How to Keep Ducks and Chickens Together

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…

ducks_chickensFor some people the idea of keeping ducks and chickens together brings them out in a cold sweat, and even if they keep both species, they are kept in separate enclosures.

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.

Feeding time

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.

 

Top 5 Duck Breeds to Keep as Pets

There are so many different breeds of duck it can be difficult to know which breed would be best for you, especially if you’re new to the world of duck keeping. Ducks come in all different sizes, shapes, and weights and they all have a different purpose.

For example, the Pekin breed is a popular choice for meat production as well as making good pets. On the other hand Indian Runners are prolific egg layers and make great pets, but don’t expect to get much meat from them!

Ducks are also grouped into different weight categories – Heavy, Medium, Light, and Bantam. Examples of the weight categories would be:

  • Heavy – Pekin
  • Medium – Cayuga
  • Light – Indian Runner
  • Bantam – Call

Of course, you can keep any breed of duck as a pet, but some are easier to care for than others. Here’s a look at our choice of top duck breeds to keep as pets:

Call Ducks

White Call Duck Drake

White Call Duck Drake

This tiny bantam breed is a popular choice if you’d like to have ducks but don’t have a lot of space. The breed originates from the Mallard duck and is thought to have come from The Netherlands.

Call Ducks are lively, friendly, and can be very noisy so if you live in a urban area they might not be right for you.

You can expect to your ducks to lay around 100 small eggs per year. Call Ducks are available in a wide range of colours including: White, Mallard, Yellow belly, Chocolate, Magpie, Bibbed, Apricot, and Khaki.

Pekin Ducks

Pekin Duck

Pekin Duck

95% of duck meat consumed in America comes from this breed but they also make fantastic pets and are good layers. Often confused with the Aylesbury breed because of their similar “Jemima Puddle-duck” looks the Pekin is fantastic if you have a larger garden.

They are a Heavy breed of duck and originated in China before spreading around the world. They’ll give you between 80 – 140 large white eggs every year and their calm, friendly nature makes them a great option if you have children.

Pekins like to be active, so they’ll appreciate having a bigger area to explore and their orange bills and legs make them an attractive addition to any outdoor space.

Cayuga Ducks

Cayuga Duck

Cayuga Duck

This striking breed is unmistakable thanks to its iridescent green/black plumage and they are quiet, hardy, and easy to tame. They’ll produce 100 – 150 eggs per year that start with black shells at the beginning of the season and gradually lighten to a light grey/white.

The Cayuga Duck was developed in New York in 1809 after a pair of wild black ducks were caught and bred for their colour. These days they are a rare conservation breed and can be hard to find, but they make worthwhile pets if you’re prepared to search for them.

Indian Runner Ducks 

Indian Runner Drake and Ducks

Indian Runner Drake and Ducks

As well as being prolific egg layers, up to 200 per year, the Indian Runner is probably one of the most popular breeds of pet ducks in the world.

Originally from the East Indies (Malaya, Java, and Lombok) rather than India these ducks were first known as “Penguin Ducks” because of their upright stance. As they are taller you’ll need to consider a duck house with a higher roof if you want to include Indian Runners in your flock.

They don’t fly, choosing to run instead, and they love foraging and swimming. They are available in around two dozen colours including: White, Fawn, Apricot, Black, Mallard, and Silver.

Muscovy Ducks

This is a Heavy breed of duck and the Drakes are usually twice the size of females. Muscovy Ducks produce 60-140 eggs per year and are well known for going “broody” so if you’re looking to breed ducks this could be a good option for you.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

They are unique in that they are the only breed of duck not to originate from the wild Mallard. In fact, they are closely related to a sub group of perching ducks which is why they have sharp claws that allow them to perch comfortably.

Muscovy Ducks, or ‘Scovies as they are known by their fans, are available in nine different colours all of which have a red crest (called caruncles) around their eyes.

Do you keep ducks? We’d love to see pictures!

Top 10 Facts About Ducks

Tunnel_of_ducksWe’re not sure we’ve been talking enough about ducks recently so for the next few weeks we’re going to give you the ins and outs of keeping ducks.

