Keeping Chickens and Ducks Together | How To Do it Right
Chickens and ducks are two popular types of poultry that, for the most part, have a lot in common. They both love to eat bugs and plants, enjoy being outside where they can roam free, and will even bathe themselves if given the opportunity. However, there are also several important differences between chickens and ducks that you should be aware of before deciding whether or not to keep them together.
It is possible to keep chickens and ducks together, but it requires some considerations. To introduce ducks to a chicken flock, consider these three important guidelines: Provide sufficient space, make sure they can share their living space harmoniously, and practice proper hygiene.
In this article, you will learn how to keep chickens and ducks together, how to tell if they are compatible with each other, and the general rules of keeping different types of poultry in close proximity.
Table of Contents
Can Chickens and Ducks Live Together?
The short answer is yes. In fact, many people keep chickens and ducks together in the same coop or yard to provide both with a nice home. However, there are some things you should consider if you want this type of arrangement to work well for everyone involved:
Keep a High Hygienic Standard
One of the most important things to consider when keeping chickens and ducks is hygiene. Ducks are very messy and much messier than chickens. A small flock of ducks can turn their run into a mud pit in a surprisingly short time. This mess can be hard on the chicken’s feet and will make them vulnerable to infections such as bumblefoot.
Keeping a clean, dry living space for your birds is one of the best ways to avoid these problems. Use hay or wood shavings which will absorb most of the liquid waste and keep ammonia levels down while letting you scoop out solids often enough that they don’t pile up too high.
You may need to provide bedding to both the coop and in the run. Make sure you clean out dirt and debris every few days, change the bedding in the run every week or so, and change it in the coop more often.
Provide Sufficient Space
Due to their messy nature, ducks require much more space than chickens. To avoid concentrating the dirt on too small of a space, you should the run should also be much larger than if you were keeping just chickens. Allow at least 20 square feet per adult bird and at least 5 square feet per bird in the coop. The more space, the less often you will need to clean the area. I also recommend letting them free-range whenever possible.
Another reason you will want to provide a lot of space is that ducks and chickens are generally not that close friends. They will tolerate each other, but they prefer to stay apart. Or rather, most chickens are somewhat afraid of ducks. They will get used to their quacking roommates, but they will mostly try to avoid them. Providing adequate space for each bird will ensure that they are all able to have their own private areas and be comfortable with each other’s presence.
The more space you provide your poultry, the better they will be able to get along.
Chickens like to hide in a dark space when they sleep, and they will need an enclosed coop free of the draft during the winter. Chickens also want to sit high on their roost when sleeping. Their nesting boxes should be in a hidden and unexposed corner of the chicken coop.
Ducks, on the other hand, prefer a somewhat more open nesting place, and they never roost. Instead, they sleep on the ground, and they prefer not to climb a steep ramp to get inside a coop. Ducks need a dry but soft bedding material to help them get comfortable and for their feet to be healthy. Most people use straw or hay in their duck’s nests.
You can get your ducks to sleep on the floor in a chicken coop, if necessary, but you may instead want to build them some comfortable covered outdoor nests in the run. Just ensure the run is predator-proof.
And while we’re on the subject of predator-proofing, make sure to cover the run with hardware cloth or a roof. This will keep the ducks from flying out and prevent predators from getting in. Not all duck breeds fly, but most do, and while they usually do not fly too far from home, they may not be able to fly find their way back into the run.
Ducks require more water than chickens. They do not necessarily need water to swim in, although they do appreciate having a place to swim now and then – ducks like their baths. On the other hand, Chickens never bathe themselves or take any interest in water at all outside of basic hydration needs.
Even if you do not provide your ducks with a place to swim, they do need to be able to submerge their bill and face fully in the water. Besides drinking, ducks need water to soften their food and ease digestion. Ducks also require water for cleaning their nostrils end eyes.
If you provide water for swimming in, ensure it’s is easy to get in and out. Chickens are not very good swimmers and may fall into the water when trying to drink, but also ducks can drown when they are unable to get out of the water. Make sure that the pool will be shallow and gradually sloped to allow all your birds to get out of the water easily. A kiddy pool is affordable and easy to clean.
Diseases and Parasites in Chickens and Ducks
You may be wondering about the parasites and diseases that your chickens or ducks might catch from each other, and for valid reasons. In some European countries, it is illegal to keep chickens, ducks, and other bird species together due to fears of transmittable diseases.
Parasites can be transmitted by contact with other birds, or they may be picked up as the bird moves around a yard or run. This is particularly true for ducks, which enjoy rummaging in moist ground.
Chickens are fairly good at managing mites and fleas by sand bathing and grooming themselves. However, they may transmit these parasites to ducks that do not sandbathe. Ducks are less likely to get infested in the first place, but if you want to keep chickens and ducks together, it is a good idea to watch for symptoms of parasites in all of your birds.
The coccidiosis parasite may be the most serious problem you may encounter with keeping chickens and ducks together. Coccidiosis is caused by a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestines of all birds; Infected birds can spread the disease to other birds. Avian coccidiosis is more likely to infect your chickens as ducks have a stronger immune system, but your ducks may spread it to your chickens, which are more vulnerable.
Ducks are more likely to catch botulism, which is caused by a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. Botulism is a disease caused by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the botulin toxin. Botulism thrives in rotting vegetation, food, carcasses and can be found in the soil where vegetation has not decomposed. Botulism and can lead to paralysis and death and can spread to your entire mixed flock.
