Hi, I am new, so please excuse possible dumb questions.
I live in Georgia and am working hard to incorporate as much knowledge as possible that I have gleaned from years of lurking here and also watching videos on these topics.
I have a 12x8 very secure chicken house with attached, fully enclosed run 8x20. The house sits up off the about 2' and has a 7 foot ceiling. The floor is covered with sand and from inside the chickens access their nesting boxes and have their roosts. There is a nipple watering system with heat tape for winter to prevent freezing.
The run is covered with 1/2'' hardware cloth, including on top and the wire mesh is buried all around and also bent out along the outside 12 inches to prevent digging by predators.
Currently I have one rooster, 4 laying hens and one old "retired" hen. I plan to increase the chickens and add some ducks, 2-4 ducks (no drake). The ducks would have a separate small coop in the run (I'm thinking 8'sq), up off the ground a foot or two and accessed by a ramp, but during the day, after laying, they would have free access to the run. They would not get into the chicken house because there is no ramp up to it. The chickens just hop up and down between the house and run. I am aware that the ducks would need a separate watering system as they cannot use the nipples.
I would only be eating the chickens or ducks in order to cull old layers and replace with new pullets so I am really only using them only for eggs and fertilizer (poop).
Would putting a rabbit hutch in the run and allowing a rabbit or two to mingle with the ducks and chickens be ok? I am not planning to eat the rabbits, so I wouldn't need breeding space. My plan is give the rabbits a tunnel entrance to their hutch so that the chickens and ducks would not get in it. The purpose for the rabbits is as pets and for the fertilizer they produce. Would they be safe running around with the birds during the day? Would they prefer to have free access to the run at night also and just go in their hutch as they please, day or night? Should I get two males or two females?
"The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God." —St. Irenaeus of Lyons
Our ducks and geese share a large run with our rabbits. During the day the waterfowl come out on to the pond and I let the rabbits out of the hutch to run around the run. A couple things I've learned:
1. The rabbits will go up the ramp into the duck house and get into their food, so I remove the duck feed pan during the day.
2. The ducks and geese will chase the rabbits and bite their tails if they are out in the run together, but the rabbits are much faster and can get away.
3. I like the idea of a small tunnel into the hutch to keep out the ducks and chickens.
4. Get two female rabbits. My brother had two males and they were aggressive with each other.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. (James 5:7)
One thing to think about maybe would be how you will collect the rabbit poop to use it as fertilizer. We had rabbits for years and will be getting them again, and I found that letting them free range meant several piled areas of poop that I had to go scoop - I just didn't want to do that, but it may not matter to you! I didn't like scooping, but I did like dumping, so here is what we did...
We had the chickens and rabbits together - I had the rabbits in elevated hutches (about 2 feet up) with plenty of running around room and some solid floor as well as wire mesh. I put two big rubber containers under neath where I found them to be toileting. The rubber containers caught all the poop. I drilled 2 small holes in the bottom of both to let urine pass through, otherwise it just got too much. Every week I would run out and empty the containers - sometimes into the worm bins, sometimes into compost piles. A quick hose out and a dusting of DE and then they went back under the rabbit hutches.
The chickens would periodically hop in and scratch through the poop looking for bugs. Good protein for them, so they were happy. All in all, with just a little bit of attention, the system ran clean as a whistle for many years. I would recommend using hardware cloth that is 1 inch in diameter, as I learned from being a bonehead that too small an opening causes poop to clog up the holes. And that causes me to rip my hair out in irritation.
The other other nice part was that since they were elevated, I didn't have to add on to the chicken run space - vertical is awesome. And it actually looked rather nice - we were in a suburban situation and I asked our neighbors if they minded and they said they never smelled anything and loved hearing the chickens scratching and cooing around in the chicken yard.
I once had a rabbit enclosure (with a mesh screen to allow rabbit droppings to fall through) above my chicken run. I've read that the "hot" properties of chicken manure and "cool" properties of rabbit manure complement each other when mixed. It also seemed to reduce odors and the time you needed to wait before you could apply the chicken manure to your plants without burning them.
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