I wanted ducks for a long time, but I had no idea if I could raise chickens and ducks together.
So, I delayed buying ducks for the longest time. I looked at all of the breeds online and stopped to look at the ducks at our local farm & fleet store, but I never pulled the trigger. I wasn’t sure if I could learn how to raise chickens and ducks together.
Then, my husband came home with ducks, and I had no choice but to figure it out quickly. Did I mention we left on vacations four days after getting ducklings? His level of spontaneity tops mine.
Now that I have ducks, I have no idea why I waited so long. Ducks are the next chickens, and once you open the gateway, it’s hard to resist adding more poultry to your flock.
If you decide you do want to add some ducks to your flock, you should know that they can be raised together, but as their owner, you have to understand their key differences and make adjustments when needed.
- 1. Don’t Keep Baby Ducks and Chicks Together
- 2. Introducing Ducks to Chickens the Right Way
- 3. Understand the Watering Needs of Chickens vs. Ducks
- How to Keep Water Out for Your Flock
- 4. Know How to Feed Your Entire Flock
- 5. Learn How to House Chickens and Ducks
- 6. Ducks Sleep Differently – Here’s What to Do
- 7. Know What to Expect When You Raise Chickens and Ducks Together
- Have you ever tried keeping chickens and ducks in the same coop?
How to Raise Chickens and Ducks Together
Ducks are gaining popularity, and it’s easy to see why. They lay large, gorgeous eggs that are full of flavor, and they do tend to be friendlier than chickens. If you want a family pet as well as an egg layer, you might find that ducks fit more of the qualities that you want.
Here are some tips you need to know about how to raise ducks and chickens together.
1. Don’t Keep Baby Ducks and Chicks Together
When you order your ducklings and chicks, you might be tempted to keep them together in the same brooder. Both need to stay warm, so what’s the big deal?
Chicks and duckling can only eat the same food if you opt to use unmedicated.
Some flock owners want their chicks to consume medicated feed. Ducks eat more than chicks and at a faster rate, and if they eat too much medicated feed, they’ll get sick – fast.
Also, ducklings need access to additional niacin. That’s included in duckling feed but not chick feed. You can add brewer’s yeast to your chick feed if you decide NOT to separate.
For these reasons, it’s typically advised to separate your ducklings and chicks in separate brooders. Don’t worry; that won’t cause any problems when you start to introduce in a few weeks.
2. Introducing Ducks to Chickens the Right Way
Once your ducks and chickens are similar sized, you can start the integration process. Luckily, it’s a whole lot easier than introducing chickens, which is a total pain in the butt. Introducing ducks to chickens just takes a few simple steps.
I found that keeping the ducks in a pen beside the chickens for a few days is the best way to go or vice versa. They get used to seeing each other, but you don’t have to stress that either will harm the opposite. This is especially important if you have an aggressive duck or chicken.
Also, for disease purposes, it’s best to keep new birds away from your established flock for four weeks. That usually works well because ducklings cannot be put into a flock of chickens yet anyway; they need time under a heat lamp. You don’t want to risk transferring a new disease to your healthy flock.
Once the ducks spend a few days in the pen, let them out with your chickens. During the next day or two, it’s a good idea to plan to stay home and watch their behavior. Check on them a few times throughout the day and watch for any aggressive behavior.
Aggressive behaviors from ducks are more possible during mating season. Unlike chickens, ducks don’t mate year-round. Spring and summer are prime mating season, so the best time to introduce them is during the fall or winter when they’re more calm and relaxed.
3. Understand the Watering Needs of Chickens vs. Ducks
Everyone knows that ducks naturally need water, but that doesn’t mean you need a pond or large pool. They do gravitate to water, but they also splash and throw water around, making quite a mess.
Chickens need water to drink, but they want to stay dry at all costs. You’ll never find your chickens hopping in a pool of water willingly. Unlike ducks, chickens don’t have waterproof feathers, so they can easily get chilly or sick.
A duck’s need for water is more than just hydration, but that is an important part of it. They also need water for two other significant factors:
- It makes digestion easier. They swish water with their food to make it easier to digest.
- Ducks use water to clean their eyes and nostrils. Any duck owner can tell you that they’re messy creatures, and dirt builds up fast in their eyes and nose. They know that they can clean these by dunking their head in the water.
How to Keep Water Out for Your Flock
Since ducks like to splash, it’s preferred to keep your waterers outside rather than inside. Doing so stops the nesting material from getting wet, which could lead to a breeding ground of bacteria.
Something else you should know is that most waterers designed for chickens are hard to use for ducks. Their bills are larger than a beak, and they are unable to put it into the fonts.
We use large, black water bowls designed for livestock to hold our water. Both chickens and ducks can use these troughs, and they’re deep enough that ducks can dunk their heads.
It’s also preferred to keep a small kiddie pool available. That’s plenty of water. Two to three ducks can swim and dunk it in at one time, and chickens will drink out of it.
4. Know How to Feed Your Entire Flock
You know that ducklings and chicks have different nutritional needs, but the awesome thing is that adult ducks and chickens can eat the same kind of feed.
Yay! That makes our live a lot easier.
You can use the same feed, but it’s best if you provide two different feeding bowls. Ducks have larger bills, and they can’t fit them into feeders used for chickens. At first, when they’re little, it isn’t a problem, but as they get bigger, you’ll notice issues. Plus, ducks are messy little eaters!
When it comes to snacks, anything that is safe to feed to chickens, you can also feed to ducks. Oh, and YES, ducks are omnivores as well, so they eat plants and meat.
