What If My Rabbit Doesn’t Eat Hay?

If your rabbit doesn’t eat hay, you have to do something about it. Giving up is not an option. You can check if your rabbit has some health issues, try some other brand/type of hay, think about how much pellets and other food you are giving to your rabbit, maybe he is full and that is why he cannot eat hay. There are several questions you might ask your self when it comes to bunnies and hay.

  • What can be the reason why your rabbit is refusing to eat hay?
  • Can I offer him/her different type of hay?
  • How to choose the right hay?
  • What to do if your bunny suddenly stops eating hay?
  • What if your new rabbit is simply not used to consume hay, how to change that?

If you have a problem with your bunny that is not willing to eat hay or you just want to know more about this issue just in case you experience something like that in the future, read our article.

Why is Hay Important in Rabbits Nutrition?

Hay is an essential part of a healthy rabbit’s diet. High quality and balanced rabbit’s diet should include hay in a very high percentage -80-90%.

According to RSPCA, you should provide one bundle of quality hay every day to your rabbit. That bundle should be equal to the size of your rabbit.

But what if your rabbit doesn’t want to eat hay? Although rabbits can survive without eating hay, lack of it in their diet can cause a lot of damage to their health.

Hay is a highly important nutritional element, rich in fibers, irreplaceable for the rabbit’s gut well functioning. If your bunny consumes hay on a regular basis, that will maintain his digestive tract healthy. This way your bunny will avoid catching a whole range of health issues caused by the malfunctioning digestive system.

Hay is also important for rabbits to keep their teeth short and healthy. The rough surface of the grass or hay is acting like sandpaper. When the rabbit is eating hay regularly, that helps his teeth to wear.

The great thing about hay is that your bunny can eat an unlimited amount of it, you cannot overfeed him with hay.

Why Some Rabbits Don’t Want To Eat Hay?

Sometimes rabbits can be picky eaters just like kids. If you feed your rabbit with tasty fruits and pellets more then you should, that don’t expect them to eat hay. At least not in the quantities they need.

Remember that most of the pellets for rabbits are high in carbohydrates and if you let your bunny to choose between carbs and fibers, he will most probably opt for carbs. Some average amount of pellets is 1/8 cup per 2 pounds of rabbit’s body weight. But It is always better to consult a vet first as not all pellets have the same nutritional values. Some pellets you can give in larger quantities, some others in smaller.

However, if you give more pellets then your rabbit needs, he will be full and will not be willing to eat hay.

If your rabbit has too often and larger amounts of tasty strawberries for example on his menu, do you really think that he will eat hay? He won’t. The same with kids. If you give them to choose between broccoli and chocolate, what do you think they will take?

So it is important to establish good eating habits. Rabbits shouldn’t have pellets and treats always at their disposal. The only thing that should consume unlimited is hay, everything else should be strictly controlled when it comes to food amounts and eating frequency.

If you have just adopted a rabbit that hasn’t used to eating hay, you might face the situation that he refuses this important food. This rabbit was most probably predominantly fed with pellets and doesn’t consider hay as his cup of tea!

Same as with kids, it is important to start with building good habits right from the beginning or at least asap. Never give up. If your rabbit doesn’t want to eat hay, try out some of the” recipes” down bellow.

If your rabbit suddenly stopped eating hay, do consult a vet as maybe your furry friend is sick or has some issue with its teeth. Check if he lost his appetite completely and refuses other food as well if he is lethargic and doesn’t do usual things.

How To Get Your Rabbit to Eat Hay?

Your rabbit might refuse hay from different reason – illness ( especially GI Stasis condition or problems with teeth ), doesn’t have a habit, he is full due to eating other food( pellets, fruits and veggies), picky eater that doesn’t like the type of hay you are giving it…

Here are the tips on how to make your rabbit eat (more) hay:

  1. Make sure you give fresh hay every day. As we have already mentioned some rabbits could be picky eaters and won’t eat hay that sits there for a day or two. It is a good idea to take out all the hay from a hay rack and put in the hay bin ( or wherever you keep hay), mix it up and then return it to the hay rack. This way hay will smell fresher and will be more attractive for your bunny.
  1. Don’t give up if your bunny doesn’t want to eat hay. Try another type or make your own mix. There are different types of hay as well as brands. Find a good brand ( my personal choice is Oxbow Western but you will easily find the best rates brands online) and try. If it’s not working, try another one. Eventually, you will find the hay your bunny likes.
  1. You can add some nice-smell treat such as herbs or dried fruit to the hay. It will give hay better smell that could attract your bunny. Also, your rabbit will start eating hay while looking for a treat. Don’t do this on a regular basis but at first, while you are trying to ”convince” your bunny to eat hay, you can do it.
  1. It is important to keep the hay near or above the litter box. The reason is simple – rabbits are going to the bathroom while eating hay so it is always better hay to be placed near the litter box to keep the rabbit’s habitat clean and tidy. Some owners prefer to keep the hay in the litter box but that way some part of hay is wasted as your bunny will pee and poop over it. Better is to place it in the hay rack above the litter box. You can also be creative and place hay inside of toys ( paper towel rolls or paper bags) and make eating hay more interesting.
  1. Try with Timothy hay cubes. Not precisely perfect replacement for regular hay but will do the work for some short period of time while your rabbit is getting used to eating hay. These are small cubes( approximately 1 inch in diameter )and contain nothing but the concentrated, drained hay.

