Everything you need to know about feeding alfalfa hay to your rabbits.
If you own rabbits then you know that hay is an extremely important part of a rabbit’s diet. It provides the nutrients and fiber they need while helping to wear down their ever-growing teeth. There are so many different types, brands, and cuts of hay on the market it can be overwhelming to know what to choose. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about alfalfa hay for rabbits including when and why to feed it.
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Basic Rabbit Diet
In case you aren’t familiar with the proper basic diet for a pet rabbit, let’s do a quick run-through before we jump into talking about alfalfa hay.
The majority of a rabbit’s diet should be made up of high-quality hay. Hay is incredibly important for a rabbit’s health and I’ve actually written an entire article about hay for rabbits. Rabbits should have unlimited amounts of hay available at all times.
In addition to hay, rabbits should get a variety of fresh vegetables each day. There are a large variety of veggies that are healthy for bunnies and they should get about a cup of veggies per two pounds of rabbit.
Finally, a small amount of a healthy rabbit pellet helps to round out the vitamins and nutrients they get. And as with any animal, bunnies should always have access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Alfalfa Hay for Rabbits
The standard everyday hay that is most commonly fed to rabbits is timothy hay or orchard grass. Both of these options have balanced vitamins and nutrients that are best for bunnies.
So, what makes alfalfa hay different than other types of hay? The main difference is hays like Timothy and orchard grass are grass hays and alfalfa hay is legume hay.
Grass hay has balanced nutrition that rabbits need, as well as fewer calories and a little less fiber than legume hay. Legume hays have more calcium, more protein, more calories, and more fat than grass hays. Legume hays, including alfalfa, are considered richer than grass hays because of the higher levels of nutrients.
While Alfalfa hay is usually not suitable to feed as everyday hay, there are certain situations where it might be the best option for your rabbit.
When to Feed Alfalfa Hay
Usually, you only want to be feeding alfalfa hay to bunnies that need extra protein, calories, or calcium in their diet. These could be bunnies that have health problems or are still growing.
Alfalfa hay is fed to baby bunnies up until they are about a year old. This is because they are still growing and need the extra nutrients and calories. The richer alfalfa hay ensures they get everything they need to grow into a strong healthy adult bunny. Usually, baby bunnies are also fed pellets that are alfalfa-based to get those extra nutrients there as well.
Alfalfa might also be a good option for rabbits that are recovering from surgery or illness, or need to gain some additional weight.
Why Feed Alfalfa vs. Timothy Hay
As I mentioned before, timothy hay (or orchard grass) is considered the standard hay owners should feed their bunnies to be sure they are getting the correct nutrition. Alfalfa hay should not be fed to adult bunnies as their main source of hay.
This is mainly because adult bunnies do not need the additional calories, protein, or calcium in alfalfa hay. Too much calcium can actually cause health problems for adult bunnies over time.
Calcium is processed by the rabbit’s body and any excess is gotten rid of through the bunny’s urine (which is stored in the bladder). If there is too much calcium in the rabbit’s diet, they run the risk of developing bladder stones from all the excess calcium ending up in their bladder. Bladder stones can be very serious and very painful for the bunny and may even require surgery.
Even though it’s not the best for them to have all the time, most bunnies do really like alfalfa hay. This makes it a good option to use for a treat or to sprinkle on everyday hay to entice picky bunnies to eat more.
Final Thoughts on Alfalfa Hay for Rabbits
Now that you know what sets alfalfa hay apart from other types of hay you can make better decisions about when to feed it to your rabbits. While Timothy has is the best choice for daily feeding for rabbits, alfalfa hay can be a good choice for baby or sickly bunnies, or as a treat to entice picky bunnies to eat more hay!
Learn More About Rabbit Diet:
- 5 Best Pellet Brands for Rabbits
- The Complete Guide to Feeding Hay to Rabbits
- Basic Rabbit Diet: What To Feed a Bunny