The most essential part of your rabbit’s diet is hay; they should have unlimited access to hay at all times. With hay being such a large portion of your rabbit’s diet, you want to make sure that you’re providing them with the right kind of high-quality hay. So, is oat hay good for rabbits?
Yes, oat hay is a type of grass hay that your rabbits can safely enjoy. Oat hay can provide your rabbit with an excellent source of fibre, vitamins and minerals and help prevent digestive issues such as stasis.
Is Oat Hay Good for Baby Rabbits?
While baby rabbits can eat oat hay, it is not the best hay for them in terms of nutrition. Baby rabbits require more nutritionally dense hay, particularly one higher in protein and calcium, which makes alfalfa hay the best choice for baby rabbits.
While alfalfa hay and alfalfa-based pellets are important for the health of your baby rabbits, that shouldn’t be the only hay that you provide them. Mixing in about 40% grass hay such as oat hay, timothy hay or orchard grass hay into their alfalfa hay adds variety and eases the transition to grass hays as they age.
So, when it comes to baby rabbits while oat hay is safe and good for them, it should be no more than 40% of the hay that they consume. The majority of their hay until around 5 months of age should be alfalfa hay which contains a higher level of protein.
What Kind of Hay is Best for Rabbits?
Grass hays are the best type of hay for rabbits. While grass hays vary slightly in nutritional content, the variations are subtle and do not make much of a difference for most rabbits. Grass hays include timothy, orchard and oat hays.
Timothy hay is probably the most popular, widely available and recommended hay for rabbits and many small animals. It is high in fibre and low in protein and has the right ratio of carbohydrates, calcium and other vitamins and minerals to keep your rabbit happy and healthy.
Additionally, the texture of timothy hay is perfect for keeping your rabbit’s teeth in good health. Most rabbits love timothy hay and are happy to eat it freely (especially the seed heads!).
Due to it being widely available, it’s often recommended that you feed your adult rabbit’s timothy hay in a higher proportion to other grass hays (unless they refuse to eat it) and use other types of hay to add variety as mix-ins.
Orchard grass hay has a sweeter taste and aroma than timothy hay and is slightly softer in texture but is similar in appearance. Orchard grass hay can often be used as a mix-in or main hay source in fussy eaters as many rabbits enjoy the sweeter taste of the hay.
Nutritionally, orchard grass hay is very similar to timothy hay with high fibre and low protein making it good hay for adult guinea pigs. However, orchard grass hay tends to be not as widely available as timothy hay.
Oat hay contains larger stalks than orchard grass and timothy hay which both have a much grassier texture. It often contains oats, which are many rabbits’ favourite part of the hay, instead of the “seed heads” you will see with timothy hay.
Since oat hay has larger stalks, it’s a crunchier texture than the other hay options we’ve mentioned. This crunchy texture can be hit or miss with rabbits and you may find that they choose to eat only the oats off the ends and ignore the stalks.
Oat hay is great hay for mixing into your rabbit’s regular hay and can help support the digestive tract as it is high in fibre and can help prevent GI issues such as stasis.
Ultimately, it comes down to your particular rabbit. The best type of hay for your rabbit is whichever hay that they enjoy most. If they are an adult, any grass hay will do but your baby rabbits require about 60% of their hay to be alfalfa. You can also experiment with mixing different types of hay to add a bit of variety to their diet!
What Hay is Bad for Rabbits?
If you have an adult rabbit – over the age of 5 months – the only hay that should be limited, if not eliminated from their diet is alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is legume hay that contains a high percentage of protein and calcium.
This high protein and calcium are great for the health of baby rabbits, but after 5 months of age can become detrimental. If your rabbit has too much calcium in their diet can result in bladder issues such as crystals, sludge and stones. These are often medical emergencies that need to be treated with medication and/or surgery.
Timothy and other grass hay are the best choices for adult rabbits as the protein and calcium content is much lower and the hay has a much more balanced nutritional profile that allows free-range eating.
Should I Feed My Rabbit Only One Hay?
It’s perfectly okay to feed your rabbit only one type of hay. Timothy hay, in particular, is a great overall hay that will provide your rabbit with the nutrition it needs and is widely available. So if you don’t have access to other types of hay or your rabbit is picky, one type of hay is just fine.
However, there are benefits to feeding your rabbit a mixture of hays:
- More targeted or more balanced nutrition depending on your rabbit’s needs. For example, adding oat hay for more fibre if they experience GI issues.
- A variety of hay can encourage any fussy eaters to eat more hay. Some rabbits are picky, and mixing hays can entice them to eat more.
- In the case of baby rabbits, mixing alfalfa and grass hay can help with transitioning to just grass hay after 5 months of age.
Overall, oat hay is good for rabbits. However, due to the crunchy texture and larger stalks, many rabbits prefer to just eat the oats out of the hay. In these cases, it’s best to use oat hay as a mix-in with another grass hay such as timothy hay to ensure they are eating enough hay to maintain their overall health and digestion.