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How Chickens Get Along With Other Species

Ducklings resting with a chicken.
Chickens and ducks: Feathered friendship or fowl folly? Read on to find out!

Updated September 18, 2020

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If you’re caring for chickens with limited space, you may be wondering how they get along with other species of animals. Because individual animals each have their own unique personalities, preferences, and histories of trauma, this resource may not apply universally to all chickens and the other species they interact with, but it should provide a good starting point in regards to how well a chicken will get along with other animals.

Chickens And Other Chickens

Typically a chicken will cohabitate just fine with other chickens. Chickens prefer to hang out in groups in most cases, and will immediately establish a pecking order to decide who rules the flock. Roosters can hang out together, potentially even ex-fighters, if properly introduced and in an appropriate environment. If keeping roosters with hens, you must ensure that they are not attempting to mate too forcefully and have a plan in case you need to establish a separate flock. Mating-related injuries can kill hens.

A Flock For All?

If you’re caring for both “layer” hens and large breed chickens, you may need to house them in separate living spaces due to large breed birds’ special health needs. You also should not keep any roosters, with the exception of small bantams, with female large breed birds, as their skin is very delicate and can easily tear if a rooster attempts to mate with them.  Large breed chickens are predisposed to heart issues, so you must be careful when housing large breed roosters with other roosters.  You may think that a bantam rooster would be a safe roommate for a large breed rooster, but often times this is not true.  A non-large breed rooster will be able to keep at a fight much longer and will be quicker and more agile than a large breed rooster who may tire more easily or become overly stressed.  Generally, large breed roosters do best with other large breed roosters rather than with non-large breed roosters.

Chickens And Ducks Or Geese

Although socially, chickens and ducks or geese can get along in common living spaces, there are a few things to consider when it comes to keeping them together:

  • Ducklings or goslings and chicks require different food types- chick food sometimes includes medicine that ducklings can overdose on
  • Ducks and geese require a water source specifically to swim in separate from drinking water- chickens can drown in these sources
  • If ducks or geese and chickens get into a spat, it can be quite dangerous for the ducks as chickens have much sharper beaks, or dangerous for the chickens if a goose decided to get confrontational due to their large size, strong wings, and powerful bites!

If you do decide to keep chickens and ducks or geese together, consider implementing a special area where the smaller birds can avoid larger ones if they desire.

Chickens And Turkeys

Female turkeys generally can cohabitate with chickens in free-range environments without issues (assuming they have adequate space), though it’s important to know that chickens can transmit blackhead to turkeys so it’s critical to keep their living spaces clean! Blackhead tends to be much less communicable in turkeys older than 6 months, so wait that long to introduce a young turkey into a mixed flock if necessary!

Male turkeys generally should not live with female chickens, as they unfortunately have been known to accidentally kill chickens when attempting to mate with them.  However, in some instances an older, more subdued large breed Tom may be able to safely cohabitate with healthy female chickens so long as he shows no interest in mounting the chickens and the living arrangement is closely monitored on an ongoing basis. You should pay close attention to any changes in the Tom’s behavior or if he appears more interested in the females, especially in the Spring. You should also pay close attention to the hens- looking for any signs of feather damage, changes in behavior such as hiding, or changes in mobility. You will need to be prepared to alter the living arrangement if the Tom shows any interest in mounting the females or if any of the hens develop health or mobility issues, regardless of if they are related to the presence of the Tom or not. The Tom may realize that a health compromised hen is vulnerable and therefore easier to mount. Even the most mild-mannered, arthritic Tom, who you swore would never mount anyone, may take advantage of a hen in a vulnerable state! Non-large breed male turkeys are more likely to mount female chickens and therefore should not be housed with them.

If you are caring for large breed turkeys and non-large breed chickens in the same living space, you must ensure that the turkeys cannot have access to the chickens’ free choice food, and the opposite is true if caring for non-large breed turkeys with large breed chickens.

If you have a lonely large breed male turkey and he isn’t too confrontational, you can house him with a rooster as a companion. Non-large breed male turkeys are more likely to cause dangerous injuries to roosters and should not typically cohabitate with any chickens due to their size and strength.

Chickens And Sanctuary Mammals

Chickens tend to get along just fine with other mammals that you might typically find in a sanctuary environment, including horses, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep, and llamas. The chickens benefit from having a bit of a guardian presence protecting them from predators, and socially chickens don’t mind being around these species. The main concerns to consider with cohabitation are accidental trampling underfoot (especially if the chicken has a mobility-affecting disability or if a hen is broody) and the dangers of letting chickens graze with mammalian residents who have been treated with chemical dewormers or medication, which can be dangerous for chickens to be around or accidentally ingest.  If you choose to house chickens with mammalian residents, you will need to give special consideration to overnight accommodations.  Chickens must be secured in predator-proof housing overnight, but it may not be advisable for the mammals they are living with to be closed in with them.  You do not want to create a situation where a sleeping chicken, especially a large breed chicken who will be sleeping closer to the ground, is injured by a mammal they cannot get away from.  In general, it is safest to give the chickens a safe space to sleep away from their mammalian friends.

