It’s an interesting question that often comes up when raising chickens and ducks together. The short answer is, no, ducks and chickens cannot mate. This doesn’t mean they won’t try though, which is potentially harmful to both species.
Are There Chicken/Duck Hybrids “Chucks”?
First of all, I want to get some of the rumors, myths, and legends out of the way. Over the years, there have been various reports of chicken-duck hybrids, but as far as I can tell none have been 100% scientifically substantiated.
There have been some chickens with duck characteristics, and vice versa. But this is often thought to be a random mutation more so than the result of a rooster or a drake mating with a hen.
Further to this, I have spoken with various poultry owners who have raised ducks and chicken together for many years.
They’ve all said that they’ve never had a cross-breed or hybrid from the two spices breeding, neither do they think it’s possible.
Looking at this from a common-sense perspective, if it were possible it would have been substantiated by now, right?
Why Ducks and Chickens’ Mating Organs Aren’t Compatible
One of the reasons why chickens and ducks do not mate when raised together is due to the fact that they have very different reproductive organs.
Simply put, when chickens mate, the rooster places his cloaca on the hen’s cloaca, and he transfers his sperm during this interaction.
Without being too graphic, roosters have internal testicles. They do not have any organs that stick out or insert into the chicken.
Now, ducks on the other hand reproduce very differently. The drake, which is the male duck, penetrates the oviduct of the female duck.
So, you can see that a drake could cause a chicken-hen an injury trying to mate with them. While a rooster trying to mate with a duck hen would be unsuccessful.
Both species could cause the hen’s other injuries trying to mount them too. I haven’t witnessed it myself, but it’s been explained to me that ducks are a lot more aggressive when mating too.
Talking with backyard poultry owners that have raised both ducks and chickens together, it’s really never a problem when adequate space and facilities are provided.
Related – Read about the duck people think looks like a chicken here.
Can a Duck Fertilize a Chicken Egg?
This is another question that does have some “questionable” answers online if you do some research.
I’ve read a few accounts from poultry owners stating that it is possible for a chicken to lay an egg that’s been fertilized by a duck – but it will never hatch.
I also read a lot of accounts stating that it’s strictly not possible. Whichever you believe, the end result is that you will not end up with a hybrid chick or duckling.
Most importantly, it’s not something you should ever encourage, or even allow if possible. As I explained above, it’s very dangerous to let ducks and chickens try to mate, as it can cause serious injuries to the hens.
Can Ducks and Chickens Live Together?
Putting all of the possible mating issues to one side, ducks and chickens can live together in perfect harmony.
When done correctly, issues are few and far between. In fact, you’ll find that ducks tend to just hang out with other ducks, and likewise for chickens.
The only real issues arise when there are males in mixed flocks. Both drakes and roosters can be very territorial. It’s something you need to balance out based on how many hens you have of each species.
The main differences to be aware of when raising both species together are:
This is where you really notice the difference between the basic needs of ducks and chickens.
Both require fresh drinking water. But chickens prefer to use the nipple style hanging waterers, or the ones with a moat around the base.
Ducks prefer a larger, more open style of waterer. And, as you can probably guess, ducks also need a nice pool of water to splash around in and be, well, ducks.
The good news is that both ducks and chickens can eat the same commercial layer feeds. There’s no guarantee they’ll share nicely, but as long as you provide enough they’ll do just fine.
They can also eat a lot of the same table scraps and leftovers. With both ducks and chickens in your yard, there isn’t going to be much food leftover, that much you can be sure of.
This isn’t the case with chicks and ducklings, however. You’ll need to pick up feeds formulated for young chicks and ducklings to ensure they’re getting all the good nutrition they need.
Related – Can chickens and turkeys live together?
You can also keep both ducks and chickens in the same coop. As long as it has enough space to comfortably house the number of birds you have, they’ll get on as great as roommates.
The main difference is their sleeping habits. Chickens like to roost up high on a roosting bar. While ducks prefer to nest on the ground level.
Seeing as chickens poop a lot overnight, make sure their roosting bar is nowhere near the ducks sleeping quarters!
I think that covers just about everything you could need to know about how chickens and ducks coexist and live together.
When done right, these two species of birds complement each other. While also providing a great deal of satisfaction for us raising them.
And, as I’ve explained, you don’t need to worry about “Chucks”, some form of chicken-duck hybrids hatching!
Image credits – Photos by Andrea Lightfoot and Ravi Singh, on Unsplash