Think of a rabbit food pyramid. What can you see at the base? You would not be the only one who picked bunny pellets. Most of the time, the small animal aisle in pet shops makes you think that rabbit food is a brown pellet mix that often has corn kernels and other unhealthy ingredients added to it.
But pellets aren’t at the bottom of a rabbit’s food structure. For bunnies, hay is the most important thing they should eat. To let rabbits eat whenever they want, you should always give them fresh hay. In a PDF made by the San Diego House Rabbit Society, you can see the real rabbit food chart.
Fiber for Digestion
Rabbits have gut systems that are designed to break down plants that are tough. Hay gives them the fiber they need to keep their gut systems healthy and moving. If a rabbit’s digestive cycle is interrupted, it can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) stasis, a condition in which the rabbit has trouble passing the bulk through its digestive system. Giving them unlimited fresh hay helps keep this serious and possibly deadly condition away.
Roughage for Dental Health
Rabbits need hay to keep their digestive systems healthy, and it also wears down their teeth, which are grown all the time. When rabbits eat hay regularly, they don’t get molar spurs, which are sharp hooks on their teeth. Rabbits stop eating when they have molar spurs because they hurt so much. When this happens, GI stasis may happen.
What Kind of Hay
Alfalfa gives baby rabbits the lots of calories they need to grow and get strong. Once the rabbit is seven months old, switch it to timothy, orchard grass, and/or oat hay slowly. If you have allergies, look for the second cutting of hay. The first cutting of hay is rougher, with a lot of stems, seed heads, and pollen. People with allergies are much less likely to have bad reactions to the second cutting of hay, which is lighter and has more leaves than stems and seed heads.
Where to Buy
Most pet shops have bags of hay for sale. But getting hay directly from a neighborhood farm is by far the cheapest way to do it. To find a hay farmer, look in the farm/garden part of Craigslist or the classified ads in your area. The price of hay by the bale is much less than the price of a bag of hay from a pet shop. If you store one bale somewhere cool and dry, it can feed one rabbit for months.
Don’t give up if there are no farms in your area. There are now a lot of trustworthy online stores that sell hay.