How to keep different poultry types living together in one coop
For a lot of us here at BYC, having just chickens just isn't enough. Most of us start off with chickens.....but chickens are like a gateway drug, because after having chickens for a while, you start getting into other, bigger, types of poultry. We may have other things like ducks, geese, guinea fowl, turkeys, and others as well. Here I will explain, in detail, the three basic requirements in order to have all these kinds of birds living together happily under the same roof.
I have chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl who all live together and get along great. They also get along with my peacocks, and when I used to keep rabbits and chicks together, they did fine as well. I am going to share some of my personal experiences with different ways of keeping them together, as well as things I have learned here on BYC.
The three main things you need to know
3.Management techniques that work for all your poultry
There are a lot of things out there saying that keeping certain types of poultry together, may result in the spread of disease. Although this can be true, keeping your birds healthy and providing them with a clean home will ensure that they will not get each other sick. If you buy new poultry, you must quarantine before mixing them in with your flock.
I have heard a lot that chickens can spread certain sicknesses to peacocks, such as blackhead (hasn't happened so I must be doing something right). Diseases are more easily spread in warmer climates, we live in the central valley of California, and the summers are scorching and the winters are mild, nevertheless, nobody is sick. My peafowl don't exactly live in the same coop as the chickens, but when the birds are out free ranging, the chickens always go into the peacock pen because they are small enough to fit through the bars. Two of my pullets like to spend most of the day with the peacocks, and other chickens just come in to eat the peacock's food. Even with this, they get along, and if the male peacock doesn't want chickens inside with them, he will chase them out on occasion.
A tip to keeping the coop clean, is dryness. If things are dry, they don't smell, and there won't be as much mess. If you keep the litter dry, It will keep the poop dry, and dry poop is a large step in the right direction. Dry, non sticky, non smelly poop is every chickens owners dream, and good absorbent floor litter will help make that happen. Because they live in clean, dry conditions, they are healthy, and aren't spreading diseases to each other.
Make sure to change soiled litter regularly. If you have waterfowl, you should mix up and aerate the litter every couple of days because their webbed feet tend to flatten the litter and compress it down, and then all the poop and water will not soak in correctly. If there are enough chickens in the coop, they will scratch up the litter for you, and you wont have to worry about it.
Having all kinds of birds is one thing, but keeping them content is another. You need good space if want things running smoothly. If they don't have room, they will get bored and peck at each other, they will fight, and it will be harder to keep the area clean. A good amount of space makes the pecking order less intense, they are happier with room to roam, and can run away if pecked at by a fellow bird. It's easier to clean if they have more space, and they wont be in your way while your doing it.
For a couple weeks, i had to coop train everybody, so they would all sleep in the coop at night, this meant confining them to just their coop for a period of about 2 weeks, and it wasn't fun. We had to buy more feed, since they couldn't free range, the ducks always knocked over the water since they were bored, the coop was always so loud, there was poop on everything, feathers everywhere since they were pecking each other, the chickens and guineas were always chasing each other, and they were always in my way when I was cleaning. When I let them out after the 2 weeks, all of these problems vanished. I swear it was like magic.
The ducks would go splash around in their tiny little pit of a pond. The chickens weren't pecking each other. The guineas were so much quieter....it was great.
A confined poopy space with lots of stressed out birds is a breeding ground for several diseases, and stressed birds are more prone. They also will fight and peck a lot. Good space will solve all those problems. So if you are planning on a new coop, even if your birds are free range and the coop is just to sleep in, make sure there is enough room for them for whenever you have to coop train them, and for rainy days.
If ever you must confine them into a smaller space with each other, do make sure there is plenty of food, they tend to be less anxious and aggressive when they are well fed. A smaller space tends to get dirty really fast, so make sure to clean the coop as needed. Usually when penned up, chickens will spend most of their day on the roosts, so have enough space on the roost so they are not shoulder to shoulder and pecking each other. A great way to relieve boredom when all the birds are penned up, is to throw scratch on the floor. I have straw bedding, so the chickens,ducks and guineas spend hours on end searching for seed in the straw and scratching it all around. This helps stir up the bedding, as well as feed them, and give them something to do.
