With the recent surge of interest in urban small-scale poultry farming, mixed flocks are becoming more and more common. With a few considerations for the safety and well-being of each species, ducks and chickens can be raised together successfully. The Muscovy breed in particular is an excellent candidate for integration.
The Muscovy Breed
While the Muscovy breed may not be the most attractive, they are hardy, disease-resistant birds, prized for their lean meat. Males can be territorial, but the females, who are quite docile, are devoted mothers who can brood clutches of up to 15 eggs several times a year. These voracious foragers help keep many common pests such as flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, snails, and slugs in check. And best of all for urban poultry farmers, they are one of the quietest species of domesticated ducks.
Raising Ducklings with Chicks
Purchasing ducklings and chicks at the same time and rearing them together provides the simplest option to integrate the species. For the first couple of weeks, both will require a heat lamp, clean bedding and constant access to a source of fresh water that they cannot step or sit in. The only difference lies in their feeding requirements. Ducklings must be kept away from chick feed because the medication in most chick starter blends is too highly concentrated to be safe for ducklings.
Socializing Mature Ducks and Chickens
If you already have a flock of adult chickens, you can still add ducks to it, but the process is a bit more complicated. A mature flock with an established pecking order will be very hostile towards newcomers, and may severely injure or even kill them if they are introduced before being properly acclimated. Hold the ducks in an adjacent pen for a week or two before allowing the birds to meet on neutral territory. Make their first meeting short. Then every day afterwards allow them to spend a little bit longer together. You will need to supervise them closely at first and be ready to break up any fights that get too violent. After about a month, they should be ready to inhabit the same pen permanently.
Food and Water Requirements
As adults, Muscovy hens and laying chickens both can obtain optimal nutrition from 15 or 16 percent protein layer pellets. Roosters and Muscovy drakes benefit from scratch grains that contain a higher percentage of fat and carbohydrates, since the layer pellets contain more minerals than they need. Unlike chickens, ducks need water not just to drink but to maintain hygiene. Something like a dish pan with a weight in it would be ideal, as it is large enough for a duck to bathe in, but shallow enough to keep a chicken from drowning in it. Also, keep a covered water dish that the ducks cannot swim in for the chickens.
Jessica Otto writes about parenting, crafting, gardening and pets for various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Sam Houston State University.