Going Next Level: Integrating Dual Purpose Chickens with Existing Ducks

duck1
Our girls Blondie, Lucy, Cocoa & Betty enjoying ‘the golden hour’ here on the farm…

So y’all there are TONS of blog posts on adding ducks to your flock of chickens…but nothing the other way around! I suppose most folks start out with chooks, but we definitely were the other way around. After caring for both types of bird, we immediately fell in love with ducks and their funny, mellow manner compared to the more scattered, relatively high-strung chickens that we knew (hey, ducks almost always stick together…chickens, on the other hand? every chook for themselves, it seems!).

And with that, I thought I’d share how we have adapted our duck run to welcome in 4 new chickens. You see, out of the 50 heirloom chooks we initially brought home to raise for meat earlier this summer, we’ve had the opportunity to watch their behavior over these past few months, researched their egg-laying abilities, and with one of our ducks only laying occasional ‘water balloons’ for the past year (not a calcium issue, the other three are fine and they all free range…best guess is that reproductively she had some kind of issue as not having poultry vets out here means no diagnosis), we decided to try a few of these out as dual-purpose since two of the breeds estimate pretty good egg production as well (250+/year). And of course, the idea being that if we were up to our ears in eggs we could always make one a stew chook. That is…if I don’t name them (we shall see…).

Here’s what we started with on the left to build the duck run last summer – i.e. from scratch! We placed it in the medium-size pasture adjacent to the barn, where we knew we’d be installing our 1,000 gallon tank to collect rainwater from the roof. The duck run needed to be bigger than the one they had before, so that we could go out of town for weekends and give them way more room than they had in our Portland backyard run – and because at the time there was only horse fencing, and they needed to live there for a bit to ensure they recognized it as their new home base. So we made it about 10’x20′, with my husband doing the heavy duty work using existing scrap wood (left in the barn by the former owner), then I came in and used 1/4″ hardware cloth on the bottom half (buried with rocks around the perimeter as well), and chicken wire on the top half. The wire/cloth and the galvanized sheeting were our only expenses (the latter being quite an expense…but SO worth it!).  The duck’s coop was literally just a box I built from plywood with a cut-out for a small window to help with air circulation, set on top of cinderblocks to ensure the bottom stays dry. And because it’s inside a fully enclosed run? No need for an actual door. Besides, duck owners know that these birds often like to sleep outdoors if it’s not too cold out – so we let them be who they are 🙂

The duck feeder has been brilliant – thanks to an idea I found on Pinterest, literally just holes cut out of a lidded bucket (with bits of black plumbing tube to protect from the sharp bits) which keeps things a bit less messy in that regard. We do put a rock on the lid during the windy winter season so it doesn’t get knocked over. And moving here to a bigger space meant they got a full size indoor kiddie pool, with a second outside as well for when they are free-ranging and the door to the run is closed (we learned quickly that if you leave it open for them to graze as they please, they have zero motivation to go inside at night!). And with the mega size rainwater collection tank not far away? We always have the hose nearby to fill everything up with lots of that free Oregon liquid sunshine!

So for accommodating 4 chickens, the duck’s coop wasn’t made for sharing (not that they won’t possibly surprise us, but we didn’t want to be that optimistic…), so we built a separate place for them to roost at night. Three walls from scrap plywood, a roost made from a 2×4, and a ladder made from a partially-deconstructed trellis that was in the garage? Voila! Across from the roost (not photographed) is another piece of plywood serving as a wind break as well. Hopefully they will love this. Finally, for the nesting box, we borrowed from a YouTube video where you simply cut a hole in a bin and fill it with straw! (It of course is screwed to the wooden box underneath to stabilize it in the wind).

Which of our remaining chooks will go in there? Not sure. We’ve dispatched 15 more this past week (almost all roosters… all but the Delawares were unsexed), so have 22 left, who’ve all been relocated to a large stall in the barn to stay out of the blustery elements that recently threatened to set the chicken tractor airborne! Husband and I are pretty convinced they’ll be a combo of the Delawares and Australorps, but if one of our Wyandottes stays scrawny, she might make the cut as well. Houdans unfortunately, even in their slow growth, are not great layers (~100/yr) and word is they don’t do well in the cold (which is a trip since they have SOOOO many feathers!).

We will probably put a pallet over a piece of tarp on the top of the duck’s coop as it seems like a pretty appealing place to perch during the day, and we still have to figure out how to separate them from the ducks as they get used to this being their new home, but it’s a pretty good start eh?

Will report back after the chooks’ moving day…

Anyone out there have ducks and chickens living in harmony?

 

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