I'm well aware that hay is a fundamental part of a rabbit's diet. However, my rabbit has become very picky with its food, over time. He eats mostly fruit peels, some vegetables, carrots, and about half of the contents of pellet mix foods, leaving most of the hay untouched. That is, unless it is alfalfa hay.

The vet said this alfalfa hay should only be used as a treat, mixed with the other hay (orchard, if I remember correctly). The rabbit used to eat more hay when younger, and he had some teeth problems quite recently.

I already tried punishing him, giving him only hay, but he just waits until I give him more treat foods. As I'm also aware that rabbits shouldn't spend much time without eating, I end up giving him what he wants.

How do I motivate my rabbit to eat more hay?

Someone suggested me to sprinkle his hay with water, or water and honey, so as to freshen up the scent, or make it sweeter. I haven't tried honey, but the water trick seems to have no results.

  • If your rabbit gets a lot of fresh greens (grass, herbs, this ones of what the hay be made) it do not need this high amount of hay. The likewise high amount needs a rabbit which is only fed with vegetables, pellets or fruits. I would like my meals fresh, instead of dried and the water apart in a glass :) Commented May 27, 2019 at 8:02

3 Answers 3


You are correct the keeping food moving through the rabbit is critical. The primary foods you are feeding are closer to treat foods than the are to an optimal diet. Some arguments are even made to move to a completely pellet free diet

Giving your rabbit a healthy diet is not Punishment, it is the most kind thing you can do (see case study of poor diet. It is important that you make a slow transition from the current diet to healthy diet (see Do I need to do anything special when I change what I feed my rabbit?). If your rabbit has not had enough hay he may any of several issues (see Why is adding hay to a rabbit's diet important?) a visit to a qualified rabbit vet may be warranted. If he has teeth issues, it will take a vet to address the issue.

The first step in correcting the diet, is to begin substituting old favorites for newer healthier choices. One healthy treat that should be easily transitioned in is hay cubes, over a few days replace carrots and fruit peels with hay cubes. The carrots and fruit peels are the are probably the worst part of your you rabbits current diet (see Are carrots a healthy part of a rabbit diet?) as is any high sugar item (like honey).

Next step is to include high quality leafy greens vegetables, this should be a cup a day.

Timothy hay is probably the best choice for a mature rabbit, but orchard hay will also work. It should be avaible at all times for your rabbit. As he moves away from the sweet foods, and gets appropriate quanties of healthier foods, he should migrate to eating more hay. He should never have an endless supply of pellets or greens, so durring the times those are not available he will naturally eat the hay to fill out his diet.

Lastly, consider the type of pellets you are feeding. There are a lot of different choices out there. Oxbow and zupreem are two quality brands. Anything with bright colors and lots of different items in the bag are marketing to the consumer, not to health of the rabbit. Bulk feed from a farm supply store, is a slightly better option than color pet food feeds, but it is formulated for putting weight on production rabbits quickly, not for long term maintenance of a pet rabbit. Quality foods are dark uniform shaped and formed pellets with a timothy hay base.

If you should encounter any difficulties in the transition.

  1. If your rabbit stops eating, get to the vet immediately 24 hours can be fatal.
  2. Post more questions with the same clarity that you used here, we will be happy to help.
  3. Browse the existing questions on the site tagged "rabbits".

The Rabbit House wrote about this very question in an post called, 5 Ways to Get Your Rabbit to Eat More Hay. They start saying:

Considering at least 80% of a rabbit’s diet should be hay (or grass) there is a worrying number of rabbits owners that report their bunny eats little or no hay. The high fibre content of hay is essential for maintaining a healthy gut and teeth, as well as providing a boredom busting activity for your rabbit.

So, below are my top 5 tips for turning your rabbit in to a hay eater.

  1. Feed Tastier Hay Hay is a bit like apples. It comes in lots of different varieties and flavours. Some people like crisp Granny Smiths others like sweet Cox’s, and cooking apples taste horrible (unless cooked). Likewise some rabbits can be quite fussy about the variety of hay they like.

