If Your Bunny Won’t Eat Hay

The Problem for All of Us

In years when we have excellent timothy hay available, our rabbits may become accustomed to only the best hay, and then, because of a bad year for timothy ranchers, the harvest produces second rate hay. Or, in a particularly bad year, we may be forced to give our bunnies brome or orchard grass or some other grass hay.

So what do you do when your rabbits take one look at their new hay, look at you in disbelief, and show their displeasure by digging the hay out of its box, and scattering it all over their space, adamantly refusing to eat it?

How to Handle the Problem

We suggest giving them no hay at all for three days, but give them the same amount of pellets and vegetables they are accustomed to getting. Then give them the new hay, but for a day or two, cut their vegetables and pellets to roughly half of what you usually give them.

Note: Do NOT do this without first consulting your veterinarian if your rabbit is currently ill or injured.

If they still aren’t eating hay, verify that they don’t have molar points with a visit to a good, rabbit-savvy veterinarian. If there are no points, or the points have been filed, and your rabbit still won’t eat hay after going through a second round of no hay for three days as described above, try different kinds of grass hay, such as oat, barley, wheat, brome, and orchard hays.

Oxbow has a “Botanical Hay” which encourages rabbits to eat hay. Oxbow states, on their website:

Botanical Hay” is a rich blend of herbs united with Western Timothy hay to stimulate your pet’s appetite for hay and create relaxing getaway in your pet’s habitat. The fragrant herbs enhance the aroma and taste of the hay, which provides long-strand fiber necessary for your pet’s digestive health. This enticing blend unites Western Timothy Hay with a rich array of three of the following fragrant herbs: chamomile, lemon verbena, hibiscus, lavender, rose hips, comfrey, borage or red clover blossoms. Alternate “Botanical Hay” with other Oxbow grass hays, or mix it in with other hays to create appetizing, long-strand fiber meals.”

The less hay your rabbit eats, the more important it is to be certain you are giving a high-fiber pellet. We have found Oxbow’s “Bunny Basic’s T” is the best for this. Watch the rabbits carefully for signs of GI stasis. You can also give them a dollop of canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin, not pie mix!) every day if they like it and it agrees with them. Pumpkin is high in fiber and will help a little.