Chickens are often the first bird homesteaders will tackle before raising other livestock. They cite practical reasons: food, composting, and pest control. Since ducks are some of the smartest and hardiest, they debut on the farm after chickens. But before getting any birds, I’ll answer the question Can you mix ducks with chickens.
You can, in fact, raise chickens and ducks together. However, there are some slight differences with both kinds of birds. And, with careful consideration, you should have no problem mixing both. So, whether or not you’ve purchased any ducks, just continue reading.
Brooding Facts for Both Ducklings and Chicks
Recently I wrote an in-depth article explaining how to raise ducklings and chicks together. So I’m only going to list the main points.
- Provide the same feed for both
Contrary to popular belief, you can give medicated feed to ducklings, as I explained a short while ago. But no matter what, by the 3rd week, make sure the protein is no more than 18%, or your ducklings will be at risk for something called Angel’s Wing. And provide niacin in the form of brewer’s yeast, so the ducklings can thrive. (This needs to be provided lifelong in the duck’s diet.)
Also, regular chick fountains and nipple waterers work well with ducklings. However, shallow pans for feed are ideal due to their bills.
- Similar brooder temperature for both
There is only a 5° difference between both birds when starting the brooding process. Therefore, just observe them to see whether they are cold or hot. If they huddle together, they’re cold. And if they move as far away as they can from the heat, then they are hot. And adjust accordingly.
- Clean brooder daily
Both ducklings (and ducks) drink as they eat to prevent choking. And this causes a big mess in the brooder that needs to be cleaned on a daily, sometimes several times a day, basis.
Depending on the number and breed of chicks and ducklings you have, could determine who does the bullying and who gets bullied. In my experience, our chicks have always done the bullying until they were juveniles. But by then, the ducks were much larger, thus the roles were reversed.
It’s definitely simpler to raise chickens and ducks on their own. However, it’s not unrealistic to raise them together either.
Teenager Ducks and Chickens
At this stage of development, your ducks and chickens are going through puberty. You know, their voices crack and they look fugly. In addition, you might notice your ducks bullying the chickens they once hung out with. But by the time they’re all adults, this behavior generally stops.
The 3 ducks we recently raised with our juvenile chickens bullied their brooder buddies. And they even tried to bully one of our cats. But that only lasted until the 2 juvie drakes were sold to someone in need of them, so the lone female no longer feels the need to bully. Thus, it’s the other way around again. Plus, when we raised Squirt, the boss drake, he was raised alone by me. Therefore, he really didn’t bully anyone, and no one bullied him. I’m still constantly learning about ducks. And I know I don’t know all there is to know about them.
Advice for Smooth Desegregation
Depending on the time of year and temperature will determine when you move your newbies outside. For instance, if it’s spring and still chilly out, then wait till the chicks are ~ 5-6 weeks old. However, if it’s summer and hot in the evenings, like it’s been lately, you don’t necessarily need a heat lamp. But still wait for the chicks to get to 5-6 weeks old for size. Then you need to
- Check your coop space
Ducks need twice as much space as chickens do. And if your chickens use a ramp to get in the coop, you might need to come up with something so the ducks can get in too.
Also, ducks don’t use nesting boxes. Therefore, just put some straw on the floor of the coop, and they’re fine.
- Circulate the air in the coop
You likely already have your coop well ventilated with your existing flock. However, since ducks emit ~ 90% moisture, there needs to be adequate circulation in the form of predator-proof windows and air exhaust vents on the roof.
- Gradually mix your new ducks and chickens with the established flock
Put your juvenile mixed birds in a pen where they and your primary flock can see each other without aggression for a few days to a week.
- Provide water
This source of water is different from the drinking water. Though you will see both the chickens and ducks drinking from it. But if you don’t provide this water source for the ducks to bathe and preen their feathers, they can develop wet feather.
Mixing Adult Ducks and Chickens
Up to this point I’ve covered the basics from brooding ducklings and chicks together to integrating the juveniles with the adults. From the time the ducks are adults, they no longer hang out with the chickens they were raised with. Unless they happen to be eating, sharing snacks, or drinking together. Or unless you have a species-confused duck, like me.
