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Rabbits & chicken together?

 
Patrick Storm
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
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I have an allotment and was thinking that I might be able to fit some protein sources in there if I build vertically. To be able to fit the animals, I was thinking I might be able to keep chicken and rabbits together. Is this a big no-no or what? If I had more space than 100m2 I would not put them together, for safety's sake. So I'm asking this question thinking I might be wrong in that they might hurt each other. BTW, they would have a maximum of 10m2 of the total of 100m2.

In the future, when I get more space, I'd like to have both ducks and fish as well.

Do any of you have any drawings or schematics on keeping these small critters in a small space? Any ideas on how to keep them successfully in a vertical manner, with all their needs supplied + then some. I don't like the idea of the bare minimals.

Thank you so much!
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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I've heard of people keeping chickens under rabbits. If the rabbits are over soil, the chickens scratch and dig and bury the bunny poo before it can get too stinky. Chickens really like some sunlight, tho so make sure they can get some shining in at least part of their run.

My mind is working now... If you made a "tractor" of rabbits/chickens you could move it across your garden and the chickens could dig/clear the areas for you to plant while the bunnies add fertilizer. I've read rabbit poo is just about the best fertilizer you can get. Or you could plant comfrey near it so the roots could mine the "food" coming from the rabbits and chickens and then use chop & drop to deposit that fertile material around your plants, or feed the leaves back to the rabbits.

I'm a big fan of bantam chickens - they lay eggs half the size of regular hens but their feed/egg ratio is better, they need less space, and they're much easier on garden vegetables if you ever want to let them out to do pest control.

But for eggs and meat in a small space, it's hard to beat coturnix quail - the meat kinds like A & M start reproducing in 8 weeks and are ready to harvest around then as well - harvest the extra males for a continuous supply - they also lay eggs daily and were bred to be raised in small spaces.
 
Patrick Storm
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
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Thanks! Some great info right there. So if I have two pens, one on top of the other, what should the flooring for the rabbits be? It'd have to be some sort of netting to let the droppings drop, right? Is that ok for their paws? Maybe they could have part netting and part wood board or something to plant food for them on. I did something similar once when I kept locust, the bottom of the cage was made from netting under which I grew grass so that they could eat whatever grew through the netting, but could not get to the roots and/ or destroy the plants entirely.

Tractoring sounds great but is a little hard on this particular space as there would be trees and bushes in the way. I'm aiming for a tiny but extremely intense food forest.

Is there a way of incorporating fish into this system? Maybe the water could drip irrigate the plants that feed the rabbits and then the rabbits drop their poo down to the chicken. Maybe there could be yet another compartment under the chicken pen with worms that can be fed back to the fish? My mind is racing now too =)

What is the minimum height for the rabbits and birds if I choose relatively small breeds? What are some good species of fish or other aquatics that can be kept in a tank like this (I'm thinking something simple like waterproofed board)? Would half a meter ~ 2 feet be enough height and depth? Length would be around 10m (~32'9") for an area of about 5m2 or 53,8 sq ft. Maybe that's too big? How many of each could sustainably be kept in there? BTW I'm in southern Sweden with a relatively mild climate.

What about wintertime...? Maybe a small but deep pond would be better for fish so it doesn't freeze...

Shoot your ideas my way =)
Thanks.

 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Rabbit cages are often 18 inches to 2 feet high. Around 2 feet high should be sufficient for chickens too but they like to roost up higher to sleep so the more height you can give them the happier they'd be. I'd put the rabbits at a height that you can easily reach in the doors without stooping. Use 1/4 inch hardware cloth wire for the bottom of the rabbit cage. Cages are really easy to make for rabbits using wire rings or J clips and the tool for either one to hold the wires together. These days you can make superior ones to what you can buy for less $$.

With your space limitations I'd just pick weeds and feed them to the rabbits, or maybe grow a small plot of herbs and grass for them. They love the same herbs we do, especially parsley, cilantro, basil, etc. If you try to grow stuff under them, you risk too much pee and poo killing the plants. You could do a fodder system on top of the rabbit cage, tho, which would also serve as a roof to keep the rabbits dry in rainy weather.

For aquaponics, you really need electricity, do you have that? The higher density you keep your fish, the more you can grow in a small space but the faster they can die from their own waste if they system stops working like due to a power failure or pump failure. Many breeds for farm culture can survive higher amounts of ammonia in the water, but IMHO it affects the quality of the meat much the same as factory-farming any other animal. Otherwise you could have a rain barrel with just a few fish in it - goldfish are good, and use that water for your plants, refilling it as necessary. Goldfish are messy fish which means they poo a lot and that means the water is rich in nutrients that will make plants grow well. Goldfish can be frozen in a block of ice and when it thaws they'll often just resume their fishy lives like nothing ever happened.
 
Adam Klaus
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Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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yes this is defnitely possible. for all the details, Joel Salatin discusses it thoroughly in Pastured Poultry Profits.

