How to Keep ducks and chickens together.

While most of the needs of chickens and ducks are similar, raising them together calls for preparation in order to address their coexistence. Since some needs of chickens and ducks are different, there is a need to be ready so that you do not miss out on giving them the best lives ever. 

There are several considerations you need to take note of if you plan to keep ducks and chickens together. These are:-

  1. Brooding ducklings and chickens.
  2. Coexistence between ducks and chickens.
  3. Feeding ducks and chickens.
  4. Water for ducks and chickens.
  5. Laying cycles in ducks and chickens.
  6. Mating in ducks and chickens.
  7. Housing ducks and chickens in the same coop.

Planning in advance will ensure you have a stress-free experience and reap maximum benefits when raising ducks and chickens together.

Brooding Ducks and Chickens Together

It is not recommended to keep baby ducks and chicks together. Though they might have similar requirements in the brooder, ducklings’ and chickens’ needs differ when it comes to water and heat lamp temperatures.  

The purpose of brooding for both ducks and chickens is to keep them warm before they grow feathers and gain the ability to be able to regulate their body temperatures. In nature brooding for ducks and chickens is done by their mothers.

Artificial brooding in ducks and chickens is necessitated when you hatch your own eggs, purchase chicks, or the chicks are abandoned by their mother. Abandonment is an issue you should expect if you are keeping ducks. 

The needs for both chickens and ducks at the boarding stage are similar. They all need food, warmth, water, security, and draft-free housing. Though these are common needs in ducks and chickens, their purposes might be different. 

One difference in feed for chicks and ducklings is that ducks do not need medicated feed. Medicated feed-in chicks are given to prevent coccidiosis, the number one killer in young chickens. Ducks are not affected by coccidiosis. Therefore they do not need to be given medicated feed. 

The other difference comes with water. Both ducklings and chicks need water for drinking. Additionally, ducks need water that is deep enough for them to dip in their whole heads. This helps them clean their nostrils and eyes. If you give water at the same depth to chicks, they are more likely to drown. 

Ducklings will get into the water you provide them for dipping their heads. This is because they love to splash and play with water. At their age, they tire fast and can drown, if not supervised during the swimming sessions. Ducklings will also splash water around the brooder. This means it will get wet. Wet conditions are the ideal breeding ground for coccidia, the organism that causes coccidiosis. 

The other issue that comes when brooding ducks and chickens together is the rate of growth. Ducks will outgrow chickens within the first two weeks. This means if you brood ducklings and chickens together the chickens will be disadvantaged when it comes to feeding times. Since they are smaller, they will be susceptible to bullying.  

Ducklings develop oil under skins faster than chickens. They will also grow down feathers faster, meaning they will need less heat than the chickens. Brooding ducklings and chickens together in the same constrained space will mean that if you adjust the heat lamp temperatures to favor the ducks, it will be cold for the chickens and if you adjust the heat lamp temperatures in favor of the chickens, it will be too hot for the ducks.

Coexistence between ducks and chickens

Can ducks and chickens live together? Will the ducks bully the chickens? Ducks and most poultry birds can live together. 

However, there will be a complex pecking order between the birds. The pecking order is easier to establish when they are still young. Introducing new birds to a mixed duck and chicken flock destabilizes the order, which will need to be established again.

Sometimes you might notice that the ducks will want to bully and attack chickens. This is not normal behavior and finding the reason and fixing it will lead to peaceful coexistence. Fighting between ducks and chickens can be caused by overcrowding, lack of enough feed, improper make to female ratio, heat, and changes in the pecking order. 

In a nutshell, ducks and chickens can live together in harmony, provided all their intrinsic and extrinsic needs are met. If they are not met, they will see each other as adversaries. You do not want to keep breaking up duck and chicken fights. 

Feeding Ducks and Chickens

Ducks and chickens that are raised together can be fed with the same feed and water. However, there are a few requirements unique to ducks and chickens. These need to be taken care of in order to have a healthy flock of ducks and chickens. 