Chickens And Donkeys

With chickens and donkeys, how they do together is entirely dependent on the personalities at play. Some donkeys get along quite well with sanctuary birds like chickens. Others, especially those rescued from abusive or neglectful situations, may be more territorial and defensive around all species, including chickens. Some chickens may be too territorial to live with donkeys in some living spaces. Always closely monitor the pasture and make a careful introduction between donkeys and chickens, keeping in mind the possibility that they may need to live separately.

Chickens And Pigs

There have been reports of birds being killed in a sanctuary environment by pigs. These incidents occurred between chickens and younger pigs who were apparently trying to play with the birds, feral pigs sharing space with birds at a sanctuary, as well as (rarely), individual adult domestic pigs with strong territorial impulses. It does not appear that adult domestic pigs are commonly known to intentionally cause bird deaths, but you should always exercise caution where possible when it comes to protecting resident lives and be mindful of the potential consequences of species cohabitation.

For these reasons, we do not recommend housing birds with pigs, especially feral pigs or piglets.

While non-territorial adult domestic pigs could technically share outdoor space with chickens, provided that all species have their specific needs taken care of (like dust baths accessible for chickens),  you must be aware that harm could very well occur in this cohabitation model, even if the residents seem to get along. If you do keep pigs with chickens, ensure that there is plenty of space to avoid any situations where a bird (especially a mobility impaired resident or broody hen) might get caught underfoot from a pig. Pigs are also (quite reasonably) particular eaters who will try not to eat pasture or food that has been defecated on by another animal, including chickens, so if you’re going to keep pigs and chickens together, it would be preferable to find a solution to keeping the pig’s living spaces clean.

It would be best to avoid housing large breed chickens with pigs since large breed chickens may have a harder time getting away from a pig on the move and may be more at risk of being trampled or injured.  Additionally, both pigs and large breed chickens are typically very enthusiastic about meals, so you would have to take extra precautions during mealtime to ensure everyone is safe.

Chickens And Dogs

As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to let dogs interact with any animal at a farmed animal sanctuary. As the species in your care are prey animals, there is a high chance that there will be a negative reaction, either from the dog or the resident, and it is never worth risking an animal’s safety when there is any possibility to avoid conflict.

With dogs, it depends on the individual. Whereas properly socialized dogs tend not to bother chickens, others may be prone to chase or even try to eat chickens. Conversely, a threatened chicken may try to attack the dog. Use your judgement, and if a dog must share space with a chicken, make sure to monitor the situation very carefully and be ready to step in at a moment’s notice. Keep the chicken’s psychological well-being in mind as well; it isn’t ever fair to a chicken to force them to be stressed out in their living space, even if physically they seem safe in the moment.

Chickens And Cats

Cats and chickens typically don’t bother each other as many chickens are larger than cats. One area of concern, though, are chicks who should absolutely be kept away from cats as there have been reports of cats killing chicks.  Again, with adult chickens, closely monitor initial reactions to see if they’d be a good fit!

If you’re caring for large breed chickens around cats, you must ensure that the chickens have no access to cat litter, which they have been known to ingest, causing crop impactions.

Chickens And Wildlife

Depending on their set-up, chickens could be coming into contact with wild animals who also call the sanctuary grounds home. While some species may pose no risk to your chicken residents, others could cause serious harm.

Predators Of Chickens

Certain wild animal species are especially dangerous to chickens and will eat them if given the chance. This includes stray dogs, coyotes, wolves, foxes, rats, raccoons, weasels, bobcats, skunks, opossums, snakes, hawks, owls, and bears. The best defense is a properly secured outdoor living space and predator-proof living indoor living space. This includes predator netting (chicken wire will not keep a predator out, only a chicken in!), fencing that cannot be dug under, predator-secure latches, and vigilance!

Other Wildlife

Though other species of wildlife may not pose the same type of threat as a predator, there are still a few important things to consider. Wild birds and rodents can carry and transmit diseases to sanctuary birds, so it’s important to keep their living space generally secured from them and clean of droppings if at all possible. Additionally, rats can kill or cause mortal injury to a chicken by chewing on them, especially as they sleep, and can cause significant damage to living spaces, especially if they gain access to electrical wire or insulation. Some wildlife could create breaches in an otherwise secured space by chewing holes in structures or digging under fencing, which could give predators easy access to the flock. Be sure to consider the wildlife in your area when constructing living spaces and be sure to check for breaches regularly. For more information on compassionate wildlife strategies, check out our resource here!

SOURCES:

Keeping Ducks Together With Chickens | Cackle Hatchery (Non-Compassionate Source)

Can You Keep Chickens And Ducks Together? | Poultry Keeper (Non-Compassionate Source)

Farming Other Animals With Free-Range Chickens | Dummies (Non-Compassionate Source)

Identifying 14 Common Chicken Predators | Morning Chores (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on August 30, 2021

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