So we don’t overload you with information thought this week we’d put together some simple facts and figures to get you started with duck keeping.

Here are our top 10 facts about ducks:

  1. All types of duck are part of the Anatidae family of birds and ducks are found across the world in all continents except Antarctica.
  2. Ducks are precocial which means that within hours of hatching ducklings are covered in down and able to walk and leave the nest.
  3. Ducks are omnivorous and opportunistic so they’ll eat everything from plants to crustaceans if they can find them.
  4. Duck quacks do echo!
  5. There are over 40 breeds of domestic duck throughout the world.
  6. The estimated number of ducks is thought to be 1.1 billion – with two thirds of those ducks being in China.
  7. Ducks have been domesticated as pets and farm animals for over 500 years.
  8. All domestic ducks are descended either from the Mallard or Muscovy breeds.
  9. Ducks don’t just quack – their verbal communications range from squeaking to whistling and growling.
  10. Although most duck species are monogamous for the breeding season they don’t mate for life.

Duck Basics – What Do You Need to Know?

Ducks make great pets, although it can take them a while to trust you, and their funny, charming, individual characters will entertain you for hours.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at ducks in more detail including different breeds, how to ensure your ducks stay healthy and and happy, and why keeping ducks is a great idea.

In general ducks have fairly basic needs – as long as they’ve got food, fresh water, and a clean duck house they’ll be happy.

 

Ducks – the basics

As you’ll know ducks are mostly aquatic birds that can be found both on fresh and sea water. They are smaller than swans and geese although they are all part of the same species known as the Anatidae family.

The word “duck” is thought to come from the Old English word “duce” meaning “diver” or “to dive”. This is thought to be a reference to the way ducks upend in water to feed.

Almost all domestic ducks are descended from the Mallard, with the exception of the Muscovy breed.

Ducks eat a variety of foods and are actually omnivores. Grass, aquatic plants, insects, small fish, frogs, and worms will all make up a ducks diet if it has free access to them.

Most domestic duck breeds feed on land, on the surface of the water, or by upending and eating as deep as they can go without completely submerging.

The majority of domestic breeds of duck don’t need vast expanses of water to be happy and healthy. The absolute minimum amount a duck needs is a water source deep enough to submerge their whole head.

Not only does this help them swallow their food but also ensures their eyes stay clean as ducks lack tear ducts so cannot clean their own eyes.

Quack quack!

With domestic ducks the females of most breeds will make the classic “quack” sound. Ducks have a wide range of sounds including chattering, whistling, grunting, and squeaking.

Ducks use their range of calls to communicate everything from being scared or startled to informing other members of the flock that they’ve found a tasty treat.

Domestic ducks

Ducks have been domesticated for hundreds of years and have many economic uses including being farmed for their meat, eggs, and feathers.

Ducks are also common as pets, especially in recent years, where they are kept both alongside chickens and separately.

These days there are so many different breeds of domestic duck it would take pages to list them all. Some of the most common breeds of duck kept include Call, Aylesbury, Pekin, Indian Runner, Khaki Campbell, and Silver Appleyard.

Could YOU Be a Guest Blogger for Jim Vyse Arks?

Here at Jim Vyse Arks, we love hearing from our happy customers and seeing their houses in action. Our customers come in all shapes and sizes, from hobby keepers with three or four hens to specialist breeders with fields full of Jim Vyse chicken houses for their cheerful chickens.

We’re also pleased to see so much variety in the species that are housed in Jim Vyse Arks. It’s not just chickens – Jim has also built houses for ducks, geese, guinea fowl, doves, and quail to name but a few.

We never tire of seeing pictures and hearing poultry keeping tales, which is why we’d like to invite our customers to submit a guest blog post on any poultry topic you like.

Whether you’d like to share your chicken keeping tips, talk about why you love a certain breed, or simply tell a funny story, we want to hear from you!

If you’d like to be a Jim Vyse Arks guest blogger leave a comment below or email Jim on jimvysearks@aol.com with your blog topic and we’ll be in touch.

chickennewsletter

 

Happy Birthday Jim & 15% Off!

