“Can you suggest breeds of duck and chicken that are compatible together in a small space?”
We’re asked this question often, and it’s a great question! As the popularity of keeping backyard hens rises, the notion of keeping a few ducks as well is always considered. And this is for great reason! Chickens and ducks both make great pets for the small urban back yard. With each type of bird alone, or even living together, you can find a happy balance with keeping both ducks and chickens in the same space. There are some basic considerations however before you mix the two types of birds. One of those considerations revolves around personalities of the birds themselves. You can help guarantee better harmony if you choose the breeds that are most likely going to make good roommates together, and settling on breeds will help guarantee this harmony better than shooting in the dark. Here are our suggestions for chicken and duck breeds that live well together in small yards and small spaces.
When choosing chicken and duck breeds that will cohabitate, it’s best to settle on breeds that tend to be easy going in general. When you’re going to be purchasing breeds of both species, it’s best to take this personality consideration as your first requirement- before looks and egg making possibility even. Not all chicken breeds and duck breeds are calm clams, and if the birds aren’t happy they won’t lay eggs well, they will fight and injure each other, and the stress will shorten their lives tremendously.
Calm breeds of chickens are breeds that have been developed to suit life with people as loved pets as well as being good sources of eggs and meat. These breeds include the Cochin (both large fowl and bantam), Orpingtons, Silkies, and Turkens. These four breeds are all known to be very calm, friendly animals that are welcoming to new flock members and tend to not be aggressive towards people or other animals.
Ducks are a little tougher to generalize based on breed, as they are so much more individualistic than chickens tend to be. And, ducks seem to have their ways that they stick to and are happy so long as they are allowed to have their ways met without interference. Most ducks of any breed will do fine with calmer chickens as long as the duck is allowed to be itself. However, there are breeds of ducks that are generally much more high-strung than others, and if you’re looking to mix chickens and ducks it’s best to choose breeds that are generally not high-strung. These breeds include Rouens, Pekins, Saxony, Appleyard, Welsh Harlequin, and the Ancona. These are also all large breeds of mallard-based ducks, and are all very pretty and good layers of big eggs! Mallard-based breeds of ducks are breeds that have all been developed from the mallard. There is another common type of duck called the Muscovy that isn’t a mallard-based breed. They can fly and mother hens become very broody in the spring and tend to get very mean and insist on hatching babies which isn’t always ideal in a small urban back yard.
Another thing to note about keeping chickens and ducks together successfully revolves around your husbandry, and the housing situation you have them in. Raising your chickens and ducks together from babies will help absolutely almost guarantee no issues down the road with aggression. Some people don’t recommend doing this, as ducklings can be wet and messy which is bad for baby chicks. But, if you’re fastidious and don’t give your ducklings access to water that they can play in, they’re really no more messy than chicks. They eat the same food and need the same heat, so they actually brood and raise together pretty seamlessly.
Housing older birds together is also fairly simple. Ducks tend to occupy the floor of the coop while the chickens occupy the roosts up high at night for sleeping. They often share the same nest spots for laying eggs. Adult ducks and adult chickens need about the same amount of overall square footage to roam too.
Keeping multiple feeders and waterers for your mixed species flock will also cut down on aggression issues. Ducks need an open source of water that they can dip their whole heads into to clear their nasal passages on the tops of their beaks. Chickens don’t need access to as much water, but the two different birds are always happy to share each other’s waterers and feeders.
When it’s all said and done, remember that chickens and ducks are intelligent creatures and are individuals, and even the best bred birds may not hold true to breed standard in the personality department. For example, notoriously aggressive Rhode Island Red chickens have been known to be very sweet and mild companions. Imprinted Muscovy ducks become devoted friends that never fly away or nip. Personally, I’ve had a Cochin that was probably sent from the devil himself just to remove my fingers! But overall, these breed suggestions work well, and these husbandry tips will help greatly increase your odds of keeping ducks and chickens together in your small urban backyard happily, for many years to come.