Diet: The Importance of HAY!
RABBITS LOVE TO EAT. There’s no question about it. They love to munch, chew and devour their favorite food. It’s also a fun sight to see them eat! But don’t get their cuteness tempt you to give them too many fruits or too much rabbit pellets! Rabbits need a healthy and balanced diet to live long and stay healthy.
For young rabbits below a year old, it’s important to remember that they have very sensitive tummies. Introducing new foods like vegetables and fruits should be done slowly and at certain months. Here’s a basic guide to a young rabbit’s diet.
Until 6 months old, bunnies should have unlimited access to Alfalfa Hay and healthy alfalfa-based pellets. When they reach 3 months old, you can start introducing them to vegetables but in very small quantities, and at one at a time. Observe for any negative changes in their poop - stop immediately if there is. Once they reach 7 months, you should already start decreasing their pellet intake to about 1/2 cup a day. You can start introducing them to other types of hay including Timothy Hay. Fruits and treats should only be introduced at this point.
Once rabbits reach a year old, they are already considered as adults. Adult rabbits should have at least 80% grass or hay, 10% vegetables, 5% healthy pellets, and 0-5% treats to stay healthy and avoid sickness. For hay, they should no longer have Alfalfa Hay, but instead have Timothy Hay, which is lower in calcium and protein - nutrients that can cause sickness in adult rabbits if they consume too much.
Hay or grass should make up at least 80% of your rabbit’s diet. Not rabbit pellets, vegetables or fruits, but HAY. All rabbits need 24/7 access to unlimited hay. Why hay? If you think about it, what do rabbits naturally eat? It’s grass. And hay is, well, dried grass. To keep them healthy, they need to eat what’s natural to them. Hay provides them with all the key nutritional needs of a rabbit.
Hay provides them with the fiber they need for a healthy gut. By eating lots and lots of hay, rabbits avoid getting blockage in their digestive tracks or G.I. Stasis, which is a fatal, common and fast killer of rabbits.
Hay also trims down their teeth which grows continuously. Eating long strands of hay wears down the teeth and prevents overgrown molars, which can be extremely painful for rabbits. If a rabbit only eats pellets and vegetables, it won’t be enough to trim down his molars (back teeth) and eventually, he or she will stop eating because his molars have overgrown, which have caused cuts on his cheeks and tongue already. When this happens, he should be brought to a rabbit-savvy vet for teeth trimming.
Hay satisfies the natural foraging and chewing urges of rabbits. Rabbits are very destructive, and very makulit creatures. They bite furniture, dig upholstery and chew wires which can be dangerous. Having unlimited access to hay helps them curb this urge and to keep them from getting bored. It’s also fun to watch them happily dig and chew on strands of hay, don’t you agree?
So, all in all, hay keeps rabbits healthy and happy. So remember to always give them their endless supply of hay everyday!