Bully Ducks That Pick on Other Ducks (or Other Animals): What to Do

Dr. Mark raises free-range rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks, guinea fowl, horses, and sheep at his small farm in Brazil.

Duck Bullying

Having been around farmyard livestock all of my life, I have noticed a change recently and felt that it was in the best interest of all concerned for me to bring it to public attention and perhaps start some discussion. The situation is bullying, and the problem is being aggravated by ducks. Ducks are becoming bullies.

Ducks are not the only species to practice bullying. Stalin, one of my Shetland geese, also practices this terrible “sport” against some of the other members of her own species. Cows, goats, and even innocent little lambs all bully their own species. Ducks, however, seem to have taken this practice to a new low. Not only do they bully their own family, they even bully across species lines.

This issue was first brought to my attention by Football, one of my smallest geese. She broke her leg when only a gosling, and since she is not able to get around has never eaten as much nor grown like her sisters. Football (she lets me carry her around and pretend I am a running back playing for the NFL) woke me up one morning screaming.

When I went to open the dog kennel where the ducks and geese sleep, I found her wing tips bloody and featherless. The culprit had blood on his beak. It was a duck. The solution was to no longer let the ducks sleep in the pen with the geese, so they went back to bullying each other. Ducks are not just bullies, they are opportunists.

How Do You Spot a Bully?

A duck bully is easy to spot even when he hasn’t been active and has no blood on his beak. He is the one with all of his wing feathers, whereas the rest of the ducks have to walk around without.

Check the Wing Feathers

Only the largest drake, Natal, was able to keep all of his wing feathers; the others lost a few wingtip feathers each day. Natal (which means Christmas in Portuguese) lived up to his name and became the centerpiece of the Christmas feast. I thought I had identified the culprit, so my problem was over.

It wasn't.

The problem started back up when my dog was having lunch. She is a pit bull cross, about 50 pounds, and no pushover. The ducks have no fear of her, however. I gave her a bowl of food (as I was about to leave for town) and the ducks noticed and strolled over to eat from her bowl. When she growled at them, the smaller drake pecked her in the face.

More Than One Duck Bully

Game over. That was the day I learned that as soon as the bully duck is no longer present, one of the others will take his job. Ducks are bullies.

Is there only one bully among a group of ducks? Unfortunately not. A few days ago, I saw one of my small female ducks attack a Rhode Island Red chicken that was looking for something to eat in the compost pile. Chickens are guilty of a lot of things in life, but in this case, my hen was innocent.

All Ducks Are Potential Bullies

Without Natal around, all of the ducks have become bullies. Almost all of them are missing wing feathers now.

What Can Be Done to Control Bullying?

  1. Isolation: This may keep the ducks from attacking and bothering other species, but they still manage to hurt each other. I guess if I could pen each duck individually, the problem would be reduced, but that would be cruel and inhumane. (I have heard that some dog owners do that, though.) Ducks like each other's company.
  2. A machete: This is the permanent solution but not as good as I had imagined. Ducks seem to have some sort of “pecking order” that not even chickens understand. (I have asked, and none of the hens have been able to explain it.) As soon as the main bully is no longer in the picture, one of the smaller ducks takes over and becomes the bully. Despite what all of the surgeons think, the knife is not the cure.
  3. Get rid of all current and possible bullies: This seems like the final solution. It is in no way fair, though, and will condemn every duck for even having a drop of quacker blood.

The bully stands in front, eating calmly with the geese, and one of his victims (identified with an arrow in this photo) stands as far away as possible.

Notice the dog in the background—alert as she performs guard duty.

Living With Bullying

Since the methods to stop bullying are as drastic as they are useless, it seems to be something that we will just have to live with—ducks don't respond well to lectures or educational videos.

A recent poll taken among the animals in my yard reveals several different strategies. Victims of duck bullying can practice:

  1. Avoidance. Football is using this method; she has resolved to avoid the ducks in the evenings, and if the ducks jump in the pond when she is taking a bath she yells for help.
  2. Ignoring the bullies. Stalin is using this method as she could care less. Ducks don´t bother her. My dog and chickens can also live with this problem.
  3. Acceptance. All of us can accept the duck bullies for who they are.