When choosing hay avoid the finely chopped, brownish plastic packed varieties you find in a lot of pet shops. Look for green, long strands that smell nice and aren’t too dusty. Hay sold at feed shops and farms, for horses to eat, is usually good and a lot cheaper then pet shop bags.

Oxbow do a wide range of different hay’s you can try your rabbit with. You do not have to stick to one variety, mix and match to keep your rabbit’s interest. READ MORE.

Small Pet Select, provider of tastier and fresh Timothy Hay, wrote a rabbit guide to timothy hay that may also be helpful. Small Pet delivers direct to your door to ensure maximum fresh Timothy Hay.

Hope this helps.


One of the things I have found is that hay quality varies greatly. Even if it is from the same field the quality varies greatly throughout the year.

I consider the first cutting of hay goat quality. It is usually stiff and thick and with the consistency of straw more than hay. My pickier rabbits just wont eat this type of hay. Even some of my big chewers will waste more of this hay than they eat. Goats on the other hand will chew on pretty much anything. They do great with this type of hay so that is why I consider the first cut, all goat hay.

After the first cut the grass will be softer and fresher. Depending on where you are the fields could get as many as 8-10 cuttings. In the midwest US we tend to get 6 or 7. But toward the end of the season the hay starts to get stiff and not as green. My rabbits do not like the late cut either, though horses, cattle and sheep seem to do just fine with it.

If you just have one rabbit you are probably getting your hay from a pet or feed store. Be careful to make sure that the hay is fresh. In a bag hay can "look good" for years but really after 6 months or so the hay starts to lose its freshness. After a year in the bag it is probably stale. Just like you do not like to eat stale food neither does your rabbit. When you first open the bag it should basically smell like fresh cut grass. If it smells off then it is and your rabbit will probably not like it either. If you buy it by the bale you need to check the interior of the bale. The outside will oxidise but the interior of a tightly packed bale can stay fresh for years. I personally try to stay away from anything more than 6 months old in the summer and fall. Though in the spring and winter as long as it is from a good cutting from the most recent year beggars cant be choosers and some hay is better than none.

Only provide a day or 2 of hay in the feeder. When you take the hay out of the pack it starts to get stale faster. So do not give the rabbit too much hay. And after a few days if the hay is not mostly eaten remove it and replace it with fresh. There could be something in that batch that your rabbit is sensing that is turning it off of that hay. Hay is pretty cheap don't torture your rabbit over a quarters worth of grass.

As James said stop feeding your rabbit treat foods as a regular meal. Fresh greens(including carrot tops) are fine. If your rabbit is eating any pellets then it is not starving. Let it hold out as long as it keeps eating some of its food even if its quite a bit less than what it ate before. If it eats nothing at all give it a very small treat food around dusk. If it eats that then it is more likely to eat more of its pellets, doing it around dusk is important because that is one of the rabbits most active feeding times. Early in the morning(at or just before dawn) is another if that fits your schedule better. If it eats something it is more likely to continue eating with what is available to it. If hay and pellets are available then that is what it will eat. But the best thing you can do once you have it eating pellets and hay is not treat it for a week or so. Let your rabbit get used to a regular diet of hay and pellets.

More important than food is water. If your rabbit is drinking water then its belly is still moving. A rabbit can go off food for several days(on rare occasions) but as long as there is water and they drink it they will be fine. If your rabbit stops eating and drinking that is when it is time to get to the vet. So do not worry about starving it unless it gets to 3 or 4 days with no food consumption. Your rabbit is used to getting a diet of junk food, and it is holding out for more. Once it learns that the candy store is closed it will be back on pellets and hay.

  • -1 because Rabbits do not have strong muscles in their digestive system. They are highly depending on regular food to move the already eaten food through the digestive system. So not eating for 12 to 24 hours is a high risk and a reason to feed special food (like grinded hay or carrot-apple mash with warm water from a syrine without needle) and see a vet as soon as possible! Commented May 11, 2023 at 6:31

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