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What Diseases Can Rabbits Get From Chickens?

What diseases can rabbits get from chickens?

They have similar housing requirements and enjoy each other’s company. This may mislead people to think keeping rabbits and chickens together is safe. The truth is, it is not entirely safe.

In this article, we will identify the diseases rabbits can contract from chickens and highlight other essential factors to consider when keeping rabbits and chickens together.

Salmonella, Pasteurellosis, Streptococcus, and Coccidiosis are some diseases rabbits can get from chickens.

Overview Of Disease Transmission Between Species

Disease transmission between species, often known as zoonosis or interspecies transmission, is a significant area of study within veterinary and human medicine.

It deals with spreading diseases or infections from animals to humans, or vice versa, and between different animal species.

How Diseases Transmit Between Species

The transmission of diseases between species can occur in various ways.

These modes of transmission often depend on the nature of the disease, the host and recipient species, and the environmental factors.

Here are some of the most common modes:

1. Direct Contact

Direct contact is one of the most straightforward ways diseases spread between species.

This could happen when animals touch each other or when humans touch animals or their droppings.

Some diseases can also spread through the bites or scratches of an infected animal.

2. Indirect Contact

Indirect transmission occurs when a disease-causing agent or pathogen is transferred from one animal to another via an intermediary object or environment.

These could include shared feeding dishes, toys, bedding, or cages.

Some diseases can persist in the environment for extended periods, meaning an animal can get infected without ever having direct contact with the infected species.

3. Vector-Borne Transmission

Diseases can also be transmitted through vectors such as fleas, ticks, or mosquitoes, which carry the pathogens from one host to another.

These vectors become infected when they feed on infected hosts and subsequently pass the infection to the next host during their feeding process.

4. Airborne Transmission

Some diseases can be transmitted through the air, often through respiratory droplets from an infected animal.

An animal sneezes, coughs, or even breathes can release these pathogens into the air, where another species can inhale them.

The Role of Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases form a critical subset of interspecies diseases, directly impacting human health. These diseases originate in animals but can cause illness in humans.

Examples include avian influenza from birds, mammal rabies, and Lyme disease from ticks.

While this article focuses on diseases transmitted between chickens and rabbits, it’s essential to be aware that some diseases affecting these animals can also pose risks to human health.

Implications of Interspecies Disease Transmission

The implications of interspecies disease transmission can be significant.

In addition to causing illness in the recipient species, these diseases can disrupt ecosystems, lead to economic losses in agriculture and livestock industries, and pose health risks to humans.

Understanding interspecies disease transmission and the conditions that facilitate it is vital.

It helps manage the health of individual animals and livestock populations and is crucial in predicting and preventing disease outbreaks that can have far-reaching effects.

This understanding can guide best practices in keeping different species together and inform disease prevention, detection, and treatment strategies.

What Diseases Can Rabbits Get From Chickens

While there are various diseases that chickens and rabbits can potentially share, we will focus on a couple of the most common ones.

These diseases, namely Pasteurellosis, Salmonellosis, Streptococcosis, and Coccidiosis, are often seen in both chickens and rabbits and have the potential to pass between these species due to their shared environments or direct contact.

1. Pasteurellosis

Pasteurellosis is a bacterial infection that can occur in a variety of animals, including both chickens and rabbits.

This disease is caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida, which lives in the respiratory tracts of many animals.

In Chickens

The disease often manifests in chickens as fowl cholera, an acute and severe form of pasteurellosis.

Symptoms can include sudden death, decreased egg production, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and respiratory distress.

Birds that survive the acute infection may become chronic carriers, showing few signs of illness but capable of spreading the bacteria.

In Rabbits

Pasteurella multocida can cause various conditions in rabbits, collectively known as ‘Pasteurellosis.’

This can range from snuffles (a respiratory infection causing sneezing and nasal discharge) to pneumonia, eye, or systemic infections.

Rabbit symptoms may include sneezing, nasal and ocular discharge, difficulty breathing, fever, and lethargy.

Treatment and Prevention

The treatment for pasteurellosis often involves antibiotics to kill the bacteria.

