Can Rabbits Eat Chicken Pellets?

Chicken feed – a tempting treat or deadly danger for pet rabbits? The crunchy, grainy pellets seem harmless enough, sprinkled around the yard for feasting flocks. Lurking nearby, your curious bunny’s nose twitches, enticed by the sweet molasses aroma wafting from that crunchy treasure trove. “Just a nibble won’t hurt,” you figure. STOP right there! While chicken feed provides perfect nutrition for pecking poultry, offering those tempting pellets to your bunny buddy can have devastating consequences. Read on to discover why chicken feed spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for rabbits, and how to keep your long-eared friend away from this potentially perilous snack!

Can Rabbits Eat Chicken Feed?

Rabbits should not eat chicken feed or pellets. While chickens and rabbits are both common backyard pets, their dietary requirements differ greatly. Chickens are omnivores and can eat a wide variety of foods, including grains, seeds, insects and even small amounts of meat. Rabbits, on the other hand, are obligate herbivores meaning they must eat a diet composed entirely of plants. Eating chicken feed could lead to serious health issues in rabbits.

There are a few key reasons why chicken feed is unsuitable for rabbits:

Protein and Fat Content

Chicken feed is very high in protein, typically 16-18%. It also contains added fat, around 3-5%. This is ideal nutrition for chickens but too much for rabbits. Rabbit pellets should contain about 14-16% fiber and only 2% fat. Too much protein and fat can cause digestive upset and serious liver problems in rabbits over time.


Chicken feed contains animal-derived ingredients like fish meal, animal fat and even meat and bone meal from poultry. Rabbits cannot properly digest these animal proteins and fats. The high mineral content of some fish and bone meals could also lead to bladder stones in rabbits.


Many commercial chicken feeds contain antibiotics, antifungals or growth promoters to keep chickens healthy. But these can be harmful if consumed by rabbits, especially antibiotics which can disrupt their delicate gut microbiome.

Lack of Fiber

Rabbits need a diet very high in fiber, at least 25%, to keep their digestive system functioning properly. Chicken feed is under 5% fiber, which is not enough roughage. Lack of hay or grass in their diet could lead to gastrointestinal stasis and other issues.

While chickens can thrive on chicken feed, rabbits should never be offered pellets or scratch intended for chickens. Feeding them inappropriate diets high in fat, protein and minerals places them at risk for obesity, liver disease and other potentially fatal conditions. Rabbit-specific pellet diets and unlimited grass hay are much healthier options for meeting their nutritional requirements.

Is All Chicken Feed Bad for Rabbits?

In general, all types of commercial chicken feed should be avoided for rabbits. However, there are a few exceptions in some specific situations:

  • Unmedicated Chick Starter Feeds – Some unmedicated "chick starter" feeds may be safe in very limited amounts. These are designed for baby chicks under 6 weeks old and contain more protein and fat than adult chicken feeds. The protein levels, around 20%, are still too high for normal use in rabbits but starvation diets for GI stasis recovery may include limited chick starter.

  • Scratch Grains – Plain scratch grains without additives may be fed sparingly as the occasional treat. Scratch contains things like corn, wheat, milo, oats and barley. Again, not complete nutrition for rabbits but small portions of scratch grains are less likely to cause issues when used judiciously.

  • Whole Grains – Whole raw grains like whole corn kernels, wheat berries or oat groats can be fed in very limited amounts as treat for rabbits. The whole grains provide needed chewing action and are safer than processed pellets.

  • Organic Feeds – Some organic chicken feeds without animal by-products or medications may potentially be safe in the short term but are still not ideal nutrition.

To be absolutely safe, it is best to avoid all forms of chicken feed entirely for pet rabbits. But in an emergency situation where no other food is available, plain scratch grains or unmedicated chick starter may be used sparingly and temporarily to prevent starvation. Access to hay should still be provided to support good GI health. Overall though, chicken feeds are too high in fat, protein and minerals for the sensitive digestive system of rabbits.

What Is in Chicken Feed?

Chicken feed can vary slightly between brand and type but most standard complete feeds for adult chickens contain a similar range of ingredients:

  • Grains – Usually the main component, corn and/or wheat. Sometimes oats, millet or other grains.

  • Plant Protein Meals – Soybean meal and sometimes alfalfa meal provide amino acids.

  • Animal Proteins – Fish meal, meat meal or bone meal add more protein.

  • Fats – Animal fat or vegetable oil for concentrated energy.

  • Vitamins & Minerals – Premixes with all essential vitamins and dietary minerals.

  • Medications – Antibiotics like bacitracin or ionophores for disease prevention.