Duck bullying is a problem that is not going away.

If my tegu was able to talk, I think he would sound like John Houseman.

© 2013 Dr Mark

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 06, 2020:

Barbie--the bread issue is really overblown on the internet. Even if your neighbors are giving bread, most of the diet will be what the ducks forage during the day. I would not worry about it.

The bullying is an issue, but there is not much you can do about it. It will not matter if the duck has a mate as they are not monogamous like swans, but the bullying is a problem. The only thing you can do is provide a shelter for the duck during the winter since she will most likely not fly off like the mallards.

I hope things work out for the little guy.

Barbie on September 06, 2020:

I have been trying to research the duck " bully" behavior and finally,,,,I live in an apt complex 3rd floor facing the " pond with fountain".The geese have came and went but one day I noticed 3 ducks,one male mallard,one female ,based on markings,and one all white which had some kind of issue walking,as summer came, two more female mallards joined the group,to me,they seemed to have been dumped there as they were quite tame, especially the white one, alot of resident's like to feed them bread etc,but my research found the lack of nutritional value and dependence could not be the best,I'm not sure what will become of them this winter as I have not seen them fly,but,my biggest fear is the white one has been pushed out,bullied,attacked and secluded chased off etc.it is sad and hard to watch,what does this all mean? There are 5 now so one will not have a mate I assume, should I interfere?I am not the only one in this complex that is concerned,it's just soooo sad to see. I sprinkle seed,corn oats to help with nutrition .but with everyone else feeding bread and crackers I worry .why is the whole group doing this to this little white guy? Its like a gang rape!!!!

Crissy Little on March 18, 2019:

I too have noticed bullying among my ducks. I do know which duck it is but as you mentioned if I get rid of one I believe another will step up. I’m not even sure there will ever be a solution to that problem.

ColumbusPeg on April 12, 2017:

Since moving into an apartment with both Cow ducks and Mallards, I have TOTALLY noticed this! I was wondering what I could do but came to a similar conclusion - nothing. I am not the property or duck owner in this case.

Anyway, thank you for posting. I was wondering if anyone else noticed how nasty the darn ducks are to one another.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 20, 2013:

Bullies always seem to know who to pick on, don't they? (And how to create lasting psychological damage, an important social issue that I usually require about three cups of coffee to stay awake when I hear about it.) They pick on Football because she is a wimp, but they never try anything with Stalin because she would turn around and do whatever it is tough geese do. I wonder if that greenhead bullied a coyote, or just took off and never came back? Bullies everywhere probably want to know.

Ghost32 on April 20, 2013:

I had to hop over here to get a look at your Tegu (of course)...but the duck bully issue got my attention on its own.

Some years back (1991-92), I had a greenhead mallard who showed no signs of bully chromosomes in his DNA...UNTIL after he was partially eaten by a hawk. An employee of mine, the only one home at the time, happened to look out of the window just in time to see the hawk pinning the duck to the ground and just starting in on lunch.

She opened the door and hollered at the hawk, which ignored her until she ran at it.

The duck showed no long term ill effects from the attack...except that he became a serious bully. He never tried me on for size, perhaps knowing I'd have kicked him across the yard or else given him a class in Firearms 101, but he terrorized my employees' little dog no end.

We had to move a few months later, had no place for ducks, and gave the lot away--that male mallard and several hens, all yearlings. The new owner reported that the greenhead kept up his bullying ways until one morning he was gone & never returned, having somehow managed to escape from the duck cage during the night.

We figure he tried bullying a coyote.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 06, 2013:

I have a young Tegu also but the old guy (in the photos) is like an old house cat. He just likes to find a sunny spot in my living room and watch things go by. When he is hungry, thirsty, or tired of my parrot screaming at him, he goes back in his cage and burrows under the sawdust. I don´t think he worries too much about bullying or other social issues.

And he is never amused!

