Newly adopted rabbit not eating hay - any tricks to getting him to eat more hay

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EdwardV

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Recently adopted Norm a few weeks ago from Red Door Animal Shelter in Chicago. We are currently slowly bonding him with our existing dwarf rabbit Lola. He is a special needs rabbit - has teeth issues and the beginnings of arthritis. He is doing really good and fitting in. Super friendly! Took him to our local vet for a check up. Vet said he is doing great. However we have noticed he is not eating much hay. Found an article about getting some dried herbs and sprinkle them on the hay. Wondering if any of you know any other "tricks" to get him to eat more hay.
 

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JBun

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If he's filling up on other food, that can be a reason a rabbit won't eat much hay. What other foods is he fed, how much, what's his approximate weight, and what type of hay are you feeding and what cut is it(mostly soft leaf, mix of soft and course, mostly coarse stems)? Did the shelter mention anything regarding his hay eating, or any other dietary notes from them? What teeth issues does he have, as that could be playing a part in him not eating much hay? Did your local vet do a thorough dental exam, and if so what were the results?
 

EdwardV

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He was given to the shelter a few months ago along with another rabbit. They said the previous owner fed the rabbits mostly pellets. So he has teeth and weight issues. Our vet trimmed his teeth and gave an overall exam. He needs to go back in December for another checkup. He has a great appetite. He is about 6 lbs. They told us to lessen the amount of pellets. So he gets 1/8 cup of pellets a day (same as Lola) in the am. Salad (red leaf lettuce, carrot tops, peppers) for dinner and hay and water all the time. The hay is the boxed hay from Chewy - Lola loves it. We are supplementing the lack of hay consumption with a little Critical Care in the evening. Being overweight with arthritis is not a good combination.
 

JBun

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You may need to try a different type of hay then. If the hay you're feeding is second cut timothy(most common one fed to rabbits), then maybe try some orchard grass or oat hay. There's also third cut timothy that might be an option(though it can be too rich for some rabbits). If trying different varieties doesn't work, you could try hay pellets. Standlee has orchard or timothy ones, that can be bought online, or some local tractor supply stores will have them. They are a larger size pellet though, but my rabbits never had issues eating them. I had a new rabbit that wasn't used to eating hay and wouldn't touch it, so I ended up feeding him timothy hay pellets, and he ate them fine. Over time, he eventually started trying his loose hay, then started eating loose hay fine without any problems. But it was the hay pellets that helped get him to that point.

How are your rabbits fecal balls looking? Are they a decent size or pretty small? The problem with him not eating hay and having reduced food pellets, is that he may not have enough food going through his digestive tract, and this isn't a good thing with rabbits as it can result in GI stasis developing. So if he doesn't start eating a different variety of hay or hay pellets soon, then something else may need to be tried. Sherwood has a complete timothy rabbit food, that basically is the hay that a rabbit needs, included in the food pellet.. So that may be an option to try. Or it could be his mouth may still be bothering him and that's why he still won't eat hay. So the vet getting another look at his mouth may be necessary, or even xrays to see if there might be something else going on below the surface.
 

EdwardV

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We tried Orchard grass hay and the hay pellets from Tractor Supply. He did not really want either of them. Fecal balls look normal. He is going to the vet next week for a dental checkup. Will look into the Sherwood food.
 

overhear

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I had trouble getting my rabbit to eat hay when I first adopted her. At the suggestion of some wise bunny folk on this site I got her acclimated by mixing hay into her fresh greens. She's now a big hay eater but I do find that she eats lots more hay when I put it into her greens bowl after she finishes her greenies. She seems to think that anything in that bowl is a treat. :)
 

Cara

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A previous rabbit I had did not like hay at all either, had so much difficultly getting him to eat any hay. Back then I didn't know about Small Pet Supply. They have a 2nd cut Timothy hay that both of my current rabbits just Love. I highly recommend you try this brand/type of hay and see if he will eat that? Sometimes rabbits are just really picky about hay!
 

odyssey~

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I see you're feeding critical care to help with eating less of hay which could actually contribute to his weight- I've actually seen critical care being advised to feed for underweight rabbits because it helps them gain weight so feeding it may make him more overweight :)
 

JBun

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We tried Orchard grass hay and the hay pellets from Tractor Supply. He did not really want either of them. Fecal balls look normal. He is going to the vet next week for a dental checkup. Will look into the Sherwood food.
It could be you just have a very picky rabbit and it's a matter of finding the right hay(some companies like smallpetselect offer sampler boxes of hay to try the different varieties), or your rabbit just needs time to get used to hay being around and decide to give it a try, or it could be due to a dental issue. Once your vet has checked out the dental possibility and if the teeth turn out to be fine and aren't the cause of the lack of interest in hay, then it will be a matter of continuing to offer hay and maybe trying different types to see if one entices your rabbit to give it a try. Like Overhear mentioned, mixing in some of his fresh greens and veggies that he's used to eating may help get that interest jump started. Though because fresh greens and veggies have moisture, only mix with a limited amount of hay and remove damp hay after several hours, but before it can develop mold.

One thing that helped a new rescue rabbit of mine that had been living outdoors, was cutting fresh thick leaf grasses and feeding them to her at the start when she wouldn't touch dried grass hay. Then I started drying that cut fresh grass and feeding it, then she would eventually start eating the regular grass hay that I was feeding my other rabbits. So it was a gradual transition from fresh cut grass to dried, to the usual grass hay bales that I fed my other rabbits. Not really the right time of year to try this due to it being fall/winter, but mixing in the greens is kind of a similar concept. You maybe could also try buying a tray of wheatgrass and mixing a little of that in. Though it would be a new food and is rich, so would need to be gradually introduced into the diet over a week or two, and not fed in excess due to it's rich nutrient content.

As long as your rabbits poops remain a healthy size and consistency, this means your rabbit is getting close to the needed amount of fiber in the diet for good gut function, so this gives you time to get your rabbit used to eating hay and switched off of supplemental critical care feedings without worrying too much about possible GI stasis occurring due to insufficient fiber in the diet.
 

overhear

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In case it helps, I order Oxbow "Hay Blends Western Timothy and Orchard Grass" online. My rabbit now eats it heartily and the quality has been consistently good.
 

HalaBuns

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If you can find any oat hay near you, maybe give that a try and mix it in with Timothy. All of my buns go nutty for it, one prefers it to any kind of treats or pellets. She could spend all day sat in the hay bag if I let her.
 

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