Image of rabbits and a hay bail. The caption reads "The best hay for rabbits."

The best hay for rabbits is Timothy hay containing at least 32% crude fiber and 6% or less protein. Rabbits younger than 5-month-old should have a 50/50 mixture of Alfalfa and Timothy hay. Hay should be fresh and fed in unlimited quantities.

The Best Hay for Rabbits

Hay is an essential, if not the most important part of a rabbit’s diet. As stated above, Timothy hay is the best hay for rabbits but there are other options that are almost as good. Some of those other options include orchard grass, oat, brome, meadow and bluegrass.

Which is best? – 1st, 2nd or 3rd Cut Timothy Hay

Most rabbit owners and veterinarians agree that 2nd cut Timothy hay is the best option for almost all adult rabbits. With that being said there is nothing wrong with feeding your bunny rabbit the 1st or 3rd cut either. So, what’s the difference?

Nutritionally speaking there are minor differences in the amount of fiber and protein each cut contains. Second cut Timothy hay has the perfect ratio of stem, seed head and leaf in comparison to the first and third cutting.

I feed our pet rabbit, Mr. Bunny, Small Pet Select 2nd cutting Timothy hay from Amazon. If you are interested in learning more about “what cut of hay is best for rabbits” check out this article to see the differences.

If you have a pet rabbit that does not like eating hay, then I suggest trying the 3rd cut of timothy. It is a bit richer and can be appealing to picky eaters. Third cut is also much softer than 2nd cut which isn’t the best for dental health but eating some hay is much better than no hay.

Other hay options for your rabbit

If your rabbit is eating very little hay or outright refusing to eat any then here are some other options that may be more appealing. These options may not be the best hay for rabbits to eat but they are way better than eating little to no hay. Another reason you may want to feed your rabbits a different hay other than Timothy is allergies. Many more people are allergic to Timothy hay than other types.

Bottom Line: If Timothy hay is rated at a 10 out of 10 for rabbits, then these other options would be a 9 or 8 out of 10.

Orchard Grass

Orchard grass hay is very popular among us bun lovers and those with allergies. This orchard grass sold by Small Pet Select is semi-soft and does not contain much dust or small particles. I feed our pet rabbit a mixture of this hay and Timothy at about a 25/75 ratio. orchard grass would be my first pick in hay if Timothy was not an option for me or my rabbit.

If you want more information check out my post; Orchard Hay Grass Vs. Timothy Hay.

Oat Hay

Oat Hay is an approved hay for rabbits, but I do not have any personal experience with it. Nutritionally speaking it has an excellent profile with 31% fiber and 10% protein.

Dangers of feeding Alfalfa hay

Alfalfa is an amazing hay packed full of protein that any herbivore would love. Alfalfa hay should only be fed to young rabbits under 5 months old. I also suggest mixing your Alfalfa with Timothy hay to make weaning them off it easier. Slowly increase the amount of Timothy you feed your young rabbit from three months to five months of age.

If you feed an adult rabbit Alfalfa hay, he or she will become obese, may have bladder and kidney issues, have poor behavior and other health problems.

I recommend Oxbow Alfalfa Hay for young rabbits. You may find my article, Alfalfa vs Timothy hay for rabbits helpful if you have a young rabbit, pregnant rabbit, nursing rabbit or old rabbit. You can also buy Alfalfa based rabbit pellets.

Proper hay storage is important

To properly store hay, you do NOT want to use an airtight container. Hay needs to be able to breath, so air circulation is important. Moisture will cause hay to mold and break down quickly.

A large paper bag or cardboard box with a few holes punched makes a great storage container for your hay. Keep your hay stored in a dry area at room temperature.

How long does hay last

The rule of thumb is that “hay will last up to a year or so after it is cut”. This is not very accurate in my opinion. Storage factors play a significant roll in how long hay will last and keep its nutritional value.

Properly stored hay will last up to two years, some say three years. If you notice discoloration, an off smell or mold on your hay throw it away and buy fresh hay.

Verity – Mixing hay

Rabbits are meant to eat a wide verity of seasonal foods, particularly vegetables and small amounts of fruit. I have never read any studies that indicate that a verity of hay improves the health of rabbits, but it can’t hurt.

Our pet bunny does enjoy a mixture of Timothy hay and Orchard grass. The truth is that Orchard grass hay is nearly identical to Timothy hay with some minor differences. Trace minerals are often affected by where the hay is grown and the quality of the soil rather than the type of hay.

If you are looking for more information about Orchard grass hay vs Timothy Hay check out this article.

How much hay to feed your rabbit?

Hay should make up 80% of your rabbits’ diet. It is a critical food for your rabbit’s health, particularly his or her digestive and dental health. You should have fresh hay available to your rabbit daily in unlimited quantities all of the time.

If you are not using a hay feeder inside your rabbits cage it can become contaminated. When you put hay in a rabbit cage, they will often eat some then pee or poop on it. If you are not using a feeder then you should replace the hay in your rabbit’s cage daily.

Check out the best hay feeder for rabbits here, I love it and its cheap.

Should you feed your rabbit Timothy hay-based pellets and Timothy hay?

I do recommend Timothy hay pellets even if you are feeding your rabbit 100% Timothy hay. I only trust one brand of pellets for our rabbit, they are the best pellets by far. You can read more about timothy hay pellets for rabbits here.

What is hay?

Simply put hay is a grass that is cut, dried and then stored. Farmers plant a grass, let it grow and then mow it. The hay will then lay in the farm field until the sun fully dries it out. This is where the saying “make hay while the sun shines.” After the drying process the hay will be raked and then put into round or square bales of hay for storage in a dry location with ample ventilation.

Here is a interesting video about hay production.

How hay is made and produced

in this video you can see exactly how hay is grown and harvested. It’s pretty cool!

About the Author

My name is Vanessa and I love my buns. My current house rabbit is Mr. Bunny, he is a black and white Dutch that just turned 9 years old.

I believe that rabbits are a magnificent animal that make great pets for SOME people. My mission is to share what I have learned about rabbits over the past 20 years to improve the relationship between our pets and us. Please contact me or comment if you have any questions or comments.