Can Rabbits Survive On Hay Alone As Food?

Hay is a fundamental food in the rabbit’s diet, a rabbit should eat it daily, because hay has the essential fiber for an optimal functioning of its digestive system, in fact, many rabbits are very sensitive to foods other than hay.

Since hay is so essential as a food for rabbits, the question arises, can a rabbit live with only hay and water as food?

Due to the nutritional components of the hay and the additional feed, a rabbit could easily survive for a long time on hay and water alone, although in the long run this could cause various health problems due to the nutritional imbalance.

When I refer to long-term, I am talking about months, maybe years, a rabbit fed for a couple of weeks with only hay and water will possibly not be affected.

It should be taken into account that although hay is an essential food for man, of great benefit because it is a product which is not usable by man, the rabbit digests it in a very inefficient way, since it makes poor use of the fiber as a source of energy.

Hay is indispensable in the rabbits’ natural diet for a healthy rabbit. It not only allows them to digest, but also helps them to wear down their teeth and have a healthy mouth.

Rabbit nutritional requirements

Feeding an animal with only one food is not at all normal and although it is possible it could be harmful in the long term, like other domestic animals, the rabbit has a need for a balanced ration that provides it with the necessary nutrients for the maintenance of its body, growth and reproduction.

These nutrients are:

  • carbohydrates
  • fats
  • Protein
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

The amount of each nutrient required by the rabbit will depend on certain characteristics such as breed, age and some external factors such as the type of activity or life the rabbit leads.

In any case, knowing the nutritional requirements of the rabbit, it is interesting to compare which of these nutrients the hay has and which can be supplied in an efficient way.

Nutrients required by rabbits Does the hay provide it?
carbohydrates Yes (10%)
fats Yes (3%%)
Protein Yes (around 7%)
Vitamins Yes (depending on the type)
Minerals Yes (Calcium-phosphorus)
Water No

As can be seen in the table, hay is a very complete food for rabbits, although the fact that hay contains vitamins, minerals and other nutrients does not mean that it has them in the quantities required by the rabbit, in fact, hay is very poor in vitamins.

In addition, there are several types of hay, one has less nutrients than others. When we speak of a “balanced diet” we are referring precisely to making up for the deficiencies of one food with another.

Reinforcing the concept, it is totally possible that a rabbit can survive eating only hay and water, but in the long run, this imbalance of vitamins would cause health problems.

Although the rabbit makes poor use of fiber as a source of energy, what makes it a special animal is the fact that it is capable of adapting the level of consumption according to the energy level of the ration.

The growing rabbit has a defined need for amino acids, for the rabbit the amino acids are methionine, lysine, arginine, leucine, isoleucine, tryptophan, tronine, valine, phenylalanine and histidine.

Arginine is essential during rabbit growth, but is not required by adult males.

As for the fat needs of the rabbit, there is no strict fat requirement, but it is considered that amounts below 2% of the ration are not appropriate and can cause skin alterations.

The information referring to vitamins and minerals of the rabbit is really scarce, in normal conditions, there is no risk of overdosing, for which vitamins and minerals are added to the rabbit?s diet with sufficient margin.

The minerals in the food play an important role in the color and aspect of the rabbit?s coat, the rabbit is capable of absorbing and eliminating through the urine high quantities of calcium, a mineral which is very present in the hay.

Calcium is provided in the form of calcium carbonate to the rabbit, this element gives rise to negative balances of magnesium, so it is essential to always provide the rabbit with sufficient water at the time of feeding.

Types of hay for rabbits

Fescue: It is a basic hay, intended for rabbits to consume on a daily basis. It can help with easier digestion and can be mixed with other foods for a different taste.

Alfalfa: Alfalfa hay is high in fiber, calcium and protein. Its components are very adequate for the feeding of rabbits during the initial months. In fact, it is advisable to feed it every day until the rabbits are at least three months old. As it contains a lot of calcium, it contributes to the bones and teeth development.

Oat hay: It also contains a lot of fiber. It is very good for rabbits when their fur is changing, as it helps to fortify the fur.

Straw: The rabbits are least fond of straw. Even though it is possible to feed them at any time and place, it is recommended to mix it with other types of hay for rabbits. In fact, it is what the animals use as bedding.

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