Hay is a dried plant product used for animal feed. There are two types of hay: legume and grass. Timothy is a type of grass hay. Meadow hay is a mixture of dried plants that often includes both grass and legumes. Rabbits may be fed either Timothy or meadow hay as long as the product is fresh and contains high-quality plants.
Legume or lucerne hays include alfalfa, clover, lespedeza, birdsfoot trefoil, vetch, soybean and cowpeas. Legume hays are generally higher in calories, protein, calcium and vitamin A than grass hays. The higher energy content of legume hay is excellent for young, active bunnies and pregnant does, but can lead to obesity in mature rabbits.
Commonly sold grass hays include timothy, ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, Bermuda grass, orchard grass, brome grass, fescue and canary grass. Oats, a type of grain, are also cut while green to make oat hay. Grass hay is higher in fibre than legume hay, making it a better choice for the dental and intestinal health of an adult rabbit.
Timothy-grass is a perennial grass that is harvested, cleaned and cut into shorter strands before it is sold. The shorter cut grass makes it easy to place timothy hay in feed containers, but the product might be dustier than other types of grass. Timothy hay is palatable and considered the staple diet for domestic rabbits. It is available in most pet stores for a reasonable price.
Meadow hay is a mixture of plants. It is usually harvested, dried and bagged without much processing. The strands of grass vary in length and the product may contain sticks, dried flowers and seed heads mixed in with the hay. Meadow hay often contains commercial crop species of grass as well as wild grass varieties native to the particular area where the hay is grown.
The Pros and Cons of Variety
Some mixtures of meadow hay contain only grass hay; some contain varying amounts of clover, vetch, trefoil and other legumes. The nutrient content in meadow hay depends on the types of grasses and legumes present in the mixture. As such, meadow hay may be more or less nutritious than timothy hay, or contain more or less fibre than timothy hay. Meadow hay is often priced cheaper than timothy hay, however, rabbits may pick through the mixture, eating only the plants they prefer and wasting the rest.