To celebrate Jim becoming another year older (and wiser) we’re offering our customers 15% off selected poultry housing.

The following products currently have 15% off their usual retail price, so grab a bargain while you can:

We also have two special offer “bundles” that are ideal if you’re just starting out with chickens or you’re looking to make keeping chickens even easier…

 

6BirdSwissChalet+RunBanner

 

12BirdChickenHouse+Wheels+HensafeDoorOpenerBanner

 

So don’t delay – get yourself over to the website and take advantage of Jim’s Birthday Bonanza!

Now Stocking HenSafe Automatic Door Openers!

HenSafe Banner

Jim Vyse Arks is pleased to announce that we now stock HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Openers.

Designed and made in Wiltshire, UK the HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener is robust, rugged, and reliable. The innovative chicken coop door opener has three operating modes built in one compact, weathertight unit. Driven by a microprocessor, the HenSafe unit has a user-friendly display screen to make setting it up a piece of cake.

Take a look at the HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener here.

Key benefits and features of the HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener include:

  • Powerful 5KG lifting motor to lift the heaviest of doors
  • Fully automatic with industry quality parts
  • Fully integrated internal light sensor and timer
  • Manual button for extra flexibility
  • Digital push button display showing settings, battery life, and a system heartbeat LED light so you can see it’s working from 100m away
  • Operate using the time, light level, or a combination of both (time with a light backstop) to suit your location
  • Easy to install
  • Simple to use

Testimonials:

“HenSafe is well thought out to cover all eventualities, well made and reliable. Takes the worry out of hen husbandry.” Mr M from Lanarkshire.

“I would like to compliment you on an excellent product. I purchased my first HenSafe door opener from you last week, installed it, set the time, calibrated closing light and set an opening time within 20 minutes. It works a treat.”

Looking After Your Ducks this Winter

snow ducksWith winter looming it’s time to start thinking about any changes to your ducks housing you’ll need to make and any extra care needs they’ll have. Luckily, ducks are hardy creatures and are well adapted to living in colder weather.

If you’re in the UK chances are the weather won’t get cold enough for you to need to make any drastic changes to how you keep your ducks but there are still things you ought to consider before the winter comes.

Up their food intake

As the winter gets closer your ducks are going to need to be a healthy weight so they’ve got plenty of fat to keep them warm when it gets cold. Providing them with plenty of high quality feed at the end of autumn will help them put on weight and stay healthy during the winter.

When the winter really sets in giving them a high calorie treat such as corn before bed will help them keep warm overnight as their body with produce heat during the digestion process.

Inspect their duck house

Now is the time to give your duck house a really good clean and check for any leaks or damage. Treat the wood to keep it in good condition throughout the colder months and replace any damaged areas such as the roof or rusted metal fixtures.

You might want to consider adding extra insulation in the roof and using a deep litter method of bedding to keep your ducks warm at night.

Think about protecting against mud

Although ducks love muddy conditions the ground won’t thank you for the damage and ducks shouldn’t be stood around in wet mud all day.

Consider putting straw down in their run or enclosure or use another material such as wood chip or even fallen leaves from your garden.

Increase your predator proofing

You’ll find that your ducks eat more in the winter and unfortunately so will predators so it’s really important to provide as much protection as you can.

Check any existing wire for holes and consider adding an extra layer of wire and burying it at least 6 inches underground or in a trench around the duck house.

Provide protection against the elements

Wind, rain, and snow can make life pretty miserable for humans and ducks a like so think about providing them with as much protection as possible.

Tarpaulin or plastic sheeting can be used to cover one side and a section over the top of their run to act as a wind break and “umbrella”. If the weather forecast indicates snow or extreme rain it’s worth using a sheet of plywood to cover the top of their run nearest the house.

Remember to break the ice

Although ducks don’t need a large expanse of water to be happy they do need access to clean, unfrozen water during the day.

You’ll need to empty each water container every night and refill them during the day. Some duck keepers invest in heated water bowls for the hot months or place bottles of hot water in water buckets.

This method is the opposite of the frozen bottle method used in the summer months to keep water cool. The hot bottles stop the water freezing if temperatures are particularly cold during the day.

