Chickens and ducks are both poultry birds and are often of nearly equal size. Since they typically eat the same feed and treats, many homesteaders have wondered if both types of birds can live together in the same coop and run.
The short answer is yes – chickens and ducks can live together. Usually. How early the poultry birds begin to cohabitate and to some degree, what breeds are sharing living quarters, play a significant role in how successfully you will be able to place chickens and ducks in the same coop and run.
Except for a very short while when we were small town homesteaders, I have always raised chickens and ducks together. Once we purchased a fixer upper-dream 56-acre homestead, we began hatching our own birds, and purchasing chicks and ducklings in greater numbers.
I had placed my chicks and ducklings in the same brooder from the start. Only when there was a substantial size difference between the birds did I ever have any concerns about chickens and ducks living together.
As you can see in the photo below, I had ducklings that were a lot larger than the chicks they were sharing a brooder with during one hatching season. The ducklings were a surprise from my daughter – she did not realize how much larger they were than the chicks during her shopping spree at Rural King.
After allowing the ducks to walk around the brooder and interact with the chicks for about 10 minutes, my husband placed them inside for a test run.
I would not have placed ducklings this large or even older chicks in a brooder with young hatchling guineas not only because of the size difference, but how fragile the guineas are – they are prone to getting squished when piling on top of just each other at night.
The ducklings in the photo below are actually far younger than the guineas they are hanging out with, but the guineas are still a bit smaller than their brooder mates.:
I stood at the ready to gently yet quickly snatch the ducklings out of the brooder at the first sign of trouble, but none materialized. While the ducklings look and seem extremely docile, they can grab a hold of a chick’s dainty wings with their surprisingly strong beaks and rip them clean off in mere seconds.
Usually, it is the chickens that can cause the most harm when they are living with ducks. Their sharp beaks and later on, as they mature, the spurs on the rooster could tear a duck to shreds.
Chicken and Duck Living Quarters and Roaming Space
The size of the chicken coop and run can make all the difference when putting the two together. When forced into tight confines, the chances of problems greatly increase. If a rooster does not have a hen to mate with, it WILL attempt to procreate with a female duck.
Nothing good would come from such a coupling, and you likely end up with an injured duck hen in the process if the rooster is aggressive and digs its spurs into the back of the duck to hold it still.
Chickens and ducks will need separate nesting areas when living together. Chickens prefer to perch and most types of domesticated or meat ducks can’t fly – not really.
Ducks should be provided with nesting boxes at ground level to sleep and lay their eggs in… if you are lucky. Ducks tend to drop their eggs all around the coop and chicken run.
A duck nesting box can be made quickly and cheaply by filling an old tire or plastic tub or bucket with straw. Mound the straw, or even dirt, slightly over the tower when making a nesting box. In my personal experience, ducks prefer a mound-style nesting box.
Do not expect ducks to spend any more time in the coop than absolutely necessary. They prefer to be outdoors and on water. You can dig a small pond in your chicken run to suit the ducks, or simply put a plastic baby pool in the living area for them to splash around in.
When adding a water feature to the poultry run, make sure that it is not so deep that chickens can wander or fall into it and drown. When I first relocate chickens and ducks from their brooder and into the coop, I place a cinder block or float a log in the baby pool to give the chickens something to hop onto in case they fall in after perching on the sides of the plastic baby pool – which you should expect them to do with great frequency.
If you free range your flock, like I do, the chickens and ducks will be able to separate out into their own individual mini-flocks as they see fit, which also reduces the chances of fighting or injury.
You might just be surprised at how often the chickens and ducks choose to hang out together and forage around the barnyard. In the photo below you can see white leghorn chickens in the group of birds. This particular breed is known to be more aggressive than most, especially the roosters. Yet, I have never experienced any bird on bird violence from my flock.
If you also choose to add guineas in the living arrangement, they will look at the other birds as their charges and help both protect and herd them if danger is nearby on either the ground or in the air (eg. hawks).
When first placing a brooder batch into a coop with an established flock of chickens and ducks that are living together, do so slowly. I like to keep the brooder right next to the coop run so the birds are constantly around each other and already feel like a flock from day one.
Whenever possible, I allow the chickens and ducks to hatch their own offspring instead of using an incubator. The mother hen or mother duck and her little ones get to live in an area of their own until the chicks or ducklings are large enough to join the established flock.
When they are melded in with the mature chickens and ducks, they have the added protection of their momma to help ensure a smooth transition.