Will my duck be OK with only chicken companions?
Hi there. Here is the story. We have two adult hens. We bought 3 chicks and 3 ducklings when they were just a couple days old. The 6 little ones have been living harmoniously together for 9 weeks now and have also acclimated well with the older hens. Our problem is that it has become clear that we have two drakes:(. We have read that ducks are happiest with other ducks. We cannot keep the males but would like to keep the female. Will she be content with the chickens she had grown up with? And when do they start laying eggs? Thank you!
Worcester County Massachusetts
Hi there. I am sorry to hear that some of your ducks ended up being drakes. It is more important to look at this situation from a biosecurity point of view. You should never mix species, ESPECIALLY ducks and chickens. The recent outbreak of Avian Influenza was easily spread by ducks. They are the age old host of Avian Influenza. Chickens, however, are easily harmed by the disease and therefore should never be housed with ducks.
Along the lines of management, your work will be much greater now that you have ventured into the intermediate levels of poultry management (i.e. raising ducks). The way in which ducks are managed is different from that of chickens. Your ammonia management methods will need to be on point because ducks are messy with water. That messiness translates to wet litter which translates further into higher ammonia levels.
The diets for ducklings and chickens are significantly different and the ducklings should be kept separate until they are all done growing. Their diet should not include medicated feed. You will likely find that the duck is louder than the drakes. It is a shame that you are going to need to re-home them. If your concern was for noise, drakes are quieter than females who are known for their loud calling. Drakes make a quiet raspy quack whereas females, make loud repeated calls.
Your waterer will need to be deep enough that the duck can immerse at least its head for regular grooming. A pond is not necessary and is not recommended as it can call in other wild ducks. You definitely do not want wild ducks to be in contact with your ducks and especially not your chickens. Your duck coop will need to be physically separated from the chicken coop with as much physical distance between the two as possible. Do not share equipment between the species. And be aware that the little amount of medications that are out there for chickens does not apply to ducks. You will need to seek a veterinarian that not only sees chickens but is comfortable with treating flocks with mixed species.
You have chosen a challenging species, but given the information I have provided above, you will need to consider the disease risk and health management of your entire flock. Management of multiple species is not for the faint of heart and poses unique challenges. I would recommend that you keep a separate coop and your task will be made easier. If this is not possible then I would recommend that you find homes for all 3 ducks. However, ducks are a very rewarding species to work with and many people prefer them over chickens. Take the time to master good management practices for ducks and your whole flock will thank you.