How to Eat Hay

Yesterday my first order of Bourne Free hay arrived. Here’s some of pictures of Chance digging in:

two pictures of a black and white rabbit eating hay in a big litter box

I’m so excited about this hay! Not only is it local, but it’s a grass mix — in addition to the usual suspects (timothy and orchard grass), it includes some pretty wild stuff, like fescue, ryegrass, bluegrass, brome, and reed canary. Hooray for diversity! Fun for me and, as you can see, fun for buns.

The problem with Bourne Free is it’s not widely available. Some Bulk Barns sell it, but none near me. (And, sadly, I heard that some Bulk Barns store theirs in the window, which lowers quality and invites mould growth.) I got mine from the Rabbit Rescue store. This batch is a touch on the yellow side, but very low dust and the smell is sweet and fresh. And it’s so soft! My guess is it’s a second cutting. I also have a very woody batch of timothy from Oxbow, and some orchard grass from American Pet Diner (also featured in the picture above — it’s the greener stuff on the left), so I’m providing a wide variety right now.

Chance wasn’t a huge hay eater when he arrived with us, and I used to find a cecotrope or two almost every day (not a great sign of digestive health). So I made a few small changes, and now he eats more hay, drinks more water, and no more cecotropes! Hay is a great way to encourage health and well-being in your bunny, and to avoid many common health problems. If your bunny doesn’t eat much hay, try the following:

  • I offer more than one pile of hay: his condo always has at least two, one on each floor; and, when he’s out, there’s another pile out in the room somewhere. His old cage had only enough room for one pile.
  • I offer more than one variety of hay: after all, who wants to eat the same thing day in, day out? Even the same type of grass can taste different when it comes from different brands/farms, and this can be enough to entice your bunny to graze.
  • I stuff hay inside some cardboard rolls and make a toy out of it. My latest creation is a hanging feeder: I strung a few rolls together using timothy twists (a product I found at the pet store; you could also use willow twigs) and hung them from the condo ceiling. Now Chance can graze and play at the same time!
  • Over a month’s time, I changed Chance’s pellets from a seed-grain-veg mix, to a plain (extruded) variety (Oxbow BBT). I also reduced his portion size by a teaspoon or so (now he eats slightly less than a quarter cup), and I reduced his treat portion (including carrots) to no more than a bite or two per day. Because his belly is less full of carbs (sugars, starches), he’s more hungry for hay!
  • And, of course, put some hay in the litter box (or in a feeder right above). As gross as it sounds, rabbits love to graze and defecate. Luckily, Chance came with hay in his litter box, so he was already benefitting from this tactic!
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