The most reliable information sources confirm that 75-85% (even up to 90%) of a rabbit’s diet should consist hay and other course fiber foods. Science also confirms the need for hay in a rabbit’s diet. Course fiber, such as hay, keeps the digestive (gut) muscles strong. Good gut strength is necessary for these animals to digest food properly and avoid serious health problems.
If your rabbit does not like hay or is not eating enough hay, don’t give up. Rabbit owners across the planet have had great success using the tips below. We think you will too!
Getting Your Rabbit To Eat More Hay
- Keep your rabbit on a feeding schedule. Long story short, there should be long periods of time between feedings so that your bun is forced to eat hay. Unlimited access to pellets or other foods means that good hay-eating habits will not be established. If you feed your child candy in between healthy meals, he is not likely to eat as much healthy food as he should. The same concept applies to feeding rabbits. If he has constant access to pellets or treats, he won’t eat enough hay and hence, health problems will eventually occur. Think of pellets as “candy” for the rabbit, even though your pellets are as high quality of possible. Establish a strict feeding (meal) schedule.
- For example, a 7-pound rabbit should have no more than about 1/3 cup of high-quality pellets in a 24 hour period in addition to greens. Divide the pellet allotment in half (meaning, 1/6 cup per meal) and feed pellets in the morning with some fresh, organic greens. Provide the other half at night (also with greens so it is the same meal twice per day).
- It is a best practice that hay be the only food source available to your rabbit for the majority of the day/night.
- To learn more about proper food amounts and other best care practices, please get a copy of Bunny Conversations (CLICK HERE).
- Add a sweet smell to hay. Take a raisin or a dried cranberry and break it open. Rub the soft inside on fresh hay strands. Not too much – just enough to draw them to the hay and convince them to eat it. Rabbits have a strong sense of smell, so attracting them to their hay by using sweetness works very well.
- You can also use fruit (such as apple or fresh banana) to rub on hay strands
- If needed, sit down with the rabbit and hand-feed him the hay until he starts eating it on his own.
- Put less and less “sweet taste” on the hay over a the next few days or week. Eventually, your bun will start eating hay without the sweet taste added.
- This trick takes patience and time, but your rabbit’s digestive health is worth it.
- Try Timothy Hay cubes. In a pinch, hay cubes are better than no hay at all. These cubes are pure condensed hay and are about 1-inch in diameter. They are not an adequate replacement for long-strand hay, but they are good when transitioning rabbits from surgery or other situations when they are refusing to eat their regular diet.
- Buy compressed hay bales (without dried carrots or fruits added). The smaller hay bales which are made long-strand hay (and typically 4-6 inches cubed) encourage rabbits to forage, which is a natural activity for them. With all that work, they often eat the hay they separate from the compressed hay bale. Compressed hay bales are just that – hay. Generally, nothing is added, nor removed, in the compression process so they are an excellent alternative to loose hay.
- Add hay to litter boxes. Hay can be stacked up against the side of a normal litter box to ensure the rabbit has access when he goes potty. Make sure you keep the litter box clean and the hay refreshed.
- Put a hay feeder at mouth-level beside the litter box. Attach a hay feeder to the wall next to a rabbit’s litter box. Make sure it is at mouth-height so the rabbit can comfortably eat while going potty. Eating hay while going potty is natural for rabbits.
- Put hay in rabbit-safe toys or cardboard rolls. Be sure that your bun does not eat cardboard or paper products. Rabbits are curious and playful. They will often eat hay out of a tube or a rabbit-safe toy before they start eating it from a hay feeder.
- Hide several food pellets beneath the hay. Take a small handful of hay and sprinkle a few pellets so that the pellets fall through. The rabbit will forage through the hay to get the pellets. Foraging for pellets is fun for rabbits and encourages more hay consumption.
- A best practice (trick) is to grind up a few pellets (5 or 6) and then “dust” the hay with the pellet grindings (“dusting the hay”). This is highly effective because most rabbits love pellets and will be attracted to their scent and taste. Since the pellet grindings/dust will stick onto the hay strands, the rabbit eventually eats it.
For more information about The Importance of Hay, please CLICK HERE.
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