Management techniques that work for all your poultry
When keeping different types of birds together, you will find that different systems of feeding, watering, cleaning, and litter methods will work better than others. It just depends on what birds you keep together.
Also, you need to keep their environment as stress free as possible. A way to do this is by keeping a good ratio of males to females of whatever type of poultry you might have. For example, a good ratio for chickens would be like 7 hens for every 1 rooster; and with ducks it would be about 5 or 6 females for every 1 drake. You kind of always want to have more females than males, a bunch of males kept together can become very agressive and fight a lot, and will also be very mean to the females. More females allow the males to mate with them, and not focus all their attentions on just one. If you did not have enough female ducks with a group of male ducks for instance, during the mating season(and all year really) they would start to get a little feisty, and would go after chickens as well, because there are not enough female ducks, this could injure your chickens as well as stress them out. You want to keep a good ratio of males to females in order to avoid these problems. If in your circumstance you have many males but don't want to get rid of any, or don't want to get extra females, you can always just provide more room for your birds, and it should cut the behavioral issues down a lot.
I have ducks, so i have learned a couple things about keeping waterfowl with chickens, guineas and other birds. The first thing is, never just have a plain dirt floor in the coop. You need to have a good absorbent litter, straw and pine shavings, even grass from lawn mowings will work. Anything is better than a plain dirt floor. I used to have a plain dirt floor, and let me tell ya...it was not the business.
Waterfowl like wet conditions, but like I mentioned earlier..wet conditions aren't always clean. With just a dirt floor and ducks or geese, the dirt floor soon turns to one of mud. Water fowl poop tends to be wetter than a chickens, and with their webbed feet, they squish and flatten all their wet poop in with the mud, and the coop will smell, and the rest of the birds will have muddy feet. This wet and soiled environment is a breeding ground for several bacteria and germs. Waterfowl + Dirt Floor = A muddy messy coop
Also, with water fowl, make sure they have an auto waterer, so they can just drink from it, and not jump up and put their feet in it etc. If you don't have a waterer, and you just have a water bowl like i do, make sure it sits on top of a cinder block or a stack of bricks, so they wont be able to climb into it, and other birds wont be able to kick litter inside. What I have done recently and have found to work efficiently in keeping the area dry around the water bowl is, I have their water bowl sitting on top of a wire grid that is layed on top of a pan. Whenever the ducks spill or splash a bit of water, it falls through the wire and into the big pan underneath. This really helps keep the floor area around the water dry. And I empty out the pan about once a week.
Never use nipple waterers with any kind of water fowl, it may be easier for you to manage, but they will have a hard time drinking out of it, and may chose not to drink at all (then they'll die). Make sure there is enough room for them to stick their bills in the water, that's why I think using a water bowl is best when dealing with adult waterfowl. If they are young ducklings, goslings etc. use an automatic waterer, so they wont be able to swim in it, but can still drink comfortably.
The best way of feeding, Is having a large feeder, or maybe even two. A lot of the times, the guineas like to take over the feeder, and peck at any one who tries to come near. Two feeders allows the other birds a chance to eat, as well as those at the bottom of the pecking order. If you don't have two feeders, what I used to do, was throw feed on the ground as well as having a feeder, to give other birds a chance to eat. Throwing feed on the ground gets them to scratch and look around for it, it's a healthy behavior and it keeps them busy as well as reduces crowding around the feeders. After, I would let them out to free range, so they can forage for food as well. A flock well fed is always happier and get along easier.
