Domestic rabbits differ in some details from wild rabbits, but their biology is similar. They are both strict herbivores. In nature, the wild rabbit has a wide variety of foods available to it, varying with the seasons: herbs, plants, buds and leaves. For the domestic rabbit, its diet is based on an essential food, the choice of which must be made with particular care: it is hay. Here we show you how to choose it in order to give what is most suitable for your rabbit.
What type of hay is best for your rabbit?
The difference between hay is based on the nature of the dried plant and where it was collected. On the market, you will find different appellations:
- Grassland hay, mainly composed of grasses and legumes,
- Alfalfa hay,
- The second cut hay called aftermath,
- And hays named according to their place of production: Crau, mountain, pasture hay.
The right hay for your rabbit is the one that matches its age and his state of health.
The criterion of calcium content
Hay that is too rich in calcium should be reserved for rabbits aged 6 months or less, or possibly given in very small quantities to adult rabbits.
The presence of calcium is indeed beneficial to a growing organism. But for an adult rabbit, this is a problem. In fact, all rabbits have a propensity to develop urinary stones. It is linked to their biological functioning. Be aware that apart from diet, the formation of these stones is favored by obesity and lack of exercise. It is therefore essential to make sure that your rabbit does not grow excessively and that he can reasonably move.
Hay rich in calcium are:
- Alfalfa hay,
- Hay from Crau,
- Hay composed mainly of legumes.
In this list, the richest is the alfalfa hay (1.8%) to the point that, even for growing rabbits, it is advisable not to limit yourself to this single hay and also to offer other types, less rich in calcium. Other kinds of hay are fine, unless your rabbit is already developing stones.
The ideal hay
Hay composed of timothy and of dactyl should be preferred because they are poor in calcium (0.6%).
The ideal is quite simply to vary the pleasures, while keeping in mind the criterion of calcium. Just like us, it is important to vary tastes. This contributes to the morale of the animal and maintains its appetite for hay. In addition, each hay brings different benefits. By alternating the types of hay, you are more sure to cover a wide range of nutritional needs.
The meadow hay is rich in fiber. Composed of different plants, your rabbit will be able to sort what he prefers and therefore generate waste.
The hay hay generally contains more foliage than stems, and is therefore finer in texture and tender. It is richer in protein than other hay and less in fiber. But above all it contains more starch and sugars. You should therefore limit the amount if your rabbit tends to be overweight.
The hay for which the origin is specified are often more expensive, in particular Crau hay which is a protected designation. More difficult to find, it is known to seduce rabbits that shun hay but be careful if your pet already develops stones.
The alfalfa hay is ultimately more of a treat than a staple food, as it is rich. It may also be indicated for recovering rabbits as it offers a combination of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and other minerals that can help give a tired body a boost. It is advisable to go to your veterinarian to make sure this is appropriate for your rabbit.
Over time, you are also likely to identify your rabbit’s preference for one type of hay or another. Do not hesitate to make him happy! It also means that at the beginning it is better to buy smaller quantities in order to test your rabbit’s taste and avoid wastage in case of rejection.
The quality of the hay is essential
For the owner of a rabbit, hay represents a great advantage over fresh grass: it can be stored. For the rabbit, the supply of hay guarantees it a food suitable for consumption. This food is essential because it helps to regulate the intestinal transit of the animal, but also allows him to use his teeth effectively.
To constitute a true feed in multiples, the hay must be:
- Very green,
- Very dry,
- With long fine fibers,
- Composed of various plants among which alfalfa is absent or present in very small quantities.
If the hay comes from organic farming, it will be a plus for your rabbit.
You will avoid yellow, dusty hay, and cut into small pieces.
Obviously, quality has a price and you will have to spend a little more if you want to favor a healthy to your rabbit, and therefore a little longer life by your side.
How much hay to give your rabbit?
Hay is 70% of your rabbit’s diet. Your role is to ensure:
- May your rabbit don’t miss of hay. You don’t have to watch how much it consumes. The rabbit regulates itself and takes what it needs. Its constant need for chewing makes it a food to be given at will,
- That the hay made available to the rabbit is clean and dry. It should not be contaminated with urine. The hay is generally made available in a rack hung outside the cage but accessible from the inside. If this is not the case, it will be even more necessary to check its condition and renew it as often as necessary.
Do not confuse hay and straw
You have to distinguish between hay and straw. The latter is made from the stalks of dried cereals. It is yellow and thick compared to hay. It has no nutritional value and does not contribute to the health of your rabbit other than the fact that it can also be chewed for a long time and maintain the wear and tear of the teeth. It can therefore be used in the composition of the litter, but it is not one of the most efficient materials in terms of absorption.