Typically ducks and chickens can coexist happily in one flock, but flock politics are tricky. At first, I bought five chicks and one duckling, Speedy. Poor Speedy. They knew she was different from the get-go. She was big, funny-looking and had weird feet. They picked on her quite literally. They pecked her until her fuzzy little head was bleeding, and I thought for sure they wouldn’t stop until she was dead. During the first week, I spent many desperate nights on the phone with my mom sick with worry. I tried to separate her from the others in a cage so she could still see them and smell them, but she was lonely and cried incessantly. So I gave in, and tried to reintroduce her to the flock, where they would promptly attack her again and again.
I finally had to tell Speedy that it was either sink or swim, and as a duck, I think she identified with that. Harriet, my Buff Orpington was by far the meanest. She hated Speedy, and whenever she would catch a glimpse of her nearby, she would jump on her and peck her feet and head. Speedy got accustomed to sitting down a lot, as a way of hiding her feet. She also learned how to run fast (hence the name Speedy). The weirdest part was that Speedy loved Harriet and would follow her everywhere. Harriet was the biggest chick and slightly older than the others, and therefore the de facto mother-hen. Speedy also thought she was her mother, and probably still has issues to this day because of it.
Eventually, they worked out their issues and accepted her into the flock. Two weeks later, I got another duckling, Simone. By then, Speedy was far bigger than the other chicks and could throw her weight around. She took Simone under her wing, so-to-speak, and protected her. It was strange how they instantly bonded, like they knew they had something in common. Like webbed feet. In any case, the other chicks didn’t bother her too much. There was certainly an adjustment period, but nothing like the bloody Speedy incident.
There’s really nothing like the sound of tiny chicks in an orchestra of peeping. I bought five of them at a local feed store in the Spring of 2011, along with two ducklings. When I got the little sprouts, two chicks and both ducklings were two-weeks-old, and the other three were four-weeks-old. I know I’m running the risk of sounding like an annoying parent here, but they grow up way too fast. It’s important to enjoy the fuzz-ball stage, because it’s gone before you know it. During the first month, you should be holding and talking to them every single day. The relationship you build with them early on will last through adulthood.
The Coop and Garden Area
During the fuzz-ball stage (technical term), it’s important to watch your ducks and chicks around water. Ducklings really love to play in water, but they can’t swim. Chicks will never swim, and can actually drown quite easily. But they love to wade. As they get older, it’s nice to have a wading pond for the chickens and a pool for the ducks. But until they reach two-months-old, keep the water levels low. Ducklings will need to rinse their nostrils and eyes, but they chill easily, especially when wet. So the water container should have an opening only large enough for their heads to fit. Ducks aren’t waterproof and weatherproof until about seven or eight weeks old when their oil glands starts working. When this happens, they will start preening their feathers to waterproof themselves. This is also about the time chickens start developing their pin feathers (adult feathers), and loosing all their down.
In the city, it’s easy and fun to manage a small flock. Poultry and game birds are social and need friends, so plan to have a couple. There are some guidelines for how many you can have, and how close to your neighbors they’re allowed to be, so refer to ‘City of Phoenix Animal Ordinances’ in my resources list. The set-up can be pretty basic, but there are some essential guidelines, especially when rearing young ones. Please refer to the Brooding FAQs for more details on raising babies.