Ducks, apart from ducklings, can use the same feed as chickens. Ducklings do not have to be given medicated feed. Ducks at all ages require more niacin than chickens. Niacin helps in bone development. Supplementing feed with niacin will help ducks develop bones the right way. It will also be beneficial for chickens. 

If you are not free-ranging, giving ducks and chickens vegetables is an excellent way to supplement their diet. This gives them extra nutrients and acts as a treat. 

Water for ducks and chickens

Ducks and chickens need water. Other than drinking water, ducks need water to clean their eyes and nostrils. When raising ducks and chickens together, there is a need to provide clean drinking water for suitable waterers. 

Ducks will mess up open waterers by dipping their heads in and out. They will also wade through, spill it, make mud around it and get back in. A closed waterer is the best option when raising a mixed flock. You do not want your chickens drinking dirty water as this might lead to diseases. 

You will need to provide extra water in an open container for the ducks to clean their noses and eyes. They will also wade in this water. In the absence of a pond, most duck keepers provide a kiddie pool. When raising both ducks and chickens, it is good to set this up away from the feeding area. If possible, place the kiddie pool outside the run. 

Ducks like being in the water, while chickens do not like getting wet.

If the duck pool is placed close to the feeding area, ducks will move to and from the feeder to their pool. This will not only dampen the feed and can make a lot of mud on their paths since their feathers get wet when they swim. 

A rule of thumb when raising ducks and chickens together is that ducks love water, chickens hate getting wet. 

Laying needs in a mixed flock of ducks and chickens. 

While chickens lay in nesting boxes, ducks will lay on the flow. Ducks make their own next using straw. Provide adequate straw for ducks to make their own nests, while providing enough laying boxes for your chickens. Each laying duck will need 3 square feet in the coops while laying hens need 2 to 3 square feet in the coop. 

Ducks and chickens have different laying cycles. Ducks will lay between 4 am to 10 am in the morning, while chickens can lay anytime during the day. 

This means you might have to wait for 10 am so as to let your mixed flock of ducks and chickens out of the coop. Ducks are good at hiding their eggs. Chances are that it might take you a long time to find ducks’ eggs if laid outside the coop. 

Mating for ducks and chickens

One common worry for the mixed flock is chickens and ducks mating, leading to a mixed “chicken-duck” bird. This will not happen, but your ducks will try mating with your hens. 

Allowing drakes (male ducks) to mate with chickens can cause neck injuries, vent prolapse, and death.   This is because ducks are aggressive when it comes to getting it on. 

The other reason is their male organs protrude, similar to mammals. Ducks have corkscrew like male organs that can expand up to 8 inches. Roosters have an opening that they attach to the female’s cloaca during mating. This means that the hens are not meant to accept protruding organs. 

Drakes are also heavier than hens. Allowing them to mount on hens can lead to neck and back injuries. 

If you notice a duck trying to mate with your chickens, chances are that they are underserved. There are few female ducks for them to mate with. If this happens, separate the drake from the hens and drakes. Provide the drake with enough female ducks to satisfy its drive. 

A common preventive solution to this issue is keeping female ducks only when doing a mixed flock of ducks and chickens. 

Your roosters might also attempt to mate with female ducks. This has no effect on the female duck. Chances are that your rooster is undeserved. 

Housing for chickens and ducks

When housing a mixed flock of ducks and chickens, you need to meet their varying needs. 

Ducks lay and sleep on the floor of the coop, while chickens will roost. The share coop should be big enough for the ducks to sleep on the floor away from chicken roosts. This is to avoid chicken droppings on the ducks throughout the night. 

Provide enough dry straw for ducks to make their bedding nests. 

The space in the coop should be at least 2 square feet for each chicken and 3 square feet per duck. 

The pop door of the coop should be large enough to fit ducks. The ramp to the door should not be steep. Chickens ca handle steep ramps while ducks will struggle to climb up due to the webbed feet and body structures.  

Final Thoughts. 

Ducks and chickens can be raised together. They can be housed in the same coop, share feed and water if their separate unique needs are catered for.

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About James Polystead

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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