If you already have chickens but you want to branch out, you might have considered adding some webbed footed friends to your flock. Opinions are divided on whether you should do this, so we put together some tips for happy mixed species poultry keeping…
Both species are social animals and many people keep ducks and chickens together, usually in perfect harmony. However, they do have different care needs so it isn’t always plain sailing.
Here are some things you’ll need to consider if you’re thinking about having a mixed species flock:
Keeping the peace
Chickens and ducks will squabble both with their own species and with each other. This behaviour is normal and as long as this doesn’t turn into bullying you won’t need to worry about the occasional ruffled feather.
It’s important to provide your flock with enough room for them to be able to avoid a fight. You may find that they need separate poultry houses within the same enclosure and ensure there are plenty of water and food sources so everyone gets their fill.
However, if there is a squabble damage can sometimes be done by chickens’ beaks, which are far sharper than ducks. Fights are more common between drakes and cockerels during the breeding season than between female birds.
Having bachelor groups and removing overly aggressive birds should help to resolve this problem.
As said above, having plenty of food and water stations will mean that the entire flock doesn’t crowd around one place at the same time.
Chickens and ducks also have different nutritional needs, especially when they’re young. Generally speaking it’s not advisable to keep young chickens and ducks together as they should be fed on different food.
Adult birds can both be fed chicken layers pellets/mash but care needs to be taken to ensure the ducks are getting enough Niacin (Vitamin B3) in their diet. This can be done by adding Brewer’s Yeast to their feed or a Niacin supplement.
Here’s a great post that explains more about Niacin and Niacin Deficiency in ducks.
If you keep drakes you’ll also need to be aware that chicken feed has too much calcium in it for drakes. You’ll need to provide your drakes with wheat to keep their protein levels up and they’ll regulate their intake between wheat and layers’ feed themselves.
Keeping water clean
Of course, both species need water to drink but ducks also need water to wash in and this can lead to water sources becoming dirty quickly. There are a number of ways to combat this.
One common solution is to put a drinker higher up and provide perches for your chickens to access it. Nipple style drinkers, such as these, in addition to a trough or small pond, ensure that your flock can stay hydrated without your ducks making a mess of the only available water source.