Raising chickens and rabbits together is becoming more popular among backyard farmers and homesteaders. However, an important question arises – Can you feed your chickens the same rabbit food pellets that rabbits thrive on? Chickens are omnivorous and will eat almost anything, while rabbits are herbivores with different nutritional needs. Chicken owners may be tempted to feed their flock rabbit food if they have it on hand. Even though both animals eat similar foods, there are key differences when deciding whether chickens can eat rabbit food.
While chickens will happily peck at rabbit pellets, rabbit food should not be a chicken’s primary source of food. Feeding chickens too much rabbit food can lead to vitamin deficiencies, lower egg production, and weight loss. Chickens require feed specifically formulated to provide the right balance of protein, fat, calcium, and other nutrients needed.
Rabbit pellets mimic the grass, hay, and veggie diet that rabbits eat in nature. But chickens also benefit from animal proteins like insects. Rabbit food alone does not contain enough protein or fat for chickens to eat too often. In our guide, you can learn more about what rabbit food contains, and why it isn’t recommended for chickens to consume too much of it. By the end, you’ll better understand how it is possible to feed your chickens rabbit food, so long as you do it correctly. (Read Can Chickens Eat Mustard Greens)
What is Rabbit Food?
Rabbit food, also known as rabbit pellets, is fed to rabbits and made specifically for domestic rabbits. It contains Alfalfa, timothy hay, grains, oats, wheat, and vegetables. Rabbits are herbivores, and their main source of food in the wild is grass and other plant material. Rabbit food aims to replicate their natural diet.
Key Differences Between Chickens and Rabbits
Chickens and rabbits have very different nutritional requirements despite both being common backyard livestock. This is because chickens are omnivores while rabbits are herbivores. Chickens require a balanced diet with carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Chickens rely on a high protein diet, which rabbit food does not provide enough of. Chickens also need calcium for egg production, which rabbit food is not formulated to supply.
While chickens will happily eat many vegetables and grains, those components alone will not meet their nutritional needs.
Can A Chicken Eat Rabbit Food Safely?
Chickens can technically eat rabbit food; many enjoy pecking at rabbit pellets. However, rabbit food should not be a chicken’s primary source of food. It does not have the right balance of nutrients to sustain chickens fully.
Some key reasons chickens should not eat rabbit food as their main diet:
- Not enough protein for chickens
- Lacks adequate calcium for egg production
- It does not contain any animal-based proteins
- Made for a different digestive system than chickens
- Not formulated to meet chicken nutritional requirements
Giving chickens a little rabbit food as a supplement or snack is OK. But rabbit pellets should never completely replace balanced chicken feed.
Health Risks of Feeding Chickens Too Much Rabbit Food
Feeding chickens too much rabbit food and not enough chicken feed can lead to health problems over time. Here are some potential issues:
- Malnutrition – Lack of adequate protein, calcium, etc.
- Egg production drop – Eggs will decline without enough calcium.
- Feather pecking – Chickens may start pecking each other if they are nutritionally deficient.
- Weight loss – Chickens won’t get enough fat and protein to maintain weight.
- Increased illness – Nutrient deficiencies weaken the immune system.
Vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, and other issues can start emerging within weeks if rabbit food becomes the mainstay of a chicken’s diet. It does not have the nutrients chickens specifically need.
Can My Baby Chick Eat Rabbit Food?
Baby chickens have even more exact nutritional needs than adult chickens. They require feed that has been specifically formulated for their delicate growing phase. Baby chicks absolutely should not eat rabbit food. Chicks need very high protein feed – typically 18-24% protein. Rabbit food only has 12-14% at most, which is not nearly enough. Chicks also require more calcium, phosphorus, and nutrients than adult chickens. Rabbit food won’t have the right balance.
Only give baby chicks starter feed made for them. Once they mature into adult hens, you can offer a wider variety of supplemental foods. But rabbit pellets should never be a replacement for proper chick starter feed. (Read Deer Corn For Chickens)
Benefits of Feeding Some Rabbit Food to Chickens
While rabbit food should not be the bulk of their diet, giving chickens a modest amount can have benefits. Here are some potential perks:
- Added variety – Chickens enjoy new treats and nibbles.
- More plant-based foods – Most chickens enjoy leafy greens.
- Extra fiber – Can aid digestion.
- Alfalfa adds calcium – Useful for layers.
- Additional nutrients – More vitamins and minerals.
- Encourages foraging – Finding treats activates chickens.
Feeding a cup or less of rabbit food per chicken as an occasional supplement can add more excitement to their diet and provide additional nutrients. Just be sure they still get most of their calories from balanced chicken feed.
Feeding Chickens and Rabbits Together
If you keep rabbits and chickens together, you’ll find small amounts of rabbit food safe for chickens. Chickens are natural foragers, and pellets may spill when feeding rabbits. This foraging replicates how chickens search for insects and plants in the wild.
Having rabbits and chickens share space can work well. The concern is only ensuring the chickens have abundant access to their own layer feed.
