I recently moved out of the city to a small homestead.
Naturally, I brought my bonded pair of Cinnamon rabbits with me.
I’ve also always wanted some ducks, but since space is quite limited, I wondered whether the rabbits and ducks can live together?
Can Rabbits and Ducks Live Together?
Rabbits and ducks can not live together. Cohabiting is not in their nature.
When rabbits and ducks stay in proximity to each other, they can begin to share diseases, and either the rabbit or ducks can die.
Rabbits and ducks get along nicely as long as the drakes (male ducks) and bucks (male rabbits) are neutered to prevent aggression or if the ducks and rabbits are introduced to each other at a young age.
A Quick Look at the Characteristics of Ducks and Rabbits
As I began to build the runs and hutches for my rabbits, I wondered if I could possibly add some ducks as roommates for my pair of buns.
Yet, seeing the ducks that were local to the area, I began to worry about the potential risk to my rabbits.
After all, ducks have a horned bill and vicious spurs on their legs. Plus, they are terribly intimidating.
How would my buns cope with this, and was it even a good idea to put them in the open run together?
Ducks and rabbits have a few things in common, but they also have differences, and these differences may present a challenge.
- Semi-aquatic animals
- Eats grass, small insects, and worms
- Requires a flat open area to forage, while rabbits need a flat area where their food can be scattered
- Poops all over the area where they walk and also where they sleep
- Looks for a place to nest and rest at dusk
- Body is covered with thick and oiled feathers to remain waterproof
- Land mammals
- Herbivores; eats grass, hay, vegetables, fruit, and herbs
- Has a specific litter box
- Active during dawn and dusk
- Thick fur covers the body, which can cause problems in prolonged rainy seasons
Why Should Rabbits and Ducks NOT Live Together
Rabbits and ducks are such different species, so should I even be considering letting them live together?
Here are all the differences and possible implications that had me worried about the rabbit-duck roomie situation.
Social Needs and Personality Gaps
Ducks and rabbits both have similar social needs. They become distressed, anxious, and sick when living alone.
As prey animals, living with family offers protection and safety.
But while rabbits and ducks could potentially live together to meet their social needs, each animal has a different personality.
Rabbits are fragile animals and sensitive to loud noises and sudden movements. Ducks are loud animals, and their loud quacks can easily scare a rabbit.
Plus, a duck flapping its wings and walking all wobbly can give your bun a heart attack.
Your rabbit won’t know that ducks are also prey animals.
To them, ducks are birds, and birds equal predators. So regardless of loud noises and scary flapping wings, your rabbit will be scared of a duck and very scared of paddling of ducks.
Your bunny may not be sure whether they need to hide or defend themselves, so they can get quite feisty with the ducks.
The ducks and rabbits can fight each other, leading to serious injuries you’d need to treat.
Even a harmless duck that comes up behind a rabbit can make the rabbit feel the need to defend itself and attack.
My ducks would need access to water; however, I’m not sure that I want my rabbit near a large body of water.
Rabbits can swim, but it doesn’t mean they like to.
So while my beloved bunny won’t drown in the pond, they may catch a chill, get hypothermia, and die.
A rabbit has a thick fur coat that takes a really long time to dry.
A chilly wind and a wet rabbit coat ain’t a good idea, and even leaving your rabbit to dry in the winter sun isn’t an option.
It’s actually just best for a rabbit to not get wet.
A duck also needs a lot of free space to roam; a space that’s restricted will cause the duck to stress and eventually become ill.
Traditionally, pet rabbits are kept in cages or hutches with exercise pens.
An indoor bunny may have free roam of your living room if the space is bunny-proofed.
And sometimes, an outdoor rabbit can explore a garden provided the rabbit owner supervises to keep predators at bay and if the space is safe.
It’s not really heard of to give your pet rabbit A LOT of free space like you would for a duck.
Level of Cleanliness
The cleanliness level is another big difference between ducks and rabbits and why it isn’t a good idea for these two animals to share a living space.
Rabbits are very clean animals, and they are very cat-like in this regard. They groom themselves and prefer a clean home.
Rabbits also don’t like to make a mess and they can be potty-trained with some patience.
On the other hand, ducks are quite messy birds. Ducks will poop pretty much anywhere and everywhere they want.
Your rabbit will find this troublesome since their “home” won’t be clean.
The wet excrement of a duck also contains bacteria that are harmful to your rabbit.
In general, duck poop contains Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and Campylobacter.
If your rabbit happens to ingest duck poop, it can cause severe health complications and even be fatal.
