Which Type of Hay is Best for Rabbits? 

the best hay for rabbits

When it comes to taking care of a pet rabbit, it’s important to provide them with a healthy and balanced diet. One essential component of a rabbit’s diet is hay, providing them with the necessary fiber to keep their digestive system healthy and functioning correctly. Not all hay is created equal, though, and some types may be more suitable for your rabbit than others. 

The best type of hay to give a pet rabbit is timothy hay. This type has a high fiber content and is also great for rabbit teeth. It’s also pretty widely available in pet stores both in-person and online, making it a good first choice for most rabbits. Generally, first or second cutting timothy hay is best, but third cutting is also perfectly fine and easier to get a picky rabbit to eat.

However, timothy hay is not the only hay you can give your rabbit. With so many different types of hay available, you can experiment and find the types that your rabbit likes best. For example, orchard hay tends to be slightly sweeter (to a rabbit’s palette), and many picky rabbits will be happy to eat it, even if they ignore timothy hay.

In the end, whichever type you can get your rabbit to eat is the best kind. You may have to switch it up every now and then, since some rabbits decide they are bored of the same type every day.

Important: This post contains affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and Chewy.com, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

Timothy hay is best for most rabbits

Timothy hay is generally considered the best for rabbits, and is the optimal choice for their dietary needs. Timothy hay provides high levels of fiber, which is essential for maintaining a rabbit’s digestive health and preventing conditions such as GI Stasis. It’s also suitable for rabbits of all ages, whether they be young or old.

The benefits of Timothy hay are well-documented, as it mimics the natural diet of a rabbit in the wild who will mostly eat grass and high-fiber plants. Since it’s usually not practical to give pet rabbits grass year round, grass-based hay (such as timothy hay) is an excellent alternative.  

Timothy hay, in particular, is also well known for its ability to wear down rabbit’s teeth, preventing them from overgrowing. Other types of hay will do this too, but timothy hay is generally considered the most effective.

It’s also virtually impossible for rabbits to overeat timothy hay. You can offer your rabbit as much hay as they need and it will pass through their digestion, keeping it healthy while not causing your rabbit to become overweight.

Timothy also comes in different cuttings according to when in the growing process it is harvested. Most timothy hay in pet stores will not be labeled and will be some combination of first and second cutting, but specialty hay stores will usually have them for purchase in separate batches.

  • First cutting is richer in fiber and lower in protein. It tends to have more stems and stalks.
  • Second cutting is the most popular, offering an ideal balance of fiber and protein.
  • Third cutting is leafier and softer, with higher protein and slightly lower fiber content, suitable for picky eaters.
rabbit hay toy
You can get fun toys for your rabbit where you can hide treats in a pile of hay. This will encourage your rabbit to munch on hay until they can get to the yummy treat.

Other hay alternatives for picky rabbits

Okay, you want to give your rabbit timothy hay, but they are not having it. Your rabbit is a picky bunny! 

When catering to the preferences of fastidious rabbits, you can offer a variety of different types of hay to ensure they are able maintain a balanced diet. Here are some alternatives to the traditional timothy hay:

  • Orchard Hay: Rabbits usually love this one due to its soft texture and sweet flavor. It provides similar nutritional value to timothy hay and is low in protein and calcium. This is the first one I would try if your rabbit won’t touch timothy hay.
  • Oat Hay: With a higher fiber content and seed heads that provide an additional texture, oat hay can entice rabbits that might turn up their noses at finer hays. This variety is especially beneficial during the growth and weight maintenance stages for younger, older, and more active rabbits.
  • Meadow Hay: Meadow hay can vary greatly in composition, containing a mix of grasses and plants, offering your rabbit a diverse range of flavors and textures. This can stimulate a rabbit’s interest in hay, encouraging regular consumption, but try to find a blend that doesn’t have too many flowers compared to hay, as this can end up leading to weight gain.