However, long-term control and prevention require good hygiene and biosecurity measures, such as regular cleaning and disinfection of housing areas, avoiding mixing new and old stock without quarantine and limiting exposure to wild birds or rodents that can carry the bacteria.

2. Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is a zoonotic disease caused by Salmonella bacteria. This bacterium can infect a wide range of animal species, including both chickens and rabbits.

In Chickens

Chickens often carry Salmonella without showing signs of disease. However, symptoms can include loss of appetite, decreased egg production, diarrhea, and increased mortality.

Chickens can shed Salmonella bacteria in their feces, contaminating the environment and potentially spreading the bacteria to other animals or humans.

In Rabbits

In rabbits, Salmonellosis is typically severe. Symptoms may include high fever, severe diarrhea, dehydration, loss of appetite, and lethargy. In extreme cases, it can lead to rapid decline and death.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment for Salmonellosis typically involves antibiotics and supportive care, such as fluid therapy for dehydration.

As for prevention, good hygiene and biosecurity measures are crucial.

This includes regular cleaning and disinfection of housing areas, providing clean, fresh water and food, and preventing direct contact between rabbits and chickens.

3. Streptococcosis

Streptococcosis is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus species. Several types of Streptococcus bacteria can cause illness in animals, with different species affecting birds and mammals.

In Chickens

In chickens, streptococcosis often presents as septicemia, arthritis, or endocarditis, affecting the heart valves. Chickens may show symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, lameness, and swollen joints.

In Rabbits

While not common, rabbits can be susceptible to certain Streptococcus species. These bacteria can cause abscesses, septicemia, or meningitis in rabbits.

Symptoms can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, difficulty moving, head tilt, and in severe cases, sudden death.

Treatment and Prevention

Streptococcosis can be treated with appropriate antibiotics as prescribed by a veterinarian.

Preventing the disease requires good hygiene and biosecurity measures, such as routine cleaning and disinfection, isolation and treatment of sick animals, and avoiding overcrowding.

4. Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease caused by Coccidia, a single-celled organism. Different species of Coccidia infect other animals, and the disease can be particularly severe in young or immunocompromised individuals.

In Chickens

In chickens, coccidiosis primarily affects the intestinal tract, causing diarrhea, loss of appetite, and in severe cases, death. Some species of Coccidia can also affect the liver, causing damage and potential mortality.

In Rabbits

Rabbits can become infected with their specific species of Coccidia, primarily affecting the liver and intestines.

Symptoms may include diarrhea, loss of appetite, bloated abdomen, and lethargy.

It’s important to note that rabbits usually do not contract Coccidia from chickens, as each species has its specific types of parasite.

However, both species can become infected through similar means, such as ingesting contaminated food or water.

Treatment and Prevention

Coccidiosis can be treated with specific anti-coccidial medications prescribed by a veterinarian.

Prevention involves good sanitation practices, as the Coccidia oocysts (eggs) are passed through feces and can survive in the environment for a long time.

Regular cleaning of housing and feeding areas, providing clean water and food, and avoiding overcrowding can help prevent the spread of this disease.

Risk Factors for Disease Transmission Between Chickens and Rabbits

Understanding the various risk factors for disease transmission is vital when keeping multiple species together, such as chickens and rabbits.

This knowledge can help mitigate risks, protect your animals’ health, and ensure they coexist harmoniously.

Here, we will discuss some significant risk factors that can facilitate disease transmission between these species.

1. Shared Living Spaces

Shared living spaces are among the most significant risk factors for disease transmission. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can quickly spread in environments where animals live near.

Direct contact can result in the transfer of pathogens, while indirect contact, such as through shared food and water sources or contaminated bedding, can also spread disease.

2. Poor Hygiene Practices

Poor hygiene can significantly increase the risk of disease transmission. If enclosures are not cleaned regularly, pathogens can accumulate and infect your animals.

Similarly, not cleaning food and water dishes can lead to bacterial and parasitic growth.

3. Stress

Stress weakens the immune system, making animals more susceptible to diseases.

Factors that can stress your chickens and rabbits include overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, sudden changes in temperature, and frequent, abrupt changes to their environment.

4. Age and Health Status

Young, old, and immunocompromised animals are more susceptible to diseases.

