Can You Keep Different Sized Poultry Together?

Between size differences, care differences, and potential problems with diseases, is multi-flock housing really safe? Find out about pairing up quail, ducks, large fowl, bantams and more.

Ducks and a chicken foraging in the yard together.

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.

Keeping Ducks & Chickens Together

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. I’ve also discovered sand is a great bedding option for chickens and/or ducks. 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.

Between size differences, care differences and potential problems with diseases, is multi-flock housing safe? Quail, ducks, large fowl, bantams and more.

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 won’t eliminate them. You’ll need to continually watch angst-y roosters.

Keeping Quail & Chickens Together

I’ll start by stating the obvious: Quail fly. No. They rocket easily over or through chicken fencing. Wing clipping won’t even begin to help. 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.

Between size differences, care differences and potential problems with diseases, is multi-flock housing safe? Quail, ducks, large fowl, bantams and more.

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.

Keeping Bantams & Large/Standard Fowl Together

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.

Between size differences, care differences and potential problems with diseases, is multi-flock housing safe? Quail, ducks, large fowl, bantams and more.

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. You need to quarantine and do it correctly!

If you’ve found value in this blog post and enjoyed reading it, why not share it with your Pinterest community? Pin the image below and spread the love!

A Pinterest-friendly graphic for my post on keeping poultry of different sizes in the same flock.

Obviously I have not covered allΒ the other poultry that exists. These are just a few of the more common backyard friends. If you’re wondering about a potential multi-flock pairings I highly suggest you check outΒ BackyardChickens.

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8 Comments

  1. I’d love to have some information of keeping mixed breeds of ducks – pro’s and con’s.

  2. I had 2 drakes and had to get read of them because they were trying to mate with the chickens .
    I miss them they were fun so I am thinking to try one more time for a male and a female pair .
    Any advise on this.
    Thank you Stella.

  3. I actually have an aviary for my quail and we keep some of our smallest bantams in with them. So far, it’s worked out great and the quail seem very happy to have a big pen wit room to jump and fly around whenever they want.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Wow! That’s really cool that they are getting along so well.

  4. For the most part we haven’t had any problems with bantams and standards together– there was one instance where our two Australorps ganged up on our little Barred Rock and we ended up getting rid of the two of them (they were mean birds overall, and our girls are more pets than anything, so…). But for years our little cochin bantam maintained Queen-hood over ALL the others, big and small!
    The quail with chickens is a big problem, though– we had a few coturnix and they could NOT handle being in with the chickens. We ended up putting them in a separate pen with our muscovy ducks, which worked surprisingly well. The ducks couldn’t care less about the spazzy little quail πŸ˜€

  5. Erica Mueller says:

    We always kept our ducks, chickens, Bantums, and turkeys together. Never had any issues. But we did free range and keep the water outside so we avoided most of the mess. The ducks slept and laid their eggs are n the floor on one end of the coop and the chickens and turkeys slept on the roosts on the other end. They worked all that out themselves. Lol

  6. I have a pigeon in with my girls and haven’t had a problem. I put them together when the chickens were still young. He stays out of their way and has his own perches and food area high off the ground, out of reach of the girls. I zip tied a rabbit cage to the ceiling in the corner, added a perch, food and water, and three walls to keep out the elements.

  7. Alecia @ Chicken Scratch NY says:

    We have our coop in a barn, the ducks (muskovy) prefer sleeping outside the coop but have no problem laying and sitting the in the nest boxes or going in for food. I usually get the largest clutches from those birds too. We free range and keep the waterers out of the barn in the summer but winter can get a little sloppy. We just keep adding more shavings around the waterer so it’s not an ice slick.