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Can Rabbits Eat Chicken Feed? [Should You Let Them?]

Owning multiple pets comes with its challenges. Especially when they start to eat each other’s food. Suppose you have a rabbit and chickens, and your bunny eats their feed – is this a problem? Or alternatively, can you let or even replace your rabbit’s pellets for those you usually put out for your flock? Here is what you need to know.

So, can rabbits eat chicken feed? Rabbits should be able to eat a small amount of chicken feed without any immediate adverse reaction. That being said, chicken feed is not suitable for rabbits, nor should it be provided as a food source. Regular feeding will likely result in weight gain and other dangerous health issues, such as stones, due to its high calcium content.

You’ll be surprised at how many owners find their rabbits head down in their chicken’s feed – caught in the act and munching away.

And just because rabbits appear to like this particular food source does not mean they should.

We will now look at why this is the case in the following sections.

So stick around.

The health of your rabbit truly depends on it!

Is Chicken Feed Suitable For Rabbits?

Chicken feed is not suitable for rabbits. While a small amount is unlikely to cause any immediate harm, it will likely result in health complications further down the line if fed often and regularly. 

Besides, chicken feed was designed for these birds, in particular.

And for the same reason, this is precisely why we have rabbit pellets too.

Each is designed to meet the nutritional needs and requirements of each animal.

In fact, chicken feed actually comes in various different types.

For instance, you have:

  • Starter Chicken Feed – for baby chicks in the first six weeks of life. High in protein.
  • Grower Chicken Feed – for developing hens between the ages of 6 to 20 weeks old. Higher protein, low in calcium.
  • Layer Chicken Feed – for adult hens of egg-laying age. It is balanced in terms of protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals to encourage optimal egg-laying.

As you can see, all of them are nutritionally different.

And each of which is made up of specific nutrients to support the bird at each age of life.

Nevertheless, chicken feed is primarily designed to be high calcium.

While the amount does fluctuate between the different feeds depending on the age of the bird, it is unanimously considered quite high.

At least for a rabbit.

Remember that.

Now, take a look at this quote on feeding a pet rabbit by VCA animal hospitals; veterinarians & emergency vets:

“Rabbits are herbivores (plant eaters) and are considered grazers, in that they eat continuously. They have complex digestive systems and are very efficient at processing food. They also have very specific dietary needs”.

On a fundamental level, chickens and rabbits need to consume very different vitamins and minerals.

So back to the calcium.

Excess calcium can be hugely problematic for rabbits.

While they need some, excess calcium can be very dangerous for them:

“Rabbits have an unusual calcium metabolism. In most mammals, the amount of calcium absorbed from the diet is regulated at gut level by Parathyroid hormone (PTH), but in rabbits calcium absorption is less well regulated and they absorb calcium in proportion to what is present in their diet, whether or not they require it. Any excess calcium that is absorbed into the blood stream from the gut is excreted through the urinary tract, where it may be deposited and form calculi. Rabbits can form solid calcifications in their kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra, as well as depositing thick calcium “sludge” in their kidneys or bladder.”

That’s taken directly from the RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund) – a non-profit in the UK.

And the real thing to remember and consider here is that rabbit absorb calcium at the level offered in their food.

So, if your rabbit is consuming a high calcium chicken feed (chances are they will be as it will likely be layer feed), they will continue to absorb it – even if they do not need anymore.

All in all, the conclusion on the RWAF sums it up perfectly. I couldn’t have written this any better myself:

“The conclusion that we can draw upon from calcium problems, both lack of and in excess quantities, is that we have been feeding our rabbits incorrectly for many years.

Rabbits are designed to live off grass and more grass. This keeps their teeth worn down, their digestive systems working properly and provides them with the correct nutritional values. Dried mixes are very convenient for us and although you may think your rabbit needs a bowl full of dried mix each day – they don’t!

Unless all the food is eaten and backed up with good quality hay and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, problems are liable to occur. Commercial rabbit food should only be a small percentage of the rabbits daily food ration and should be eaten within half an hour of being given. The rest of the rabbit’s time should be spent eating hay, grass (fresh or kiln-dried) and their fruit and vegetables.

How Much Chicken Feed Can A Rabbit Safely Eat? 

How much chicken feed a rabbit can safely eat will depend on the rabbit, its health status, and the rest of its diet. If a rabbit is somewhat calcium deficient, then it will fare far better than a rabbit that is already in calcium excess.

Nevertheless, this is not something you should be taking any chances with.

If your rabbit needs more calcium in the diet, then this is something that your veterinarian should identify and monitor.

And chances are, a rabbit that is calcium deficient will be showing signs and symptoms.

Even in cases where increased calcium is prescribed and desired, there are much better calcium-rich foods that they can consume.

For instance, the following foods may be prescribed to increase the calcium in the diet. All of which are high in calcium and can raise it:

  • Kale,
  • Spinach,
  • Parsley
  • Watercress
  • Mint
  • Spring Greens

Ultimately, chicken feed is not something you ever should offer.

A small amount, here and there, should not cause immediate problems.

It does actually provide a decent amount of fiber and protein (both of which rabbits do need).

But, just as is the case with rabbit pellets, their diet should actually be quite limited, as we shall explore below.

What Should A Rabbit Be Eating Instead

Rabbits should liberally consume hay and grasses while consuming smaller amounts of fresh raw vegetables and a limited number of pellets. 

For the most part, your rabbit’s diet should be hay.

And very particular types of hay too.

They should have continuous access to and a constant supply of high-quality hay – where Timothy or Orchard is ideal.

Such grasses can provide the high fiber these small mammals need to maintain a digestive system.

From there, a small amount of particular fresh vegetables can be provided.

These should be leafy green vegetables first and foremost. A smaller amount of starchy vegetables (such as carrots or swede) may be offered so long as it does not result in soft stools, diarrhea, or bloat.

The best greens to offer include: romaine lettuce, mustard greens, watercress, beet greens, and broccoli greens.

Be sure to offer a variety here and only introduce new foods in small amounts, to begin with. Monitor your rabbit’s response and ensure they can digest them well.

If you were to add new foods to the diet in excess or provide inappropriate foods, your rabbit’s digestive flora could be upset – resulting in bacterial overgrowth and illness.

So you need to be mindful and careful.

While pellets designed for rabbits can be included in the diet, they do not need a lot.

1/8 of a cup for every 5 pounds of your rabbit’s weight is advised.

Too many pellets can result in excess weight gain and digestive upset – as pellets are often low in fiber and provide too much energy in the form of carbohydrates.

Finally

Can rabbits eat the feed you put out for your chickens? Well, they can, but it’s far from ideal.

In fact, if they do it routinely, it will likely result in serious health complications.

So, if your rabbit does get lucky and has the opportunity to try this new food out once or twice, you should be okay.

But do still monitor your rabbit in the hours that follow for digestive upset.

It may well be that you need to consult a vet.

Unlikely, but certainly possible depending on how much they ate.

Other than that, do perhaps consider being a bit more mindful about where your rabbit can access and what they can eat.

Rabbits do not need to eat chicken feed. Nor much of their own pellets, for that matter.

Hay is what rabbits need primarily.

That should always be the focus of the diet.

Related Questions

Can Chickens And Rabbits Eat The Same Food?

Chickens and rabbits cannot eat the same food. Either chicken feed for rabbits or rabbit pellets for chickens will not do. In both circumstances, it is likely that ill health will ensue if consistently eaten. Rabbits and chickens have very different nutritional requirements, and their foods have been designed as such.