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Do Rabbits Need Straw or Hay?

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I care for rabbits and enjoy sharing husbandry and housing tips.

Learn all about the differences between hay and straw, and why you should only feed your rabbit hay.

Learn all about the differences between hay and straw, and why you should only feed your rabbit hay.

Can Rabbits Eat Straw?

Straw and hay are both dried grass products that look similar, but one is full of nutritional goodness for your rabbit, and the other is only good for bedding.

Hay

Rabbits need hay to eat; in fact, a rabbit could have just hay and water to eat and be better off than a rabbit fed on commercial pellets and water. On the other hand, a rabbit that only had straw to eat would quickly get sick. Let's look at why that is.

Hay is cut from fields containing grasses and legumes. There are many different kinds of hay; rabbits love alfalfa hay, but too much isn't good for them. Timothy hay, on the other hand, is quite good as a staple diet. Mixing the two will make your bunny a very happy animal.

Straw

Straw, on the other hand, is cut from hollow plants like wheat. Whilst it does have some limited nutritional value, it does not have nearly the nutritional content of hay, and feeding your rabbit straw is quite a lot like feeding a kid cardboard. Straw is very useful for bedding, and even a wide range of other things like weaving baskets and making mulch, but it is not at all useful for feeding animals.

Hay

Hay

Straw

Straw

What's the Difference Between Hay and Straw?

You can quite easily tell the difference between hay and straw. Hay should have long stalks of various grasses; it should be dry, but with evidence of green about it. Straw, on the other hand, has larger, obviously hollow stalks, and is usually a tell-tale yellow color.

So can straw be used with your bunny at all? Yes. Straw is perfectly fine for bedding. In fact, straw is probably a sensible choice for bedding as it is usually cheaper than hay. If you use hay as bedding, you'll be wasting quite a great deal of it because bunnies won't eat much of their bedding. They'll nibble at it, but they won't decimate it like other small animals will. Put a bag of hay in with guinea pigs for a few days, and when you check, it will be gone. Put the same amount of hay in with a bunny, and the bulk of it will still remain because rabbits are fussier eaters.

This is why you need to feed rabbits fresh hay on a regular basis. There's no point tossing a whole lot of hay in with a bunny and hoping that it will feed itself for a few days, the bunny may not starve under such conditions, but it also won't be very happy.

So then, use lots of straw for bedding, especially if you live in a cold area and your bunny is outside, and save the hay for feeding. Feed fresh hay every day and make sure that your rabbit always has access to clean water and your rabbit will be a very happy bunny indeed!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Brianna on November 22, 2018:

Heyy I love your articles because they have taught most thigs i need to know about bunnies I am over all excited about getting a rabbit when i move. Thank You

Ashley on April 27, 2016:

Using straw as bedding is ok, but it often carries mites that can result in skin disease. So it's fifty fifty.

H C Palting from East Coast on September 05, 2012:

You have written a good hub. I recommend that people looking to save on hay buy a big bale of it. They can be purchased at feed & tack stores for $10 or less and will last months longer than a bag or two of the expensive few ounces that you'd get in pet and other stores.

Feed & tacks offer mixes that rabbits (and horses) love and are nutritious. If you get a bale of hay and have a place to store it (even a large, clean and closed garbage can will do), you will save a lot of money.

amy jonson on October 02, 2011:

so is it safe to have straw as your bedding for

your rabbit

Rabbit Breeders on May 24, 2011:

I always give my bunnies hay however I know many rabbit breeders who don't bother with the task.