Introducing baby chicks to adult ducks?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mamaem, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. mamaem

    mamaem Just Hatched

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    We have three 1-year-old Welsh Harlequin ducks (all female), and just got our first batch ever of five baby chicks about two weeks ago. Of course they're still in their brooder right now, but I want to be prepared for how to introduce them to each other because they are going to share an enclosed run.

    I think there are more forum posts about adding new ducks to an existing chicken flock (that seems like the more common order of acquiring them). Has anyone done this? Any advice?

    The coop/run that we built (where the ducks currently live) is about 17 feet wide and nearly 5 feet deep (I know, bare minimum size for giving each bird 10 square feet). On one end of the run, there is a two-story coop (about 3 x 4.5 feet): the bottom story is the ducks' house -- it's really well ventilated and filled with deep pine shavings and they are free to come and go from it as they please. The eggs are always beautifully clean because I think they only go in there to lay. The little doorway to go into this space is located under the ramp that goes up to the upper story chicken house. We haven't added nest boxes or a perch or a pop-door for the chicken house, but we'll do that this month. The chicken house is also about 3 x 4.5 feet. The rest of the run is full-height and that's where there's food and water. I will be installing some roosting bars or perches in the run and a wall-mounted shelf to put in a big bin filled with sand/dirt so that the chickens and go up there and dust bathe themselves away from the ducks.

    Below are photos of the whole set-up. Right now, the ducks get let out a couple times a week to play in a kiddy pool (under supervision). We used to keep a tub of water in the run for them, but it just made the run too wet, so now they only get free access to their waterer. If the run winds up being too small, I can build a little additional run onto it, but would prefer not to. Since we live in urban Seattle, there is a huge population of rats and raccoons and, surprisingly, local bald eagles (who eat neighborhood free-range chickens). The entire coop and run right now are completely rat- and raccoon-proof.

    In case it's useful to know, the ducks are very sociable to people. They don't seem skittish around people, or even around our German Shepherd.

    What would you guys add to this run/coop to make it ready to house a mixed flock of ducks and chickens? What age would you
    do the introduction and how would you handle it? Advice welcomed!!

    Here are two photos, showing a full view of the whole coop and run:

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    Here's a close-up of the side with the duck house (on bottom) and chicken house (on top, no nest boxes or roosts added yet):

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    Here's a view looking out the door of the chicken house to the rest of the run:

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    For fun, here's the three Welsh Harlequins and the five baby chicks (Americauna, Buff Orpington, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Black Australorp, and Barnevelder):

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  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    You have an interesting situation there. It's going to be difficult getting chickens up top and ducks below. The ducks will cause a wet run which can be bad for chickens. I think you would be better off adding another run off the other side and keeping them separate.

    I add chicks all the time to my flock which contains a few muscovy ducks but my situation is different as it's a bit larger and no one is confined. The ducks pay no attention to the chicks. As adults the ducks and chickens sometimes squabble.
     
  3. mamaem

    mamaem Just Hatched

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    Thanks for your perspective, oldhenlikesdogs! Since it sounds like you're an experienced keeper of both ducks and chickens, I'd love to draw you out on your ideas... specifically, I'm wondering what aspect of getting the chickens up top and ducks below do you think will be difficult? The ducks already happily lay there eggs in the downstairs, so I'm wondering if you think it will be difficult to get the chickens to adjust to a coop that they use a ramp to get up to? I'd been hoping that was something that would actually work well with their instincts.

    As far as the wet run... There is certainly a circle of bedding around the ducks' waterer that tends to get moist pretty quickly, but the rest of the run is actually drier than my whole yard! Here in Seattle, people often let their chickens free range their urban yards, and I'd been thinking that if chickens can tolerate walking on the moist ground of Seattle, then my run would be ok. Or are you more specifically talking about the chickens stepping into the ducks' wet poops (rather than just the idea of general moisture)?

    I wonder if there are any other people who keep ducks and chickens together in a run? I have a friend who does, but their also pretty free-range in the yard too, so lots more space.
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Personally, I'd block off the upper level from the duck run, and build a secure chicken run that they could access from their upper level. I think I'd build nest boxes in a "side car" affair so they didn't take up any floor space in the upper level of that coop. IMO, your space is a bit too tight for the number of birds you have, especially with mixed species.

    Nice looking building, BTW.
     
  5. mamaem

    mamaem Just Hatched

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    Thanks a lot! (although I wish I were getting a more hopeful response about the idea of 3 ducks and 5 chickens sharing a 75 square foot run). We're so cramped for space, I hate to give more space up for poultry (especially given that I have to build with full rat-, raccoon-, and eagle-proof enclosures)... but that's my own fault for letting the kids choose 5 baby chicks at the feed store, instead of the 3 or 4 I'd been thinking. It also rains so much that I feel like I have to build a solid roof over any run that I make, which is more work and money.

    How much square feet for a run do you think they'd need altogether if I were to try to let them share it?

    Oh, and good thinking about the nest box hanging off the side -- yes, that's what I was going to build because the coop is on the small side.

    Maybe I'll wait to see if anybody else has some thoughts or opinions about this.
     
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    Young chicks are notorious, at least from my experiences for not going back into their coop area too easily. They often need to be rounded up for a while. I can see it being hard to get them to go up the ramp, and instead running into the bottom area, so I see some frustration on your part as far as getting chicks up and ducks down.

    Ducks are just generally messy with water and poop. Your run could quickly become a nasty wet smelly area with lots of flies. How long have the ducks lived in it? And what type of bedding or floor does it have?

    In the end you won't know what will work and what won't until you try it and see. Sometimes you have to see where the problems will be, if any, in order to fix them.
     
  7. mamaem

    mamaem Just Hatched

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    Ah, I see! I didn't realize that it would be hard to get the chicks to go up the ramp. Maybe that's one advantage to the whole run being as secure as the coop ... if they don't go into the coop, then maybe the worst case is their eggs get laid in inappropriate places (meaning, I could leave that coop open to the run all night, if need be).

    As far as the flies and the bedding, this duck coop/run is sort of the third iteration in our attempts to manage the poop and flies. The ducks have been living full time in this current arrangement for maybe a couple months. I started with pea gravel with a coop/run in a different location, but didn't feel comfortable with how much water I was wasting spraying it down (and the ducks weren't happy -- lots of honking to be let out -- because they couldn't root their bills around in the ground, which they seem to love). Then, I tried a run without a solid roof, but the rain was so bad that the bedding and ground got so saturated, that the smell was like the worst anaerobic rotting stench you can imagine. So now, we have a rain-proof run, and a deep layer of decomposing straw (last year's straw bale garden beds), and a layer of wood shavings on top. Each day, I use a pitch fork to aerate (since the rubbery duck feet just smash it down), and it doesn't smell, and it only gets wet around the waterer. Once a week, I just remove the top layer of bedding around the waterer and put dry shavings there. We're not quite to fly season yet here in Seattle, but last year I used fly predator wasps, and I'm going to again this year. But I actually feel like the flies won't be as bad this year because the bedding is so much drier.

    Part of the idea behind getting chickens was actually that they would take over my daily job of aerating the duck bedding in the run! Yes, there would be more poop because of more birds, but at least the bedding would be fluffy (so it'll dry better and not stink).
     
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    I guess you will be running an experiment, you certainly can't turn back now. See how it goes, you obviously are a good problem solver. I always just try stuff and see how it works. You could try asking in the duck forum to see if anyone has experience similar to yours. I'm hoping it works out for you. Those are nice looking ducks. Oh, and my ducks can turn yard into mud during the spring digging in the grass looking for worms, thankfully the grass always recovers and dries out here.
     

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