Feeding straw instead of hay

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MnCanary

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I've been feeding pellets + grass hay to my rabbits for a long while. Last week, the feed store was out of hay and I had to take a bale of straw. I've read about breeders that feed straw, so I thought maybe it would be OK.

For a few days, I fed the last of my hay + straw, to ease them into the different diet.

I know the feed value is less with straw, but I figured it was important to keep adding fiber to their diet. I seem to stay out of trouble when my rabbits have an abundance of fiber.

So-- they ate it. Both the kits and the adult rabbits. I was surprised, but they seem to be eating about the same amount of straw as they did hay.

I'd like to know the rabbits' motivation. Do they like straw, or are they regulating their own fiber intake, or do they just like having something to munch?
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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I've been feeding pellets + grass hay to my rabbits for a long while. Last week, the feed store was out of hay and I had to take a bale of straw. I've read about breeders that feed straw, so I thought maybe it would be OK.

For a few days, I fed the last of my hay + straw, to ease them into the different diet.

I know the feed value is less with straw, but I figured it was important to keep adding fiber to their diet. I seem to stay out of trouble when my rabbits have an abundance of fiber.

So-- they ate it. Both the kits and the adult rabbits. I was surprised, but they seem to be eating about the same amount of straw as they did hay.

I'd like to know the rabbits' motivation. Do they like straw, or are they regulating their own fiber intake, or do they just like having something to munch?
I can’t answer the question directly but can guess that they probably like straw ok, though in the long run it is no substitute for hay, being very different from hay nutritionally. Clearly you know that though. I think the answer may be a little of “all of the above” that you list.

I can share our experiences because I’ve seen our rabbits eat straw occasionally even when given free choice of a lot of items. Our rabbits hang out in our fenced backyard in the daytime and have access to a lot of diversity in their diet. The backyard is a diverse ‘lawn’ (several grass species, clover, and interseeded with alfalfa this year) with some native shrubs intermixed, plus overhead are aspens and ponderosa pines. The rabbits have hay too, and growouts have pellets. (I give adults pellets at times but they dont seem to eat them much.) Anyway I’ve seen the rabbits eat dried leaves of all the shrub species, including those they are not supposed to eat (bitter cherry and chokecherry), pine needles, and straw (we raise a small patch of grains and let the chickens hunt through the straw after hand-threshing for fun, then it lays there in the lawn). These items sure seem unpalatable compared with the fresh grass, clover and pellets, but I see the rabbits eating these things regularly enough. Don’t get me wrong - they prefer the clover, then the grass in general, but they eat these other things willingly even when more nutrient dense food is available.
 

MnCanary

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I can’t answer the question directly but can guess that they probably like straw ok, though in the long run it is no substitute for .....
Thanks for your writing with your experiences on this topic. After I thought about this for a while, I do agree that the rabbits' motivation is probably all the reasons. I wonder if any research has been done on the idea that rabbits regulate their own fiber intake, when given the chance. ?
 

ladysown

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if you are feeding straw solely for the fibre intake, it is perfectly acceptable to do so. If you are feeding as part of a required diet... then you may want to rethink how you do things.
 

MnCanary

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Ladysown, I am feeding pellets, as per my post, and I was feeding hay as well. Now, it is straw because hay was unavailable. The hay and straw are both for fiber.

I was surprised that the hay intake and straw intake seemed about the same, which led me to wonder WHY the rabbits ate the straw: for taste, for fiber, or just to have something chew.

Do rabbits self-regulate their fiber intake, given the chance? From what BuffBrahmaBantam said, it seems like they might be choosing fiber for fiber's sake.
 

MsTemeraire

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Nutrition depends on the kind of straw. Oat straw is said to be the most nutritious. But yes they will eat it - oat and barley are best, the latter is also best for bedding, if you can get it. It's softer than oat and wheat straw.
 

Rosey1

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I’ve put straw in the barn for them in the winter and out in their run and they’ve happily leapt in it and started munching it down. Even when they have the choice of regular hay and alfalfa hay. They always prefer the alfalfa hay or orchard hay, but will eat leaves and straw like there’s no tomorrow!
 

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