Theophanes Avery from New England on April 06, 2013:

Now that's where it's at. We decided to hold off on the ducks until we have a larger property (in a year or so if all goes well) so we can set them up right. I know what you mean about people not getting it. We usually cause quite some conversation when we do various things for the chickens like buying stale bagels from the local bagel cafe to hang around the chicken run. I just say happy hens lay more eggs, which is true, but really why shouldn't we spoil them? Even if some of them will be eaten it's nice to know they had a good life! Not misery and torment in a battery cage.

We got the chickens a few years after Pepper and her unfortunate puppies. We didn't really know how she'd react but she loves the damn things. They ride her around like a horse when we let them, which I can't imagine is that comfortable since they've grown past eight pounds. haha

I think you can curse in the comments... at least I haven't had a problem there?

And certainly, bullying and so many other things keep me up for days!

PS Your tegu is gorgeous! (I only see babies here at the pet shops - what impressive adult you have!)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 06, 2013:

I built a concrete pond (with drainage system) for my geese, and the mason kept asking me why I wanted to spend so much on a bunch of birds. Impossible to explain since most people just see them as something to eat.

Does your dog still take care of the chickens, or only when she had puppies? My dog doesn´t take care of them, she just sort of ignores them as she rolls around in their (going back to one of your other articles--I want to call it s*** but I guess I will say "droppings").

But does this bullying problem keep you up at night? Even Football isn´t all that concerned, but ducks everywhere want to know.

Theophanes Avery from New England on April 06, 2013:

Wow, now I am happy we just got chickens. We considered ducks but I didn't feel like dumping and refilling a kiddie pool every day. We did have a couple bully hens but they stopped when I sprayed their victims with Blue Kote. If only that worked for children... ;)

Also I think its funny you have a poultry-guarding pit. So do we. Pepper too to the chickens like they were puppies, which is funny because she came to us pregnant and treated her puppies like alien creatures that were ruining her vibe. She even killed two by rolling over on top of them in her sleep. SIGH.

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on February 28, 2013:

I will! Now that I can work on hubs again :)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 25, 2013:

Good luck with them. I hope you get some goslings since you lost that big gander. Be sure to post some photos!

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on February 25, 2013:

They started laying in december! Some of them laid earlier than that, but i ate the eggs because i hadn't seen them breeding. I have a few eggs in the incubator. Not sure how they are doing. One of them rotted :/ We lost our last big gander to a fox or coyote or something, not really sure. Just never saw the guy again! We butchered four, now we are down to two. I thought they were both hens, until i saw them mating! The little lady has built a nest intheir shed and she has five eggs in it so far.

Bob Bamberg on February 25, 2013:

Our hobby farmers around here report egg production in the winter, too. Not as prolific, but an egg every couple or few days. Some encourage an egg a day by keeping a light on in the coop until about 8PM.

I wonder if genetic manipulation and/or breeding protocols have anything to do with wintertime egg production.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 24, 2013:

Laying eggs already? Isn't it still winter where you live? Will the goslings do okay?

I found out my geese are Shetland since they are sexually dimorphic. Football is a female but I doubt she will breed because of her leg, but she is a great pet and comes up to me so that I will carry her to the pond.

My neighbors asked me if I was going to butcher her for Christmas. No way, not after she earned a name!

Have you lost more adults to foxes? The last time we "spoke", you had lost a gander. Is that an ongoing problem there?

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on February 24, 2013:

Don't know what happened there! Was trying to say butchering and foxes. The pair has been mating, laying eggs and nesting. I'm excited!!

Rachel Koski Nielsen from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on February 24, 2013:

Love this hub! It's so great to see pictures of all your birds, they are good looking. I bet christmas dinner was yummy!

Football is a great name :)

My geese are down to one pair after butchering and

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 11, 2013:

Flavorite? Oh, MAAN!

Bob Bamberg on February 11, 2013:

Peking duck certainly is a worthy consideration, but it seems so...so...common. L'Orange sounds a little more sophisticated, sort of like her namesake :) Actually, I hope she settles down and becomes a flock flavorite...er, favorite.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 11, 2013:

Thanks for the visit, grand old lady!

