Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

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I’ll never forget the time my friend Bob invited me over to see his new chickens.

Being a city slicker born and raised in downtown Chicago, I didn’t know much about farm animals aside from what I saw in books or on TV.

But I was eager to get a glimpse of these feathered creatures up close and personal.

Boy, was I in for a surprise!

After admiring the half dozen Rhode Island Red hens happily pecking away at feed in their large wired coop, Bob led me to the backyard where he had a row of cages set up.

“Watch this,” he said with a mischievous grin that immediately put me on alert.

He opened up a cage housing two lop-eared rabbits, one white as snow and the other speckled brown.

In an instant, those chickens scrambled toward the cage in a frenzied feathered mob, squawking loudly!

“Get ’em, ladies!” Bob cheered enthusiastically, like he was urging on his favorite football team.

To my shock and horror, the chickens surrounded the trembling bunnies, pecking and scratching furiously with their sharp beaks and talons.

Their relentless attacks were targeted on the rabbits’ tender skin, ears, feet, and tails.

The poor things crouched frozen in the corner of the cage, helpless as the chickens mercilessly went after them.

Their shrill shrieks and the chickens’ angry clucking made my stomach turn.

“Call them off!” I yelled over the commotion, but Bob just chuckled as if this was normal.

“Nah, they need to show those rabbits who’s boss around here.”

After what felt like an eternity, Bob finally shooed the riled up chickens away and latched the cage shut.

The ruffled rabbits hunkered down in the corner, no doubt traumatized by the vicious attack.

Their fur was matted with blood and one’s ear was badly torn up.

Seeing those poor, trembling creatures, I was rattled and repulsed.

Who knew chickens could be so vicious?

Why Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

Turns out, it’s not uncommon for chickens to violently peck, scratch, and bully pet rabbits if housed together.

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In the wild, chickens are omnivores with a very diverse diet.

They eat worms, small mice, lizards, and even baby chicks.

Rabbits resemble the type of small prey their instincts are wired to hunt and kill.

To the chickens, the rabbits look like tasty snacks to torment and devour.

Chickens also have a strict social hierarchy called a pecking order that they enforce within their flocks.

They establish dominance over each other with aggressive pecking, clawing, and chasing.

Even baby chicks are pecked into submission from a young age.

Small, timid rabbits trigger the same kind of attack response when regarded as lower in the pecking order.

The chickens gang up on them to maintain the social order.

Can Chickens Kill Rabbits?

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

Absolutely.

While chickens typically attack rabbits to establish dominance, they can and will kill them if given the chance.

Rabbits have very delicate skin and blood vessels close to the surface, so their skin tears easily.

Chicken beaks are sharp and designed to rip apart food, making them effective weapons.

They can quickly lead to deep puncture wounds, gouged out eyes, and dangerous bacterial infections in rabbits.

Even if the rabbit somehow survives the initial savage attack, the stress, blood loss, and sustained injuries often lead to further medical complications.

Severely attacked rabbits can go into shock, suffer heart attacks, struggle with dehydration, diarrhea and digestive issues.

In most cases, the rabbit ultimately succumbs to the trauma.

Keeping Chickens and Rabbits Safely

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

If you want to keep chickens and rabbits, never ever house them together no matter what.

They should have completely separate coops and runs.

Provide plenty of hiding spots in the rabbit area so they have places to retreat if feeling threatened.

Only allow very brief, supervised playtime interaction.

Watch the behaviors closely and separate immediately at the first signs of aggression.

Have a barrier ready to divide them quickly before it escalates.

Chickens and rabbits each require specific care to stay happy and healthy.

With proper separate housing areas tailored to their needs and precautions during interactions, it’s possible to safely keep these prey and predator species apart.

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As for Bob’s backyard menace? Let’s just say I won’t ever be pet-sitting for those killer chickens or their terrified rabbit targets again!

Chicken Breeds Most Likely to Attack

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

Certain chicken breeds are more aggressive by nature and likely to attack rabbits.

Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Australorps, and Orpingtons are all notorious for aggressive tendencies.

These heirloom breeds originated as dual-purpose fowl raised for both eggs and meat.

Their bold, bossy attitudes served them well on small family farms where they had to forage and avoid predators.

When raised in backyard flocks today, they are more likely to gang up on timid creatures like rabbits.

Highly territorial breeds like Ameraucanas, Hamburgers, Campines, and Sumatras are also more prone to unprovoked attacks.

They have strong instincts to defend their space and resources which can put rabbits at risk.

Even typically calm breeds may attack when broody or raising chicks which activates protective instincts.

Of course there are always individual exceptions, but being aware of these tendencies can help prevent trouble.

Predator Confusion for Chickens

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

Chickens may mistake relaxed rabbits for dangerous predators, triggering an attack response.

From a chicken’s perspective, a lounging rabbit has a similar silhouette to a fox, weasel, or feral cat when seen from a distance.

If the rabbit moves suddenly or makes sharp noises, the chicken’s predator alert is activated.

Their prey drive kicks in and they initiate an assault to drive off the perceived threat.

Approaching the chickens slowly and allowing them to investigate the rabbits first can help avoid this.

Letting the chickens spend time near caged rabbits to realize they are not actually predators is also wise.

Take things slow and give chickens time to become accustomed to rabbits in their environment.

This allows their natural wariness to subside before fully integrating the two species.

Preventing Chicken Attacks

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

There are several strategies to prevent chicken attacks and keep rabbits safe.

As mentioned, separating living space is crucial, but supervised interaction also plays a role.

Have a water spray bottle on hand during playtime to startle aggressive chickens.

Use treats to redirect attention and reward calm behavior around the rabbits.

Provide distracting scratch grains scattered in the chickens’ area.

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Increase environmental enrichment with pecking blocks and leafy greens hung at chicken height.

Make sure both species are well-fed before interactions to minimize food-related jealousy.

House the most docile chickens with the largest, calmest rabbits to even the playing field.

Monitor body language closely and separate at the first sign of tension.

Squawking, raised neck feathers, or agitated scratching in chickens means trouble’s brewing!

Signs of Stress in Rabbits

Do Chickens Attack Rabbits?

Watch for signals that rabbits feel threatened by chickens in their environment.

Rabbits may thump their back feet loudly as a warning sign.

Frequent startled jumping or freezing in place indicates nervousness.

Pressing low to the ground shows they are trying to disappear and avoid attention.

Trouble breathing, rapidly beating heart visible in chest, or trembling demonstrates high anxiety.

Squealing or grinding teeth conveys extreme distress and pain.

Take these behaviors seriously and immediately increase distance from the chickens.

Separate living areas if stress signals continue despite slower introductions.

Raising rabbits and chickens harmoniously takes time, vigilance and patience.

When to Intervene in an Attack

If a chicken attack on a rabbit does occur, intervene immediately but carefully.

Shouting aggressively while running at the chickens will typically scatter them.

Spraying water into the air over the chickens can also quickly break things up.

Herd the riled chickens away from the scene to allow the rabbit space.

Scoop up injured rabbits gently using a towel and transport them to a secure area.

Inspect wounds and call a veterinarian if they are severe or bloody.

Isolate the attacker chickens temporarily to allow everyone to calm down.

Reassess the environment and supervision protocol to prevent future incidents.

With some adjustments and training, even problem chickens often improve their rabbit manners.

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