The best way to prevent diseases and parasites is to provide clean, dry housing and looking out for symptoms or unusual behavior. And take action quickly if you notice any symptoms.
Can Chickens and Ducks Eat the Same Food?
If your ducks are fed a healthy diet with the right amount of niacin and other nutrients, then you should see no problems maintaining them with chickens.
Ducks can, for the most part, eat chicken feed as well as many of the same vegetables and fruits. However, ducks have a higher niacin (vitamin B3) requirement than chickens. Most layer feed does have sufficient amounts of niacin for adult ducks, but if you notice signs of niacin deficiency in your ducks, such as lethargy and loss of appetite (which could also be caused by other factors), try adding a supplement such as Brewer’s Yeast or niacin tablets to the feed or water.
Can You Raise Baby Ducks and Chickens Together?
Raising chickens and ducks together is the best way to ensure that they get along as adults, but it is not advised to raise them in the same brooder.
Young ducklings are bigger and grow much faster than chicks of the same age. They are not very aggressive and will rarely intentionally attack their younger “siblings.” However, they are not very considerate either, and they may step on them when they get excited, which can hurt the much smaller chicks.
Ducklings also love water and will make their entire space very wet in a matter of minutes. This is not great for the baby chicks, which need to stay dry, as they are more susceptible to getting chilled or contracting an illness in a humid environment.
However, you may consider raising chickens and ducks in the same brooder or coop, with a wire divider installed. This way, they get used to each other’s company and will learn to coexist.
As mentioned above, ducks do need more niacin than chickens. This is especially true for growing ducklings, so if you are used to breeding chicks, ensure to add niacin supplement for the ducklings in addition to regular grower feed and supplements.
Just like adult ducks, ducklings will need sufficient water that they can dip their bill and head, but be careful that the water is not too deep. Ducklings can (and will) drown if the water is too deep and/or if they can’t get out of it.
Will Ducks Kill Chickens?
Are ducks friendlier than chickens? Many people seem to think so, and there is something to this. Chickens are more likely to be hostile towards ducks than the other way around, but that does not mean a duck can’t be violent towards a chicken (or another duck). This usually only happens if the duck is stressed out due to an injury or illness or if they have been put in a stressful situation and feel threatened.
Ducks are usually more docile than chickens and will rarely attack without cause, although they may chase a chicken away if they feel encroached upon. Provided they have sufficient space and are treated well; ducks are usually not going to hurt a chicken.
Generally, chickens and ducks will keep to themselves most of the time. But there can be occasional squabbles and possibly some bullying of the weaker birds in a mixed flock. Therefore, it is vitally important to provide ample space for both poultry species and make sure they are getting the care they need.
Do Drakes and Roosters Get Along?
Both drakes and roosters are quite territorial, which is another reason why you’ll want to give them adequate space. Unless one has a particularly aggressive nature, they will not fight, but the larger one (usually the drake) may chase the chickens away if they get too close.
However, it should be noted that a fearless and angry rooster can seriously hurt a drake. His sharp beak, talons, and spores can inflict a lot of damage on a drake much larger than him.
Ducks, on the other hand, don’t have these features, but they can get very heavy – especially if you keep the large and popular Muscovy ducks. As drakes dominate by sitting on top of his opponent, a smaller roster can get squashed if he’s unlucky.
Can You Introduce Ducks to Chickens?
You can introduce ducks to an existing chicken flock, but it’s important to beware of how they interact with each other.
A flock with one or more drakes and no rooster spells trouble. Drakes get very violent during the breeding season, and without a rooster to keep him in check, he may go for the hens, too. Hens are not built for the, shall we say, fish-hook anatomy of male ducks, not to mention that drakes are often heavier than a rooster. A drake may injure or even kill a female chicken if he tries to mate with her.
Roosters, on the other hand, will usually not try to mate with female ducks. And if they do, they are unlikely to cause serious harm. Adding a few female ducks to your chicken flock is less likely to cause trouble than the other way around.
In short: You are most likely to achieve peaceful coexistence if you introduce female ducks to an all-hen flock or a flock with a good-natured rooster. If you do want to keep a rooster and a drake in the same run, you are more likely to avoid trouble if they have grown up together.
Can Ducks and Chickens Mate and Make a Hybrid?
I have never seen a documented case of a successful duck/chicken crossbreed. There are stories on the internet of duck and chicken hybrids, but I doubt it’s possible just from a physical perspective.
Roosters do not have a male member and will have a very hard time inseminating a duck. On the other hand, a hen is probably more likely to die or get sterile from internal damage if mated by a drake. In the unlikely case that a chicken and a duck do succeed in crossbreeding, the embryo is unlikely to develop, and the egg will probably not hatch.
If you are interested in researching the possibility of duck/chicken hybrids, here is a link to the best article I have been able to find. In practical terms, I wouldn’t worry about this ever happening in your flock, but do intervene if you have a drake who’s outside of his territory.
The key to a successful chicken and duck co-habitation is keeping a high hygienic standard, taking precautions to avoid roosters and drakes from fighting and drakes from mating your hens, and making sure the chickens have adequate space.
If you do these things, then there is no reason why you can’t keep your ducks with your chickens. Just make sure that they don’t get too overcrowded in their pen a coop because this could lead to aggressive behavior. And of course, be mindful of diseases as well – it’s always important to monitor for parasites and bacterial infections when raising any kinds of farm animals, including poultry.
It should be noted that neither your chickens nor ducks will gain much in terms of socialization or companionship as they will mostly stick to their own kind. But it may make things easier for you.