Atually Bob, I think MAAN is leaning towards oriental. At moments of decreased bullying I have noticed shades of Peking in the way her feathers lie. A lot of work, but she will probably be worth it.

Bob Bamberg on February 11, 2013:

Ahhh, of course! Much ado about nothing...one of my favorite motivators. I like to write about things that are overblown, but while there are any number of such events, alas not many of them are worthwhile hub subjects. The AVMA's ferocious position on raw diets was an exception.

I'm honored to be the inspiration behind the naming of MAAN. I do wish she'd be a little more sociable though...I hate to see our image and reputation besmirched. Please inform her I've suggested she'd make either a good community organizer or Duck L'Orange...if she gets my drift.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on February 10, 2013:

I like the names of your animals. This was both funny and informative! Thank you for making my day:)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 10, 2013:

The Tegus tail is about 3 foot long so when he walks around he looks like a snake to the ducks and geese--they don't even go close to him.

I think ducks are a lot like little kids and only bully the smaller ones, so that goose with the broken wing will probably be like Stalin and ignore them. They are entertaining to watch though!

wetnosedogs from Alabama on February 10, 2013:

Tegu is awesome! The ducks don't dare mess with him, right?

Where I work is a pond. I will have to watch for the duck in the summer and see how they behave. There is a goose that has been staying there. I heard he broke his wing or something and can't fly. But I have seen if another goose bugs him, he will try to do the duck bully thing.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 10, 2013:

MAAN attacked one of my chickens, so she is either brave or not so intelligent. (I am sure Football is not so intelligent--remember all those studies on stupidity and facial anatomy? Football has a small brain case and sloping forehead.)

Much Ado About Nothing!

Thanks for the vote! It appears most hubbers appreciate the duck humor about as much as my Tegu, the John Houseman sound-alike.

Bob Bamberg on February 10, 2013:

I forgot to mention Football. What a great name!! I'm lousy at brain teasers...what does MAAN mean. I'm flattered, by the way...I think. How much of a bully is MAAN?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 10, 2013:

Scary, isn´t it? I know the situation keeps Football up at nights.

I named one of my ducks MAAN, in your honor. Get it?

Bob Bamberg on February 10, 2013:

OH NO, NOT THE DUCKS NOW!! Say it ain't so, Doc.

The chickens have practiced bullying for centuries, both hens and cockerels to boot. Has the disease mutated and crossed species lines? Is it zoonotic?

Yes, it must be. Our little elementary school angels, probably because their little immune systems aren't fully developed, are bullying each others' brains out...and they don't outgrow it til they're in their 20's. Then, it seems they relapse upon the arrival of the first social security check some 40-odd years later.

It all makes sense, now. Thank you for bringing this intraspecies horror to light.

Finally, a legitimate problem that those cat-yawn- counting scientists can work on that will benefit all humanity. If there was a category labeled "Wicked Awesome" I would vote it...otherwise I'll settle for Up, Funny and Interesting.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 09, 2013:

Vital issue, right? CNN did a documentary on this last week, and none of the barnyard animals they interviewed were willing to accept the duck bullies.

hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on February 09, 2013:

Thank you for enlightening the public about this duck bullying problem...ducks need a advocate too! :)

Health care

Ducks kept in a clean environment and fed good food are generally very robust and hardy animals. Ducks rarely suffer from intestinal worms or mites (especially if they have regular swimming sessions) but they usually need to be wormed every 6 months with a poultry wormer. Talk to your veterinarian for advice about worming.

Ducks can be a bit clumsy and prone to tripping over things, and are easily injured. Ducks kept on a rough or hard surface can develop foot ‘ulcers’. Swellings, sores on their feet or limping need attention from a vet.

Never give mouldy food to ducks – mould spores can cause respiratory diseases or sudden toxic reactions in ducks.

Keep their water clean – change drinking water every day. But don’t worry that they turn their new, clean water brown within minutes – that’s normal!

Please see the article below “What should I feed my pet ducks?” for dietary advice.

What Do Muscovy Ducks Eat?

