While raising chickens for meat isn’t on our radar right now, it is a popular reason for keeping chickens. From what my husband has researched, though, raising meat rabbits might be simpler. Which made me wonder – can you keep rabbits and chickens together?
Chickens and rabbits can live together with proper preparation to prevent common interspecies issues. It is easier to keep the animals in the same pasture or run with separate hutches and coops. Preparations need to address food, water, shelter, predators, cleanliness, manure, and temperaments.
Ready to see if keeping your rabbits and chickens (real or still hypothetical) together is a possibility for your backyard homestead? Let’s do this – and we’ll go through each of the 19 tips I’ve discovered in my research in keeping these animals together successfully.
How to Raise Chickens and Rabbits Together
Generally speaking, there are ten considerations or tips you need to know to raise chickens and rabbits together successfully. These are kind of general tips – we’ll still cover nine more specific tips later on in this article.
Even so, let’s go over these first because they’re vital for any pairing of animals.
|Animal feed||Chicken feed is formulated for chickens, not rabbits. Keep it in a chicken-only area.||Rabbit feed is formulated for rabbits but not chickens. Keep it in a rabbit-only area.|
|Foraging||Chickens will forage for what they want. Feel free to give them safe table scraps, too.||Rabbits can forage and nibble on pasture grasses. Make sure that their foraging area is clear of any unsafe things to eat.|
|Water||Chickens will drink pretty much anything. Even so, provide fresh drinking water.||Rabbits (and chickens) can both be trained to drink from a watering system to provide cleaner, safer water.|
|Shelter||Chickens need a dry, safe shelter every night. Please make sure it’s predator-proof. If a toddler can get to the chickens, so can a predator.||Rabbits need a safe shelter each night, too. The exact setup will vary, depending on what it is. A rabbit-only hutch is probably the safest option, though.|
|Predators||Chickens and rabbits share many of the same predators. Keep their runs protected from above and below.||Rabbits dig, so you will need extra protection via a buried fence to keep predators out. This is especially true if you keep your rabbits with chickens.|
|Cleanliness||Chickens take dust baths to keep clean, so they’ll need access to dust or soil.||Rabbits are generally considered pretty clean, at least as far as animals go.|
|Excrement Habits||Chickens poop anywhere and everywhere.||Rabbits also poop everywhere.|
|Manure||Their manure may carry diseases that can infect rabbits. Their manure can be composted for use in a garden safely.||Their manure may carry diseases that can infect chickens. Their manure can be composted for use in a garden safely.|
|Diseases||Chickens can share germs like coccidosis, salmonella, or other diseases with rabbits. The chickens may be asymptomatic carriers.||Rabbits can share several diseases, including snuffles, with chickens. These germs usually have associated symptoms, though some rabbits can be asymptomatic.|
|Behavior Chickens inspect things by pecking and scratching. This could be a problem for bunnies with personal space issues.||Bunnies may nudge and inspect things. This could become a problem if their curiosity breaks an egg (which would infuriate the chickens).|
As long as you can set up your pasture and housing spaces to address each of these factors, then keeping rabbits and chickens together is definitely possible. It’s even beneficial to your animals.
However, if any of these factors become an issue, then it will make keeping chickens and rabbits together a bit of a nightmare.
So let’s go over nine more tips on keeping them together. That way, you can avoid nightmare scenarios.
9 More Tips on Raising and Keeping Chickens and Rabbits Together
In my research, I found some specific examples of when things went poorly. Then I discovered that those scenarios weren’t outliers and that there were some specific tips that, if followed, should and could prevent similar scenarios from happening.
