Image of rabbits and cut hay bails. The caption reads "What cut of hay is best for rabbits?"

The 2nd cut of hay is typically best choice for adult rabbits because it has an excellent balance of fiber, protein, fat and calcium. 1st cut hay is typically lean and low in calories while the 3rd cut is higher in calories and fat. All three cuts can be safely fed to most rabbits.

What cut of hay is best for rabbits?

As stated above the 2nd cut of hay is usually thought of as the best cut of hay for adult rabbits. There are exceptions to this rule particularly for baby rabbits and older rabbits but more on that later. As you may know hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet and should make up 80% of their total diet.

Hay vs Grass: What’s the difference

You may have noticed that Timothy hay is always called hay while Orchard grass is almost always called grass. The truth of the matter is all hay was a grass and any grass can become hay.

Hay is grass that is allowed to grow to maturity and is the cut and left to lay in a field until it is dry. After the grass is dry it is called hay. The hay is then gathered from the fields and put into bales, round or square. After it is bailed it is stored in a dry area with plenty of air circulation.

Some hays are cut numerous times a year like timothy hay, therefore we have 1st, 2nd and 3rd cut hay. So, what’s the difference?

1st cut hay

If you couldn’t guess this is the first cut of hay for the year. The first cut has somewhat flexible stems and large bloomed heads. All hay has fiber, fat and protein. The first cut has less fat than all other cuts and is considered to be a lean hay that is excellent for rabbits that are overweight. If you have an adult rabbit that is in good health and within the weight standards, then this would not be the best choice in hay for your bunny.

2nd cut hay

2nd cut hay is commonly fed to rabbits and is considered to be the standard for all adult rabbits. A perfect balance of fiber, protein and fat allows rabbits to get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. You may notice that 2nd cut is leafier looking than 1st cut.

3rd cut hay

This cut of hay has more calories in it than 1st and 2nd cut hay, but it is not enough that it needs to be off limits to your rabbit. If your pet rabbit rejects eating hay altogether or does not eat enough you should try feeding 3rd cut hay or try mixing both hays.

3rd cut hay is very soft in texture and smells amazing. Rabbits love 3rd cut hay, but it does have a disadvantage when it comes to dental health.

Rabbits teeth never stop growing and are made to grind up coarse foods. The tougher and more course their food is the better it is for their dental hygiene. Since 3rd cut hay is so soft it is not the best option but like I always say some hay is way better than no hay. If your bunny is a picky eater, then 3rd cut may be the best bet for you.

Best Hay for baby rabbits

Rabbits younger than 5 months old should be fed Alfalfa hay in unlimited quantities because they need the extra calcium, protein and calories for their rapidly growing bodies. I like to start mixing in 2nd cut Timothy hay at about 2 months old, so they do not get hooked to the Alfalfa. I slowly add a little more every week or so until they are on 100% 2nd cut Timothy hay at about 5 months old.

How long does hay last?

Hay will last at least a year or two if stored properly no matter what cut it is. Yes, it does loose some nutritional value over time but not fiber which is the most important part of the hay.

How to store hay for freshness

The best way to store hay for freshness is in a cardboard box with a few holes punched in it. It is important to store hay in a dry area, out of direct sunlight with plenty of air circulation. I stay away from any hay that has been stored in a plastic bag for an extended period. This is one of the reasons that I believe this is the best hay for rabbits.

Best type of hay for rabbits

The old standard is 2nd cut timothy which is most likely the best hay for your rabbit but there are other options. I outlined a lot of these in my “Best Hay for Rabbits” article. Some of the acceptable options include the following.

Hay allergies – Try this

If you or someone in your house is allergic to hay, I suggest trying 2nd cut timothy since it has less pollen in it. If you are still having problems switch over to 100% orchard grass hay. I have a lot of friends that are allergic to timothy but not to Orchard grass.

Hey management and Hygiene

It is best to use a hay feeder in your rabbit’s cage/feeding area for several reasons. Most rabbits enjoy pulling out the hay and it also keeps it clean. Your rabbit should not be eating hay that has been urinated on.

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.