It’s becoming more common to find different types of hay in pet stores, but sometimes you’ll need to purchase it from specialty online hay shops. My go-to store is Small Pet Select since they always have high quality hay and you can get big boxes at a discount. (use code BUNNYLADY for 15% off your first order)

With picky rabbits, you can also experiment with different cutting of hay and different brands of hay. For example, third cutting timothy hay will often be more palatable to rabbits. Some brands also provide hay that is fresher overall, or simply has a different flavor that your rabbit finds more appealing.

These alternatives can be helpful in preventing the development of choosy eating habits and ensuring that your rabbit continues to receive the necessary fiber and nutrients for their digestion and overall health.

What types of hay to avoid for rabbits

When selecting hay for your rabbits, it’s crucial to ensure that it is not only nutritious but also safe. Some varieties or conditions of hay can pose health risks to your rabbits:

  • Alfalfa Hay: While not necessarily harmful, alfalfa hay is too high in calcium and protein for adult rabbits and should only be given to young, growing rabbits, or nursing does.
  • Straw: Though it may resemble hay, straw is not a suitable food source for rabbits. Its nutritional value is minimal.
  • Moldy Hay: Always avoid hay that shows any signs of mold or mildew, as it can lead to respiratory and digestive issues in rabbits.
  • Hay with Pesticides: Hay that has been treated with pesticides can be toxic. Always opt for pesticide-free or pet-safe hay. This is generally only an issue if you are purchasing hay from non-traditional sources (for example directly from a farmer who does not normally sell hay as rabbit feed)
  • Flavored or Colored Hay: Some pet stores sell hay that has been artificially flavored or colored. This type of hay is unnecessary and the additives may be unhealthy for rabbits.

Remember to provide your rabbits with fresh, clean hay, and store it in a dry place to maintain its quality. Introduce any new type of hay slowly and observe your rabbit for any adverse reactions before making the new type of hay a staple in their diet.

What brands of hay are best for rabbits

There are many many brands of hay for rabbits, some from pet stores, some sold online. I cannot begin to say that I’ve tried them all. However, the two brands that I’ve come to trust the quality of most are Small Pet Select (an online only store) and Oxbow (frequently found in pet stores). 

  • Small Pet Select offers a variety of hay types carefully chosen for your rabbit’s health (and other small pets too). Their selection often includes Timothy, Orchard, Oat, and other grass hays that are essential for your rabbit’s diet. You can also order large boxes of the hay so you’re not constantly at the pet store buying more bags of hay.
    • (I’ve partnered with Small Pet Select to give you 15% off your first order so you can try it and judge the quality for yourself. Just use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout)
  • Oxbow, another trusted brand among rabbit owners, provides an array of hay options such as Western Timothy, Orchard Grass, and Oat Hay, ensuring that your rabbits have the fiber they need for proper digestion. In my opinion, the is the highest quality brand you will find in pet stores.
BrandHay Types AvailableNotes
Small Pet SelectTimothy, Orchard, Oat, hay-based toysFocuses on high-quality hay, is available for shipping in large quantities
OxbowWestern Timothy, Oat, Orchard, meadow hay, and hay blendsWide selection catering to different dietary needs, available in most pet stores

Additionally, it’s worth exploring relationships with local farmers who may offer fresh, high-quality hay. Local sources could potentially provide you with a range of hay that is fresher and more natural, as it’s often harvested at peak season and has minimal processing time. However, it’s crucial to ensure the hay is free from pesticides and other harmful chemicals before feeding it to your rabbits.

The best hay for your rabbits will be one that is green, odor-free, and not overly dusty. Providing a mix of different types of hay can also help stimulate your rabbit’s interest and ensure a well-rounded intake of nutrients.


  1. J. L. Prebble, A. L. Meredith. “Food and water intake and selective feeding in rabbits on four feeding regimes.” Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition Vol. 98 Iss. 5. 9 January 2014. Accessed: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jpn.12163
  2. Marcus Clauss PD Dr. med. vet., MSc, Dip. ECVN. “Clinical Technique: Feeding Hay to Rabbits and Rodents.” Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. 14 February 2012. Accessed: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1557506311002229

Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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