I am a rabbit breeder. I want to start feeding my rabbits hay on
a regular basis. I also want to use the hay for bedding during the
I live on a 40-acre parcel of land with a whole lot of fields.
We had somebody put our grass into square hay bales two or three
years ago. I have been using that lately. But I don't know what
all is in this stuff. I'm sure some mouse has left it's droppings
somewhere on it, and it may contain a poisonous plant or one with
thorns that can hurt my rabbits, etc. I don't want to mess with
all that. Plus, the old hay probably doesn't have much nutritional
quality left in it. I would buy hay, but just a small bag costs
a lot, and it would be a waste to use for bedding.
So, I was thinking I'd put a small plot of hay near our house (which
I could monitor), build a fence around it, let my bunnies hop around
in it, and use it for my bunnies' needs. I was thinking I'd use
Timothy hay, alfalfa hay, grass hay, and wheat straw.
We live in northwest Arkansas. There are a lot of rocks in our ground,
Do you think this is a good idea? How should I start? Where do
I get the seed? When would be the best time to start planting? Is
there a book I can get?
Thanks for reading New Farm and for the question. Feeding good
quality hay to any forage-eating animal is an important part of
its diet, including rabbits. I can’t tell from the information
you supplied how many rabbits you are feeding and whether or not
they are pets or for meat production.
I’m not an expert on rabbits, but I do know a little. Rabbits
should be fed high-quality grass hay. Timothy, oats, and barley
hay work very well, as can many other grasses. Try to avoid alfalfa
and most legumes, since the protein levels may affect the long-term
health of the rabbits. (This is more of a concern for raising pets
since their life expectancy will be greater.) You should also avoid
the use of wheat straw, since it is a poor source of nutrition.
Putting rabbits on pasture is beneficial from many points of view.
If you have several rabbits, they develop more natural social behaviors
when on pasture, the feed quality is improved, and the exercise
is helpful. There are also management issues to consider: Rabbits
dig, can be exposed to diseases, and can be susceptible to predation.
Even with pasture, your rabbits will need hay for the winter months
or days when the weather prevents them from eating on pasture.
Check with your county extension agent to find a seed source in
your area. The type and quantity of seeds you need should be available
nearby. If you can’t locate them locally, email me and I can
get you a list of mail-order suppliers. I don’t have any specific
book titles to suggest, but here, again, your Extension office can
supply printed materials from the university on many of these topics.
Good Luck with your venture.
You might want to check out Barnyard
in your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens,
Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle by Gail
Damerow (Storey Books, 2002) in our online bookstore.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him
directly at email@example.com.