I’ve been meaning to write an update on our animals and post a video for quite a while, but the idea of uploading and editing a video and posting it on youtube was really daunting to me. My sweet husband walked me through the process the other night and helped me post my first video on youtube. It’s not really as hard as I was afraid it might be, but it did take about an hour and a half. I decided not to do much editing because I didn’t want to spend lots of time on that and possibly not get the video published for another month, so please forgive the lack of editing and video skill, and just enjoy the birds!
We have been making observations on the behavior and relationships of the different kinds of birds we’ve been raising together, since there are many differing opinions floating around on whether it is possible or wise to raise chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and other birds together. So far we have been raising several breeds of chickens and ducks, turkeys, geese, and guinea fowl in a semi free range system. Here are some of the observations we have made over the last several months.
– Guineas: We didn’t think to clip their wings when we first bought them, so we have two totally free range guineas that can fly and enjoy roosting on the tree right by our door. They generally keep to themselves and enjoy long dirt baths and catching fleas and other bugs, but they will readily pick on any other bird that gets in their way.
– Turkeys: Our turkeys were raised alongside our chickens, and though they sometimes run over other birds when they are not watching where they are stepping, they are gentle giants and rarely pick on anyone else. They can be found cuddled up with our young laying hens at bedtime.
– Geese: We have 4 Grey Geese that are 7 weeks old and 2 African Geese that are 5 weeks old. The Grey Geese were raised with our turkeys and older ducks and the African geese were raised with our younger group of 18 ducks. The older geese seem to enjoy playing the part of “barnyard mafia” and bully the younger geese and ducks regularly. They generally do this simply by honking loudly and stretching their necks out threateningly. Occasionally they will pull at another birds’ tail feathers. The younger geese sometimes try to stand up to their larger counterparts, but usually stay in the flock of younger ducks and get along well with ducks in general.
– Ducks: We have 3 flocks of ducks. The oldest is a group of 3- Mallard (our first male mallard- the only one left of our first group of geese and ducks we got last year), Whale, and Pepper (our male and female Muscovy ducks). They usually keep to themselves and we allow them to roam where they please, though occasionally Mallard can be found in the pasture with the other ducks, picking on the younger mallards. Our second is a flock of 8 mallards and 4 Pekin ducks. They are 7 weeks old and enjoy hanging out as an individual group or integrating with our younger flock of ducks, though they do sometimes pick on the younger ducks when they get bored. Our youngest ducks are 5 weeks old and get along well with the younger geese as well as the older ducks.
– Chickens: We have 4 mature laying hens and 3 roosters that manage to get out of the fence regularly. They rarely pick on the other birds, but there has been some fighting among the roosters since the eligible females are in short supply. We also have six 11 week old hens that mind their own business and get along with everyone, as well as a flock of about 30 chicks 5-7 weeks old that we just recently started incorporating into the larger flock. So far we have not noticed any of the larger birds picking on these chicks.
Over all, I would have to say that everyone is getting along quite well in our large pasture range system. I would not want to keep all these different kinds of birds together in a small paddock or coop and run system however as I believe the main reason they all get along so well is due to their ability to spread out and stay busy catching bugs, eating grass, taking dirt baths, and playing in the water. It also helps to incorporate one large flock into another, rather than 1 or 2 new birds at a time. As you can see in the video, there is space for the smaller animals to escape from the larger animals as necessary, and the larger animals are easily distracted with other things to see and eat. I feed and water the animals in a different part of the pasture each day to encourage more even grazing, and I over-seed worn out areas with a bird friendly blend of grasses and grains as needed. We may divide our pasture into paddocks in the future, but this year we are experimenting with keeping as many different birds in as low maintenance an environment as possible.