How to Keep Ducks and Chickens in the Same Coop
If you’re considering adding some ducks to your flock, you may be wondering how well keeping ducks and chickens in the same coop works. What needs do they have that are similar? How are they different? Can chickens and ducks live together? Yes, with a few considerations.
Can Chickens and Ducks Live Together?
Here at Phillips Farm, we have been keeping ducks with chickens from the start. With a few modifications for the ducks, it has worked fine. Ducks and chickens have many similar needs which make housing them together logical.
“They eat the same feed (there is waterfowl feed sold commercially specifically for ducks, but it’s often hard to find), enjoy many of the same treats, need the same predator protection day and night, and in the winter, the ducks’ added body heat can help keep the coop and chickens warmer,” says Lisa Steele, author of Duck Eggs Daily.
Over the years, through several generations of chickens and ducks, we have seen pros and cons to keeping ducks and chickens in the same coop.
Pros and Cons of Keeping Ducks and Chickens in the Same Coop
An obvious benefit to keeping ducks and chickens in the same coop is saving the cost of constructing a second structure to house your ducks. Only having one coop to maintain also saves you time and money.
Another benefit arises from the ducks and chickens beginning to function like one flock. While chickens have a strong instinct to come in to roost at night, ducks do not. In time, our ducks seem to have learned from the chickens to come to the safety of the coop at night instead of staying out on the pond all night. This is especially true for Cupcake, our duck who thinks she is a chicken.
The only real negative that we have seen to keeping ducks and chickens in the same coop is the mess ducks make. Their bodies produce a lot of moisture and heat. They tend to spill water and food in their eagerness to get it down. If you give them water to swim inside your coop or run, it will be splashed about with abandon. All of this leads to the need to clean out the bedding more frequently. Other than that, we can’t think of a reason not to keep them together.
Personal Story — Cupcake: The Duck Who Thinks She is a Chicken
One year we had a duck that laid a nest overflowing with eggs but wouldn’t sit to incubate them. We also had a broody chicken. So we decided to try an experiment and put two of the duck eggs under the broody hen. She tended those eggs religiously and four weeks later, they hatched. One duckling didn’t survive its first day but the other, which we named Cupcake, thrived. She followed her momma chicken around like a shadow. Cupcake grew quickly and soon went off on her own, but she has always remained closer to the chickens than the ducks. She not only comes in when it gets dark, but she actually comes up the steep ramp into the hen house to sleep with the chickens. She somehow even manages to jump up into the chicken nesting boxes to lay her eggs!
Modifications for Ducks
Most of our experience with ducks have come from raising Pekin ducks, which are a heavy bird that cannot fly. We have found that because of these differences, our ducks have needed some modifications to accommodate them.
While chickens can fly up into raised openings, ducks cannot. They require ramps to get through doors that are more than a few inches off the ground. Our automatic chicken door is about eight inches up off the ground. We put a small ramp leading up to it and steps on the inside. This allows the ducks to come and go from the coop during the day.
Our ducks tend to shy away from ramps in general, but especially steep ones. If we happen to leave one of the human doors open, they will always go through this way. If given the choice to walk on flat ground or use a ramp, they will always choose flat ground.
If your ducks will need to access a building with a ramp, try to keep it as flat and solid as possible and be sure to put frequent cross pieces so they won’t slide down, especially when wet.
Chickens, of course, prefer to sleep on roosting bars. Ducks, on the other hand, prefer to sleep on the ground. Almost all of ours like to sleep on the ground in the run, underneath the hen house. We simply throw down a clean layer of straw for them and they snuggle in together, even in the coldest weather. Whether inside the coop or in a secure run, make sure your ducks have enough ground space where they can lay, preferably not directly under your chicken roosting bars or you’ll wake up to some dirty ducks!
Just as they sleep on the floor, ducks also nest on the ground. You may choose to provide nesting boxes for your ducks or simply provide them with sufficient straw and let them build their own. We have one ground nesting box that our ducks sometimes use. It is simply a large plastic tub turned upside down with an entry hole cut in the side.
We have also found that if we stack bales in the coop for storage, the ducks like to pull pieces out and make a nest right alongside the bales.
Ducks like to try to hide their eggs. If they don’t come in for the night or are let out to free range early in the morning, we have to go on a hunt for duck eggs around the yard. Sometimes the ducks lay their eggs right at the edge of the pond.
Once the ducks made a nest under a dead tree limb, in a pile of old leaves.
Another time we found they made a nest under a pile of cattails we had cleared from our pond. It was like a little cave for them; those were some hard eggs to retrieve!
Having a regular spot where you can collect their eggs is a real benefit to keeping ducks and chickens in the same coop.
Food & Water
Ducks and chickens can eat the same layer feed, though ducks require added Niacin for strong legs. This is easily achieved by mixing in some brewer’s yeast with your food. Our ducks and chickens eat from the same homemade trough feeders.
It’s the same with water — the ducks have learned to use the homemade watering system we use for our chickens. They hold up the chicken nipples to let the water run down over their bills.
Ducks have one need that chickens can do without — water to submerge their bodies. Though ducks can live without swimming, they will be healthier and happier if they have regular access to water. A baby pool will suffice if you don’t have a pond. Swimming not only seems to lift our ducks’ spirits, but it also gives them a chance to clean their eyes and nostrils and allows them to preen. Preening oils their feathers, helping to keep them dry and warm. Ours spend most of their day on our pond. In the winter, when the pond freezes over, we try to give them a baby pool to swim in at least once or twice a week.
As you can see, with a few simple modifications, keeping ducks and chickens in the same coop works just fine.