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Mixing ducks with chickens?  RSS feed

 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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We're looking at getting some ducks for the first time this spring and we were wondering if there would be any problems keeping the ducks and chickens together in the same housing area?  Does anyone run this sort of mixed flock, and what sort of issues would we be looking at?
 
Chris Sargent
Posts: 55
Location: SE Alaska
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I have a small mixed flock.  3 buff ducks (2 female, 1 male) and 5 laying hens.  I've just had the ducks for a year so not an expert but so far they seem to be doing well as a mixed flock.

They do have lots of space.  Which I think helps.  Hens sleep in a coop that is raised off the ground about 3 ft and has an attached nest.  The area under the coop is screened in (and covered in plastic sheeting for the winter).  The ducks sleep and nest under there.   They both share a small covered run off the coop where they share food and water dishes.   They all have full time access to a fenced yard with is about 50 ft by 35 ft.  The yard has lots of bushes, several large trees, and a few smaller plantings.  So there is space for everyone to spread out.  So far they all do seem to get along.

Some of the issues with keeping ducks is male ducks wanting to mate the chickens.  This can harm or even kill the chicken so it's something to watch out for.  I was a bit worried when I 1st put them together and the male duck did show some interest in the hens.  I saw him try to mount one of the more dominate hens but she wasn't having any of it and put him in his place.  Now the boy seems happy enough with his duck girls and doesn't seem to bother the hens.  I'll have to see how he behaves come spring when he might be expected to be more amorous.  Having a pond should help as duck prefer to do their mating in the water and since the chickens don't go into the pond (old bathtub in my set up) that seems to keep the boy more interested in the swimming girls.  I'd say just keep and eye on them and be prepared to separate if the males are showing too much interest in the hens.  I don't have a rooster so I don't know if one would protect his girls or cause issues fighting with a male duck.

Other issues.  The ducks are way messier, especially with water.  They dirty up the water containers right away.  With the chickens I could just set out large waters and refill every couple of days.  With the ducks are are dirty instantly and I find myself cleaning and refilling a couple of times a day.  Nipple waters worked well in the summer but I don't have a set up to keep that type thawed in the winter.  I have a metal waterer that sits on a heated base.  I have to clean and refill it often.  The ducks also need deeper water to be able to dunk their bills and rinse out their nasal passages.  I take out rubber feed bowls full of warm water for them once or twice a day so they can do this in the winter when the pond freezes over.

Also expect a much messier run as duck poop is softer, wetter and smellier.  They also seem to generate a lot more of it.  Before getting the ducks I never had an issue with the 5 hens and large run. But after adding the ducks I've had it get pretty slimy and started to have some smell.  I've laid down some wood chips to help deal with this and expect I'll need to do more when it thaws come spring.  I also plan to move the flock around and do a bit more rotational grazing next year so that should help.  I don't know what your space set up is like but if you're going to add them into a run with chickens expect cleanup needs to be a lot higher.  I have deep litter in the area the ducks use under the coop and in the covered run.  This does seem to work ok with the ducks but they do tend to mat the litter down and so I find myself needing to stir it up more often and add fresh material to soak up the moisture.

 
Ron Helwig
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Location: New Hampshire
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Chris covered everything I was going to say, especially the water. I've seen a duck pick up a dirty piece of lettuce, swish it in the water, then drop the lettuce on the ground and then take a drink - I guess the water wasn't dirty enough.

We have about 10 ducks and about 30 chickens. They have a fairly big run and an attached greenhouse so there's plenty of room. There's also deep litter and lots of it.

The ducks won't lay their eggs nicely in the nesting boxes like the chickens do, but otherwise we haven't seen any real problems mixing them together.
 
Virginia Ratliff
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Location: Bartow County GA
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I have a mixed flock...14 hens, 1 rooster, 2 drakes and 2 female ducks (I had 3 female ducks...lost one last week to unknown causes, she was a present from my daughter and always was a little "off"...will replace her this spring). I started with a mixed flock of babies...they grew up together...that was easy! Then I wanted more ducks...tried to integrate 2 "teenage" female ducks...that was not so easy! One of the drakes and the rooster honed in on one of the female ducks and it was on! The drake and the rooster didn't fight near as much as the hens with the ducks. Sometimes I still hear/see a duck running for its life with a hen attached to a tail feather! And, vice versa! There is a definite pecking order. And, the rooster tries to mate the ducks and vice versa...that at first was extremely disconcerting to me! Now, everyone seems to have their place and they all run together on about one eighth of an acre. We had our first baby ducks hatch in October from a duck...her first time..my first...we didn't do very well. Only 3 hatched and 2 died from being smothered by the Mom and one made it to get big enough to be integrated...I got sick and the dogs got bored and "played" that baby duck to death. Lesson learned the hard way...the dogs cannot now reach the birds. I have not experienced any bird on bird attacks to the death...thank goodness! So far I have integrated a single adult duck, baby ducks and baby chickens to an established flock.

