Search

Adding Ducks to your Backyard Chicken Flock



I have had ducks living in (mostly) complete harmony with my backyard chicken flock for more than a decade. We started our little backyard flock back in 2009 with six baby chicks and two ducklings.

Raising chickens and ducks together does make a lot of sense (although I don't recommend brooding the chicks and ducklings together.) .

They are about the same size, eat pretty much the same food (more on that later), need the same protection from predators, and if you live in a cold climate, ducks will add some nice body heat to your chicken coop in the winter.

So if you're thinking about adding ducks to your backyard chicken flock, I think it's a wonderful idea!




If you like raising chickens, you'll love raising ducks! I actually find duck to be more low maintenance than chickens. They don't get annoyed when it rains - in fact they LOVE rain!

They are far more cold-hardy and more heat-tolerant. They also don't take their pecking order nearly as seriously, so there aren't those issues to deal with.

Our ducks are better layers than our chickens, usually laying right through the winter without any added light in the coop. And yes, they sleep right in the chicken coop.

Since they don't roost, but instead sleep on the ground, you can actually add a couple of ducks to your flock without needing additional coop space, which is another nice benefit.

Overall, ducks make a wonderful addition to a small farm or backyard flock. They lay eggs that are richer and larger than chicken eggs and they don't make a lot of noise.



Adding Ducks to your Backyard Chicken Flock


But, there are a few important caveats to consider when it comes to adding ducks to your flock because they are different than chickens and it's important to provide each with what they need to thrive and be happy.




Water


Drinking Water

Probably the biggest difference between chickens and ducks is that ducks need a deep water source. Their water needs to be deep enough for them to dunk their entire head in. That is how they keep their nostrils clear and their eyes flushed.

In addition to drinking their water and washing their faces, ducks love to splash in the water, and try to sit in the water tubs, so you will find yourself filling the water a bit more often than you need to with chickens.

Ducks also like to take a bite of feed and then swish their bills in the water, so when you raise ducks, you can forget about crystal clear water! But a little feed (or even mud) in the water never killed anyone.

Gravity style waterers don't work with ducks because they learn to empty them pretty quickly, but some people who raise ducks like to provide a nipple watering system for their chickens. Personally, I just fill up open tubs or enamelware pans and everyone drinks out of those. No one is ever sick and no one seems to mind one bit.

Our chickens happily drink out of the duck water tubs, but I do like to put a few separate water tubs out in various locations, making sure one isn't anywhere near the feed and is elevated on a wooden pallet to prevent the ducks getting mud into it, so the chickens have a fighting chance at clean water.

Water should never be left inside the coop when you have ducks. They'll just make a huge wet mess. Our chickens and ducks always eat and drink outside - year round. (Side note: ducks can easily choke, so feed should never be left out without water being readily available)


Swimming Water

While ducks don't need a pond to swim in, they will appreciate a kiddie pool or large tub filled with fresh water to splash around in. In the warm weather, I let the flock out into the yard more often, so the ducks get to swim almost every day.

In the cold months, they'll still enjoy a dip in a large tub on nice sunny days, but it's not necessary. They'll take mini baths by splashing their drinking water over their backs if they don't get pool time. It's important that they have plenty of water at all times.  They'll toss water down their backs and preen their feathers. This is how they keep their feathers waterproofed.

The kiddie pool is best situated away from the coop and run area, and reserved for free range time, to keep the water mess away from where the chickens spend most of their time. (Chickens aren't nearly as fond of water as ducks and quickly learn to avoid the pool area! )

Although I've found that in the summer our chickens actually like to stand in the pool water to cool down a bit. I think they learned that from the ducks!

An adult chicken is tall enough that it won't drown in a kiddie pool,  but when I have younger hens or ducklings, I make sure there's no unsupervised pool time because accidents can happen.

If you have a horse trough or stock tank, you can use that for your ducks to swim in, but you'll need to put bricks or blocks inside so they can get out easily. And of course, water that deep would be of concern if a chicken were to fall in.

Feed


While special waterfowl feed does exist, it can be hard to find, and would then require separating the ducks and chickens. It's far easier to co-mingle your flock and feed them all regular chicken feed. While ducklings have different feed requirements than baby chicks, once they're all adults, they'll all do just fine on a chicken layer feed.

The one thing you'll need to be aware of is that ducks need more niacin than chickens do. Adding brewers yeast to the chicken feed easily takes care of that. The brewers yeast is essential for ducks, but also beneficial for chickens. I add this supplement to my flock's daily feed.

Since niacin (Vitamin B3) is water-soluble and their bodies don't store any excess, it's important to add the supplement to their daily feed on a consistent basis. Without adequate niacin levels, ducks legs can weaken and grow incorrectly.

Ducks can't easily fit their bills into regular hanging chicken feeders or trough feeders, so an open tub is best for feeding ducks as well.


Treats


Although ducks are also omnivores like chickens and enjoy many of the same treats as chickens including dried mealworms or grubs, garden  and kitchen scraps, they do tend to be a bit pickier about their snacks. They especially enjoy watermelon, tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, spaghetti and especially peas floating in their water tub.

