Chickens vs Rabbits: Which Animal Is Best for the Homestead?

So, you have decided to start homesteading. You’ve come up with a great layout for your backyard, the veggies are growing well, and your collection of garden tools is coming along nicely.

Now it’s time to add an animal to your homestead. You’ve narrowed down your wish list to the following two options: chickens or rabbits. However, which one will be the best fit for your homestead?

To fully answer that question we will explore the costs associated with raising chickens and rabbits for meat. This will include taking a look at which meat is healthier, the amount of food each animal will provide, the food needed for each animal, and the required housing cost.

Looking at these factors will give a good idea of how much each animal will cost to raise and which animal would be the best fit for your homestead.

Chickens Vs Rabbits: Which Meat Is Healthier?

Both chicken and rabbit are rich in vitamins and minerals. However, rabbit is richer in minerals while chicken has a larger variety of vitamins.

Chicken meat contains a good amount of vitamin B complex, which affects your brain function, energy levels, and metabolism. Rabbit meat does contain more B12 than chicken, which helps improve your heart health and the production of red blood cells.

Rabbit meat contains high levels of phosphorus, iron, and zinc. These minerals play a big role in a healthy immune system, strong bones, and increasing metabolism.

Rabbit provides more protein than chicken and is lower in fat. In fact, rabbit is one of the leanest meats you can eat. So, rabbit meat gets the edge on being the healthier meat to eat over chicken.

Which Animal Produces More Meat?

Meat chickens (also called broilers or roasters) are ready to be processed at six to eight weeks old. By that time, you can expect the chicken to weigh anywhere from 5 to 7 pounds on average.

This depends on the breed of the meat bird you are raising and how long you allow them to grow. However, you don’t want to allow meat chickens to live too long because they will end up having heart issues due to their weight.

A rabbit is usually ready to be processed at ten to twelve weeks. At this age, meat rabbits will weigh about 5 pounds.

If you want the rabbit to be 5 pounds by ten weeks, you have to make sure to breed meat rabbits. Keep in mind different breeds of rabbits may take longer than ten weeks to be ready for processing. If you plan on breeding meat rabbits, make sure to select a breed that grows faster.

A single broiler will typically yield you more meat than a single rabbit. However, a doe rabbit can have anywhere from 45 to 60 kits in a year, which greatly multiplies the meat yield.

Over time rabbits will yield you more meat than meat chickens. Meat rabbits are easier to breed yourself. Since broilers are not easy to breed, you would have to buy the chicks from a hatchery, which can cost about $2 per chick.

Housing Price Ranges

The largest investment you will make for both rabbits and chickens is their housing. Both animals will need a place they can sleep, stay warm, and be protected from the wide variety of predators that love to eat them.

Housing will also affect how much per pound each animal will cost you over time.

Chicken Coop Price Range

Chicken coops range in price from around $200.00, for a small coop that may hold 2 chickens, to $3000.00 or more, for the high-end custom-designed coops that can hold 20+ chickens.

If you don’t have a whole lot of space in your backyard, you’ll want to go with a mid-range priced chicken coop to give your chickens enough living and run space.

The chicken coop will be the most expensive investment for raising chickens. However, you can build your own quality chicken coop for much cheaper than purchasing one and having it professionally built. You would need the proper tools, materials, and blueprint in order to build your own.

Rabbit Hutch Price Range

A rabbit hutch is much cheaper than a chicken coop, ranging from $100 to about $400 for a sturdy outdoor hutch.

Make sure to either purchase or build a hutch that includes a run. The rabbits need to have a good space to jump, run, and stretch their legs. For the hutch, each rabbit will need about 12 square feet of space to live comfortably.

When it comes to living quarters, you can house rabbits cheaper than chickens. The rabbit hutches also tend to be easier to build on your own, which makes the hutch an even cheaper option.

What Kind of Food Do Chickens and Rabbits Eat?

Another aspect in determining which animal to raise for meat is their food costs.

One great thing about chickens is they will eat just about anything. When free-ranging, they will forge for things like insects, grass, plants, and seeds. This means it can be relatively cheap to feed your adult chickens.

However, chicks will need a good starter feed with 18% or more protein. It helps them properly develop and grow.

Other supplemental foods you will want to feed your chickens include:

Grower Chicken Feed – This feed is higher in protein, which helps your chickens grow faster.

Chicken Scratch – This is a combination of grains and seeds that the chickens love to eat. It’s essentially junk food for chickens. Give it to the chickens as a treat.

Shell Grit – Grit helps the chickens to better digest their food.

Rabbits mainly eat hay. The best types of hay to feed rabbits are orchard grass, timothy, oat, and brome. Hay makes up the majority of their diets.

Rabbits also love to eat a wide variety of vegetables such as carrot tops, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchinis, and okra leaves.

two rabbits eating grass while sitting down next to each other
Two rabbits eating grass

There isn’t much difference in the price of store-bought food for rabbits and chickens. Overall, the chicken feed is slightly cheaper than rabbit feed.

However, both animals can eat food you already purchase and free range on your property, which helps to reduce the amount you spend on feed.

Things to keep in mind…

It’s important to note you will have to purchase rabbit food throughout the whole year to not only feed the kits but the breeder rabbits as well.

With the broilers, you only need enough to feed them for about eight weeks. It’s about 16 pounds of feed per chicken over this period of time.

Chickens Vs Rabbits: Which Animal Should You Choose?

This depends on the amount of space you have, the amount of time you want to invest, and the number of upfront costs you are willing to pay.

If you don’t have much room to work within your yard, the best option is to start by raising rabbits for meat.

The upfront costs for rabbits are less, they take up less space, and you can utilize their droppings to fertilize your garden (a nice bonus). Rabbits also tend to be quieter animals, which is great if you have surrounding neighbors.

If you have a bigger homestead and don’t mind the higher upfront costs, then raising broilers is the way to go.

There isn’t any breeding involved, you simply buy the number of broiler chicks you want from a hatchery.

Meat chickens also take up less of your time since you only care for them for 8 to 10 weeks. With rabbits, you have to care for them year-round.

Whichever animal you end up choosing, it will be an excellent addition to your homestead and provide you with a great source of protein.