I will say it is a pretty slow process introducing new birds...I keep mine in "covered" runs...similar to a chicken tractor in with the other birds for weeks...they can see each other but not touch! The first day of actual release I stand around with my "chicken catching fish net"...all my birds know what that is...and they are more worried about who I am out to catch than mess with the new babies! I clip wings regularly. And, my rooster has learned if he gets aggressive with me I will pick him up and carry him around until he is quiet, but I have had him since he was a baby...he was supposed to have been a hen...lol. Integrating any birds successfully takes time and patience...the chickens are handled a lot more than the ducks and are a lot more friendly because of that handling. The ducks will eat out of a bucket I hold but not my hand...and I have a couple ducks several years old. They are very different and a whole lot messier but I love to bake with their eggs! And, I am learning when and where I can use them in my established beds for pest control.

There is a youtube video..."True Facts About Ducks"...it is very explicit in detail...for those with children, I would watch it first and then decide if you want to share. I am not sure how to link. I love my birds and as long as I am physically able I will have chickens and ducks!

Footnote...lol...Release Day picture...you see ducks but no adult chickens...they really do not like my net!
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One baby coop...not equipped for adult
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Baby coop with chickens
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Release day!
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 507
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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We currently have an elevated chicken house with a large covered permanent run area with five separate paddocks off of the permanent run.  The covered run gets deep litter along with the chicken house.  The five paddocks are each 6x20 feet and the idea is that we will give access to each paddock for a week and then the other paddocks will get a chance to rest and recover growth for a month.  Hopefully the extra "messiness" of the ducks won't foul the paddocks so much that they won't recover in time.
 
Travis Johnson
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We are only different in that we run far more ducks then we do chicken in ratio, but have never had a problem. We don't use nesting boxes though, just a perch where the birds rest at night with the duck underneath. They share the same watering pail and the same feed. They lay eggs where ever they feel led to do so.

We would naturally keep ducklings or chicks separated from adults of ducks or chickens until they get big enough, but other than that, we run them together 24/7/365.

When I run my financial numbers I don't even separate them out, its not how many duck eggs did we produce? Or how much grain did the chickens require? Its stated as "poultry".
 
Maureen Atsali
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Location: Western Kenya
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I keep muscovy ducks and kienyeji chickens.  I have kept them together for many years, but in the long term I plan to seperate them.  They will squabble and fight a bit now and then, but always seem to work out their own order.  However- one exception to that - some of my chickens are "frizzle feather" - and for whatever reason, the ducks absolutely hate and reject the frizzle feathered chickens.  Its more than "pecking order", the ducks, particularly the drake, are attacking the frizzle feathered chickens with an intent to kill, including and especially the rooster. I had to remove the rooster from the coop.  My main reason for seperating them though, is just the difference in maintenance and behavior.  Muscovies are very particular about their eggs, and don't like them to be touched, moved or manipulated (if you want them to brood them).  Thats a real pain when they all decide to lay in one nest with the chickens.  I have to go with a spoon to remove the chicken eggs... and its real chaos when the duck decides to brood her eggs, and the chickens still want to lay there.  And as someone else mentioned... keeping them clean is a challenge.  A method I've found that works nicely for my ducks is to throw all my weeds into their coop, and let them nibble it, walk on it, and poo on it, until its all matted down.  Then rake the whole mess out and put it down as pre-fertilized mulch.  Kind of labor intensive, but it works.  They like to take beak-fulls of food and mix it in their water, so there is really no keeping it clean.  I also put a plastic basin of water for bathing and nostral cleaning. It gets filthy.   Muscovies don't really need a pond, but they are very happy if they can get in a bucket of water and have splash.
 
Kelly Ireland
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We have 2 geese (breeding pair), 13 ducks and 7 chickens. 

Each have their own houses. 

They seem to live happily together provided there is enough space for everyone to keep out of each others way.  The geese are in charge, and soon sort out any nonsense between the ducks and chickens.  Never had a duck wanting to mate with a chicken, or even attempt it. 

Most important thing it ratios with ducks.  We have 3 males in the flock, and to be honest, that is 2 males too many.  Come breeding season it is a nightmare as they are pretty sex crazed and the poor girls barely get a break, unless I intervene which I have done on occasion.  A neighbour had lots of boys and they actually killed a girl, which was pretty horrible.

My favorite ducks are Cherry Valley.  Lovely smiley faces and enjoyable to watch.

 
Maureen Atsali
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Location: Western Kenya
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I wanted to note that my ducks (Muscovy) have never tried to mate a chicken, nor vice versa.

I also agree with Kelly... too many drakes is hard on your girls.  I keep only one breeding drake.  Any males that are born are destined to be sold or eaten around the time they reach sexual maturity.  We change the breeding drake every six months to avoid inbreeding.
 
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