Just wanted to make a short post regarding why we absolutely LOVE keeping our chickens alongside our rabbits. A quick note to start with…it’s always best to have more species in one setup, as long as the species are compatible and can work together to form a fully functioning permacultural system. The more natural a space, the healthier and happier those organisms within that space will be.
I love keeping rabbits, they generate meat, fur, fertilizer, and they’re fluffy and adorable. Keeping any livestock, however, can always generate issues, especially when it comes to waste and waste management. Often times, when rabbits are kept in cages, they accumulate large piles of spilled food, wasted hay and bedding, and manure and urine. We combat this with one simple method: chickens.
Our rabbitry is strategically placed so that it surrounds the chicken coop. This has multiple functions. For one, on days of bad weather, the chickens can still leave the coop and forage and peck around under the shelter of the rabbit cages. Having rabbits close to the coop also allows the chickens the ability to forage underneath the cages on any given day. Since our chooks free range, they have the capacity to go wherever they want, whenever they want. This means that the chickens can constantly cycle around underneath of the cages. This benefits us because they clean up any dropped rabbit food. The chickens also prevent large piles of waste from forming by scratching around, spreading the manure. While doing so, they also poop, which then gets mixed into the rabbit waste, creating a rich compost.
We don’t always spread the rabbit and chicken compost ourselves, often we just allow it to be spread around naturally by the chickens, and then we can keep the chickens off of it for a week or two and plant some seeds. This provides great amounts of forage for the chickens. Another benefit to running the chickens underneath of the rabbits is that they pick up wasted food, thus preventing rats and mice from obtaining free snacks from the rabbitry. Having the chickens spread the waste around also drastically cuts down on the amount of flies and other unwanted bugs.
All together, if you can make chickens roaming underneath of your rabbit cages work, I highly recommend it. Even if you can’t, you can always allow your chooks access to manure to spread or rotate where you have your rabbits so that they don’t accumulate masses of waste. Rabbits and chickens are only the first of MANY species that we plan to cohabitate on the new farmstead, and I’ll post updates as we add more 🙂