It rarely fails that animals kept together, or even near each other, on a farm or working homestead will find a way to “share” food.
Horses will eat goat feed, cows will swipe a bit of hay from the horses, and so on.
But chickens, chickens are omnivores, and that means they can be some of the most food-thieving animals there are.
They are especially happy to take pellet feed from dogs, horses, goats, and more. But how about rabbit food? Can chickens eat rabbit pellets?
Yes, chickens can safely eat rabbit pellets, though it should be done in moderation. Rabbit pellets are high in protein and other nutrients that are easily digestible by chickens, but they are not nutritionally complete and replacement of chickens’ usual feed will result in malnutrition.
So, as usual, you will have little to worry about if your chickens swipe a bit of food that the rabbits drop or leave behind, but you don’t want to make a habit of feeding it to them, and you definitely don’t want to think of replacing your flock’s usual food with rabbit pellets.
Keep reading to learn everything you ever wanted to know about chickens eating rabbit pellets.
What are Rabbit Pellets Made Of?
Rabbit pellets are a type of animal feed made from a variety of different ingredients.
The exact ingredients used vary depending on the manufacturer, but the pellets typically contain a mix of hay, haylage, straw, bran, oats, beet pulp, and other vegetables.
The pellets are compressed into small nuggets and are generally fed to rabbits on a daily basis as the staple of their diet, just like chicken feed is to chickens.
The exact composition of hay and other ingredients will vary depending on the manufacturer but typically rabbit pellets provide between 10% and 14% crude protein, 1% to 2% crude fat, and 2% to 4% fiber.
They also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin E, copper sulfate, manganese oxide, sodium selenite, and more.
Altogether these vital nutrients are critical for good health, plenty of energy, and shiny, fluffy coats.
As you can see rabbit pellets are packed with nutrients, including many that are essential to a chicken’s diet, and furthermore they are sourced from things that chickens can eat.
However, they are not nutritionally complete and should not be used as a sole source of food for your birds.
Rabbit Pellets are for Rabbits, Not Chickens
Chickens are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything, whole or processed, but that does not mean that everything they eat is good for them.
In fact, there are many things that chickens should not eat because they can cause health problems, and sometimes in subtle ways.
This applies to rabbit pellets; while they are not poisonous or overtly harmful to chickens, they should not be used as the primary source of food because they lack all the nutrition needed to keep your flock healthy.
Rabbit pellets do contain a good amount of protein, which is essential for chicken growth, but they are lacking in other vital nutrients or enough of the nutrients they do have.
For example, chicken feed typically contains between 16% and 20% crude protein while rabbit pellets only have 10% to 14% as mentioned above.
The point is that rabbit pellets are nutritionally compatible with chickens, but are only nutritionally complete for rabbits as the name says.
Your chickens can and will happily munch away on rabbit pellets if you let them, but trying to subsist on them is going to cause issues eventually.
Replacing Chicken Feed with Rabbit Pellets will Result in Malnutrition
Chickens require a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to stay healthy. This is why the chicken feed is specially formulated to provide everything they need in the right proportions.
Rabbit pellets do not have the same balance of nutrients as chicken feed, so if you were to try and replace your flock’s normal food with rabbit pellets you would end up causing malnutrition.
Chickens rely on a diet that is about 16% protein for proper growth and development, but as we’ve already established rabbit pellets don’t have quite enough.
Rabbit pellets also typically lack the calcium that chickens require.
This might not seem like that big of a difference, but over time it can cause serious problems for your chickens.
Without enough protein, chickens will produce fewer eggs or weaker ones, their feathers will start to degrade or even fall out, and they will generally appear unhealthy.
A lack of calcium can cause kidney problems, bone weakness, and muscle tremors in time. Bad news!
So while rabbit pellets are certainly not poisonous or even immediately harmful to chickens, feeding them as the primary source of food will result in malnutrition and health problems down the road.
How Often Can Chickens Have Rabbit Pellets?
Now that we’ve covered why you shouldn’t use rabbit pellets as chicken feed, you might be wondering if your birds can have them at all. The answer is yes, but this should be only in moderation and as a treat.
Rabbit pellets can be fed to chickens occasionally (or rather, you can allow your chickens to eat them) as an incidental supplement to their regular diet. Just don’t go overboard.
Scattering a few pellets to them that you have left over is totally fine. Allowing them to finish off a small spill of rabbit food is fine. It is even okay if they “jailbreak” and raid the rabbits’ food bowls. Not the end of the world.
But what you must not do is act as if chicken feed and rabbit feed are interchangeable; they aren’t. You also should not regularly feed your chickens servings of rabbit pellets.
Anytime your birds fill up on something that lacks the nutrition they need, they are missing out on eating food that does have everything they need, namely their own feed!
Can Baby Chicks Have Rabbit Pellets, Too?
You should not feed rabbit pellets to baby chicks, or allow them to eat them. First, as we’ve discussed, chicken feed is formulated to be nutritionally complete for chickens while rabbit pellets are not.
Second, baby chicks have different nutritional requirements than adult chickens. They need more protein and calcium than full-grown birds do in order to properly develop.
As we’ve mentioned, rabbit pellets don’t have enough of either of those two things to make them a good choice for baby chicks.
Additionally, the hard, dense pellets are too large for chicks and can pose a choking hazard. There is just no good reason to feed rabbit pellets to chicks. Don’t do it!
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.