Can Rabbits And Chickens Live Together?
If you have a small space to raise animals, chickens and rabbits might seem like the perfect match. After all, a chicken run seems like a great space for a bunny to hop around to its heart’s delight. Any time two animals share a space though, it’s important to ask yourself whether or not they would make good neighbors.
But, Can Rabbits Live With Chickens?
Answering the question of whether rabbits can peacefully coexist with chickens isn’t so straightforward. If you were planning on just putting a little extra straw for a rabbit inside an existing chicken coop, the answer is probably “no.” The reason boils down to a difference in what chickens and rabbits need.
Rabbits tend to keep their homes pretty tidy, and like a smaller enclosed space to sleep in, which is why most rabbit owners have hutches for their rabbits. Chickens on the other hand, are messy. A chicken will poop indiscriminately just about anywhere, and pretty much all the time. Chickens even poop while they’re asleep on their roost, which means that a coop is not a great place to keep your rabbit.
The good news is that as long as you have a seperate place for the chickens and rabbit to to sleep and get away from each other, they can usually coexist pretty well. The folks at HenCam have a pretty good blog post about their experiences with keeping rabbits and hens together. Regularly sweeping out shared areas and providing “safe places” will keep both hens and rabbits happy.
Special Considerations For Putting Rabbits And Chickens Together
While it is possible to keep chickens and rabbits together, there are definitely certain factors that you’ll want to consider before bringing home any bunnies. Here are some tips and info that might affect your decision to add a bunny to your little farm.
I know it’s already been mentioned, but bunnies do not like a messy home. If you plan on putting your rabbit in a run with chickens, you will need to keep the pen very tidy and dry. Chickens already benefit from a clean environment, although they certainly don’t help to maintain it. Having a bit of loose dry dirt somewhere accessible is great for both animals too, since both enjoy a good dirt bath.
Cleanliness will likely be less of a problem if you free range your chickens, since any mess will be less concentrated in a single area. Just make sure that you’re keeping a close eye on everyone. In addition to the predators the chickens are susceptible to, your rabbit might also get picked up by large predatory birds like hawks, especially if they’re young or small.
Since we already know that rabbits like to keep a clean house, there are a few things to consider when building or buying a rabbit hutch. The first is that it should not be inside the coop with your chickens. A rabbit will want his or her own space to get away from the chickens, especially if you have a bully in your flock.
The hutch should also be high enough off the ground to keep chicken from sitting on top. Animal Hearted has a few really good tips on making the most of rabbit-chicken cohabitation, and they suggest also fencing around the bottom of the rabbit hutch to keep chickens away from rabbit droppings. (Which, by the way, make great fertilizer.)
While your rabbit is hanging out in the hutch, he or she will also probably be snacking and making “fertilizer.” My House Rabbit explains that rabbits like to do their business while having a snack, and they usually “go” in the same place all the time. To keep their food pellets and hay safe from hungry chickens, it’s a good idea to keep all that in the hutch.
Both species of animal also needs space to roam about. While you definitely could let your rabbit hang out in the same pen as the chickens, make sure that it doesn’t get too cramped. Small Pet Select suggests providing 8 square feet of enclosed sleeping space and at least 24 square feet of excercise space. Make sure that is in addition to the minimum space requirements for your chickens.
Since both creatures react to new things differently, you might find that introducing them to each other quickly doesn’t work out well. Backyard Chicken Coops suggests doing it gradually, and if possible, while both critters are young. Bunnies will hop around, which can startle an adult chicken. Unfortunately, chickens tend to peck at anything they think might be a threat. This is another reason that having a safe place for your rabbit to hide is a great idea.
If your rabbit is male, it is also a great idea to get him neutered. An unneutered male rabbit without any female company might get a little overly excited and try to mount your chickens. According to Backyard Chicken Coops, it happens fairly often. If you are raising rabbits to breed, just make sure your studs have enough female company to keep your chickens comfortable.
Regardless of the habits of both animals, it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on them, particularly when they’re first introduced. If you notice that either animal becomes violent or reactionary or tends to hide out a lot, your pets might not be a good match for each other. Chickens that regularly peck at rabbits might be too aggressive, and cause the rabbit to become antisocial. Giving both plenty of space to roam about will help ease any potential tension, but it can’t solve everything.
Another factor to consider before running rabbits and chickens together is illness. It may come as a surprise, but chickens and rabbits can actually transmit diseases between one another. According to Dr. Jacquie Jacob from the University of Kentucky, rabbits and chickens often carry diseases that can be shared and spread across species.
One particular example of this is Pasteurella multocida, or P. multocida. More commonly known as the “snuffles,” P. multocida is very common in rabbits and can spread to chickens. When the chickens become infected with P. multocida, they often contract a form of cholera. The chickens then give the rabbits cholera. For this reason, it might be a good idea to keep them apart.
If you are still considering keeping rabbits and chickens together, but are concerned about illness, there are a few things you can do. Making sure that they are kept separate at night, keeping the pens clean of droppings, and keeping each animal’s hay and food separate will minimize risk. It’s also a great idea to talk to a veterinarian about how best to care for both types of creatures in one small homestead. Some vets even specialize in farm animals like chickens and rabbits, and might be able to give you recommendations.
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