Having hay available for rabbits 24/7 is super important for their digestion and teeth. In fact, 80% of what your bun is eating should be fresh, quality rabbit hay. But eating the same snack all day every day can get a bit boring. Even rabbits appreciate some occasional variety when it comes to this diet staple.
Timothy hay has earned the well-deserved reputation as the gold standard for healthy adult small animals. After all, it’s high in fiber with the perfect ratio of nutrients for maintenance. But as those with Timothy hay allergies may already tell you, Timothy isn’t the only grass hay on the block. Meadow, brome, orchard hay, medleys and botanical blends ... So much goodness out there.
What about oat hay?
Oat hay isn’t technically grass hay, but it’s still packed with nutrition and benefits rabbits’ chompers. It’s an excellent source of fiber, so a fab preventative for GI stasis. Oat hay is tough and yellowish in color with more hollow stalks than the traditional 2nd cut Timothy. Don’t be surprised if oat hay leads to lighter-colored poops that look like sawdust when crumbled.
The best part about oat hay is the yummy oats attached; it’s built in hidden treasure. The oats are by far the favorite part for most buns. Oat hay can vary widely in appearance and oat content, depending on the harvest season; new harvests are generally packed with tasty oats. The distinct taste makes this a treat hay for most rabbits. It’s good for adult animals in need of extra fiber, but don't like 1st cutting Timothy. And good for the hoomans with Timothy allergies, too! Watch out, though. Oat hay is full of fiber and protein, but is also higher in fat. Fed exclusively, it can lead to one chubby bunny.
So, can your rabbit eat oat hay instead of Timothy? Yes, technically, although it won’t be the best main course for every rabbit. If your rabbit starts to get a little too round, they probably need a “lighter” grass hay making up the majority of their daily fare. For those rabbits willing to expand their palate, try offering oat hay as part of a rotation, experimenting with different cuts of Timothy or different rabbit hay varieties in between.
Taste Testers Wanted
In the wild, rabbits eat all types of flavors and textures, from fresh and fragrant grass to tree bark in the midst of an icy winter. The diverse smells, tastes, and textures of assorted types of hay instinctively keep rabbits intrigued. A rabbit interested in hay will spend more time chowing down – always a good thing. The different textures of various hays/grasses can even cause a rabbit to chew in multiple ways, thus doing an especially good job of uniformly wearing down the molars. So try switching things up in the hay department every now and then – your rabbit will thank you.