Backyard poultry fans often discuss the merits of ducks and the merits of chickens. Should I raise ducks or chickens? My answer is to raise ducks and chickens. Ducks and chickens do have different needs. Understanding how to meet those needs in the same yard will help keep your ducks and your chickens happy and healthy.
Ducks like it wet. Chickens like it dry. They both need a clean dry place to spend the night. Don't make the mistake of letting your ducks sleep below your chicken roosts, a pooped on duck is not a happy healthy duck. My ducks and chickens sleep in separate houses. Some people keep them together. Either way, both chickens and ducks require a predator proof place to sleep.
Ducks must have water when they are eating. They use water to wash down their food. Without an adequately deep water source of water they can choke. Chickens need water, but can eat and then drink a little later. They peck their food into more manageable bites. Ducks tend to swallow their food down in whatever size it was to begin with. Ducks make their drinking water VERY dirty and when you dump it out you'll find a sludge of food particles at the bottom. Plan on giving them fresh water at least once a day. Mine get clean water in the morning, in the afternoon, and again at bedtime. If ducks have access to food, they need access to water. Ducks also prefer to have water at night, if you can figure out a system that provides them with water while also providing them a dry nesting spot.
Chickens scratch. This can be helpful in turning bedding and cultivating the garden before planting. However, it can be the end of low growing, easily dug up plants. My neighbor's chickens destroyed the sedums I had growing in a flower bed in my front yard.
Ducks dabble or drill. See the hole in the straw in the picture below? T
hat is a sign that ducks have been foraging.
They generally only do this where there is water or loose substrate,
such as leaves or bedding.
|Ducks will quickly turn any wet area into a mud puddle. |
To avoid your duck area becoming a giant mud puddle you need good drainage,
and to not live in the Pacific Northwest.
Chickens get clean in a dust bath. They will turn any dry patch into a dust bath,
or you can provide them with a designated container.
Over at ChickinBoots there's a post about upcycling a dog crate into a dust bath day spa for your chickens that I plan on utilizing very soon.
Ducks need water for their bath. And they will need that water changed often.
How often will depend on the size of your "pond" and how many ducks you have.
If you have drinking water that is separate from the bathing water
you will have a much easier time keeping the bath water reasonably clean.
Chickens see rain as something to hide from if at all possible.
Ducks think rain is the Best Thing Ever!
Ducks or chickens? It's up to you. I think having chickens that scratch and keep the bedding turned is a great balance to the ducks who tend to pack things down. I've raised chickens since I was a kid. Ducks are a newer additions to our yard. So far they've been a delight. Any extra work is easily offset by their cute faces and silly antics.