Why keep ducks?

Keeping chickens has undoubtedly become extremely popular in recent years but that isn’t the only option if you want some feathered friends to share your garden…

Here are our top reasons why keeping ducks could be the best thing you ever do:

  1. Delicious eggs all year around

As tasty as chicken eggs are duck eggs are usually richer and creamier, which is why they’re so popular with keen bakers. Plus, their eggs are bigger and contain even more nutrients and goodness than chicken eggs.

Ducks also lay all year around, unlike chickens who stop in the winter, so you won’t need to buy eggs even in December.

duckeggs

  1. They’re cheap to keep

Once you’ve had the initial outlay of a suitable duck house and other equipment you’ll need, ducks are incredibly cheap to keep.

Depending on how many birds you have one bag of feed could last you for weeks, they’ll love your kitchen scraps, and they’re experts at finding their own food in the garden.

In fact, if you’re looking for free pest control then a couple of ducks could be the answer.

duck ark

A Jim Vyse Arks “Budget Duck Ark”

  1. Ducks are made of tough stuff

For some reason, and I’m not enough of an expert to know why, ducks are generally less susceptible to disease and infection than chickens. They cope well in extreme weather conditions and if they do become ill they usually recover fairly quickly with minimal human assistance.

duck_surfing

  1. Your neighbours won’t notice you have them!

Although most female ducks do make the classic “quack” noise they only do this when startled or frightened. The majority of the time ducks are silent or make quiet noises.

If you’re worried your neighbours won’t like the cackles and squawking that hens make then duck might be a better choice.

pekin duck

 

 

  1. They don’t need that much water

Many people think you need a lake or at least a large pond in order to keep ducks but depending on which breed you keep that isn’t always the case.

A child’s paddling pool, sawn in half barrel or an old bath tub can all make suitable “ponds” for backyard ducks. As long as the water is deep enough for them to get their whole head under then your ducks will be happy.

duck pond

  1. Ducks make friends more quickly

Many poultry keepers can’t resist adding to their flock after a while and this can cause disruptions to the pecking order. However, ducks seem to accept new additions to their group more calmly than chickens so if you think you’re likely to expand your brood ducks are a more tranquil option.

runner ducks

  1. Ducks have great personalities

If you talk to anyone who keeps ducks they’ll tell you all about their ducks individual personalities. For example, with my small flock, Astrid is inquisitive and always on the hunt for bugs whereas India prefers to sunbathe or have a bath in her “pond”.

  1. They make loyal friends

Dogs might be mans’ best friend but ducks come in at a close second. Sometimes it can take them a while to trust you but once they’ve imprinted on you and see you as part of the flock you’ll have a friend for life.

duck

If you’ve been convinced that ducks are a great idea then it’s time to get shopping for the duck house of your dreams!

Duck Breed of the Month – Cayuga

The Cayuga duck is a medium sized breed named after Lake Cayuga in New York and is known for its striking green/black feathers.

cayuga-duck1

They were originally bred from the wild American Black Duck and the Rouen in America before making their way over to Great Britain in 1851 where they were shown at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The breed first appeared in the British Poultry Club Standards in 1874.

Because they were bred in relatively tough conditions in America the breed is known for being hardy and easy to keep. They have a black bill and skin, as well as the characteristic black feathers which can appear to have a beetle green sheen in the right light.

As they get older some keepers have reported white feathers starting to show after a moult, but for exhibition birds any white feathers mean disqualification.

As well as being popular show birds they are also an all-round breed as they lay well (roughly 100-150 eggs per year) and their size makes them a good table bird – epicureans report their meat is flavourful and suited to dishes such as duck confit.

Interestingly, at the beginning of the laying season their eggs are black, but lighten as the season goes on moving through light grey to white.

The Cayuga is a reasonably active breed who enjoys searching for their own supper, so feed bills should be low.

They’re also a fairly quiet breed, the drakes are usually mute, and their quack is quiet in comparison to other breeds such as the Pekin or the Call duck.

This, along with their friendly nature and tendency to stick close the duck house, makes them a good back garden duck.