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Raising Chicks and Ducklings Together

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After having chickens for any length of time, it’s only natural to progress to another domestic bird. Moreover, it’s also reasonable to have questions about raising chicks and ducklings together. Unfortunately most websites discourage you from attempting it, saying there are too many differences. However raising both together isn’t impossible. And the two have more in common than not.

Most sites even claim you cannot incubate, hatch, and brood chicks and ducklings together. Although that is simply not true. It can be done, as others have done so. What’s more, I’ve also incubated, hatched and raised ducklings and chicks together a few times.

But it is a lot of work. Likewise you don’t have to raise them together. Unless you find yourself incubating some chicken eggs and end up getting some ducklings. In that case, you might want to read this.

Brooder Basics Between Ducklings and Chicks

Below you’ll find some key points when raising both ducklings and chicks together.

  • Feed is the same for both
red and white bag of medicated chick feed

First, you can feed either medicated or non-medicated chick starter to both birds, EXCEPT only give ducklings chick starter for 2-3 weeks. After that, switch to grower, unless your chick starter is only ~ 18% protein.

Yes, there used to be a time, long ago, when ducklings couldn’t have medicated feed. However that is no longer true. Read this article by the National Library of Medicine regarding the lack of adverse effects of medicated feed and ducks. Plus, it’s what I feed my ducklings, and they’ve never had a problem.

In addition to chick starter, you need to add niacin, because ducklings require 10mg of it to thrive and grow. And you can find it in brewer’s yeast. Just sprinkle ~ 1 TBSP per cup of feed. Further, it’s perfectly safe for chicks and chickens.

  • Feeders and fountains
yellow and white chick fountain in chick brooder with black chicks in background

Given the duck’s bill, provide chick starter in a shallow dish. Having water in a regular chick fountain works just fine. And Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine even found that nipple waterers worked ok.

  • Brooder temperature is similar for both

Managing the brooder temperature till both kinds of poultry are feathered out is comparable. Even though the beginning temperature for each is a 5° difference, it’s important to not lose sight of monitoring how the birds react to the temperature. If they huddle, they’re cold. But if they’re moving as far away from the heat source as possible, then they’re hot. It’s really quite simple to just watch them.

  • Clean brooder & change bedding daily
hardware cloth and wood brooder with chicks and fountain

In order to prevent choking, ducklings (and ducks) drink water as they eat. And it’s this combo that creates a daily mess in the brooder. A big, wet, stinky mess, sometimes several times a day, that, unless cleaned up on a regular basis, could compromise the health of the chicks. And it’s this that I consider the biggest hurdle to raising ducklings and chicks together.

  • Bullying
digital art of brown chick makes fun of yellow duckling on black background
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Harassment by ducklings is another often mentioned reason not to raise chicks and ducklings together. Though, in my experience, chicks are just as likely to bully ducklings.

We have successfully brooded and thus, raised a few generations of chicks and ducklings together. And this is what seems to work for us. First, understand that the type of bird you raise more of usually has the advantage. So if you raise more chicks, they might dominate the ducklings, for a time. But if you raise more ducklings, then they might be the antagonizers.

Tips for Brooding Chicks and Ducklings Together

duckling on screen of brooder
This is a picture of one of the ducklings we’ve raised with our chicks this year; they’re all juveniles now.

When we got our first ducklings, we started small: we only got 3. And since ducks are naturally bigger, we’ve kept our duckling and duck numbers small. Plus, we’ve incubated and hatched most of our own ducklings with our chicks. Also, given that ducklings take an extra week to incubate, the chicks have a week to get bigger and sturdier.

However, before jumping into raising babies together, decide first if you can commit the course. Especially due to the fourth item on the list: cleaning up the mess.

Then, if you are, resolve to

  • check your brooder
empty gray plastic box
This empty Rubbermaid box is the first brooder we use when raising chicks, ducks, or a combination. However, as they grow, we move them to something much larger.

Ducklings need almost 179% more space than chicks. Though both their space requirements will double in a month. So make sure the brooder box will house them both comfortably, along with their feed and water.