5. Learn How to House Chickens and Ducks
For the most part, ducks and chickens house together easily, but here are some considerations.
- If you have ramps, they cannot be too steep. Chickens can navigate steep ramps, but ducks aren’t great at doing so with their big floppy feet.
- Ducks love to sleep outside, if it’s safe, so consider leaving a small door open at night for them. The run needs to be sure and predator-proof before allowing this. An idea would be to create a separate run just for the ducks; I found mine sleeping in their baby pool.
- Ducks prefer to sleep on the ground, but don’t put them under the roost. They’ll end up covered in poop.
- Ducks emit a lot of moisture when they sleep, plus they love to get water everywhere. Moisture can cause bacteria if you don’t have proper air circulation. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation that is up high not at floor level. Floor level vents cause drafts which can make your coop cold.
6. Ducks Sleep Differently – Here’s What to Do
Something I didn’t know about ducks is that they’re semi-nocturnal, while our poor chickens aren’t night animals. By 7 PM, our chickens are huddled together on their roost, trying to get some sleep, while the ducks run around like kids on sugar.
For the most part, your flock won’t mind bunking together. Sure, if your chickens could talk, they would probably tell their duck roommates to shut the $%&* up, but otherwise, they deal with the nighttime shenanigans.
One thing that you should know is that chickens and ducks won’t roost together. Ducks nest on the ground, and chickens want to perch up off of the ground as high as possible. So, you need to ensure you lay down nesting materials for your ducks.
7. Know What to Expect When You Raise Chickens and Ducks Together
I think having a mixed flock is awesome. At times, you can watch some strange dynamics happen, but for the most part, they are just pretty to watch and observe.
Raising ducks and chickens together won’t encourage them to be BFFs. In fact, chances are they’ll never move pass the acquaintance phase. They might share spaces, but they have no plans to become friends and hang out together.
This is one reason why I don’t suggest keeping 1 duck with chickens. Your single duck will become lonely. Don’t expect any of your chickens to become close friends with your duck.
The exception to that?
If you have a broody hen and a brand new duckling, you may be able to convince her to accept the duckling. They would need to be kept separate until the duckling is older.
Common Questions When You Raise Chickens and Ducks Together
Here are some common questions you might have about the dynamics of a mixed flock.
Can Ducks and Chickens Mate?
Yes, ducks can try to mate your chicken, and it can be a serious problem if that happens. You don’t want your ducks and chickens mating.
No – you won’t create some chicducken creature. The embryo won’t survive, but the problem is that drakes have an external phallus; roosters do NOT. So, chickens aren’t designed for the same type of mating as ducks, which can lead to serious injury.
An overexcited drake during mating season could seriously hurt or kill a hen. Keeping a rooster around will keep your hens safe.
Another step to decrease this problem is keeping 3-4 ducks for your drake. During mating season, he will stick with his kind unless there aren’t enough females.
If worse comes the worse, you need to be ready to separate your drake if he tries to harm the chickens by mating.
Are Chickens Aggressive Towards Ducks?
In general, chickens aren’t aggressive towards ducks, but chickens care about pecking order when ducks don’t. That can cause problems.
Chickens are literally obsessed with their imaginary pecking order and focus on that heavily. Ducks do what they want and have no pecking order, so when you integrate them together, their carefree I-don’t-care-who-is-top-chicken attitude could irritate some of your flock members.
If you have a chicken who really wants to assert his or her dominance, it’s possible that your chicken could be aggressive, but most of time, they stay clear of each other. If chickens could side eye your ducks, they would do so.
Will Ducks Kill Chickens?
In general, no, your ducks won’t be on a mission to kill your chickens. When I think of ducks, I imagine the hippie holding up a peace sign – they really do like to chill.
The only exception to that is during mating season. As mentioned above, mating season is a big deal for drakes, and if they try to mate with a hen, it could injury or kill her.
Can Drakes and Roosters Live Together?
Raising roosters together is tricky, so raising ducks and drakes together can be problematic at times. If you raise your rooster and drake together from a young age, they can be kept in the same flock. However, if you try to bring in one or other, they can become aggressive.
Of course, there are circumstances when that wouldn’t happen. If you have two chill males who don’t really care, things might work out, but you’d have to know the temperament of both before intermingling.
Keeping a drake without a rooster is a bad idea because of their aggressiveness and anatomy. When it’s mating season, a drake can harm a hen, so keeping a rooster does help.
Also, if you decide you do want to integrate drakes and roosters together, have appropriate numbers of ducks and hens around for the males to reduce any fights.
I’ve found that keeping 10-12 hens per rooster and 2-4 ducks per drake is sufficient at keeping both males happy.
Do Chickens and Ducks Have Similar Diseases?
We work hard to keep diseases away from our chickens, so you might wonder if raising ducks and chickens together will increase illnesses.
The biggest problem you will have is keeping your environment clean with clean, dry bedding. This is part of proper animal husbandry – our animals need fresh water, feed, and regular cleanings to be healthy.
In general, ducks are healthy and hardy. Their higher-than-average body temperature keeps most bacteria and pathogens away. Spending time in the water prevents mites, ticks, and lice from bother them.
Ducks rarely get Mareks or coccidiosis. Yes, wild ducks carry other diseases, such as the avian flu, your backyard ducks aren’t at risk for that. Just don’t go pick up wild ducks at your nearest pond and things should be okay.
Should I Keep Ducks and Chickens Together?
While the two groups won’t ever be BFFs, it is possible to raise chickens and ducks together. Most of the time, they’ll go their separate ways throughout the day. As long as you provide appropriate water, feed, and bedding for each group, things will go smoothly.