What You Need to Know About Keeping Chickens and Rabbits Together
Keeping different farm animal species together can enable you to save space and resources as well as utilizing all that your area has to offer. Two animals that people often think to keep together are rabbits and chickens; both of these animals have similar living requirements and needs, which can make them great for co-existing.
Can chickens and rabbits live together? Chickens and rabbits can, in fact, be kept together. Due to specific species needs and hygiene, the optimal living situation would be to have a shared run for your chickens and rabbits, but provide individual coops or hutches for the individual species. A few risks of keeping chickens and rabbits together include the transfer of diseases and parasites between species and each animal picking on the other species.
If you want to keep multiple farm animal species but you’re short on space, keeping different species together can be beneficial. When it comes to keeping chickens and rabbits together, it’s important to know the specific needs of each animal so that you can properly care for them. To learn more about keeping chickens and rabbits together, read on!
Best Living Practices for Keeping Chickens and Rabbits Together
What are the best practices for keeping chickens and rabbits together? While these animals can survive together in many different situations, there are some things to keep in mind in order to provide your chickens and rabbits with the best living situation.
Keep Multiple Animals of Each Species Together
First and foremost, chickens and rabbits like to be with other animals from their same species. Both chickens and rabbits imprint on their species within the first few days of life. Through imprinting, a chicken or a rabbit forms an intense bond and trust with other animals of its species. It will thrive off of interaction from its own species rather than a different species.
Both chickens and rabbits are prey animals. By nature, most prey animals tend to live in herds or groups for added security and protection. A group provides more surveillance than a single individual animal could. Due to the risk of predators, a chicken or a rabbit taken away from its community setting can become anxious and distressed. For this reason, it’s best to keep at least two or three of each animal together, even when keeping your chickens and rabbits together.
Did you know that you can keep alpacas and sheep together? You can learn more by reading my article Can Alpacas Be Kept With Sheep?
Chickens May Pick on the Rabbits
While rarely will you hear of problems between chickens and rabbits, there are instances when chickens have been known to pick on rabbits. Rabbits are often quiet and won’t pick a fight with other animals; however, a rambunctious rabbit can catch the attention of a chicken, and in a negative way.
If a rabbit is causing too much ruckus, chickens may peck and chase it. Other reasons chickens may decide to pick on rabbits is when it comes to feeding time and the chicken wants to eat or if there isn’t enough space in the living area and the animals are living in too close of quarters.
The best way to keep the peace and avoid problems between your chickens and rabbits is to properly introduce them to one another.
For the Best Results, Introduce Chickens and Rabbits to Each Other While They Are Young
Properly introducing your chickens and rabbits to each other can ensure a positive and effective relationship between the two animals as they co-exist. The best time to integrate your animals is when both are at a young age. At this point, young rabbits and young chickens can easily accept the other species as part of their community setting. Animals learn through familiarity, so the more the two spend time together, the more they will learn to get along with each other.
As soon as chicks are able to live outside in a coop and away from supplemental heat, around 4-6 weeks of age, you can start to integrate them with young rabbits. Baby rabbits can be weaned from their mothers at around 4 weeks of age, which is a perfect time to introduce them to chickens.
Rabbits Prefer a Cleaner Environment Than Chickens
When it comes to cleanliness, rabbits are much more “organized” than chickens. Rabbits will avoid using the bathroom near their food and where they sleep. Believe it or not, but you can even litter-train rabbits. Chickens, on the other hand, will use the bathroom whenever and wherever. If you have chickens and rabbits living together, the mess chickens create make it difficult for rabbits to feel comfortable in the environment.
For this reason, it’s recommended that you provide separate coops or hutches for each type of animal even if they share a run. This way, rabbits can escape to a clean place when they want to. While this may not be the best for conserving space, it will make your rabbits feel more comfortable.
Neuter Male Rabbits to Keep Peace in the Run
Male rabbits have a reputation for being a little too frisky…if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, chickens often fall prey to the urges of male rabbits. This can terrorize your chicken flock and create a bad living environment for them. To avoid this, either neuter your male rabbits or primarily keep females.
The best time to neuter male rabbits is when they are around 6 months of age. This is a procedure that will have to be done by a veterinarian as it requires general anesthesia. Neutering can help with other behavioral issues, like litter training and cleanliness.
Chickens Can Spread Diseases to Rabbits
One downside to keeping chickens and rabbits together is that some diseases can be transmitted between the animals. Some diseases may greatly effect one species more than the other. Some of the diseases that can be transmitted between chickens and rabbits include coccidia, streptococcosis, salmonella, and pasteurella multocida. Internal parasites and fleas can also spread between both animals.
