The Importance of Hay

Photo by Amy Ramnaraine

Hay should be 80% of your rabbit’s diet.

Rabbits are designed to eat large amounts of high fibrous food. A proper diet consists of 80% grass hay, 10% veggies, 5% healthy pellets, and 0 to 5% healthy treats. Fresh water must be available at all times.

The importance of hay cannot be overstated:
• Hay keeps cecal flora in balance – it promotes a healthy gut
• The repetitive, rapid chewing movement of eating hay helps maintain dental health
• Hay provides a key component of nutritional needs
• Hay helps prevent fur blockage (especially important for Angora and long-haired breeds)
• Hay satisfies natural snacking and chewing urges
• Hay encourages natural behaviors such as foraging and grazing, which may diminish boredom, increase activity, and provide a sense of security

The most common rabbit health problems are gastrointestinal issues and dental disease. Improper nutrition is often the key contributing factor in each of these widespread problems. Feeding 80% hay is preventative health care.

Grass hays are best because they are lower in protein and calcium. Try bluegrass, brome, fescue, marsh, orchard, timothy, oat and ryegrass. Offering a diversity of hay is important nutritionally. A diversity of hay also desensitizes rabbits to small changes in smell and texture, resulting in good, consistent eaters.

Susan Smith, PhD University of WI, Madison
Micah Kohles, DVM, MPA
Anthony Pilny, DVM

by Amy Ramnaraine
House Rabbit Society Educator in Training, Minnesota