  • Enzymes – Added enzymes to improve feed efficiency.

  • Coccidiostats – Preventative drugs to control parasites.

The ingredients provide complete, balanced nutrition meeting all the dietary requirements for chickens at their life stages from chick to layer.

The nutrient profiles average around 16% protein, 6% fat, 4% fiber and 1% calcium to support egg laying. Chicken scratch grains contain similar grains without premixes but less fat and protein.

Medicated feeds may also have added hormones or growth promoters like stilbenes to increase weight gain. Organic chicken feeds avoid medications and animal by-products but may have higher mineral levels depending on the recipe.

As discussed previously, nearly all standard chicken feed ingredients are inappropriate for rabbits due to the fat, protein and mineral levels as well as animal proteins and medications. Any feed containing antibiotics or coccidiostats should especially be avoided.

Will Chicken Feed Hurt Rabbits?

Yes, there are several health risks associated with feeding chicken feed to rabbits:

Gastrointestinal Problems

The digestive system of rabbits is finely tuned to digesting high-fiber, low fat and protein plant materials. Chicken feed is essentially the opposite of this, creating an improper balance of nutrients, fats, proteins and minerals.

This can disrupt healthy gut flora and cause issues like:

  • Digestive upset, gas, and loose stools
  • Gastrointestinal stasis due to lack of fiber
  • Potentially fatal enterotoxemia from carbohydrate overload
  • Mucoid enteropathy from thick, sticky droppings

Diarrhea from chicken feed can also lead to dehydration and rectal prolapse in rabbits. The high mineral content may also irritate the intestines.


Bacterial or parasitic enteritis outbreaks are another risk if chicken feed contains salmonella, E. coli or coccidia contamination.

Medicated chicken feed with antibiotics like bacitracin can also kill off healthy gut flora, paving the way for enteritis. Diarrhea, inappetence and intestinal inflammation could result.


The increased calories from fat and protein in chicken feed commonly causes unhealthy weight gain in rabbits.

Obese rabbits are prone to many issues like heart disease, arthritis and hepatic lipidosis. Weight loss can be difficult.

Hepatic Lipidosis

Excess fat from chicken feed is problematic for rabbit livers. Hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, can develop from the overload.

This painful condition causes liver enlargement and malfunction. It can be fatal without diagnosis and dietary changes.


Some types of chicken feed contain excess calcium and minerals from fish meals and bone meal.

Ingestion may increase the risk of mineral stones forming in the kidneys and bladder which can lead to partial or complete obstruction.

In summary, both the nutritional content and potential contaminants in chicken feed can endanger the health of rabbits in many ways. All chicken feed, even unlabeled scratch grains, should be considered unsafe to avoid digestive illness, obesity, and other serious health consequences.

Will Rabbits Eat Chicken Food?

Given the chance, most rabbits will eagerly eat chicken feed despite the health risks. Several factors drive this:

  • Curiosity – Rabbits are very investigative and like to explore new foods in their environment.

  • Sweet Taste – Chicken feed contains lots of carbohydrates and added molasses for palatability. Rabbits have a sweet tooth and are drawn to sweeter foods.

  • High Calories – The fat and protein make chicken feed very energy dense and appetizing.

  • Variety – The mix of grains, seeds and pellets provides different textures that rabbits enjoy.

  • Boredom – Rabbits prone to boredom may overeat chicken feed simply for something to do if alternatives like hay are not available.

  • Lack of Hay – If fresh grass hay is not provided, rabbits may turn to chicken feed attempting to meet their high fiber needs.

While chickens have adapted digestive systems to benefit from chicken feed, it remains unsuitable and unsafe for rabbits despite being tasty and tempting to them.

Rabbit owners must be very cautious to keep chicken feed always out of reach of indoor and outdoor rabbits housed near backyard flocks. Despite natural curiosity and appetite, rabbits should never be purposely fed chicken feed to avoid nutritional and disease issues. Their diet should instead focus on grass hay, leafy greens, limited rabbit pellets and other fresh plants suited to their herbivorous digestive system.


In summary, rabbits should not be fed chicken feed or scratch grains meant for chickens. The high protein, fat, carbohydrates and minerals are inappropriate nutrition for rabbits. Health consequences range from digestive upset to potentially fatal conditions like hepatic lipidosis and gastrointestinal stasis. While tempting and tasty to rabbits if accessible, chicken feed poses too many risks and provides minimal nutritional benefits compared to proper diets of hay, vegetables and limited high-fiber rabbit pellets. Rabbit owners must take care to prevent access to chicken feed sources if housing rabbits in the same yard as backyard chickens.

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