editable but it preferred by many rabbits and can help keep hay costs down in the warmer months. Just make sure the lawn is free of pesticides and weed killers. Avoid ornamental grasses.
Vegetables are important, not only do they cover Essential Amino acids missing in some hays they add moisture back to the gut. Many herbs have the benefit of combating potentially dangerous bacteria.
I recommend that at least 1 cup of loose leafy greens be given to your baby bunny daily. Rotate the variety of fresh greens you give them weekly. Calcium and Vitamin D is vital in growing bunnies, a lack of calcium is far more dangerous than excess calcium in the range of 1-6 months.
After 6 months of age, calcium intake should be limited to 100mg per pound of bunny! Or 1 cup a day for babies and up to 2 cups a day for adults.
Keep in mind the majority of their daily calcium will come from their hay. New vegetables should always be introduced slowly as the bodies micro flora adjusts to new sources of food.
|Plant||Calcium per cup||Notes|
|Spinach||100mg||** Calcium Oxalate|
|Swiss Chard||55mg||** Calcium Oxalate|
**Notice how carrots and other starchy vegetables are not on this list. Starchy vegetables encourage the growth of gas building bacteria which can be life threatening.
** The Cole group of vegetables have been known to make some rabbits gassy. This includes Collard Greens, Kale, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts and Broccoli.
** Calcium oxalates are a type of non available type of calcium found in foods, while chard, beetops may seem high in calcium they are not due to the type of calcium in them. Some studies link Calcium oxalate to the formation of bladder and kidney stone, proceed at your caution.
** Daily exercise is the key to ensuring calcium doesn’t build up in your rabbits urinary tract. Rabbits who live in small cramped cages and are given little exercise are more prone to developing sludge bladder and stones regardless of their dietary intake.
** A spring salad mix is an easy to get a good mixture of leafy greens to your bunny.
Through my own research I have decided to leave commercialized pellets out of my rabbits’ diets. Over the last 20 years, pellet feed was designed to be so tasty that once your rabbit found their favorite food they refused to eat anything other than their favorite junk food.
Today many pellets are still filled with addictive additives such as black strap molasses, beet sugars, salt, alfalfa, and corn syrup then thre are the more life threatening ingredients like soy hulls, pea shells, starches.
Obesity, dental issues, and gastrointestinal stasis are the result of pellet feed. The average cost of a rabbit in GI Stfasis (a life threatening condition) will run you $400.00-$1800.00 at an exotic specialist, blood work, subcutaneous fluids, 24hour care, x-rays it can get expensive fast. Yet the solution to the problem is, feed your rabbit less pellets.
The vitamins in pellets can’t replace feeding your rabbits vegetables.
Exception to No Pellet Rule
There is only one reason I would give my rabbits pellets, and that is if the rabbit is underweight. Some bunnies are just power houses of energy and they will lose weight faster than they gain weight. Even then I would choose StandLees brand of timmothy pellets, they are pellets made of hay pure and simple. I use them for lactating does who need the extra energy and calories to feed all those little mouths. The mechanical grinding process helps release the pectin and hemicellulose that’s normally protected within indigestible cell walls.