Young animals have immature immune systems, while the immune systems of older animals may be compromised due to age.

Similarly, animals with existing health conditions are also more vulnerable to infections.

5. Lack of Veterinary Care

Lack of regular veterinary care can increase the risk of disease transmission.

You might miss early signs of illness in your animals without routine vet check-ups.

Unvaccinated animals are also more prone to certain diseases.

6. Introduction of New Animals

Introducing new animals to your flock or warren without proper quarantine procedures can bring new diseases.

New animals should always be quarantined and screened for diseases before they are introduced to your existing animals.

7. Contact with Wild Animals

Wild animals can carry diseases that can be transferred to your chickens and rabbits.

If your animals are free-ranging, they have a higher risk of encountering wild animals and their droppings.

Best Practices for Keeping Chickens & Rabbits Together

While it’s crucial to be aware of the potential diseases that can transfer between chickens and rabbits, knowing these two species can coexist in a shared environment with proper management is equally important.

Here are some best practices that can help minimize the risk of disease transmission and ensure your chickens’ and rabbits’ health and well-being.

1. Separate Living Spaces

Although rabbits and chickens can live near, they should ideally have separate living spaces.

Chickens can be pretty pecky, and rabbits might be stressed by their presence.

Separate but adjacent enclosures allow them to get used to each other’s presence without the risk of direct harm.

Moreover, having separate living spaces reduces the risk of disease transmission.

2. Maintain Good Hygiene

Hygiene is vital in preventing the spread of diseases.

Clean the cages regularly, remove droppings, and provide fresh bedding to ensure the animals live in a clean environment.

Food and water dishes should also be cleaned daily to prevent the growth of bacteria or parasites.

3. Provide Adequate Nutrition

Proper nutrition can boost the immune systems of both your chickens and rabbits, making them less susceptible to diseases.

Ensure that both species have diets appropriate for their specific nutritional needs. Chickens are omnivores, whereas rabbits are herbivores, so their dietary requirements differ significantly.

4. Regular Health Checks

Regular health checks can help detect signs of disease early, allowing for prompt treatment.

Monitor your animals daily for any behavior, appetite, or appearance changes. Seek veterinary care if you notice anything unusual.

5. Quarantine New Animals

Before introducing new animals to your flock or warren, please keep them in a separate quarantine area for a few weeks.

This allows time to observe the new arrivals for signs of illness and prevents potential disease spread.

6. Regular Vet Visits and Vaccinations

Routine veterinary check-ups are essential in maintaining the health of your chickens and rabbits. Regular vet visits can help detect health issues that may not be evident from daily observations.

Moreover, certain diseases can be prevented through vaccinations, such as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease for rabbits and Marek’s Disease for chickens.

7. Avoid Overcrowding

Overcrowding can lead to stress and increase the risk of disease transmission. Ensure your chickens and rabbits have enough space to move, forage, and exhibit natural behaviors.

8. Prevent Contact with Wild Animals

Wild birds and rodents can carry diseases infecting your chickens and rabbits. Implement measures to deter wild animals, such as securing enclosures, covering outdoor runs with bird netting, and ensuring feed is stored in rodent-proof containers.

9. Proper Handling of Animals

Teaching proper handling of animals to everyone who comes in contact with your chickens and rabbits can help prevent injuries and reduce stress for the animals. It also minimizes the risk of disease transmission to humans.

While it requires a bit of extra effort and vigilance, keeping chickens and rabbits together can be a rewarding experience.

Following these best practices can ensure a healthy, safe, and harmonious environment for your animals.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

The health of your chickens and rabbits is paramount.

Knowing when to seek veterinary care can mean catching an illness in its early stages and treating it successfully or dealing with a full-blown health crisis.

This section will focus on the signs that may indicate your rabbits or chickens are sick and need immediate veterinary attention.

In Rabbits

While rabbits are skilled at hiding illness due to their prey animal instincts, there are still signs you can watch out for.

These symptoms often indicate serious issues that need prompt veterinary care:

1. Changes in eating or drinking habits: If your rabbit has stopped eating or is eating less than usual, this can be a sign of dental disease or other health problems. Similarly, changes in drinking habits may also indicate illness.

