Orchard hay vs timothy hay for rabbits
My bun eats mostly 2nd cut timothy hay (Difference in cuts) with Orchard hay mixed in every now and then. I believe there is an advantage to feeding Timothy hay rather than orchard grass, but it’s not for nutritional reasons. More on that in a bit! Let’s look at the nutritional difference between Orchard hay and Timothy hay. I have also included some other common hays within the chart.
- 1 Nutrition
- 2 Dental Health – The reason Timothy hay is best for rabbits
- 3 Any hay is better than no hay
- 4 Allergies
- 5 Hay Cubes
- 6 Hay storage tips
- 7 How long is hay good for
- 8 Other hay options
- 9 1st, 2nd or 3rd Cut Timothy Hay
- 10 Grass vs hay – Whats the difference?
- 11 About the Author
As you can see in the chart about the nutritional difference is almost the same for Orchard hay vs Timothy hay.
Orchard grass, on average has a little more fiber in it than timothy but I do not believe that it is significant enough to make a difference. Fiber is key to an any rabbits diet and prevents GI Stasis.
Protein is important but you never want an adult rabbit to eat to much protein. This is one of the many reasons that you should never feed an adult rabbit alfalfa hay. Orchard and Timothy hay both have the appropriate amount of protein for adult rabbits.
High amounts of calcium like in Alfalfa hay can cause bladder and kidney problems in adult rabbits. Both Orchard and Timothy have safe levels of calcium with Timothy averaging a bit higher.
Dental Health – The reason Timothy hay is best for rabbits
Dental health is import for all creatures but when rabbits are concerned it is critical. You may know that a rabbit’s teeth never stop growing but that is only part of the story.
Rabbits have four large front teeth called incisors. These teeth are used to snip, cut and pull food into the mouth. After the front teeth have done their job it is up to the 28 molars, also called cheek teeth to grind course, hard food into very fine particles that can easily digested.
It is extremely important that the 28 molars stay perfectly aligned and wear evenly in order to properly grind up their food. If a rabbit’s molars become irregularly worn or overgrown, they will not be able to digest their food properly. If this happens your rabbit can become malnourished over time and possibly die.
Timothy hay is much courser and harder than Orchard hay, therefore better for your rabbit’s dental health. Timothy hay will keep your rabbit’s teeth worn more evenly when compared to Timothy hay. This is the main reason that most veterinarians recommend Timothy hay over Orchard hay.
I believe I have made a strong case for Timothy hay, but you should know that any hay is better than no hay. If your rabbit struggles to eat the proper amount of hay then try some other alternative hays like orchard grass, oat or meadow hay.
Any hay is better than no hay
Some rabbits will not eat timothy hay. There are several reasons for this and may include the following.
- If a rabbit is not introduced to Timothy at a young age, he or she may not develop a taste for it and refuse to eat it as an adult. Therefore, I am a proponent of mixing Timothy into Alfalfa for your rabbits under 5 months old.
- Treats, fruit and leafy greens fed in excess can spoil a rabbit’s appetite and cause them not to eat the proper amount of hay.
- The personality of your rabbit may play a part in how much hay they eat. Sometimes you do everything right and you get no results.
Whatever the case is it is important to keep in mind that “any hay is better than no hay.” It should be noted that I am not referring to Alfalfa when I say this! Orchard hay is a good option if you cannot feed Timothy.
Orchard grass hay is perfectly fine for adult rabbits to eat daily if Timothy doesn’t work out for you. If you are feeding Orchard grass then I recommend that you feed a hard, high quality Timothy based pellet. These are the pellets that I feed Mr. Bunny, our pet rabbit and I am very happy with them. They are very hard which helps with dental health.
Some people are allergic to Timothy hay specifically. I have heard from several pet rabbit owners that have developed this allergy as an adult. If this is your case, then you can try switching over to Orchard grass since it is a less likely to cause allergy issues. Oat and meadow grass hay are another option if Orchard grass doesn’t work out.
Hay cubes are a cute idea and fun for your rabbit, but you should not count them as food. The hay in the cubes is chopped up, processed and then smashed. It is most likely that there is not much nutritional value left in the hay cube by the time your bun eats it. If your rabbit enjoys playing with them and eating them that is fine but do not substitute these for “real” hay.
Hay storage tips
Hay needs a dry environment with plenty of air circulation. I find that a cardboard box with a few holes punched in it works great. Beware of buying hay that has been stored in a plastic bag for a long time.
How long is hay good for
Most people say a year, in reality it probably lasts two years as long as the hay is stored properly.
Other hay options
Timothy and Orchard grass are both excellent hay choices but there are other options also. They include the following.
- Oat Hay
- Meadow Hay
- Alfalfa Hay – *Only for young rabbits under 5 months old and I suggest mixing in a healthy hay with it from day one.
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 between hay cuts?
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.
Grass vs hay – Whats the difference?
What’s the difference between hay and grass? Hay is any grass that has grown up, been cut and the dried. Nothing more to it than that. It can be confusing because the word hay never seems to follow some types of hay like Orchard grass.
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.