Last Updated on December 12, 2022 by The Rabbit Smarties Team
Homesteading isn’t just for people with vast tracts of land! Many urban and suburban residents are discovering the joy of owning a backyard homestead. When considering keeping chickens or rabbits on your homestead, you’re quickly faced with a dilemma; which should you choose, chickens or rabbits?
Which is better for homesteading, chickens or rabbits?
- Both can have high start-up costs
- Chickens produce more meat more quickly
- Rabbits are easier to process
- Rabbits have healthier meat
- Both integrate well with homesteads
How to Get Started- Equipment Costs
Start-up equipment for keeping chickens and rabbits can be pricey, but the more you use your equipment, the less the cost per use becomes.
Start-up Costs for Meat Rabbits
- A hutch, cage, or secure pen – Appropriately sized stacking cage kits start at $121. Modular cages can work in hutches or hanging in barns and meat rabbit-sized cages start at $53.80. You can also build your own cages.
- Food Bowl – Start around $7 for large-sized crocks and cage bowls. Sifter Feeders start at similar prices.
- Water Bowl or bottles- 32oz Water Bottles run $9.22, 64 oz bottles are $18.05. You can also use large ceramic crocks, like those used for feed bowls.
- Feed- As low as $0 for pasture-raised rabbits. $23.99 average price for 50lbs of rabbit feed.
Start-up Costs for Meat Chickens
- Secure brooding cage- One of my favorite tips to save money is to use a large plastic tote. Approximately $40
- Chicken Coop- Varies in prices, starts at $289 for 10+ birds
- Heat lamp– $13
- Bedding– $7
- High Protein Feed (21%+)- varies, approximately $33.65 for 40 lbs.
- Feeder – $10 (for 15 bird feeders)
- Waterer- 5 gallon, $44
How much does it cost to raise chickens and rabbits?
These numbers don’t reflect your equipment costs and instead focus just on the animals, assuming all equipment is already owned.
Cost of Raising Chickens for Meat
How much does raising chickens for meat cost? For our example, let’s say we purchase 20 Jumbo Cornish Cross meat chicks from Cackle Hatchery, rather than breed our own.
- 20 Chicks are $70. Consider tax, shipping, and chick cost. It is approximately $5.32 per chick to get them to your door.
- Food Needs: You need 14 lbs of high protein feed (recommended 21%) per chick for an average of 6.5 lb live weight by 8 weeks. Cost of feed per chick: $11.78
- After 8 weeks, your cost is $17.09 per bird for 6.5 lbs live weight.
- Predict 70% of live weight for your meat haul, in this example, that’s 4.5 lbs of chicken meat.
- Final Cost: $3.80 per pound of chicken meat
Remember: if you are raising heritage breed chickens, you’ll be able to breed your own meat chicks, but they do not grow as quickly or produce as much meat per animal as commercial breed chickens.
Costs of Raising Meat Rabbits
Rabbits gain at a 3:1 feed conversion ratio, meaning 3 pounds of feed to a pound of weight gain. Let’s pretend we are raising New Zealand rabbits. These numbers don’t reflect your equipment costs.
A New Zealand doe produces an average of 7 kits (baby rabbits) per litter and can have 5 litters a year (or more). The cost of the animals becomes negligible over time, running approx. $1.42 in just the first year to as low as $0.48/kit by year three of production.
- Rabbit Food: Locally, a 50 lb bag of 18% Manna Pro Gro is $23.99. That’s $0.48/lb.
- Hay costs vary by area. It is $14.99/bale at my local Tractor Supply Company. A meat rabbit will consume perhaps 5 lbs of hay in its lifetime. Assume hay costs at $1.50 per rabbit (which is on the high end).
- Using a 3:1 ratio, it will take 15 lbs of feed to get to a 5 lb rabbit (8 weeks). $7.20
- Rabbits dress out around 60% of live weight. Our rabbit produces 3lbs of meat.