2. Changes in behavior: Rabbits that are usually active and curious becoming lethargic or calm rabbits suddenly becoming agitated can be a sign that they’re not feeling well.

3. Discharge or redness around the eyes, nose, or mouth can indicate respiratory infection or dental disease.

4. Difficulty breathing: Rabbits are obligate nasal breathers. Panting, heavy breathing, or living with an open mouth is an emergency.

5. Change in stool: Any significant change, such as smaller droppings, diarrhea, or a complete stop in stool production, can indicate serious illness.

6. Weight loss: Rapid or drastic weight loss is usually a sign of underlying disease and needs immediate attention.

In Chickens

Chickens, similar to rabbits, can sometimes hide their symptoms until they are very sick. Early signs of illness to watch out for include:

1. Changes in appetite or water intake: Chickens who are not feeling well might eat or drink less than usual.

2. Lethargy or unusual behavior: Chickens may appear less active, isolated, or exhibit behaviors that are not normal for them.

3. Change in egg production: A decrease in egg production can be an early sign of disease.

4. Discharge from eyes, nose, or beak: Discharge or unusual appearance around the eyes, nose, or beak can be a sign of respiratory disease.

5. Difficulty breathing: Like rabbits, any changes in breathing should warrant immediate veterinary care.

6. Changes in droppings: Unusually runny, discolored, or foul-smelling droppings can indicate a health problem.

7. Weight loss or decreased muscle mass: Rapid weight loss or a decrease in muscle mass can signal serious illness.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you see any of these signs or other unusual behaviors, it’s best to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.


Here are some frequently asked questions.

Can I Put a Rabbit In With Chickens?

While it’s technically possible to keep rabbits and chickens together, it’s generally not recommended for a few reasons.

Rabbits and chickens have very different needs in terms of habitat, diet, and general care.

Chickens may peck at rabbits, causing injury, and rabbits may become stressed in the presence of birds.

Furthermore, they can transmit diseases to each other.

Can Chickens Give Rabbits Coccidiosis?

Yes, chickens can potentially transmit coccidiosis to rabbits.

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract that is caused by microscopic organisms called Coccidia.

Both chickens and rabbits can be affected by different species of Coccidia.

Although the specific strains that infect these two species are different, they can share a similar environment and exacerbate the issue in each other.

Which Disease Affects Rabbits And Poultry?

Pasteurellosis (caused by Pasteurella multocida) is a bacterial infection affecting rabbits and poultry.

Symptoms in rabbits can include sneezing, nasal discharge, and conjunctivitis, while in birds, it can result in respiratory issues or septicemia.

Can Rabbits And Chickens Eat The Same Food?

Rabbits and chickens have different dietary requirements and should not be fed the same food.

Rabbits are herbivores and need a fiber-rich diet from hay, vegetables, and specific rabbit pellets.

Chickens are omnivores and require a diet of grains, seeds, vegetables, and protein-rich foods, such as mealworms or chicken feed.

Eating food not suited to their diet can lead to health issues in both animals.


Understanding the diseases that can be transmitted from chickens to rabbits and how to prevent them is vital for the health and well-being of these animals.

Key prevention strategies include maintaining separate and clean living quarters, practicing good hygiene, conducting regular veterinary check-ups, and timely vaccinations.

Careful observation and prompt veterinary care are paramount in maintaining the health of both rabbits and chickens.

We hope this article has helped you know the common diseases rabbits can get from chickens. If you have any further questions, you can comment below.


1. The Diseases of Poultry, Rabbits and Game, and their Post-mortem Inspections, by N. DOBSON, B.Sc., MRCVS, Research Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Journal of the Royal Sanitary Institute.

2. Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky. Interactions of Chickens in Small and Backyard Poultry
Flocks with Other Species.

3. A. Febriansyah, PhD. Poultry and Rabbit Diseases, Treatments & Preventions.

4. Teresa Y. Morishita, DVM, PhD, DACPV, College of Veterinary Medicine, Western University of Health Sciences. Streptococcosis in Poultry.

5. Bhat, T. K., Jithendran, K. P., & Kurade, N. P. (1996). Rabbit coccidiosis and its control: a review. World Rabbit Science, 4(1).

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