Despite their significant population here in the United States, Muscovy ducks are not native to this country instead, they were imported here from South and Central America over a century ago. They are heavy-bodied large ducks. Females reach about 10 pounds, and males can grow as large as 12 or 15 pounds. Ducks that are taken in as pets can grow even larger.

What does this species look like, exactly? Part of the reason these ducks are distinct is because of their blackish-green feathers with white patches, red, warty skin on their faces and long, curved necks that make them look a bit more like geese than ducks. Wild ducks are usually mostly black, while feral and juveniles are more likely to have brown or white feathers. If you look closely, you’ll see that the black feathers are an irridescent green. Like everything else about these animals, their appearances are polarizing: Some people find them to be quite interesting and attractive, while others find their looks awkward, if not downright ugly.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there is no evidence that Muscovy ducks harm humans, either through their droppings or as a vector for disease. Muscovies can transmit diseases to other animal populations in the wild, however, and many homeowners find their droppings to be both unsanitary and unsightly. Also note that young children, elderly people and anyone who is immunocompromised should never handle newly hatched Muscovy ducklings, as the baby ducks can transmit salmonella.

Muscovy ducks are prolific breeders, so their populations can increase quickly when not actively checked. When an entire flock of these ducks takes over a neighborhood or a park, they naturally leave their droppings everywhere—on sidewalks and lawns, driveways and cars, pergolas and patios. In high summer, when there are water use restrictions in many parts of Texas, homeowners may not be able to hose off their property effectively when Muscovy duck droppings accumulate. This causes understandable frustration for many people who would prefer that these ducks lived elsewhere.

The impact of a flock of Muscovy ducks on a neighborhood isn’t all bad, however. A Muscovy duck’s natural diet is one of the main arguments for keeping these animals around. These ducks eat various types of vegetation, such as weeds and algae in ponds. Before you decide to be in the anti-duck camp, consider that these are one of the animals that eat mosquitoes. In addition, Muscovies also eat other types of insects—including flies, roaches, spiders, ants, slugs and more.

For this reason, Muscovies can be very helpful in keeping insect pest populations down. One study conducted in Canada actually found that Muscovy ducks caught 30 times more flies than several types of commercial fly traps!

It is important to note that many wildlife groups recommend that people do not feed Muscovy ducks, especially if you don’t want them around. The bread that many people tend to feed ducks has no nutritional value for these animals, but it can make them dependent on receiving regular handouts. If you are wondering what to feed ducks when you are out in parks and public spaces, consider alternatives, such as oats, seeds or rice.

So if you don’t want Muscovy ducks living near your home, don’t feed them—either directly, such as by tossing them bread and other scraps, or indirectly, by providing them with the insect population they need to survive. In other words, pest control is an important element of deterring Muscovy ducks from settling in your yard or neighborhood.

Commingling Chickens With Other Farm Animals

Whether you have had chickens for a while and are getting ready to add other livestock to the
farm, are just getting ready to add chickens to your farm, or simply worried about introducing
chickens to your other pets, you be wondering, will other animals get along just fine with my
chickens? Are there any benefits or draw back to raising other animals along with my chickens?
Chickens are amazing versatile, and generally get along just fine with other live stock, but it is
not always that simple.

Ducks and Geese
Ducks can eat the same feed as chickens, and generally get along with them just fine, and will
eat snails, slugs, and other pests chickens may not be as interested in. Ducks tend to be on the
flighty side, but keeping them in with a flock of friendly chickens, will help to tame them. Ducks
that have never been around chickens may be a little timid at first, so they should be introduced
carefully, and observed to make sure they are all getting along just fine. Both ducks are geese
can be extremely messy, so it's best not to confine them in a small area, since they will make
the coop conditions unsanitary for your flock. Geese can be a bit territorial, and may pick on your
chickens if they are kept too small of a space. Ducks, and especially geese do not scratch
unlike chickens, and tend to compact the soil, so don't leave them in one space for too long.
Both need water to bathe and breed, but don't worry, you don't have to have a pond, just a big
enough container for them to submerge their entire body. Make sure you have some sort of ramp
as chickens, ducklings and goslings can fall into the water and drawn if they don't have a way out.
Because baby water fowl are so messy, they shouldn't be brooded with chicks, turkey poults,
and other non water birds.
Another tip: Water fowl have a way of fouling up their water, making it very unpleasant for your
chickens. You can avoid this by putting out a nipple water bucket. Both your chickens and water
fowl can drink from it, but the water will stay clean.
More: Nipple Watering
Summer winter chicken nipple waterer
Nipple watering system made easy

