In winter, hay for rabbits is the basis of the daily diet. Chewing solid plant fibers, animals grind constantly growing teeth, getting rid of serious problems. Their elongated intestines are adapted to digest this product, and any transition to other foods is associated with the occurrence of gastrointestinal disorders, constipation and bloating, which can lead to the death of your pets.
Universal food for the winter season
The fastest growth and weight gain for rabbits is provided by their daily feeding with green plant foods. They are supplemented with grain, vegetables, fruits, as well as special feed additives artificially saturated with vitamins, minerals and biologically active substances.
The composition of the feed directly affects the rate at which rabbits reach puberty, their reproductive capabilities, the health status of young animals, and the body’s ability to withstand dangerous infections.
The climatic conditions of our country do not allow animals to feed green feed all year round. If you are breeding eared pets, then you need to make sure that the rabbit is prepared for the winter with the necessary amount of hay, using the most suitable grass for this.
We will talk about which hay is best for rabbits and how to properly harvest it in this article.
Hay for rabbits is the main source of fiber, which is extremely important for the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract of animals, which does not have smooth muscles.
Promotion of food through the intestines is only due to the absorption of new products. An adult rabbit can eat plant foods for up to 7-8 hours a day.
In the stomach and intestines of the animal, the hay mass carefully chewed and moistened with saliva is processed, and the nutrients from it are absorbed by the body.
Saturation with cellulose makes dry herbal mixtures tough and allows rabbits to grind their teeth about them. If you feed your pets exclusively soft food, then molars begin to grow inside the jaw. They can damage the eyes, brain and cause the death of the animal.
In addition, rabbits love to make nests out of hay, and also enjoy lying in it.
Feed value of hay for rabbits
The nutritional characteristics of this product can vary greatly depending on the locality and when it was collected, as well as the composition of the herbs included in it. Grass meadow hay contains about 7-9% protein. This is slightly lower than that of cereals grown on farm fields, in which the amount of protein can reach 14.5%.
The raw fat content in the hay of natural lands does not exceed 4%, and fiber – about 30%. The amount of mineral ash in the forest hay can reach 9%, in the meadow – 6-8%, and in the sowing season – about 6%.
The nutritional value of various types of hay ranges from 0.37-0.53 feed units per 1 kg.
When choosing grass for feeding rabbits, be sure to consider the features of the digestive tract of these animals. It is best to opt for meadow and forest hay.
Useful and unhealthy plants
Rabbits are almost omnivorous animals and eat well any hay that you offer them. But, first of all, they will choose the blades of grass that they like best.
The task of the rabbit breeder is to timely determine the taste preferences of pets and to choose the composition of hay with the maximum content of such herbs.
Experts have noticed that hay for rabbits is best eaten, saturated with stalks, leaves and inflorescences of dandelion, chamomile, plantain, shepherd’s bag, yarrow, wild sorrel, wheat grass and nettle. If you plan to harvest the product for the winter yourself, then choose meadows in the territory of which a large number of these herbs grow.
The introduction of hay in the diet of rabbits should be gradual and begin in late autumn. A small amount of dried grass should be added to the green feed. It is necessary to ensure that poisonous plants, as well as thorns that can damage the animal’s esophagus, do not get into the mixture.
The most dangerous plants for rabbits’ health include buttercups, lumbago, wrestlers (aconites), hellebore, celandine, euphorbia, marsh marigold, wild radish and dope.
Straw as an additional top dressing
The most nutritious, saturated with vitamins and microelements is considered hay, consisting of meadow-steppe forbs and legumes and cereals, mown before the onset of flowering.
When hay is harvested for cattle and goats, it is dried, both in the sun and in the shade. Grass prepared for rabbits must be dried exclusively under a canopy. It is best to tie it in bunches and hang it under the roof of utility rooms.
For the winter, straw should also be harvested – dried stalks of wheat, rye, barley, oats and other cereals used in industrial plant growing. Putting straw in the cages for rabbits in the winter, you insulate the floor and create favorable conditions that allow animals to survive the cold season.
