Keeping rabbits with birds

We have been asked whether it is safe to keep rabbits in the same area as poultry, primarily chickens. We don’t advise this for several reasons

  • Dietary needs are different. Poultry birds need grain feeds. This is high calorie and low on fibre. It’s a completely unsuitable diet for rabbits, will cause obesity and doesn’t provide the dietary fibre they need to keep teeth worn correctly nor to keep the gut moving properly
  • Water is generally fouled by birds. Rabbits need to have a constant supply of fresh water and if they are sharing living quarters with chickens etc that will not be possible as it will become contaminated with faecal matter
  • Salmonella is a major problem with poultry. Whilst rabbits are reasonable resistant to it, it is nevertheless an unacceptable risk
  • Hens and particularly ducks turn grass into bare earth or mud quickly. This is removing a valuable food source from rabbits and turning the area they live on into something potentially harmful
  • There is potential for injury and there are anecdotal tales of this happening

For these reasons we recommend that rabbits are not housed with poultry species

There is further information on this topic in the BSAVA Rabbit Manual. It states that where birds and rabbits are housed together, large psittacines (parrot species) may cause trauma to rabbits, although in most cases where rabbits share an aviary with birds the birds are more commonly smaller members of the parrot group and also other perching birds.

It is not common for micro-organisms to be able to transfer directly between avian and mammalian species, but if it does happen in one bird or mammal, the others in the group should be suspected of being infected also. This is particularly the case with intestinal diseases and fungal skin conditions.

Where hens and rabbits are kept together, the coccidian affecting each animal are different and should not cause problems to the other species but the main health problems are as mentioned above.

Can houserabbits play in the garden?

We are sometimes asked about letting houserabbits play in the garden, especially in cold or wet weather.

Our Specialist Veterinary Adviser Dr Richard Saunders has provided this advice

General: I would say that all rabbits outside in runs should have a hide box area with at least 2 exits, to retreat into if feeling insecure, as well as for protection from extremes of cold or wind.

Low temperatures: assuming they are healthy rabbits in social groups or pairings, with no significant areas of missing fur etc, if they are able to move around freely and are protected from rain and wind, they should be OK in runs down to about 5C. Below that, access to a well insulated indoor area, whether attached to or within the run, or both, must be provided. Rabbits in poor body condition, or with missing fur, or sole animals, must be provided with shelter before temperatures get down to 5C.

High temperatures: OK, assuming the rabbits are not obese, and do not have respiratory disease, and have shade and plenty of places to keep cool.”

FAQ cont’d

Q7) I bought some zoflora as it says safe to use in pet areas, thing is would it be
safe to use near buns? I know it wouldn’t kill EC spores though.

A7) This is from the safety data sheet, which makes me think, no, it’s not a good
idea round pets:

R11
Highly flammable
R21/22
Harmful in contact with skin and if swallowed
R23/24/25
Toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed
R34
Cause burns
R36
Irritating to eyes
R38
Irritating to skin
R39/23/24/25
Toxic: danger of very serious irreversible effects through inhalation, in
contact with skin and if swallowed
R43
May cause sensitisation by skin contact
R50
Very toxic to aquatic organisms.
R51/53
Toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long term effects in the aquatic
environment.
R52/53
Harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long term effects in the aquatic
environment.
R65
Harmful: may cause lung damage if swallowed.
H225
Highly flammable liquid and vapour
H301
Toxic if swallowed
H302
Harmful if swallowed
H311
Toxic in contact with skin
H312
Harmful in contact with skin
H314
Causes severe skin burns and eye damage
H331
Toxic if inhaled
H370
Causes damage to organs
H400
Very toxic to aquatic life

Myxi outbreak and Ask the Expert.

We’d like to remind you once more about keeping vaccinations up to date. It’s only a few days ago that a distraught member in Essex has asked us to let everyone know that myxi is rife there at the moment. If you know of any outbreaks please let us know, or share them here.

Please don’t let your rabbits miss or be late for any of their vaccinations. Until the new vaccine becomes available later this year, keep to the dates your rabbits are due, annually for VHD and six-monthly for Myxomatosis.

A few weeks back we asked our Facebook followers for FAQs on Myxi and VHD, and this threw up some questions about hay too. Over the next few days we’ll be publishing one or two of your questions daily with answers from our Vet expert advisor Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc MSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS .

Thanks to everyone who took part and contributed, we hope that this is both interesting and useful:

Myxi – Q1)How effective is the new combined vaccine against myxo. Have heard of lots of cases of pseudo myxo in last 12 months on vaccinated rabbits. Will this still happen with combined vaccine, is it a new vaccine more appropriate to recent strains?

A1) Data sheet for it is now online.

In theory, this new vaccine should be better, and it has been tested against virulent strains.