Ducks and chickens commingling

Sheep and Goats
Chickens and other poultry get along great with sheep and goats, and help to keep parasites down
by consuming them out of their manure. Since most parasites are species specific, your flock is not
at risk of getting these parasites them selves. Poultry can graze right along with them, and are not
in as much danger of being trampled as they are with larger animals such as horses and cows.
Note: Make sure to keep your flocks feed away from other livestock, since almost everything
loves chicken feed, especially cattle, horses, sheep and goats, who can, and will tear though
chicken wire and hardware cloth to get to it, and may over eat and make themselves sick.
Goats especially are very sly at getting to feed, so make sure it is secured where they cannot
get to it.

Goats and sheep commingle well with poultry.

Letting chickens graze with cattle can be very beneficial for both the chickens and the cows.
The former enjoy scratching through the cows manure, spreading it out, helping it break down,
and eating any undigested grain. Your chickens will also help keep the fly population down by
eating larvae and other unwanted pests. Some cows will even learn to let chickens and ducks
eat fly's and other insects right off of them. Cows will chase off dogs, foxes, and other unwanted
predators helping to keep your flock safe. It is best to keep small chicks away from cattle, who
may accidentally crush them.

Chickens commingling with a milk cow.

Having chickens and horses together has many of the same benefits as keeping them with
cattle. Chickens will help break down the horses manure, turning it into nice, fluffy, rich compost.
They will also eat any feed that is spilled, which limits waste and helps to keep your horse from
eating dirty feed off the ground. Having noisy chickens flying around them on a regular basis can
help tame flighty horses. Make sure though that your flock is not pooping on your horses hay and
feed, as it can make them ill.
Note: If you give your livestock any kind of antibiotics, medications, pain killers, or chemical
wormers, check and make sure they are safe for poultry.

Chickens generally get along well with pigs, and enjoy scratching through their manure, but some
pigs may see chickens as a tasty snack, though chickens are usually fast enough to get away from
them. Smaller, breeds such as American guinea hogs, kune kune's, and pot bellies will do fine
with poultry, and chickens will probably fine with other breeds as long as they are docile. Make
sure that your pigs do not have anywhere where they can corner your birds.

While some dogs will get along with chickens just fine, providing protection for your flock, others
may see them as a tasty meal. Be very careful when you introduce your dogs to your flock, and
watch their behavior carefully. If possible check with your dogs former owners, and see if they
have had any kind of run ins with poultry in the past. Are your dogs known to go after small animals
and birds? Some breeds are more likely to go after poultry than others, for example, most guardian
dog breeds are good with poultry, but you should be extra cautious with hunting breeds especially.
Even dogs who have never shown any aggression may decide to ''sample'' your flock, or kill for fun.
Once a dog has developed a taste for chicken it is very difficult to break them of the habit. With
some dogs, there is not much you can do but dispose of them, or keep them separate from your
flock, but usually you can train them out of this nasty habit.
More: How to train your dog not to kill chickens
Introducing your dog to chickens tips and tricks
Dog chicken predators: How to protect your chickens from dogs

Most cats will not go after adult poultry as long as they are getting enough to eat else where.
They may go after chicks though, so don't leave them unsupervised around the brooder. Just
like dogs, cats should be introduced to your flock carefully. Observe their behavior toward your
flock. Having cats around can be very beneficial though, as they eat rats, mice and other rodents
that may be attracted by your poultry. Cats and dogs that have been around poultry their whole
lives will be much less likely try to attack your flock, so make sure you introduce your new kittens
and puppy's to your birds right away.

