Hay is for horses...and rabbits, too
One of the surprises of my rabbit keeping career was discovering how much rabbits like, and benefit from, eating hay. The fiber that hay provides all but eliminates the deadly condition known as woolblock...IF the rabbits like the hay they are given and eat it daily. Hay keeps everything moving right along, and good gut motility is vital to good health in rabbits.
When buying, or growing, hay, keep in mind that rabbits thrive on timothy and other grass hays. Legume hays, such as alfalfa and clover, are thoroughly enjoyed, but can add too much protein to their diet if your rabbits are already eating 18% protein wool feeds. A high protein feed is best adhered to for fiber production, so the compromise is to find grass hay that will be just roughage for the rabbit.
If you are lucky enough to be around hay fields, you can keep an eye on them while they are growing and hand pick the mix when the farmer goes out to bale.
Hay fields are seeded and then will grow consecutively for 5-7 years here in eastern NY state, producing great hay crops at the beginning, and more weeds/less hay at the end. This is all well and fine, and rabbits will eat some weeds mixed in as the field matures. (They LOVE Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot)and Orchard Grass!). If the fields/hay you are looking at has a great proportion of weeds, then you have to educate yourself to look for POISONOUS PLANTS.
Rabbits are generally smart and will avoid parts of the hay that do not taste good, but you never know. So look through your hay and learn to identify what you have.
Just yesterday, I was out walking my dog and we passed a hay field we travel by every day. Something is flowering this week that looked very suspicious to me.
I took a detour to check it out and my fear was confirmed...nightshade. And not just one lone plant, but thousands sprinkled throughout this lovely 100 acre clover and alfalfa field.
I found some info on-line about nightshade and pets:
I normally see 6 plants a year around my barns, and I keep an eye on them. (They like the south side of buildings here). They have not spread much in ten years, and I welcome their nodding star flowers as it's always a sign of late summer to me. I have never seen them in hay fields like I have this year.
Posted by countrywool
at 7:53 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005 3:13 PM EDT