Feeding Hay Cubes vs. Hay Flakes

Jessica McDaniel
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Hay Cubes, Compare and Contrast

Hay cubes versus hay flakes is a in a way, comparing apples to oranges. First, we'll start by looking at hay cubes. Hay cubes are basically dried grass that has been pressed and cubed, with various sizes of cubes.

They have the size of a corn kernel, but are not sweet in flavor like corn and are aromatic like fresh cut grass.

Corn and other cereals are made into cubes in a way by hydrating and drying with a solvent like an ether that evaporates during the process. (Similar technology is also used in mushroom compost tea making.)

Hay cubes have the nutritive value of fresh grass. Any hay that has been dried, has had some of its nutritive value reduced.

Hay cubes are really more economical than hay flakes, in many ways. The cubes can be given to herbivores in large pieces, or crushed and placed into mesh feeders for smaller pieces.

Herbivores don't chew their food, but grind it with their molars. Frequent nibbling, grinding, and swallowing grinds hay cubes for their digestive system.

Corn can also be given like a thick slice, but I find that it gets moldy when it’s been pushed down in a corner as the water and air flow can't circulate.

Hay Cubes, Standard Feeding Quantities

And a Comparison between Hay (Flakes) and Cubes.

One of the most common questions pet owners have about their rabbits consuming hay cubes is whether or not the pet is eating enough hay if they’re eating hay cubes or hay flakes.

This is a valid concern because hay is known for its fiber and there is a tendency to think that your rabbit is missing out on all that fiber if they are eating hay in the form of hay cubes or hay flakes.

Most rabbit owners, who feed hay in the form of hay cubes or hay flakes, would agree that both methods of offering hay to their pet is an absolutely acceptable method of providing your pet with their daily hay consumption.

As for the quantity of hay your pet should eat, it is best to offer a minimum recommended amount of hay for your pet’s appetite and/or weight.

In order to achieve the general recommendation of two small handfuls (2"-3" diameter) of grass hay each day, you can offer your pet:

  •  1 to 2 hay cubes daily for adult pet rabbits (depending on size & appetite)
  •  2 to 4 hay flakes daily for adult pet rabbits (depending on size & appetite)

Hay Flakes

One might think that you should avoid feeding hay flakes to rabbits and guinea pigs because it’s more processed than hay cubes. There is mixed opinion about this and if you read up on it, you’ll find that many sites oppose the idea.

The “flake the hay” crowd argues that the flakes are small enough for bunnies to eat in one bite, which makes it easier for them to eat. If they have trouble eating ad hay cubes, it could be because:

{1}. The hay cubes are cold, which can numb their digestive tract, or:
{2}. The hay cubes are too large to eat in one bite, which can also numb their digestive tract.

As long as the hay flakes are relatively soft, it’s recommended that you give them to bunnies since it’s more similar to what they would eat in the wild.

Hay Cubes

Hay Not?

Hay cubes are one of the most common treats fed to Rabbits…especially by newbie rabbit owners who overfeed their rabbit and bunnies that overgrazed on grass or alfalfa.

So when would a hay cube be appropriate?

Hay cubes are usually only given to Rabbits when they are sick and need help keeping their urine and stool solid and soft or if they are having trouble chewing hay due to illness.

What about rabbits that have carpal joint pain? Well sometimes rabbits that have carpal pain may benefit from eating hay cubes and place softer hay/grass in their Timothy tips to prevent overgrazing and reduce how much hay or grass they eat so they don’t chew on a hard/non-edible tip of the Timothy hay or grass.

The most likely scenario that would call for feeding a rabbit hay is when the rabbit is having digestive issues. This could be due to mastitis, inflammation or something like Sand-Coli, for example. Grass and hay could become a problem because it’s hard to digest and the digestive track is inflamed already. You could run into an impaction if food is hard to digest.

Conversion Factors

In the wild and in dry conditions, deer don’t eat ALL of their food at once. Want a deer to go longer without a water source? Feeding it hay cubes instead of hay flakes is an easy way to do this.

Hay cubes are made up of 2 types of grasses … one for faster, fresher consumption and another for slower consumption, so they pack a bit more of a nutritional punch as well.

The easiest way to introduce hay to deer is to place the food directly on the ground (this is also a natural instinct for deer). But placing them on the ground can be dangerous if a human isn’t constantly around. Young deer can especially be adventurous and curious, and end up swallowing the cubes or hay flakes along with dirt, feces, and hay if not supervised.

The most common cause of impaction in captive deer is over-feeding of hay cubes. It is best to take the hay off the ground so young and inexperienced deer can’t overindulge on the cubes.

Hay should be fed in a large amount, on the ground in a large area for a short amount of time so it doesn’t become a wad of crumbs, but instead retains its shape. Keeping hay crumbs out of water troughs is critical.

Conclusion

Use Hay Cubes

As a healthy treat in between feedings, hay cubes should be used instead of hay flakes because they are less likely to make your rabbit sick. The risk of making your rabbit sick is increased when hay is heated and then cooled. This is essentially what a hay flake is, even when some hay manufacturers try to disguise it by cooking it and packaging it immediately after cooling.

Hay cubes, on the other hand, have not been heated or processed so they retain all of their nutritional value for your rabbit.

Another difference is that hay cubes are basically like giant bunny cereal whereas hay flakes are like bunny bread. This also contributes to the quality difference.

Hay flakes are also great as training treats. If your rabbit learns that he gets a yummy treat every time he sits, sits, or hops on command, then you're on your way to having a very well behaved rabbit.