Not all straw prepared for winter is suitable for feeding rabbits, since it does not contain enough protein. Well-suited stems of oats, millet, peas and lentils are best suited for this, which can even become the main animal feed in the absence of meadow hay.
With a lack of solid feed in the spring, animals, although without much appetite, eat straw. From it you can make straw flour.
To prepare this product, the straw must be carefully chopped immediately before feeding the rabbits. She mixes with succulent feed.
Feeding norms for hay for rabbits
When hay and straw are harvested, their possible need must be carefully calculated taking into account consumption standards and unforeseen circumstances associated with periodic lingering winters.
The daily need for rabbit hay is:
- at the age of 1-3 months – 100 g;
- from 4 to 6 months – 200 g;
- adult animal – 300 g.
For an approximate calculation, multiply the daily intake by the estimated number of days of the cold period.
In the harsh Russian winter, lasting 5-6 months, you will need up to 50-60 kg of this product per adult. Considering that each rabbit can roll 2 times during this time, do not forget to prepare food for future babies in advance.
If there are no special feeders in the cells, then the consumption of roughage by day will be even higher. Part of the hay will be trampled by animals, and another rabbit can use to build an individual nest.
According to some farmers, rabbits of any age eat a volume of hay per day comparable to their body size, but this calculation has no scientific evidence.
How to harvest hay
After you have decided how much you plan to leave the rabbits for the winter, and calculated the approximate need for feed for animals, you should start harvesting hay.
To dry the mowed grass, it is advisable to make awnings or build pyramids of poles in shaded places. The grass laid on such constructions dries quickly without losing nutritional qualities, and rabbits eat it with great pleasure in winter.
As mentioned above, meadow and steppe grasses, which did not manage to enter the flowering period and did not begin to spike, are best suited for hay.
Rabbits have a very weak gastrointestinal tract and your pets should not be allowed to eat hay and moldy grass. All rotted hay must be discarded, dried and used for feeding cattle.
In large rabbit farms, haylage is harvested instead of hay for the winter – grass mass shredded and preserved in airtight storages, the moisture content of which does not exceed 40%. It is great for winter feeding the eared ears, but at home, this harvesting is very expensive and disadvantageous.
Hay storage for rabbits
The maximum shelf life of this useful product may not exceed 1 year. After this time, hay loses most of its vitamins and nutrients. Then it can be used exclusively as a litter.
It is best to hang bundles of mowed and dried grass along the inner walls of the rabbitry. This will improve the smell in the room and make it easier to control how much the rabbit eats per day.
If you have prepared food for several tens or hundreds of rabbits, it is best to store them in the attic of the barn, lowering it down as necessary. At the same time, hay will warm rabbitry, additionally protecting animals from winter frosts.
You can install a mop of the prepared product on the street by installing a temporary canopy over it. But in this case, you need to carefully choose dry grass, making sure that there are no traces of charm and mold in it.
Adding hay to wet floors is undesirable.
Gradual transition to winter feeding
The autumn transfer of rabbits to dry feed should be gradual and should last at least a week. When laying hay in a cage, carefully monitor how much the rabbit eats it and if it shows signs of an upset digestive system.
If even the slightest swelling appears, it is not practical to keep such an animal, because it will necessarily become ill due to the use of monotonous food in winter. Convert it to enhanced nutrition and after reaching industrial weight, send it to slaughter.
Try to give hay to your pets in small portions, but make sure that it is in the cage all the time. Rabbits’ use of dry grass requires that animals have free access to drinking water.
Ushastikami better eat hay in the evening, and in the morning and afternoon they can be given cereal or combined mixtures, as well as succulent feed. Feeding with hay gives an excellent result when finely chopped leaves of cabbage and root vegetables are mixed into it. Look for tips in the articles “What kind of cabbage can be given to a rabbit” and “Is it possible to give a red beet to a rabbit”.
Like if the article was interesting and useful for you. Send it to your friends on social networks.
Tell us in the comments about your methods for harvesting hay for rabbits.