A rabbit needs to constantly chew hay to keep its teeth from overgrowing. Then they also eat rabbit-specific pellets, leafy greens, veggies, and fruit.
A duck also likes to forage. They eat specialized commercial feed or pellets, grit, plants like corn, leafy greens, squash, cucumbers, and broccoli, aquatic plants, seeds, and “animals” like insects, snails, frogs, fish, worms, and crustaceans.
While there are some commonalities in terms of the leafy greens, rabbits should not eat duck feed.
Commercialized duck pellets are typically made from soymeal bone, corn, oyster shell, rice bran, fish meal, dried whey, and bone meal.
These pellets are too high in carbs and protein for rabbits, so they can cause health problems.
Another risk is food aggression.
For example, the ducks may become territorial over their food and that of the rabbits, and then the rabbits won’t be able to eat or will just be able to eat scraps.
This leads to malnutrition, starvation, health issues, and possibly death.
When Ducks and Rabbits Do Live Together
Since ducks and rabbits do have some similarities such as needing green grass, favoring an enclosure to sleep in at night, and both species being domesticated, it’s often assumed that adult ducks will simply accept adult rabbits without any issues.
However, the best method to introduce ducks and rabbits to each other is to start when both animals are young.
Bonding ducks and rabbits can work successfully; however, it is best that these animals not share a sleeping place.
If you have successfully introduced your ducks and rabbits to each other, it is important to check if your enclosure is really duck and rabbit safe.
Be ready to do the following:
Separate the Ducks’ and Rabbits’ Offspring
If either the ducks or the rabbits have offspring, it is best to keep them separated. Duck hens will be very focused on protecting their young.
A duck hen may even attack a rabbit who comes too close and vice versa.
A rabbit is capable of killing a duck with a solid kick of one of its powerful back legs.
Clean up the Duck Poop
Since ducks poop everywhere, there is a real chance your rabbits will come into contact with the poop.
To keep your rabbits germ-free and safe, it is best not to leave poop lying around.
Duck poop also contains harmful bacteria that can cause a runny tummy with rabbits.
Manage the Pool or Pond Area
Ducks love to swim, and while rabbits aren’t known to be swimmers, they do like the green grass that grows near the dam.
If the pool or pond area is not well managed, there will be poop everywhere, and before long, your rabbits will also have duck poop matted into their fur.
Duck poop is not safe for rabbits to roll, lie, or stand-in.
Apart from the harmful bacteria, rabbits have sensitive skin. If they are exposed to rabbit manure, they can get flystrike and sicken or die.
When ducks enjoy a pond, they splash—a lot.
Rabbits can get wet right through their coat, and this can make them more susceptible to flystrike where flies lay eggs in the wet fur. This condition can be fatal to a rabbit.
By keeping the pond area clean, you enable the other farm animals to also have a drink.
Neuter the Bucks and Drakes
Neutering the male rabbits and male ducks helps prevent territorialism and aggressive behavior.
Plus, unless you want entire litters of rabbits and lots of new ducks, it’s best to control the population of rabbits and ducks on your homestead.
Neutering the drakes and bucks also helps decrease sexual behavior.
With ducks, for example, testosterone levels are high during spring, so if the males are too enthusiastic or there are too many hens, overmounting becomes the norm.
Altercations between bucks or drakes can also lead to injuries with your rabbits or ducks.
Since rabbits and ducks have different dietary needs, it’s best to keep their food separated and as far apart as you can.
Ensure the ducks don’t poop on the rabbit’s hay that they need to eat to wear down their teeth—the hay can be placed in a hay dispenser, and then you can use a different material for the rabbit’s bedding.
Give the Rabbits a Hidey-Spot
In the wild, rabbits sleep in an underground burrow where it is dark and peaceful.
Your pet bunny also likes to have a safe spot that’s dark where they can retreat to.
So when the ducks are simply too much for the bunnies, ensure there are tunnels and other places for the rabbits to de-stress.
The Final Verdict: Should Rabbits and Ducks Be Roomies?
There have been rare cases of ducks adopting rabbit kits, and there have also been cases where a rabbit is seen snuggling with a duck.
This does not mean you should keep rabbits and ducks in the same enclosure at night.
Quite the opposite!
While rabbits and ducks can safely share the open run area, it is better for them to have different sleeping areas or cages.
And don’t let photos of pet rabbits and pet ducks snuggling up to each other convince you that these two animal species cohabiting is the norm.
The best you can hope for is that your buns and ducks coexist peacefully with each other.
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