- Final Cost: $3.06 per pound of rabbit meat
- *Note, these numbers are for pellet-fed rabbits. You can pasture raise your rabbits for a slower grow out of 12 weeks, but for significant feed savings.
Don’t forget you can eat the liver, heart, and kidneys of both chickens and rabbits.
Do I need cages for Rabbits?
Rabbits can be pasture-raised, though their growth rate will be a few weeks slower. Some type of fencing or pen is necessary to protect rabbits from predators and they will need shelter from inclement weather. This is an excellent alternative to pricey individual cages.
What type of chickens or rabbits do I need for meat?
New Zealand rabbits, Californians, or a hybrid of the two are your most common meat rabbit. They have been bred to grow quickly and produce a lot of meat. They also produce a lot of baby rabbits!
Commercial vs Heritage Breeds
Heritage breed rabbits grow a little more slowly but produce stunning pelts. Consider the Silver Fox, which has shown up to a 65% dress-out rate and comes in several beautiful colors.
Commercial meat chickens are bred to grow out extremely quickly, which can lead to health problems. They also have low fertility rates. If you only want meat and don’t mind buying chicks, these will produce the most meat the fastest.
Heritage breed chickens can naturally reproduce. They grow more slowly, but also have fewer health problems. Keeping these chicken breeds is great for a sustainable meat chicken presence on your farm and are excellent dual-purpose animals, giving both meat and eggs.
Heritage breeds are breeds of poultry that are considered to be genetically diverse and are typically raised for conservation purposes. These breeds are often more flavorful and have more tender meat than modern commercial breeds,
How much meat can you get from a chicken vs a rabbit?
Meat rabbits like New Zealands or Californians, under ideal conditions, can reach 5 lbs of weight by 8 weeks old. That is approximately 3 lbs of meat.
Meat Chickens, (like Jumbo Cornish Crosses from Cackle Hatchery) can average 6.5 lbs by 8 weeks old. This is approximately 4.5 lbs of meat. These numbers are also based on ideal growth.
Are chickens or rabbits easier to process?
Rabbits are very easy to process, especially if you aren’t interested in keeping their pelts. You simply need a sharp knife, a table, and cold water to wash the processed carcass.
Chickens are more difficult to process. If you would like to keep the chicken skin, you will need to scald the carcasses. After scalding, you have to remove the feathers by hand. I personally always skinned my meat chickens.
Health Benefits of Chicken Meat vs. Rabbit Meat
Rabbit meat is a nutritional superstar. It has the highest digestible protein of any meat and the lowest amount of fat.
Check out this side-by-side comparison of the two types of meat. Nutritional information comes from the USDA.
|3oz Rabbit Meat (85g)||Chicken Meat 1 cup chopped or diced (140g)|
|Amount Daily Value %|
|Calories: 147||Calories: 335|
|Total Fat: 3 g 4%||Total Fat: 19 g 29%|
|Saturated Fat: 0.9 g 4%||Saturated Fat: 5g 25%|
|Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.6 g||Polyunsaturated Fat 4.16g|
|Monosaturated Fat: 0.8 g||Monosaturated Fat: 7.48g|
|Cholesterol: 105 mg 35%||Cholesterol: 123 mg 41%|
|Sodium: 38 g 1%||Sodium: 115 mg 4%|
|Potassium: 292 mg 8%||Potassium: 312 mg 8%|
|Total Carbohydrate: 0 g 0%||Total Carbohydrate: 0 g 0%|
|Dietary Fiber: 0 g 0%||Dietary Fiber: 0 g 0%|
|Sugar: 0 g 0%||Sugar: 0 g 0%|
|Protein: 28 g 56%||Protein: 38 g 76%|
|Vitamin A 0%||Vitamin A 0%|
|Calcium 1%||Calcium 2%|
|Vitamin D 0%||Vitamin D 0%|
|Cobalamin 91%||Cobalamin 6%|
|Vitamin C 0%||Vitamin C 0%|
|Iron 22%||Iron 9%|
|Vitamin B6 15%||Vitamin B6 30%|
|Magnesium 6%||Magnesium 8%|
Can you raise rabbits or chickens in an urban or suburban environment?