As long as the chickens are still eating mostly chicken feed and getting their unique nutritional needs met, occasionally eating a little rabbit food is fine. Don’t rely on feeding your chickens too much rabbit food without the larger part of their diet being proper chicken feed.
How Much Rabbit Food Can Chickens Eat?
There are no definitive rules when you use rabbit food, but a good general guideline is:
- Adult hens: 1/4 cup rabbit pellets per hen per day at most
- Chicks: Rabbit food may harm chickens, so wait until they are older when it is safe for chickens to eat rabbit food.
- Layers: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of rabbit food per hen per day
When feeding them rabbit food, spread the pellets around the chicken coop so they can forage through the day.
Chickens love to eat different food, so limit treats to about 10% of a chicken’s daily food intake, and chickens only eat one or two rabbit feed meals in a row. (Read Can Chickens Eat Shrimp)
Best Rabbit Foods for Chickens
Adding rabbit food may seem like a good idea, but not all are equal. Here are some of the best options you can allow your chickens to eat.
- Alfalfa pellets are higher in calcium protein than other rabbit foods, so chickens can eat Alfalfa.
- Mixed greens food contains veggies and leafy greens, which is good for chickens.
- Timothy-based: Lower protein than Alfalfa but still provides fiber.
- Oxbow brand: No artificial additives or preservatives.
Avoid rabbit foods with unhealthy additives or artificial colors and flavors. Always check the ingredient list before feeding anything new to your flock. Look for rabbit foods with higher calcium and protein than typical rabbit pellets, which will better complement a chicken’s needs. Alfalfa-based foods are usually preferable to plain timothy formulas.
Things Chickens Can Eat Instead of Rabbit Food
If you want to supplement your chickens with more treats and variety, there are many healthier alternatives than fed rabbit food that chickens love.
This food can also offer many benefits to your hens besides their regular chicken pellets:
- Fresh greens – Kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc.
- Fruits – Berries, melon, apple slices, citrus, etc.
- Seeds – Flax, sunflower, pumpkin, etc.
- Veggies – Carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, etc.
- Mealworms and insects.
- Table scraps like rice, pasta, bread.
- Oats and baked goods.
- Yogurt, cheese, eggs.
Make mix-and-match snack trays to give your chickens variety. Rotate different fresh foods to keep their diets exciting and nutrient-rich.
Chickens will readily peck at rabbit food and don’t necessarily know it’s made for a different species. However, chickens and rabbits have different dietary needs, and rabbit pellets lack essential nutrients chickens need for health and egg-laying ability.
While feeding chickens rabbit food occasionally isn’t harmful to chickens, it should never wholly replace chicken feed. Chickens require their own diet to get the right nutrition, especially layer pellets for egg-laying hens. Supplement the traditional chicken feed with leafy greens, vegetables, and other natural treats to mimic chicken food found as they forage in the wild.
This will keep your chickens engaged. Just be sure they still get most of their necessary protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals from species-appropriate chicken feed. With the right primary diet and supplemental variety, chickens, and rabbits can safely co-exist. (Read Do Fake Owls Scare Chickens)
Can chickens eat rabbit poop?
Chickens can certainly eat rabbit poop, as chickens can eat almost anything. However, it’s not recommended. If chickens get bacteria or parasites, it can make them ill. Besides, there is no proper nutrition for chickens.
Is Alfalfa safe for chickens?
Yes, chickens can safely eat some alfalfa or Timothy as part of a balanced diet. Alfalfa pellets or meals can provide added protein and calcium. But chicken layer feed should still be their primary food.
Is rabbit food bad for chickens?
Feeding rabbit pellets in large quantities and not enough chicken feed can lead to malnutrition, low egg production, weight loss, and other health issues in chickens. It lacks the nutrients chickens require.
What happens if chickens eat rabbit food?
If fed long-term rabbit food, chickens may lose their vitamin and mineral quota; thus, this lack of in chickens can lead to a deficiency where they stop laying eggs or lose weight. Chickens require chicken feed tailored to their nutritional needs that they won’t get from rabbit feed.
Will chickens eat rabbit pellets?
It’s safe for your chickens to eat rabbit food, and most chickens enjoy pecking at rabbit pellets and will eat them readily. However, chickens should not fill up on rabbit food as there isn’t enough overall nutrition found in rabbit food compared to chicken feed.
Can I feed my chickens rabbit Alfalfa?
Chickens can safely eat modest amounts of Alfalfa as it is higher in calcium and protein than plain rabbit pellets. But chicken feed should remain the staple food for balanced nutrition, not Alfalfa alone.
Can my baby chick eat rabbit food?
No. Baby chicks have particular nutritional needs that rabbit food does not meet. Chicks should only eat starter feed formulated specifically for them. Adult hens can eat small amounts of rabbit pellets.
Is it OK to feed chickens and rabbits together?
Yes, you can house chickens and rabbits together. The chickens can forage for rabbit food scraps. Ensure the chickens have unlimited access to the protein-rich chicken feed they require to stay healthy.