Can you raise ducklings with a mother hen?

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Can you raise ducklings under chickens?

You can absolutely raise ducklings under a chicken.  A mother hen will try to look after anything she hatches . I have done it before but it isn't easy and it does require some planning. It can be frustrating for the mother hen as the ducklings don't understand her like her chicks would.

Although you can raise duckling with a chicken mom you probably shouldn't unless you have to. Aside from the obvious biological differences and feed requirements between ducks and chickens there is a problem with communication between the species that makes cross rearing difficult but not impossible. In some cases it can be beneficial.

Guide to raising baby ducklings with a hen:

1. Brooding - Choose a reliable broody hen who will sit the extra 7 to 15 days that might be required for ducks or muscovies. Not all hens will sit for this length of time. Once they have hatched the little ones will learn where the source of heat is and I would keep them confined in a nursery run until things have settled down a bit.

2. Feeding - You can feed both your chicks and ducklings starter crumb with no issues at all. I have read that ducklings should have unmedicated chick crumb but it has never affected mine and I always use medicated crumb.

3. Water - Clean and fresh and changed regularly. Ducks drink differently to chicks and the type of waterer you use should reflect this, shallow for chicks and deeper for ducks.

4. Extra light - Early or late in the season may need supplemental light. Some like to give 24 hours of light but 18 is enough really, everyone needs some sleep.

5. Swimming - It's up to you whether or not to provide a swim for the ducklings but I would not for a week or two as the chicks may follow the ducklings. It is also very messy especially in confines spaces.

mother hen brooding a duckling

Chickens can raise ducks but it is not simple or straightforward. It is sometimes required for the homesteader or smallholder without the resources to pursue other methods of raising poultry.


Can you raise ducklings and chicks together?

Raising a mixed batch of ducklings and chickens is unlikely to go smoothly as the chicks find the web toes of the ducklings fascinating and can't leave them alone. Chickens love being bullies and this usually results in screaming ducklings as the chicks are pulling at the webbing in their toes.

I have tried to mix the two when young and have never managed it even with the use of a broody hen.

The problem is how ducklings behave when they hatch and the communication between the mother hen and the young ducklings.

Both chicks and ducklings behave very differently when bonding with the parent.

Ducklings imprint on the mother duck and as a consequence will tend to follow the parent wherever she goes.  Imprinting is immediate and as soon as the baby ducks are dry and fluffy they are ready to follow mum anywhere.

Chicks on the other hand rely on vocal communication. They learn the sound of their mothers cluck before they even hatch.

The difference in communication types is not the only problem both ducks and chickens have different diets and the chicks require different feed from the ducklings. The mother hen tries in vain to get the ducklings to feed what she would normally feed her chicks and the result can be chaos.

I once witnessed the blind panic of a mother hen when the ducklings she was looking after took to the water bowl. It was quite natural for them to splash and swim. This is quite normal behaviour for ducklings who take to water like ducks but it left the mother hen need in therapy.

duckling taking to water

When a duckling takes to water which it will do it is likely to cause mamma hen some serious distress.


Can you keep ducks and chickens together?

Ducks and chickens can not interbreed so there is no worry of weird duck/chicken hybrids or mutants in the backyard.

You can keep ducks and chickens together when they are older and have matured. They tend to just ignore each other as they both have different needs for feed and water. As for intergrating the two into an existing flock I have never seen it be a problem. The only exception to this rule is when you add a drake as they tend to be territorial and during breeding season there may be feathers flying around if they get to grips with a rooster.

I have Indian Runner ducks and they happily mix with the hens. They prefer their own species if they have the chance and when there is food or treats on offer they will be right in amongst the hens making sure they get their bill full. My runner drake is a completye pet and never any bother but then he does have 5 ladies to keep him occuppied.

Even when there was baby ducks around it never bothered the hens even if they had their own family.

I would however always keep at least two of each for company. plan for 2 chickens with your ducks or two ducks in your flock. House them seperately or make use of a droopping board for the hen so as the ducks dont get shat on by roosting hens during the night. Hens like to roost up high and ducks nest on the ground overnight.

Ducks can not use nipple waterers and the two have differing feeding requirements.

Ducks are wetter and need copious amounts of straw and extra ventilation to stop damp and moulds.

Can you use a mother duck to bring up baby chicks?

No. And I have never seen it done successfully. The problem here is that the duck mother doesn't understand the bleating of the chicks from cold and she probably won't  brood them  properly. And then she will lead them straight to water and they will follow her and at best get cold and wet and at worst, drown.

mother hen raising a duckling

Communication across the species divide is always going to be challenging. Hens are more diligent  and attentive mothers than ducks are.

She will expect her offspring to follow her blindly as they normally do and if they dont they will get abandoned in a few minutes.

Chicks need more care and brooding than ducklings do . 


Can you raise guinea fowl keets under a hen.

You can, and this is a case where you should. I always use a mother hen to raise my baby guinea fowl, the keets will learn to feed as baby chicks do and more importantly roost in the chicken coop like their mum. This simplifies the raising of guineas no end. 

Guinea mothers are sometimes a bit quick off the mark and expect their youngsters to follow them before they are ready and can lead them into wet grass. Guineas evolved in the warmer climate of Africa and have not adapted to the temperate north yet.

Conclusion

To end with some types of cross species raising in backyard poultry is actually desirable, and some is just okay. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. That said you might be in a situation where you have to and a little planning goes a long way.