Both can be raised in the suburbs or in an urban area, but there are several considerations to take into account when deciding which is best for you.
Rabbits on their own don’t need a lot of roaming room. You can easily raise them in hutches in your backyard or cages in your basement. This makes them excellent choices for urban homesteaders – especially if you’d prefer the neighbors not to know they’re there.
Chickens need more room than rabbits. If their housing is overcrowded, chickens may become stressed. Stress can kill chickens, and it also impacts their growth rate.
Rabbits are mostly silent creatures. If they get scared they may thump loudly to warn others of danger. If something truly awful happens, such as a predator attack, they will scream. Other than that, no sound! This makes them ideal for urban and suburban homesteaders.
Chickens cluck quietly, a nice soothing sound. They also squawk when they are angry or scared. Rooster chicks begin trying to crow as early as 6 to 8 weeks. Roosters do not only crow at the break of dawn, it is a sound you will hear over and over throughout the day.
A pile of rabbit manure can and will smell. Full litter pans will also develop an odor. Be sure to clean regularly to avoid bothering neighbors.
Chicken poop stinks. Clean your coops every few days to minimize the smell. A flock of chickens is too stinky to keep in your house.
Do Chickens and Rabbits Get Along?
Rabbits and chickens do get along together. Bunnies may try to mount the chickens, and the chickens may peck the rabbits. If you decide to keep them together, it is best to introduce them slowly and at an early age so they can get used to each other.
However, rabbits and chickens have very different nutritional needs. If you house different species of animals together, they may develop wilder personalities in a way to establish their places in the herd. According to Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky, rabbits can also carry diseases, such as Pasteurella multocida, that can cause a cholera outbreak in your chickens.
Can You House Chickens and Rabbits Together?
These two species can live together, with some caveats.
- You must make sure they have enough space.
- They need to have separate hutch and coop areas to minimize the stress for each group.
- You will need to clean the space more often to keep your rabbits healthy, as chickens will poop in food and water bowls. Clean space also helps prevent the spread of diseases in each group.
- Male rabbits (bucks) will mount the chickens, given the opportunity. Even female rabbits (does) can mount each other and other creatures.
- Be prepared to separate them if it doesn’t work out.
How Do Chickens vs. Rabbits Work With My Homestead?
Chicken manure is considered a very “hot” manure, meaning it needs to be aged or composted before use in your garden.
Rabbit droppings can go directly into your garden, meaning each bunny can start contributing from the very first day. Rabbit poop is higher in nitrogen and phosphorus than other common manures (including chicken) and contains traces of beneficial minerals.
If you so choose, you can process your rabbits and preserve the pelts. This could be a valuable way to help offset your homestead costs.
If you choose to go with heritage chickens, you can eat or sell eggs that are not being warmed under broody hens.
Can I make money raising rabbits and chickens for meat?
Small meat flocks generally only produce enough meat for a single household and commercial hybrids (like the Jumbo Cornish Cross in our examples) can have low egg fertility rates. Heritage breeds grow more slowly and take more feed, increasing your costs.
Rabbits are fertile with large litter sizes. Rabbit meat is harder to find than chicken meat, though fewer people eat rabbit.
It is possible to make money with both animals, but you must research your market.
Which animal is more fun?
Rabbits are softer and easier to snuggle than chickens. than chickens. They are adorable from the day they are born until the day they are processed, especially if given grass access to run and play. I like to watch chickens scavenge around the yard and listen to their soft clucks.
So are rabbits or chickens better hobby farm animals?
Both rabbits and chickens can be valuable additions to your homestead. It means a lot to be able to feed the family food that I know was humanely cared for until the end and is not full of additives and hormones.
When it comes to meat, I believe rabbits are the superior animal because of their reproduction rate, their garden contributions, the health of the meat, and the flexibility in how you can raise them. No matter which you choose in the rabbits vs chickens homestead battle, the animals are valuable members of any homestead, from the smallest urban plot to your dream ranch.