Can My Rabbit Eat a Grass From a Yard?

The most natural and best food for your bunny is fresh grass.

If you have a backyard where you can place X-pen and let your bunny to graze a grass freely, that’s great. But it is not always practical.

Also, pay attention that grass shouldn’t be treated with weed killers, pesticides or any other chemicals. Think about other pets or animals. Do they use your backyard? If do, maybe that grass is not the best food for your bunny, as your dog might urinate there.

Pay special attention if you have a baby bunny. Although there is a confusion about the right time when the baby bunny can start eating grass, it is usually when it is 5-6 months old sometimes even later.

Of course, it is advisable to consult a vet first. However, baby rabbits don’t have specific bacteria to digest grass which is very rich in fibers. That is why it is said that bunnies should be mature before start eating fresh grass.

You can also cut the grass and serve it to your bunny in his habitat. Just remember that you should use scissors for that and not a grass cutter machine. The way the machine cut the grass results in crunching it which further leads to grass fermenting that could upset your rabbit’s stomach.

If you have just started with feeding your rabbit with grass, do it gradually. You can let him graze grass for a limited time and then gradually increase it.

If you have your own grass, you can make your own hay ( dried grass). If you are interested in this topic, do read our article ” How To Make Your Own Hay For Rabbits”.

How To Pick The Right Hay For Your Bunny?

As rabbits need a lot of hay every day, it is not so practical to feed them with fresh grass only. Then the hay is a perfect choice. Hay is already cut and dried grass with some nutritional values as fresh grass. Another advantage of hay is that can be easily stored and it is widely available.

Before you go shopping, let’s discuss different types of hay as well as hay cuttings.

The most famous types of Grass hay are Timothy, Orchard and Meadow hay. If you pick any of these your rabbit will get the perfect base for his diet. You don’t have to limit on one type only, you can mix them.

Hay comes in 3 cuttings :

1st Cuttinghigh in fibers but low in protein and fat. Perfect choice for rabbits that have weight issues or some stomach problems. This hay is rich in the stem but poor in leaf.

2nd Cutting is standard, high quality, everyday food for rabbits. This hay has balanced levels of fibers, protein and fat as well as stem and soft leaves. Usually, rabbits love it.

3rd Cutting – just opposite of 1st Cutting, rich in protein and fat, low in fibers, contain a lot of soft leaves. Perfect choice for skinny rabbits that should gain some weight.

If you are allergic to pollen, avoid first and go for the second cutting. First cutting contains a lot of stems and seed heads that contain pollen. Second cutting is a better option as contains more leaves and fewer stems and seeds.

Another type of hay ( Cereals) you can feed your rabbit is Oat, Barley or Wheat. If harvested before the seed heads are ripened, you can give it to your bunny as any other type of grass hay. But when the grain is ripened and the plant is no longer green but golden brown, that means that stem lost its nutritional value and cannot be used as a rabbit’s food any longer. These straws that are left, you can use as bedding.

Not to forget to mention Alfalfa hay. Great food for baby bunnies. It is a legume and not grass. Very rich in proteins and high caloric content necessary for young rabbits to develop properly. After baby rabbit turns 7 months it should gradually pass to Timothy or some other hay.

Alfalfa is not a good feeding option for adult rabbits because they can easily become obese. The exception is nursing mum rabbits, they should consume it.

Where To By A Hay For My Rabbit?

You can buy hay in a local pet store but a more economical way to get hay is to contact local farms. There you can buy hay in bulk ( by the bale )

One bale of hay ( if you stored it properly-cool and dry location) can feed one rabbit for one month.

If you don’t have local farms in the vicinity, try online. You will find many reputable retailers of hay who can deliver it to your home address. Also buying on Amazon could be an option.

If you run into a horse quality grass hay, you can freely give to your rabbit. But the hay that is given to cows is not good for your bunny. Apparently the hay that cows are fed with can contain mold and mildew which is not safe for your rabbit.

Final Thought

I hope this article will help you to get some idea on how to convince your bunny to eat hay. I am sure you will find the way.

The truth is rabbits can survive without eating hay, but it is not good for them for obvious reasons. Some people think that pellets with rich fiber content and hard surface that these are just enough to fulfill the rabbit’s needs for fibers and to maintain his teeth healthy.

But no matter how much fiber do pellets have, if your bunny eats too much of it, he will become obese and that cannot happen with eating simple hay. No matter how hard the pellets cubs are they will not wear down the rabbit’s teeth as hay would do.

So to summarize, regardless of your bunny that acts like a picky eater and doesn’t eat hay, you don’t give up, try everything to ”persuade” him to eat hay, it’s for his own good. Good luck!

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