We have muscovys and two Pekin ducks, as well as chickens, geese and feral guinea birds.
It's not recommended by the bird breeders to mix turkeys with chickens and ducks...but I haven't read anything that says you can't mix chickens and ducks... seems like it would be easier to feed them and so on... but in general I wouldn't. The ducks might get picked on by the chickens and they have less defenses against the sharp beaks of chickens. Plus ducks make a different kind of mess with their water than chickens do -- they like to get a mouthful of grain and then mix it with water and mud so their water tends to get really dirty compared to the chickens. Chickens scratch up the soil, and ducks tend to mat it down and make boggy, buggy areas if they are not moved around regularly to new areas or given deep bedding. Could turn your yard into a mudslide... how much pasture do you have for the birds and how many birds do you have?
Shelter at night depends on your climate. Ours (and our chickens) stay in moveable chicken tractors (portable coops) because of feral and pet dog predation, and so egg collection is simplified (no hunting all over the yard). Ducks are smart and they will hide their nest given the opportunity. Our birds get fresh pasture daily and have shelter from sun and rain.
You don't need to give ducks any more water than they need to drink. You CAN give them a bucket every couple of days to splash from and have a bath, but nothing that they need to get INTO with both paws.
The age I'd put them LOOSE outside is the age at which they are big enough that they won't get eaten by rats, cats or other predators. That would be at least 3-4 lbs and with full feathers (not down). Our ducklings are always outside, but they do have a cozy cardboard box for the first few weeks and that is inside a predator-proof enclosure like a dog kennel or a wire cage.
When you say mallards, do you mean males? Males are called drakes and the females are called hens. As long as you don't let them set on a whole nest of eggs you won't have a breeding problem. We keep our Pekins mostly for the eggs -- they are rich and delicious for baking and cooking. The hen would have to set the eggs for about three weeks after spending about two to three weeks laying a full clutch of 7-15 eggs, so it would be hard for the ducks to breed without you knowing it if you have them in an enclosed space.
Other tips? There's a great book called the Home Duck Flock that has a lot of handy info about raising ducks. Sorry I can't put my finger on it to give you the author. Waterfowl in general are prone to foot and leg injuries so be careful not to let pets or children chase them. Ducks are cute and fun and always smiling their funny little smiles, enjoy!!
Originally Posted by Rikki Jean
Well, I'm finally getting the hang of chickens, and now we're thinking about throwing some ducks into the mix.
Here are my questions:
-Will they/can they live with the chickens?
-Do they have to be sheltered at night?
-Do I have to have a large water source for them? I don't even have irrigation for my garden!
-They're 2.5 w/o; do they need to be inside still?
-If I don't really want to deal with incubating, hatching, etc. later on, do I want to make sure to only take mallards?
-Anything else that i need to know?