Keeping Chickens & Ducks Together

We get so many questions about compatibility between chickens and other animals. Most often I’m asked about ducks and rabbits so I thought I’d spend some time this week addressing those issues.

Are chickens compatible with ducks?

Chickens are compatible with ducks in that they probably won’t fight much more with ducks than they do with each other.

The key to raising chickens with ducks is that they are raised together from the beginning. Do not introduce any new birds, particularly males of either species.

Another important factor is that there is ample room for each to do its own thing. Chances are the chickens and the ducks will leave each other alone, basically ignoring one another. However, if conditions are crowded, there will be a lot of bickering with a greater chance of the fights ending in wounds and possibly death.

Remember that chickens and ducks need different types of food. Once they are of a certain age, I believe there is feed that can be used for both but until that time, you’d need to make sure you feed separately.

Also, remember that ducks need water and ducks are really messy! For that reason alone, I wouldn’t keep the two together in a confined area. I would however consider it if I was able to release the animals to free range for the day though.

I know of someone who keeps chickens and ducks together. As mentioned above, they have all been raised together from the beginning. They share a coop at night for protection from predators. The chickens take their spot on the roosts, the ducks settle in on the ground. Come morning, they are all off doing their own thing.

I saw a story once where a chicken hen (female ducks are called hens also) had lost her mate, I don’t recall how, stew pot maybe. The farmer also had a pair of ducks but the drake (male duck) had accidentally drowned the female while mating in the pond. The chicken hen had recently hatched her chicks. It didn’t take long for the drake to start hanging around with the hen and her chicks. Apparently the two became inseparable; the drake even “adopted” the chicks and was very protective of the whole family.

Although that’s a nice story, I don’t believe it is the norm, at least when you’re talking about larger numbers of birds.

My understanding is that chickens are compatible with most fowl, but again, only if they are raised together from the beginning and have ample room to leave each other alone.

Are chickens compatible with rabbits?

The answer depends on a few different factors;

If you are talking about keeping your chickens and rabbits free to roam together in a confined area, I can’t recommend it unless you are willing to make a lot of provisions.

You‘ll first need to address the issue of tunneling or your rabbits will just dig their way out of the confined area. I believe the best way to prevent this would be to line the ground with wire and then cover that with dirt. However, in doing so, you’ve eliminated the chickens ability to really scratch and take dust baths.

Second, you’d need to provide a place for the kits (baby rabbits) to be safe from the chickens that would likely kill them.

Third, the chickens will peck the rabbits just as they do each other, likely causing injury.

Fourth, because chickens and rabbits do not naturally live together, you take the chance of reduced egg production in your chickens due to the presence of the rabbits and the increased stress factor. (Chickens can be so sensitive you know.)

Fifth, rabbits and chickens have very different feed requirements. Rabbits cannot digest corn well and chicken feed can cause digestive problems for the rabbits.

Finally, there is an increased risk of Coccidiosis when keeping the two together. You would need to be vigilant with sanitation and treatment at the first sign.

Now, if you are talking about keeping your hutch elevated inside the chicken coop, many of the above mentioned issues disappear. You no longer have the issues associated with direct contact between the two.

You still have the Coccidiosis issue but the threat is now only to the chickens due to the contact in the rabbit pellets.

There can be an advantage. Rabbit urine has a strong odor, as the chickens turn the liter under the hutch, the smell can be greatly reduced.

Lastly, if you are considering allowing your rabbits to free range in a large area with your chickens you will virtually eliminate the concerns mentioned above. However, I would have to ask what’s the point?

Rabbits aren’t going to come home to roost at night and they’re difficult to catch.

In my opinion, you have to confine rabbits in some way or you might as well just watch wild rabbits run around your property.

So there you have it, the two most often asked questions about chicken’s compatibility with other animals. Like any other animals, I urge you to really think through combining animals that do not naturally occur together. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done but it does mean that you’ll need to make provisions for each one.

To be absolutely safe, I’d be more likely to house my chickens separate from other animals and if they are free ranging, make sure there is plenty of room for everyone. The alternative would be to release each type of animal at different times of the day.

I hope that helps.