Being a successful flock keeper requires a certain amount of love for fowl in general. As such, many who decide to start a backyard flock eventually segue over other breeds of fowl—most notable ducks. It seems only a matter of time—maybe not in the first month, maybe not in the first few years—but eventually, many will take on raising ducks in their flocks.
I mean, who can blame them? With their cute little waddling bodies, their sweet little chirps–and let’s not forget that they can be as funny, if not funnier, than their fellow fowl the chicken. In a nutshell, ducks are hard for a flock keeper to resist, and in most cases, they will eventually become a staple of the homestead alongside the resident chickens.
The “New Chicken”
In recent years, ducks have often been referred to as the “new chicken” when it comes to backyard flocks. And why not? Ducks lay large eggs all year long and are much friendlier than most chickens, making them family favorites.
In most cases, ducks will pick a favorite human and proceed to imprint themselves onto that individual. They will follow them around, be interested in everything the human does, and in some cases, when separated or out of sight of their chosen human, will experience a form of separation anxiety.
Can You Keep Chickens and Ducks Together?
Ducks certainly can be raised with chickens, however, some differences need to be considered when adding the cute little fowl to your flock. If you intend to be keeping ducks with your chickens, you will need to make a few adjustments in both coop and equipment areas.
Ducks are to water, as air is to breathing—it is natural for them to want to be in the water. When one thinks of ducks, they think of them splishing and splashing around in the water. Although there are breeds that can be raised without access to a pond or a small pool, eventually, they will shuffle off in search of a water source.
It seems that the love of splashing in the water, throwing it here and there, and just making one big ol muddy mess is ingrained in a duck’s DNA. With that said, ducks will be fine if they don’t have a water source for their very own, but they won’t be able to be ducks without water.
Now, when it comes to chickens and water—there is no love lost! Unlike their fellow fowl, the duck, chicken’s feathers are not naturally waterproof, and as a result, they do not keep chickens warm or dry when they do get into the water. If a chicken does become too wet, they will receive a severe chill and become sick and die.
It’s More Than Love For Ducks
Many believe that the duck’s love for water comes from the fact that they seem to love to swim. As is apparent, chickens need water for hydration. While this may prove true, there are two main reasons that ducks need water:
For ducks, water is an aid in the process of digestion. If you watch a duck, it will take a small piece of food, swish it around in the water, and then eat it. The water begins to break down their food and makes it much easier for the duck to digest.
On the other hand, chickens need grit when it comes to digesting their food. Both fowls need an external element to aid in their digestion of food.
Ducks need to clean their eyes and nostrils several times throughout the day, and they need water to get this done. With all the muddy mess they tend to make, they become quite dirty and grimy. This dirt and grime will quickly form in their eyes and noses. They will dunk their heads into water and swish around to clear all the built-up dirt and gunk away.
Chickens, by their very natures, do not have this built-in desire to swish around in the water. But then again, they are not as prone to making the muddy messes that ducks can.
Food And Water
Because ducks are prone to splash in water—any source of water—all waterers must be kept outside a coop that may house ducks. The coop is your fowl’s place for sleep and security, and as such, it must remain both clean and dry. A humid, enclosed area such as a coop can prove a favorite bacteria source to develop, live, and thrive.
There is also the fact that ducks cannot use many of the waterers made with chicken use in mind. A baby duckling will quickly outgrow the little founts, and it will soon become a problem for them to drink from.
A small pool of water will accommodate the duck’s water needs. Your chickens may also drink from the pool, and from time to time on those hotter days wade around in it, but they will most likely pay it no never mind.
Food – Chickens vs Ducks
When chickens and ducks reach maturity, they will be able to be fed the same type of feed without any problems. However, chicks and ducklings can only eat the same kind of starter feed only if it is unmedicated.
Ducks, on average, eat much more food and much faster than chickens. If they consume too much of the medicated feed, the ducks can become very sick, unlike chickens. Also, ducklings should be offered the additional free choice of niacin. An easy way of making sure they get the niacin they need is by adding brewer’s yeast to their feeding dish. Lastly, to keep down on the possibility of overeating, it is easier to keep the young birds separated into their individual brooders.
For the benefit of every member of your flock, the best practice is to a variety of different types of feeding bowls on hand. Once again, this is because a duck will suffer from not being able to fit its bill into traditional chicken feeders. When they are still ducklings, this does not pose that big of a problem. However, as they grow, you will find that there will be a need for feeders specialized for their bill size.
When considering giving your flock members treats, ducks and chickens, as fate would have it, share the same tastes. Both fowl are omnivorous by nature and prefer to partake of both plant matter and morsels of meat. Yummo!
Suppose you find that you want to keep your ducks and your chickens in the same coop? For the most part, this sharing of quarters should not pose any problem. However, keep in mind that when night falls, ducks go into chatty Kathy mode, and all their squawking and talking may, to some point, interfere with your other flock members getting their beauty sleep.
Think of ducks as that friend invited to a sleepover but just can’t seem to settle down and go to sleep. They will talk, giggle, and play while all the rest of the group just want to turn in and go to sleep. So, keeping them together will work, but your chickens, if they could talk, would probably ask for another coop.
Ducks, unlike chickens, are not roosting birds. Chickens will roost on the highest point off the ground that they can find. Ducks, on the other hand, will nest and sleep on the ground. That is why the materials provided for a duck are just as important as the type of perch you provide for your chickens.
When thinking of a duck and chicken dynamic, think of them as more acquaintances than actual friends. They may share the same space when needed, but they will choose to go their separate ways as soon as the first opportunity presents itself.
There is also the fact that ducks do not worry as much about the flocks pecking order as chickens. When ducks squabble, it doesn’t last long and then they are on their merry way. On the other hand, chickens are obsessed continuously over who is the top chicken, and sometimes their squabbles can stretch over days.
This obsession as to place within the flock can more often than not turn to aggression. This can prove dangerous for those duck members who could really care less about the flock’s pecking order dynamic. If a chicken decides it wants to start an altercation with a duck, this can prove dangerous, as the chicken’s beak and talons are sharp and can inflict damage on a lesser equipped duck.
Roosters And Drakes
If a drake (male duck) and a rooster (male chicken) are raised with one another, then it is most commonly possible that they will co-exist within the same flock. However, if they are introduced to the flock at separate times, they may, at some point, become aggressive with one another. Keep in mind, this will mainly depend on the individual temperaments of the two fowl.
Choosing to keep a drake without a rooster can present deadly consequences for your hens due to the drake’s aggressive nature and anatomy. It is best to have a rooster on hand during mating season to protect your hens from bodily harm.
One manner in which ducks and chickens are very alike is that they each have their own fair share of health concerns and diseases they may become afflicted with. However, of the two types of fowl, ducks tend to prove the more hardy breed.
Ducks have a much higher internal body temperature, which works to prevent external parasites, such as mites. And the more elevated temperature also aids in the prevention of contracting fewer diseases.
With all that said, the best prevention against health issues and disease are simply—keep your flock members clean. With ducks being the messy little things that they are, the throwing of water and feed, and even their bedding, can provide the perfect environments for bacteria to develop and thrive. It is of utmost importance that your flock members’ living quarters are kept clean at all times.
The addition of ducks to your flock can be both exciting and adventurous for any chicken owner. Ducks and chickens are known to co-exist in peace with one another, but the trick is to make sure to accommodate for the fowl’s individual needs. In most cases, they will part their ways when the coop is opened in the morning to go about doing their own little thing.