Multi Flock Housing: Is Having a Mixed Flock Safe?
Those who are working with a limited amount of space may wonder if they can house different types of poultry under the same roof. I have bantams, large fowl, and ducks in one coop. Does it cause issues from time to time? Yes, but I’ve worked out ways to make it all work. I have feed and water in the coop that the ducks can’t make a mess of. The ducks get free time outside the run to play in the garden.
Ducks & Chickens
Ducks have different housing requirements than chickens. Their needs are less in the sense of weather proofing as ducks need only three-sided protection year round from winds, heavy snow and driving rain. They don’t need nest boxes or roosts like chickens do.
One area that does need attention (and brings up a big con for co-habitation) is that ducks need to be able to wet their heads to eat and clean. This makes for some serious dampness issues which is the opposite of what you want for your chickens. If you keep water out of the coop and you offer enough water stations in a large run, you might be able to combat this problem. Ducks don’t need a full pond, but they will create mud around waterers trying to get as wet as possible.
Feeding requirements when they are young may also present a problem when you are dealing with chicks and ducklings. Ducklings can overdose on the medicated chick feed so you must always purchase non-medicated.
Another consideration is the safety of squabbles. You know from chicken keeping that spats occur from time to time as they establish pecking order. Ducks will get right in there too. The problem comes from chickens with their pointy beaks pecking at the ducks who can hardly fight back this their rounded bills. By raising them together early on or having a lengthy “meet and greet” through a fence you can avoid a lot of pecking issues, but you wont eliminate them.
Quail & Chickens
I’ll start by stating the obvious: Quail fly. No, they rocket easily over or through chicken fencing. Most quail/chicken housing situations are not a they live together in the house, side-by-side, but the quail are penned separately in the same coop. A major drawback to co-habitation of quail and chickens is that quail are flighty and chickens are loud. A good squabble between two chickens could cause a quail to bolt (fly straight up at a rapid pace – as they tend to do) and break its neck on the pen ceiling.
Another issue is that no matter where you place the pen, the chickens are going to poo on it. And karma states that it will never be a nice easy-to-clean poo. It will be a liquid mess and some poor quail is going to be wearing it. I attached a shelf in the coop to set things down while I was cleaning or doing my thing. Knowing that the chickens will perch on anything, I attached it only about 5″ from the ceiling figuring that no one could squeeze themselves in to perch.
I don’t mean to judge, but all my ladies are a bit thick around the middle. It became the ultimate pooping spot in the coop. I never saw anyone actually up there, but the shelf was so gross that I gave up and took it down (to this day I can’t picture them fitting up there). So, poo covered quail is something to think about.
Bantams & Large Fowl
Can bantams and large fowl co-exist? Most people say yes, but a few say it just isn’t safe. Large fowl have a huge size advantage and tend to bully, but there are some bantams that definitely know how to hold their own (think little dog syndrome).
Two things that may need to consider are perches and nest boxes. Perches can be problematic because bantams need a smaller perch and smaller perches can lead to bumblefoot in larger birds. If they followed directions well, you could set up two sized perches and everyone would be in their rightful place, but chickens don’t follow directions well. The other thing to think about is nest boxes as well as other aspects of coop design. You need to design to accommodate both sides of the size spectrum.
Obviously a bantam can use a box made for a LF, but can the bantam get to the box or is the opening too high? You’re LF birds may be big enough that a hawk doesn’t want to bother with them, but is your bantam safe free ranging? You may need to up the security.
Disease Issues in Mixed Flocks
Now that I’ve gotten all of the purists chomping at the bit saying Wait! Wait! You’ve forgotten the biggest issue! I will mention the big deciding factor. Disease. I’m not going to go through all the potential diseases that you may deal with in multi-flock housing, but I will say this: Some diseases only affect one species and not another. Some strike both. What will cause the sniffles with one could cause another to drop dead.
For me, the issue of diseases is one to consider, but not a make it or break it point. I know that when I add a bird to the flock I’m taking a chance (regardless of species). Birds can be purchased with diseases, birds can develop illnesses, birds can catch stuff. It’s just the reality of poultry keeping. We do the best we can, but things happen.
Obviously I have not covered all the other poultry that exists. These are just a few of the more common backyard friends. If you’re wondering about a potential pairing I highly suggest you check out BackyardChickens.