Now it’s time to go over some final important details.
- Continue to supply the same type of feed for ALL backyard birds
Once the ducks and chickens you raised are adults, they can eat layer feed like everyone else. And continue adding 1 TBSP brewer’s yeast to 1 cup of feed.
- Carry on with same feeders and waterers
Since your duck-raised chickens are used to eating out of a shallow pan, continue that with the newbies. However, with your established flock, you can try keeping the technique you’ve been using. Though, if they start eating the newbies’ food, you may need to just switch everyone to the new method. And the same goes for their waterers.
- Provide a watering hole
This is one of the most important points, because ducks not only love water, they need it. And not just drinking water either. They need access to a source of water to swim and bathe in. But again, it doesn’t need to be custom. You can just purchase a kiddie pool, and they will be content.
Also, when ducks swim, they poo; and they drink from this water source as well. And the chickens might too. So it needs to be changed at least twice daily.
At about this point, you might be wondering if chickens will drown in the kiddie pool. And the answer is debatable. Sure, chickens can’t swim like ducks. Plus, their feathers aren’t waterproof, and they lack webbed feet. But since they don’t like water the way ducks do, they usually only approach the watering hole to drink. From the time we’ve had our ducks and kiddie pool, no chickens have drowned. Though chicks should definitely be monitored.
Can You Mix Roosters and Drakes
Given both roosters and drakes can be territorial, it’s only natural to wonder if you can have both at the same time. I usually only keep 2 adult roosters at any time. And they’ve never had a problem with the drake, whichever one I had, even when it was the sex-crazed Kirishima.
But it’s true that drakes might try to mate with hens. And this is usually the case when there aren’t enough females for the drakes. Just as there is a proper ratio for hens to roosters, there’s a proper ratio for ducks to drakes. Proper in this sense maintains harmony in the flock.
Therefore, to prevent abuse to your hens and ducks, and any fighting between roosters and drakes, provide enough females for both. You will find various recommendations on this subject. But I advise you to err on the side of caution, especially regarding mating season and drakes. Each rooster needs ~ 10-12 hens, while drakes require ~ 3-6 ducks each. You know what they say? The more the merrier.
What About Flock Dynamics
Now that you’ve hypothetically (or realistically) integrated ducks into your flock, has the pecking order changed? Did you notice whether the ducklings, then juvenile ducks had a hierarchy remotely similar to the chickens?
Most duck lovers agree, me included, that ducks have a pecking order. Though it’s way laid back compared to chickens: they may chase, peck at (in their own way), or quack at someone. But usually the group doesn’t gang up on that someone, like chickens do.
In addition, the boss in each group is the male. But if there are 2 roosters, it is generally the senior rooster, unless he is weaker or has been challenged and fallen from grace. Drakes are different. The senior drake is more concerned with mating, from what I’ve observed, and so that influences most things. We had 2 juvenile drakes recently and Squirt ignored them; he’s only interested in the females. However, I’m happy to report, he hasn’t killed any ducks, unlike his predecessor. And the juvenile drakes, from what I observed, were just living life, being kids.
Also, my roosters stay away from Squirt, although I’m not sure why. But then, they stay away from the ducks altogether; almost pretend like they’re not there. On the other hand, Squirt will get in Megatron’s face and yell at him only when Bakugo is flirting with him. Thankfully they haven’t come to blows yet.
So, Can You Mix Ducks with Chickens
While raising chicks and ducklings together can be difficult, it’s not theoretical. Plus, they form a unit until they become adults. And at that time they tend to stay with their own kind. Once adults, they might ignore one another, but they don’t squabble or fight each other. Furthermore, males of both groups are boss of the yard. However, if there was ever any contest, the drake would be the clear winner. Though it’s the duck’s callous disregard of the pecking order that makes one think they don’t even have one. But they do, in their own duck-ish way.
I sincerely hope I’ve answered any questions you might have had about mixing ducks with chickens. Do you currently have any ducks? Or are you thinking about adding any? Your comments are appreciated.
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