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Can I Raise or Brood Chicks and Ducklings Together?


While adult chickens and ducks can certainly co-habitat and live in relatively peace together in a pen or run and even in a shared coop, it's not a good idea to brood baby chicks and ducklings together.

Ducklings grow much much faster (the two in the above photo are the exact same age - 2 weeks old), require less heat, and create a pretty significant water mess in their brooder which will lead to wet, unhappy chicks facing the very real risk of being chilled, trampled or drowned.

Every spring I'm asked over and over...


Can I Brood Chicks and Ducklings Together?

And my standard answer is ... NO.

So no, you can't really raise chicks and ducklings together too successfully. 

It's actually going to be far easier on you -and healthier for them all - to brood chicks and ducklings separately. 



I found this out first hand early on. Back in 2009, we brought home two ducklings and six baby chicks with the idea that they would share a brooder. 

That idea lasted not much more than a week before we had them each set up in their own space.

Both need the basics: heat, a safe, draft-free place to grow, starter feed and plenty of (unlimited) room temperature water, but beyond that, their needs start to differ.

While raising chicks and ducklings isn't all that different, the few differences are pretty significant and become clear pretty quickly when you try to raise them together in the same brooder.

Brooding Chicks



Chicks Need:

  • Heat - Chicks should be started at 95 degrees F the first week, and then you can lower the temperature five degrees per week, so the second week down to 90 degrees, the third week down to 85 degrees and so on. This replicates the warmth they would draw from a mother hen had they hatched under a broody.
  • Feed - Chicks should be fed the higher protein starter feed for the first eight weeks and then you can switch them to the lower protein grower feed until they are about laying age (at which time they will need to be fed higher calcium layer feed)
  • Water - Baby chicks tend to be top-heavy and can easily drown, so while they do need water 24/7 for the first few weeks, the water dish should be shallow. Putting a few marbles or rocks in it is a good idea to prevent accidental drownings.



  • Bedding - Chick brooder bedding should be textured so the chicks don't develop a condition called "spraddle leg". A piece of rubber shelf liner over a few sheets of newspaper works well.
  • Grit - Because baby chicks don't have teeth to grind up what they eat, they need a small dish of chick grit or coarse dirt. The dish will also double as a dust bath for them to practice in!



Brooding Ducklings



Ducklings Need:

  • Heat - Chicks should be started at 90 degrees F the first week, and then you can lower the temperature five degrees per week, so the second week down to 83 degrees, the third week down to 76 degrees and so on. You can see that ducklings acclimate to cool temperatures far more quickly than chicks and you risk them overheating in a brooder that's being kept warm enough for chicks.
  • Feed - Ducklings can be fed chick feed, but it should only be the un-medicated starter feed. Ducklings really aren't susceptible to coccidiosis, so it makes no sense to medicate an animal that doesn't need it.
  • Feed - Ducklings should be fed the higher protein starter feed just for the first two weeks and then you can switch them to the lower protein grower feed until they are about laying age (at which time they will need to be fed higher calcium layer feed). Ducklings grow really fast and too much protein can cause them to grow faster than their bones and legs can keep up with. 
  • Feed Supplement - Chick starter feed doesn't contain enough niacin (Vitamin B3) for ducklings, so you'll want to supplement the ducklings' feed with something like this: Brewers Yeast with Garlic.  It will provide them the niacin they need to grow strong legs and bones. I also cut their feed with some raw rolled oats mixed in to reduce the protein levels a bit to ensure a healthy growth rate. 
  • Water - Ducklings need a water source that's deep enough for them to dunk their entire head so they can keep their eyes and nostrils clean. Tupperware or take-out containers work well. And setting their dish on a cookie sheet or in a pie plate will help contain the water mess, or using something like this Messy Cat dish which is perfect for ducklings!
  • It's also a good idea to occasionally fill something a bit larger with water that they can hop into and splash around in. This helps them develop the waterproofing on their feathers. Just be careful because drowning in the #1 cause of death in baby ducklings. Until they're about a month old, they can get waterlogged and chilled or even drown.



  • Bedding - Duckling brooder bedding should also be textured so they don't develop "spraddle leg", especially considering how wet they get everything. A piece of rubber shelf liner over a thick layer of newspaper or even an old bath towel works well to sop up all the water the ducklings spill and splash.
  • Treats - The ducklings main diet should be their starter feed, but they will enjoy occasional treats of peas or chopped leafy greens floating in their water.
  • Grit - Because baby ducklings don't have teeth to grind up what they eat, they need a small dish of chick grit or coarse dirt to nibble on.


Further Reading:
Raising Chicks
Raising Ducklings


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