How Long Does Hay Last For Rabbits?

how long does hay last for rabbits

Hay is the main source of nutrients for rabbits, guinea pigs and other small pets. Keeping it fresh is crucial, as stale hay can be a health risk for your pet.

Hay is cut, then dried and bailed into bales. There are different types of hay, and each is harvested at different times.

First Cut

As you may know, rabbits need a lot of high-fiber food to keep their digestive systems working properly. The only food that can give them this is timothy hay. It can be purchased by the bale, but you must make sure it is dry and dust-free with long strands and sweet smell, and that it is not old. It can also be purchased in pellet form, and many of the higher quality brands such as Oxbow and Zupreem are made from a blend of timothy and grass. You can also find pellets that are only timothy, but these must be mixed with a large portion of hay to ensure proper nutrition.

Once a timothy plant is harvested, it can be used for either 1st or 2nd cut hay. During the first cut harvest, the hay is softer and has more stems and seed heads that make it easier for small pets like bunnies, guinea pigs and chinchillas to digest. The hay can also be a lighter green color, making it more appealing to picky hay eaters.

A second cutting of timothy hay is a softer hay with fewer stems and seed heads. It is usually a darker green color than first cut hay and has a little more protein and fat but less fiber. Many rabbits will eat it all by itself or mix it with first cut hay for a more nutritious meal.

If the hay has been left to grow a little more, it can be harvested as a 3rd cutting. This is a very soft hay that is primarily leaves with a few stems, and it is often the most desirable of all types of timothy hay. However, it is more difficult to find since not all farmers will harvest a third cut of hay as it can be very hard on the equipment and labor intensive.

If you cannot store a whole bale of hay or do not want to spend the money on a full bale, a lot of local and online pet stores sell hay by the package. Look for a brand such as Oxbow, Sweet Meadow or Kay-Tee that adheres to their own hay standards before packaging it for rabbits. This is the best way to know you are getting a quality product that will satisfy your pet.

Second Cut

Rabbits should have hay available at all times as it makes up 80-90% of their diet. It plays a vital role in keeping their teeth from growing too long, which can lead to blockages, and it helps wear down their ever-growing incisors. Investing in high quality hay is key as rabbits will eat a lot of it. It should be fresh, fragrant and green in color. If you buy hay by the bale, quality will vary depending on weather, field conditions and the farmer’s skill level.

1st cut timothy hay is the first time that the farmers harvest their grass of the year and typically happens in June or early July for most farmers. This hay has more stem than leaf and is a little higher in fiber with lower fat and protein levels. Many healthy adult rabbits find 1st cut timothy to be quite enjoyable.

2nd cut timothy hay is harvested after the initial cutting of the year and typically occurs in August or September. This hay has more leaf and a slight bit less stem than 1st cut timothy. It has a good balance of high fiber for digestion and a moderate level of protein, fat, and calcium. This hay seems to be a good choice for most healthy adult rabbits.

3rd cut timothy is the final harvest of the season and it typically happens sometime in October or November for most farmers. This hay has more brown or golden leaf with a few stems left in it. It has a very rich, nutty taste that some rabbits and guinea pigs really enjoy. This type of hay is extremely rare and only a few farmers ever grow it.

A mixture of different types of hay is the best way to give your rabbit a variety that will help keep their diets interesting and appealing. Always store your hay properly (out of direct sunlight and in a cool place) so that it lasts longer. Hay can last a very long time, even up to a few years in some cases, but it is important that you have it on hand and your rabbits are eating it regularly.

Third Cut

Rabbits love to eat hay and it’s an important part of their diet, as it provides high fiber and other essential nutrients. However, rabbits can become picky eaters and may avoid hay that’s dirty or wet. It’s important to replace the hay frequently and clean the hay rack so that it’s always fresh and appealing for the rabbits to eat.

When buying hay, look for a bale that’s green and looks healthy. It should be dust-free and sweet smelling. Hay can become moldy or musty if it’s stored improperly. It’s also important to check the hay regularly for pests and debris. It’s also helpful to buy hay locally by the bale if possible, as this can ensure that it’s properly harvested, stored, and dried before being baled for sale.

First cut timothy hay is high in fiber and low in protein and fat, making it a good choice for adult rabbits. It’s usually more stemmy than 2nd cut hay, and is a darker green color. It’s ideal for overweight rabbits or those who need to gain weight. Second cut timothy hay is a little higher in protein and fat than 1st cut, while also being a bit less leafy. This hay is good for picky hay eaters and can be mixed with 1st cut hay to help encourage weight gain.

Third cut timothy hay is lower in fiber than the previous two cuts and is often a lighter green color. It’s very soft in texture and smells very sweet. It can be used as a treat for your rabbit or mixed with 1st and 2nd cut hay to help encourage weight gain. However, this type of hay isn’t very course and can wear down your rabbits teeth, so it should be fed sparingly.

If you’re using a hay feeder, it’s best to use the timothy hay or orchard grass hay. This hay is a good fit for most rabbits and doesn’t contain the excessive calcium that alfalfa hay can have.

Fourth Cut

Rabbits are obligate herbivores. Their sensitive digestive systems only allow a tiny amount of hay to pass through their system before it becomes impacted and causes gastrointestinal stasis. This is one of the leading causes of rabbit death. It is crucial to monitor a rabbit’s weight and health and provide them with fresh timothy-based hay and pellets. It is also important to offer a variety of different cuttings of hay so that the rabbit does not get bored with eating the same thing over and over again.

When selecting hay to purchase for your rabbits, check the quality by the bale before purchasing. Hay quality will vary throughout the year and from vendor to vendor, but it should be dry, fresh smelling, and free of mold. If it is not, then do not buy it for your rabbits.

1st cut hay tends to be coarser and a bit more course in the stems. It is higher in fiber, but lower in fat and protein. It can be a good option for overweight or elderly rabbits. It is also a great choice for rabbits with loose droppings.

2nd cut hay tends to be softer with less long stems and more leafy areas. It is lighter in color and a little sweeter tasting. It is a great option for healthy adult rabbits. It has a good balance of dietary fiber, protein, calcium and fat. It is also very palatable to most adult rabbits.

3rd cut hay is a little darker and a bit more bitter tasting. It is a good option for senior or overweight rabbits that have difficulty chewing. It is also a good option for rabbits that are having difficulty with their teeth. 3rd cut hay is very nutritious, but it is also a little more difficult for rabbits to digest.

If you are having trouble getting your rabbit to eat his hay, try lightly misting it with a spray bottle or a bowl of diluted fruit juice. This will increase the aroma and flavor and encourage him to eat it. If your rabbit is not eating his hay, he may be suffering from dental or digestive problems and should see a veterinarian immediately.

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