  • either incubate or purchase chicks before any ducklings
3 newly hatched chicks huddling near a chick fountain

Considering that ducklings are bigger than chicks, plan on having the chicks for ~ 5-7 days before the ducklings. This will help them gain a little weight and not be so wobbly before the newbies arrive.

  • have at least three times as many chicks as ducklings
person holding 2 ducklings

By having more chicks than ducklings, this could make the chicks the aggressors. Although the ducklings will be able to handle it, because they’re bigger. Also, depending on the breed you pick out, will likely determine if the chicks will be aggressive. But this is true for ducklings as well. We have mostly Ameraucana chickens, while we have Pekin and Mallard ducks. And they’re all pretty laid back. Plus, once both hit the juvenile or teenage years, the roles reverse.

Additionally, never get a lone chick, chicken, duck, duckling, or any type of backyard bird. It will get bullied and most likely have a miserable life. Therefore, at least get 2 ducklings and 8 chicks, if you want to start small.

It certainly is easier to raise them separately. But it’s not impossible to do both together, especially if you follow these tips. And don’t forget to clean the brooder and change the bedding daily.

Juvenile Ducks and Chickens

mixed flock of juvenile ducks and chickens hiding in bushes outside
You can’t see them all, but you should be able to see some chickens and ducks in this photo.

When raising ducklings with chicks, once they’re teenagers, they become a flock. They stay together, and feed and water together. I wouldn’t say that they’re buddies. But they consider themselves a unit of some sort.

At this stage, you continue to keep their grower feed the same, whatever you get. And continue supplying brewer’s yeast, as well as how you supply the feed and water.

Tips for Peaceful Integration

Before moving your juvenile ducks and chickens in with your existing flock, there are some things you’ll need to take care of, such as

  • make sure you have space
enclosed space with chicken wire and wooden beams
We were maxed out on space, so my husband is adding on to our coop.

Despite the fact ducks can be housed in the same coop as chickens, they need twice as much space as the latter. So just be certain you have enough of it, but you don’t need to make or get anything extra for them. However, if your chickens use a ramp to get in at night, make sure it’s not too steep for the ducks.

In addition, ducks can’t roost. And they prefer sleeping out in the open. Therefore, it might be ideal for the ducks to nest in the run, away from roosting chickens.

  • have coop well ventilated

According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, ducks ingest and eliminate more h2o than chickens. And their poo is over 90% moisture. For that reason, the coop needs adequate ventilation. Again, nothing fancy: a couple of predator-proof windows and air exhaust vents on the roof.

  • slowly integrate ducks and chickens with the flock
Juvenile ducks and chickens outside interacting

Either when the juvenile birds are feathered out, or the ducks are 3-4 weeks old, it’s time to introduce the newbies to your existing flock. The ducks will nearly be adult size by then, but the juvenile chickens will still be small-ish. Though that’s ok, once again, depending on your breed(s) of chickens. Mine don’t bother the young ones until they look like adults. **If you live somewhere cold, just make sure the temperature is ~ 75°, since the ducks won’t be fully feathered at 3 weeks.

So put the newbies in a pen where the existing birds can observe them, as they please, for a few days. Then watch for any aggressive behavior as they mingle with limit. Usually there are some curious chickens or some looking for food. Otherwise they’re not too interested after the initial inspection.

  • Supply extra water

While the newbies are being gawked at by the establishment, have a source of water available for the ducks. But it can be as simple as a pan of water, depending on the number of ducks you have. However the important thing is that they can get in to clean and maintain their feathers. When everyone is finally incorporated together, you can get a kiddie pool.

In Summary

If you really want to raise chicks and ducklings together, it’s totally doable, since they can eat the same food, and eat and drink out of the same containers. You just have to add brewer’s yeast to their diet. Plus, they can be brooded similarly.

But the mess is real, and you have to be diligent to clean it daily. And there are definitely some breeds of ducks that are bullies. Therefore, if you’re still unsure, I recommend doing some more research, by clicking on any of the links highlighted in this post.

Do you have ducks, or do you want ducks? If you have them, what’s the easiest part of raising them? Your comments are appreciated.

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By KS

I breed pure Black Ameraucana chickens and Easter Eggers that are Black Ameraucana mixed with either Cuckoo Maran or Barred Rock. And I donate eggs to people or organizations in need.

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