The basic idea is that you have a henhouse with sawdust floor for the chickens to live in. Then you hang wire bottomed cages 4 feet off the ground for the rabbits. rabbit poop drops down into the sawdust, where the chickens incorporate in into the compost bedding. I have done it. It works very well. Please dont try to have the chickens in wire cages though. Chickens need to be able to scratch about on the floor, that is their instinct.

This is about the most space and time efficient system for meat and eggs I can imagine. Good Luck!
 
Bob Blackmer
Posts: 31
Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
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Adam Klaus wrote:yes this is defnitely possible. for all the details, Joel Salatin discusses it thoroughly in Pastured Poultry Profits.

The basic idea is that you have a henhouse with sawdust floor for the chickens to live in. Then you hang wire bottomed cages 4 feet off the ground for the rabbits. rabbit poop drops down into the sawdust, where the chickens incorporate in into the compost bedding. I have done it. It works very well. Please dont try to have the chickens in wire cages though. Chickens need to be able to scratch about on the floor, that is their instinct.

This is about the most space and time efficient system for meat and eggs I can imagine. Good Luck!


Salatin's system for rabbits and egg layers does work really well. I've seen it in person. The only concern with it is the problem of mites. Chickens can have mites , (usually indicated by scaly legs) with little problems in regards to egg production. These same mites get into rabbits ears. For the rabbits it is a problem causing undo stress which will reflect in things like smaller litters and lower finishing weights. The best solution I've seen to keep your chickens with your rabbits is to be sure to use metal posts to support your rabbit cages. Mites tend to live and travel between hosts much more easily on wood, so avoiding it will help combat that problem. If mites do become a problem with the rabbits, putting worms under the rabbits and raising the chickens somewhere else is still a good option giving you rabbits, worms, and excellent compost all from the same area.
 
Patrick Storm
Posts: 38
Location: Malmö, Sweden
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Thanks for all your replies.
I have FINALLY found a place that can supply both wood chips and hay bales (which took me years to find) and I have a mental sketch of how to set up this tiny piece of land. However, now my wife thinks the whole thing is a bad idea and that it would be bad to invest in materials for this plot as we're trying to move out of the city to get a properly sized chunk of land. It's still not easy to sell apartments though, so I thought we should make the most of the land we have while we're still in the city, and then we can just bring our trees, animals and compost bins etc. But this was obviously not convincing.

I guess we'll see how things go. If we can't sell our flat we should probably get one allotment each, since we can't agree on anything when it comes to gardening
 
Michelle Whipple
Posts: 2
Location: Black Hills of South Dakota
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Hi Patrick,

My personal experience has been that rabbits and chickens do well together in a semi free range environment. I've kept bantams hens and full size rabbits in an enclosed 10' x 20' run with no problems. Rabbits tend to be most active early in the morning, and late in the evening, sometimes even after dark. Chickens are active during the day and head to bed to pretty early in the evening so the animals stay out of each other's way for the most part. While I had both male and female rabbits, I only ever had hens so I can't say how a rooster would affect the dynamic.

The run itself was fashioned from a steel tube frame originally meant as a carport, then covered with chicken wire to keep out hawks. We had two guard dogs to deal with coyotes, fox, and raccoons. We repurposed a children's playhouse as a combined coop/storage building. The building was raised about 1' off the ground on concrete blocks; that gave the rabbits a nice hiding place during the day. I set some roosting poles high inside the coop for the chickens, a wood platform below to catch the chicken poop, then three nestboxes (about waist-high) below the platform. Below the nest boxes, on the floor of the building, I kept the area covered with aspen wood shavings, about 4" deep. The rabbits usually bedded down there for the night.

The run was situated under a large live oak for partial shade. The interior of the run was planted with some tough rosemary and ostrich grass, the fencing around the run had grapevine rambing over it. I also had a "fodder" corner planted with greens, similar to the one RobBob made here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzSKcj481pc The rabbits and chickens helped themselves to the plants when they wanted, along with additional kitchen scraps, plus I fed them commercial feed when times were lean (winter). The chickens killed pretty much anything that crept, crawled, or flew into range, including the errant mouse or small snake.

I never had issues with inter-species fights. My dominant male rabbit did like to harrass the hens occassionally by running circles around them but I think he just was enjoying himself. Like chickens, rabbits do have a strict social heirarchy, especially in a "free-range" setting. If you do plan to raise rabbits this way, I would suggest getting either very young bunnies and raising them together as a group so they're familiar with one another as they age, or do a lot or research on creating "bonded groups" if you plan to get rabbits past the age of puberty. Otherwise, expect some pretty nasty fights. I "rehomed" an abandoned pet bunny into my established group and it took about a month of constant work to get the group to accept her. One of my does ended up with half her ear bitten off. I myself have scars from rabbit bites; those little teeth are not to be trifled with.

Good luck!
 
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