It actually works out quite well because our chickens and ducks get all of our table scraps, and what the chickens do't eat, the ducks do. So nothing goes to waste.

In the winter, ducks will enjoy scratch grains or cracked corn, but can put weight on easily which puts strain on their legs, so limiting their treats to 10% of their diet is really important.

Ducks also enjoy roaming the yard looking for earthworms, grubs, slugs, small snakes and other insects. They'll also nibble on grass and weeds, especially dandelion greens.


Housing


Although each duck needs about the same 3-4 square feet of coop floor space that each chicken needs, since the chickens roost up off the ground at night, and the ducks sleep on the floor, you can technically house the same number of ducks in your coop as the chickens you already have. No need to expand your coop.


Since the ducks sleep on the floor and don't roost at night, add a thick layer of straw on the floor and they'll be perfectly content bunking there. Straw is the best bedding for a mixed flock. It's not dusty like shavings and makes a nice cushion for the ducks to sleep on. Most importantly, it provides good insulation in the winter.

Ducks do create lots of moisture when they sleep however, and poop a lot, especially at night, so it becomes even more important to be sure you have good ventilation in your coop. And you want to be sure that there are no drafts down at floor level.

Even if your nesting boxes are at ground level, your ducks will likely make their own nests to lay their eggs in the straw in a corner o the coop, so no need to worry about more nesting boxes. Our ducks usually lay in their own nests,  but will occasionally use the lower level of chicken nesting boxes.

Ducks can walk up ramps as long as they aren't too steep, or climb steps, but if your coop is elevated and only accessible with a ladder, you might need to rethink that so your ducks can easily get in and out of the coop.


Run/Pen


Ducks are extremely cold-hardy and don't mind rain or snow (although they don't like wind much), and would honestly prefer to sleep outside in an open-air pen all night if you let them.

It's very hard to make a pen 100% predator-proof however, so locking your ducks up at night in the coop is preferable.

However, if you want to let your ducks sleep outside, be sure that your run fencing is welded wire (not chicken wire) and no larger than 1/2" gauge, so weasels, rats and snakes can't gain access - or a wily raccoon can't reach through the fencing. The fencing needs to be around all sides and on top of the run, and also sunk at least a foot or so into the ground so predators can't dig underneath.

Providing some type of shelter in the run is a good idea, whether it be a tarp or small dog house, so your ducks can go underneath to get out of the wind or elements if they wish.

Another option is to provide the ducks their own housing, but let the chickens and ducks share a run by day. This works well because ducks generally can tolerate a cooler environment (i.e. windows left open year round), and are more nocturnal than chickens, preferring to party late into the night.


Ducks/Drakes


I wouldn't recommend adding just one duck to a chicken flock. Even though it will have the chickens for company, it's not the same as having duck friends. One duck would be lonely - they need a swim buddy. I would instead suggest adding at least three ducks. Three females, a male and two females, or three drakes are all good flock dynamics.

I have had roosters and drakes living together in peace for years. But I've also had two drakes who couldn't spend four seconds together without trying to kill each other. So if you add males to the mix, be sure to watch and make sure everyone is going to get along.

Drakes can be pretty aggressive during mating season, especially when they're young, and even though I've never had problems, others have said their drakes would go after their female chickens in the spring.

I think the key is to have enough female ducks and enough space for everyone. Rule of thumb is 10-12 hens for each rooster and 2-3 female ducks for each drake.

And if you see aggression or bullying or over-mating going on, be ready to start separating the offenders with fencing - at least until mating season is over.


Disease Issues?


Ducks are extremely healthy and hardy animals. They have a freakishly high body temperature that keeps most pathogens, bacteria and parasites at bay.

Since they spend so much time in the water, they aren’t likely to harbor any mites, ticks, fleas or lice.They generally aren't susceptible to Newcastle, Marek's or coccidiosis, all of which can cause serious illness or death in chickens.

Although wild ducks can transmit avian flu to other birds and backyard flocks, your ducks would have to come in contact with it in order to spread it to your chickens, and as long as they aren't in close quarters with wild birds or waterfowl, that's unlikely.

As with raising any animal or livestock, as long as you keep their environment (relatively) clean with fresh bedding on a regular basis, fresh water and feed, they shouldn’t have any health problems.

So in summary, adding ducks to your backyard chicken flock is almost as easy as adding water! And while I'm not sure our chickens and ducks would miss each other if the other group suddenly disappeared, they certainly do co-exist quite well.

The two groups pretty much stick to themselves, but the ducks are clearly the top of the pecking order which is kind of funny since ducks in general don’t really seem to adhere to much of a pecking order.

Ducks bring a new level of entertainment and amusement to a backyard flock and I certainly couldn't imagine our backyard without a handful!

Pin This!

Further Reading:

Beginners Guide to Raising Backyard Ducks

Pick up a copy of my book!


Available on Amazon

Brewers Yeast with  Garlic
Convenient 16oz. size       Economical 5lb. size 


Join me here
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTubeSubscribe 
©2020 by Fresh Eggs Daily, Inc. All rights reserved.