Hay is an incredibly important element of a rabbit’s diet – it teaches proper litter box habits, keeps teeth ground to the proper level, helps to prevent GI stasis (which can be fatal), and makes up the majority of a healthy diet. Obviously, choosing the right hay for your rabbit should be taken very seriously!
First, understand that hay and straw are two very different things. Hay is cut grass that has been dried for future use – it smells sweet, and is usually mix of yellow/green strands. It also has a softer overall feel to it vs straw, which is tough & hollow. On the other hand, straw is what’s left after the heads of grain crops are removed from their stalks. It’s a consistent yellow color, and can usually be found in the fall at farms & home improvement stores for decoration. Straw has far less nutritional value, and absolutely can’t be substituted for a steady supply of good quality hay. Some people use straw for bedding along with plenty of hay for eating, but I don’t – Jack just has hay.
There are different kinds of hay, but Jack eats the timothy kind (and loves it). Originally, I ordered bags of First Cut Timothy hay from Sweet Meadow Farms because that was where Jack’s breeder bought hay from. You can buy single 40 oz. bags ($6.49), a 5-count case of 40 oz. bags ($27.45), a nine pound box of unbagged hay ($10.49), or a 25-27 pound box of unbagged hay ($19.79). They ship via FedEx, and the prices were (I thought) very reasonable. I opted for the case of bagged hay, which would last Jack 4-6 months. I preferred the bags because everything was kept neatly packed, which is important when living in an apartment. I kept ordering as needed from Sweet Meadow, until I had to buy another bag of food. I feed Jack Bunny 16 by Blue Seal, which you can’t order online & can only pick up from farms or feed stores that carry the brand. The closest stockist was a farm near my parent’s house, and I asked if they also had bales of timothy hay I could buy – they did! I didn’t expect them to, although I guess in hindsight that was silly – other animals besides rabbits eat hay, so it makes sense that farms would have it on hand. The guy sold me a standard sized bale (read: HUGE) for $5. FIVE DOLLARS! There’s no way I could have stored it in my apartment in the city, so I filled a regular plastic kitchen garbage bag to take home with me, put the rest in a giant black plastic contractor bag, and stored it in my parents’ garage. When Jack’s stash was getting low, I’d just refill on my next trip home. The bale literally would have lasted Jack for the rest of his LIFE, except for the fact that I didn’t tell my parents that I was storing the bale in their garage, so one day I came home and found it gone – no one knew what had happened to it (lol). The next time I needed to re-up on hay, the guy I buy feed from was out of hay, so I got it from a different farm – they charged $10. This was in October, so the price may have been higher because everyone is buying bales for fall decoration, but I don’t know. Either way, $10 is crazy cheap considering I was paying $30 for much less every 6 months. The new bale is also in my parents’ garage (still didn’t tell them), but this time I stored it in a huge rubbermaid-style box with a lid – hopefully it doesn’t disappear.
For size reference, here’s the bale in the trunk of our car, and also in the box I’m storing it in – that’s how much was left AFTER I filled a bag to take home with me!