Choosing a Hay Rack for your Rabbit
Hay is the most important element of a rabbit's diet, find out more here. Your rabbit should always have hay available, but how you feed it is a bit more flexible. Here is an overview of some different styles of hay racks and their alternatives.
The main consideration when choosing a hay rack is how much hay it can hold. Your rabbit should be eating a ball of hay about the size of its body each day and rabbits seem to prefer fresh hay, so you want a hay rack that will hold roughly a day's supply with a little left over. Obviously if you've got more than one bunny you'll need to multiply that up.
Do you need a hay rack?
There is no rule that you must have a hay rack. They are merely a convenient place to put hay. The main benefit of a hay rack is keeping the hay off the floor where it may get soiled by urine. However, that might not be an issue for you if your rabbit is well litter trained. Talking of litter trays - rabbit's like to eat and poop, so one of the best ways to feed hay is to have a large litter tray so they can poop one end and have a pile of hay the other. You can also use hay as bedding, or scatter it around the floor.
The other benefit of a hay rack is they contain (to some extent) the hay minimising mess, although the success of this will depend on the style of hay rack and how enthusiastic your rabbits are when eating.
Hay Racks for Rabbits
Folding racks don't hold much hay
You'll find a few hay rack styles available for sale in pet shops aimed a rabbits, but you'll need to pick carefully, for example fold out racks are often too small to hold a day's supply of hay.
A manger style hay rack, that is a basket style that fixes against a flat surface, works the best. They are available in a range of sizes so you still need to be aware of how much hay they'll hold.
You can attach them to a hutch/shed/house wall with screws or use cable ties to attach them to mesh. If you are attaching them on mesh, it's worth adding something solid eg a bit of card/plywood behind so the hay doesn't come out the back.
Trixie Plastic Hay Manger
25 x 19 x 11 cm $12 Amazon
Trixie Wire Hay Manger
24 x 19 x 7 cm $13 Amazon
Large Hay Racks
Although the above hay racks will hold a portion of hay for an average sized rabbit, if you've got giant bunnies or a group then going up a size might be necessary.
Wall Basket Planter
$7 from Amazon
Horse Hay Manager
86 x 53 x 86 cm £31.50 Amazon
Because these hay racks aren't designed with bunnies in mind, they will need lining with mesh to make the gaps an appropriate size - see safety tips below.
DIY Hay Racks
Quite a few items can be repurposed into hay racks, for example you could cut a hole in a small cardboard box, cable tie it to the cage wire and then fill it with hay. Cardboard tubes also work, as do shopping baskets and wire organiser drawers.
Outdoor Hay Racks
Generally the easiest way to feed hay if your rabbit lives outdoors, is in the sheltered area e.g. hutch or shed. However, if you are short on indoor space, your rabbit's run is separate or just your rabbit likes to hang outside, then a covered hay rack might work well for you.
As it sounds, a covered hay rack is simply a hay rack with a cover over the top to keep the rain from spoiling the hay. This can be very simple, for example placing a pile of hay under a small table, or something more elaborate, you might like to combine a hideaway with a hay rack to provide shelter and hay at the same time.
Hay Rack Safety
Whether you buy a hay rack or build your own you need to keep in mind that rabbits are both agile and inquisitive. As hay rack have holes or slots for rabbits to pull hay through you need to make sure your rabbit can not climb in and catch a leg in the hole or poke their whole head through the bars and become injured.
How you manage this potential risk will depend on the style of hay rack you use. You could place the hay rack up at the top of your rabbit's hutch/cage or under a shelf so there isn't room on top for a rabbit or you could cover the hack rack (if you do hinging the lid makes filling easier). If your hay rack has large holes you will need to line the inside with mesh/chicken wire with smaller holes.