When dealing with a diverse flock in a coop, you might wonder what food to use. Meat chickens as well as turkeys, and even young guinea fowl require a bit more protein that chickens do, and some breeds of chicken require oyster shell as a calcium supplement in order for them to lay eggs. So is there a universal feed for all poultry? Well they should definitely make one.....I as well as others out there could use it. I do know a person however, that has pretty much every type of poultry and ornamental bird there is, and a lot of them. They live on a couple acres, and they order their feed in bulk. They have connections with this feed company, and their feed comes by the barrels, many barrels. It's a certain kind of feed that is high in protein and other nutrients. I'm not sure, but it's probably a custom made feed that they personally asked for. It comes in a pellet form and fits the dietary needs of all their birds.
Unlike them however....I don't have that kind of money so I'm stuck to buying sacks at a feed store. What I put in their feeder is a mix of laying mash, scratch, and chick crumbles. I also have them free range, so they can forage for their own food as well. When ever they can not free range and they are locked up, I will grab some of my peacocks food (game bird feed) and throw it on the floor for them in place of scratch. It has more protein, as well as other vitamins and nutrients they would find out foraging. I also feed my birds a lot of kitchen scraps, old bread, cereal, leftovers from a to-go box etc. What I also do, you guys might thinks it ghetto....but I'll bring a bag or an empty bucket to a party and fill it up with leftovers to bring home to feed my chickens. Table scraps really does go a long way in feeding lol.
In general, if you have a nice mix of poultry, all you have to do is fill their feeder with layer mash or chick mash, feed them table scraps, and allow them to free range. You should have no problems if you do those three things.
Nesting boxes are another thing, for bigger birds like turkeys and water fowl, the nests must be on the ground, and should be twice as big as the bird that nests in it. Having them on the ground makes the nests an easy target for chickens to go in and scratch everything up, so that's why you should put them in a secluded corner, or under the chickens nest boxes, where they aren't out in the open. One of my ducks, actually likes to lay her eggs in the chicken nest boxes, the boxes are a little small for her, and about a foot off the ground. So ducks can lay eggs in slightly elevated smaller nest boxes, well at least this duck does. For most waterfowl though, floor nests are preferred. When guineas first start laying, you will find eggs everywhere and might step on a few, once they get into it, they'll start making nests. Some guineas will lay in nest boxes, most however, will not. For guineas, get a square of plywood or something similar, and lean in on the wall of the coop, it will make a little triangle space and they will tend to lay in there. Its fairly simple, you can use it for waterfowl as well, but some types may not be small enough to fit in there.
Roosts should be high, because guineas and turkeys like to sleep up high, and chickens also prefer this to lower roosts. The roosts should be long as well, and if you don't have long roosts, then just have a lot of roosts. The reason for this is to give the birds space when they are settling in for the night. When they sit too close together, they tend to peck each other and kick each other off. Waterfowl, and fatter meat chickens don't roost, so don't make them. My Cornish Xs and my ducks usually sleep under the chickens nest boxes in a corner, so they don't get pooped on by the birds sleeping up high. It's always good to have some little shelf to act as a low roof in the corner of the coop for the non roosting birds.
Some people think that if they have a pond, they can just get ducks and release them out there. Not all breeds of duck will be able to survive out there for long because they do not have the feral like instincts that wild ducks have, and will probably be eliminated by predation. Domestic waterfowl do need a coop or hut of some sort for shelter, as well as a fence around their area at the very least. Also, if you have bought ducklings from a feed store or hatchery, do not just put them out in your pond, they will drown. Although they can swim, they will soon get tired and the water will soak into their down and they'l drown. If your ducklings are hatched by a broody duck, then you have nothing to worry about. The reason for this is because when a broody duck hatches them, she will get oil from her oil gland (near the tail) and rub it on the ducklings so their feathers will repel water and they wont get soaked. Ducklings from the store never had a mother, so you will have to wait a couple weeks until they are old enough to swim and produce their owl oil.
*edited to add more info
If you can follow these three main things, keeping different types of birds together should be easy and fun and less of a pain. I hope this helped.
Please PM me if you have any questions.