|Tip||Notes and Rationale|
|Provide each species with a safe, separate shelter.||Rabbits and chickens each need a safe space. So be thoughtful about where their homes are. Keeping them physically separate can help prevent manure-related and disease issues, too. Each species can have an independent house, even if they’re in the same building.|
|Prevent chickens from pooping on rabbits.||Chickens carry several nasty diseases in their GI tracts and their poop. It may not affect them, but it can make your bunnies quite sick (or even kill them). So be careful – especially in how you set up housing. Don’t ever keep the rabbit hutches under the chickens’ perches.|
|Don’t keep intact male rabbits with hens.||Intact male rabbits will mount anything – I’ve seen enough YouTube videos to be worried. So either neuter those boy bunnies or be prepared to explain what’s happening to your children. And watch your hens for signs of anger, irritation, or feather damage.|
|Possessive roosters may not integrate well with other species.||If you’ve got an overly protective rooster, that can be awesome for keeping your flock safe. On the other hand, it could prevent the integration of rabbits into your shared space. Consider what to do (re-homing, culling, Sunday chicken soup) if your rooster doesn’t adjust to the new normal.|
|Use the herd and flock mentality to your advantage.||Usually, you’ll want at least 2-3 of each species. That way, they can have a friend (or two). However, there are some instances where a single rabbit can live with a flock of chickens just fine. Find what works for your animals. Just be prepared to fall back on having several of each animal if the single-animal idea doesn’t work as expected.|
|Watch animals for their temperaments. Watch for any signs of anger or aggression and remove them immediately.||While researching for this article, I came across horror stories of both angry chickens and rabbits who caused irreparable harm to other animals. Rabbits have killed chickens. And chickens have killed rabbits. So watch for their behavior and remove irritated animals earlier rather than too late.|
|The importance of a trial run cannot be overstated!||Take things slowly. Give your animals time to adjust. Do this by giving them a trial run. Start by putting them together for a few minutes at a time to see how it goes. After they’re accustomed to each other, you can put them together for more extended periods.|
|You can’t teach an old chicken (or rabbit) new tricks.||When starting out with keeping chickens and rabbits together, start early and start young. Younger animals will adjust to having an interspecies roommate better than older animals will. No matter your animals’ ages, though, use a trial run to see if things will work.|
|When in doubt, retreat and regroup.||If a behavior issue or a gut feeling is telling you something is wrong, then it’s okay to retreat. Feel free to regroup and evaluate before moving forward with whatever direction is right.|
Depending on your animals, then you may not need to know all of these tips. For example, if you only keep female rabbits and hens, then you probably don’t need to worry about male bunnies getting frisky (because you don’t have any!). But give each of these a read anyway. That way, you aren’t caught unprepared like the other chicken and rabbit owners who post all sorts of awkward videos on YouTube.
Is it Worth it to Keep Rabbits and Chickens Together?
Let’s consider a 20th, bonus tip: will keeping chickens and rabbits together be worth it for you? Is there some reason that they need to be together? Or would things work better in your situation to keep them separate?
Usually, one of the driving factors in keeping these animals together is space. And in a backyard homestead, that’s a valid concern. It’s why we’re keeping goats with chickens (read my tips on that by clicking here). And space is why any additional animals we add to our backyard homestead will need to be integrated into our motley crew of animals.
However, just because you can keep two species of animals together doesn’t mean you should. And adding a third species into the mix? It means you need to weigh the pros, and cons, and take things very slowly moving forward. The risk of problems becomes higher as you add more variables to the mix. So go slowly and be deliberate in your planning.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid housing your rabbits and chickens together. It just means that it’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself. I’ve given you all of my research so you can make an informed decision for yourself. And just in case you’re wondering if it’s something we’d do? Well, let’s head into my final thoughts.
If we were going to add meat rabbits into the mix, I’d feel reasonably confident about adding them to our menagerie. I would follow all of these tips as I’ve outlined them. And I’d probably prefer to stick to female rabbits if they’re going to be roaming with the chickens.
Any male bunnies would probably have a hutch and enclosure of their own. While I don’t mind explaining the “facts of life” to my kids, I’m more worried about potential damage to my hens and chicks from being mounted. So rather than drive me crazy with worry, I’d probably opt just to keep the boy bunnies separate.
Finally, I’d also have separate hutches and coops for the chickens and rabbits. The chicken run is already designed for chickens and is lined with chicken wire underneath. Retrofitting that for rabbits would mean digging up, removing that liner, and replacing it with a proper fence extension up to several feet into the ground. It could be worth it, but with that much work required, I’d be more tempted to have a separate hutch.
In any case, rabbits are a definite “maybe one day” addition to our backyard homestead. And it’s nice to know that we could add them fairly easily. Even so, we’ve got time to decide – especially now that the research on the subject has been done.
Whatever you decide, though, a friend is up to you. Best of luck on your own backyard homestead animal-keeping decisions!
And to help you make that decision, make sure you check out this article I wrote about chickens: Do Chickens Catch and Eat Mice? (In Coops, Fields, etc). Because while rabbits aren’t the same as mice, it may trigger some ideas for keeping chickens with baby rabbits.
Can You Use a Chicken Coop for Rabbits? Rabbits can usually be kept in a chicken coop just fine. Small adjustments may need to be made to the coop, depending on its design.
Can Chickens Use a Rabbit Hutch as their Coop? Chickens may be able to use a rabbit hutch as their coop if it has ample space and an area for nesting. Some adjustments may need to be made to the hutch before you use it for chickens, depending on the exact design.
Can You Keep Rabbits Outside? Rabbits can be kept safely outside if they’re acclimated to being outdoors. Rabbits should be adjusted to being outdoors during a milder time of year (like spring or fall) so that they have time to adjust to the more extreme temperatures of summer and winter.