For this reason, if you notice that you have a sick rabbit or chicken, you should remove them from the group and isolate them until you are able to diagnose the problem. One sick animal can infect their entire community if they aren’t removed. If you have any specific concerns about keeping chickens and rabbits together due to the transfer of diseases, you should talk to a veterinarian to get a more in depth look at the risks.
Secure Your Enclosure to Protect Both Chickens and Rabbits
Rabbits and chickens are often easy targets for predators, so if you plan on keeping these animals together, you should provide an adequate enclosure that will work to protect both the chickens and the rabbits. While rabbits can’t fly, your enclosure should have a cover over it or be at least 8 ft tall to prevent chickens from flying out and escaping. The enclosure fence should be buried at least 1 ft into the ground to prevent the rabbits from burrowing under it.
Keep predators away from the enclosure by keeping the surrounding areas neat and manicured. Remove any shrubs or tall grasses that can provide cover for predators and make sure the enclosure fence and cover is strong enough to withstand a predator climbing or resting on top of it.
Separate Your Chickens and Rabbits at Feeding Time
When it comes to keeping chickens and rabbits together, it’s important to know that each animal has its own specific dietary needs. Chickens will often eat anything they find while rabbits are pickier and more limited on what they should eat. Rabbits would find it difficult to digest chicken feed or chicken scratch. This could lead to digestive issues and other health problems.
Separating your chickens and rabbits from each other at feeding time can ensure that each animal is getting the proper feed. This can be easier said than done when all your animals are kept together; for this reason, I recommend having separate coops for each species. With this setup, the animals will share a run and an outside enclosure but will be able to escape the other species when they go in their designated coop.
Ensure You Have Adequate Space for Your Chickens and Rabbits
Providing too small of a space can drive any animal mad, especially if they are living in close quarters with other animals. When kept in tight quarters, chickens will be more apt to peck at and pick on the rabbits. Crowded spaces can also negatively impact the mental state of each animal.
When deciding how much space you need to provide for your chicken and rabbit enclosure, you’ll need to calculate how much space each animal you plan on having will need. In a coop, each chicken will need 2 – 3 square feet. In a run, each chicken should be provided with at least 8 square feet. When it comes to rabbits, one rabbit needs at least 6 square feet in a coop at 24 square feet in a run area.
Did you know that you can train Guinea Fowl to sleep in a coop? To learn more, check out my article Do Guinea Fowl Need a Coop? Essential Care Guide.
Ideally, Share a Run Between Your Chickens and Rabbits But Provide Separate Coops
After all this information, you’re probably thinking over the best setup for your chickens and rabbits. When it comes down to it, the ideal setup for keeping chickens and rabbits together would be to provide a shared run with separate coops for each species. By doing this, you preserve space by keeping animals together but also see to each species’ mental state by providing separate coops.
Both chickens and rabbits are creatures of habit, and it isn’t hard to teach them to go to a specific coop. If raised with a consistent routine, each animal will quickly learn which coop is theirs and which is the other animals’. Having separate coops for your animals will also enable you to provide species-specific feed in a place where the other animals can’t get it. This living arrangement will also give your rabbits a clean place to rest rather than making them deal with the mess of chickens.
If a Coop is Shared Between Rabbits and Chickens, Clean the Coop Regularly
Nonetheless, your chickens and rabbits can share a coop if need be. If this is the case, it’s important that you provide a coop large enough to accommodate both animals. In a coop, rabbits will need to be able to hop from place to place, stand up, and sleep. You’ll want to make sure your coop provides nesting places for chickens as well as space for your rabbits.
As I mentioned earlier, rabbits are clean animals that prefer their nesting and eating places to be free from feces and waste. This can make it difficult for them to live in a coop with chickens, as chickens don’t really mind where or when they use the bathroom. For this reason, if you keep rabbits and chickens in the same coop, the coop should be cleaned out almost on a daily basis.
Build a Rabbit Extension Onto Your Chicken Coop
Another thing to consider if your chickens and rabbits will be sharing a coop is to build a rabbit extension onto the coop. This extension will provide a separate space for your rabbits away from the chickens. This will prevent chicken waste from ruining the rabbits’ area as well as give your rabbits a quiet place they can rest away from the chaos of the chickens.
Keeping rabbits and chickens together is highly do-able; however, you do run the risk of the animals picking on each other and injuring each other as well as passing on diseases and parasites. There are many other farm animals and poultry that you can keep with chickens. To learn more, check out my article Do Goats Protect Chickens? What You Need to Know.