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The absolute best food for the majority of rabbits is Timothy hay. And this becomes obvious once you learn a little about a rabbit’s system. It’s almost as if this hay was made specifically for rabbits and their delicate digestive system. Not all Timothy Hay is the same though, so we’re diving into the hay pile to learn all about Timothy hay for rabbits.
Growing Timothy Hay
Timothy hay is a perennial grass which means it comes back every year. It grows best in a specific climate found in high altitudes. This is where you will find harsh winters and summers. This hay likes hot and cold drama.
Not only do you need the right location but you also need ideal weather conditions. Farmers have no control over this factor. This means the perfect Timothy Hay won’t be found in the same fields every year.
Timothy hay needs a long spring with lots of rainy days mixed in with days of full sun. And then if the summer gets too hot, the hay may go dormant. So the perfect spring goes to waste. Growing perfect Timothy hay for rabbits is not for the faint of heart!
Harvesting Timothy Hay
Once you get that perfect Timothy growing in the fields, farmers can actually cut the hay up to 3 times throughout the growing season. Each cutting yields different results. This is where you get options.
1st Cutting Timothy Hay
Take a piece of Timothy hay, you’ll see there’s a stem, leaf, and flower. The stem of the grass has the most fiber in it. Then the leaves have more fat and protein. First cutting Timothy hay has the most stems. Therefore this is the cutting that you’ll get the most fiber out of.
With more stems comes more chewing. So this cutting isn’t for your lazy rabbit or the rabbit who lacks the plentiful energy of their youth. It’s also not great for rabbits who need to gain weight. A later cutting will include more fat for senior rabbits who can’t spend all day chewing.
However, 1st cutting Timothy hay does include the most flowers which many rabbits get excited about. And all that chewing is great for a rabbit’s teeth if they are up for the job!
2nd Cutting Timothy Hay
2nd cutting Timothy hay is the middle man. It’s the best of both worlds. You get more leaves in this cutting but still a great number of stems. So the fiber and fat content is ideal for the majority of rabbits.
And the stems are softer so your rabbit won’t tire out before filling up on enough Timothy hay! Because in most rabbit situations, the more hay, the better.
3rd Cutting Timothy Hay
3rd cutting Timothy hay is the softest and leafiest cut. It contains the most fat and the least amount of fiber. So if your rabbit wants to shed a few pounds this cut isn’t for them.
3rd cutting Timothy Hay is perfect for senior rabbits and rabbits who need to gain weight. If you have a very picky rabbit, 3rd cutting might be a good option. Some rabbits prefer soft hay and they turn their nose up at the coarser textures of the earlier cuttings.
Why You Need Timothy Hay For Rabbits
Timothy hay is high in fiber and low in protein and calcium. Too much calcium gives a rabbit problems with their kidneys and bladder. And fiber is what keeps their whole system running. The nutrient content of Timothy hay is ideal for rabbits.
It’s very important for rabbits to be eating right. Especially because they can’t throw up. Everything they eat has to make it all the way through their system. Fiber is what keeps the assembly line moving.
Wild rabbits spend all day munching and foraging. Timothy hay should be a “free choice food” which means it should be available all day every day. Don’t just think of it as a meal, but as a healthy hobby. Or career.
Timothy Hay For Your Rabbit’s Teeth
A rabbit’s teeth are always growing. Sounds scary at first but with enough Timothy hay they’re able to wear their teeth down. This is very important to keep their mouths healthy.
Overgrown teeth not only cause pain but lead to your rabbit eating even less… which means less chewing… which means more overgrown teeth. Some rabbits’ teeth will get so bad they have a hard time closing their mouth. It’s a downward spiral that no bun wants to get into. Oral health has a direct effect on a rabbit’s digestive health.
So consider chewing up Timothy hay the first part of a rabbit’s digestive system. This hay-chewing career is life-saving.
If a rabbit can’t chew enough to keep their teeth down, then a veterinarian can file their teeth so they don’t have painful problems in their mouth.
How Much Timothy Hay Should A Rabbit Eat A Day?
As mentioned earlier, a rabbit should have an all-access pass to Timothy hay. You never want to limit the amount of hay they can eat. But for planning purposes, a healthy rabbit will need a bundle of hay about the size that they are every day.
Can You Get Organic Timothy Hay For Rabbits?
Organic Timothy hay is grown without pesticides or synthetic chemicals. Farmers use pesticides and chemicals to maximize the yield of their crops. They are used to get rid of pests and weeds. Farmers also use different types of fertilizers. It’s all for good reason, but some rabbits are shopping for only the cleanest Timothy hay.
Organic Timothy hay is only fertilized with real manure without any artificial nutrients. Finding top-quality Timothy hay for rabbits that has also been grown organic is challenging.
Now go make sure your rabbit’s hay pile is sufficiently stocked with Timothy hay. And let the munching begin.