Turkeys can be brooded and raised along with your flock, but you may want separate them
during breeding season (usually March though May, but will depend on the bird) as they may
become aggressive toward you flock. However, this problem usually goes away if they have
enough space. Turkeys are range birds, and should never be confined in a small space,
which may cause more aggression. It can be very beneficial to brood turkeys with chickens
together (they are very susceptible to moisture, so it is not a good idea to brood them with
water fowl) because the young poults will imitate the chicks and learn to eat and drink faster.
The biggest draw back to raising chickens and turkeys together is risk of Blackhead Disease.
If you keep your coop sanitary, and provide clean, fresh water for your flock, than your chances
of black head will be greatly reduced.

With plenty of space, turkeys and chickens commingle well.

Guinea Fowl
Guineas get along great with chickens, and can even, though it is rare, interbreed with them
producing sterile off spring. They are great watch dogs, sounding the alarm when something
is wrong. Guineas can be a bit wild and prefer to sleep in trees than in the coop. If you raise
guineas with chickens, they usually learn to go into the coop at nigh along with your flock. They
enjoy insects of all kinds and do not scratch as much as chickens and turkeys.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to post below, or PM me. Thanks for reading.

Backyard Poultry

Poultry includes any domesticated bird kept for producing eggs or meat, such as chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and turkeys. Find information about pet birds on the birds page. Find information about wild birds on the wildlife page.

Keeping backyard poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and turkeys) is becoming more popular. People enjoy raising baby poultry including chicks, ducklings, goslings, and poults. Many people keep chickens to have fresh eggs. Although keeping backyard poultry can be fun and educational, owners should be aware that poultry can sometimes carry harmful germs that make people sick.

These germs can cause a variety of illnesses in people, ranging from minor skin infections to serious illnesses that could cause death. One of the best ways to protect yourself from getting sick is to wash your hands thoroughly right after touching poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.

Whether you are building your first coop or are a seasoned backyard poultry owner, you should know the risks of keeping poultry and the simple things you can do to stay safe.

Follow the Healthy People and Healthy Poultry tips to keep yourself and your flock healthy.

Read below to learn about diseases that can be spread by poultry and visit the Healthy People section to learn about staying healthy around backyard poultry.

Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Some avian influenza viruses that primarily circulate in animals have infected people on rare occasion. When influenza viruses that normally circulate in animals cause an infection in people, this is called a “novel” virus infection. Not all influenza viruses found in birds are known to cause human infections.

How it spreads: Flu viruses are highly contagious. People can get infected through contact with saliva, nasal secretions, and droppings (poop) from infected animals. People also can get infected through contact with virus-contaminated surfaces, poultry coops, pig pens, and supplies. Less often, people can get infected by touching an infected animal and then touching their own eyes, nose, or mouth.

Who is at risk: It is rare for avian flu to spread to people. Anyone can get the flu, but children younger than 5 years of age, pregnant women, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with weakened immune systems are at high risk for serious flu complications.

People who work closely with large numbers of birds, such as producers, are more likely to get bird flu if their animals are infected.

Signs in poultry: Birds can be infected with flu viruses without showing symptoms. Signs that poultry may be infected range from decreased egg production to extremely high death rates.

Symptoms in people: People infected with avian flu viruses can have symptoms similar to the human seasonal flu, such as fever, fatigue, lack of appetite, and coughing. They may also have red eyes, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some people can have serious flu complications, including inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis), or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure).

Campylobacter are bacteria that can make people and animals sick with a disease called campylobacteriosis.

How it spreads: Campylobacter most often spread to animals and people through the feces (poop) of infected animals, contaminated food, or the environment. People can get infected if they don’t wash their hands after touching an animal or its poop, food, toys, habitats (including coops, pens, and cages), or equipment used around these animals.

Who is at risk: Anyone can get a Campylobacter infection, but children younger than age 5, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more at risk for serious illness.

Signs in poultry: Poultry usually don’t show signs of Campylobacter infection. Even if they look healthy and clean, poultry can still spread the bacteria to people.

Symptoms in people: People can have diarrhea (can be bloody), fever, and abdominal cramps. The diarrhea may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually start within 2–5 days after infection and last about 1 week.

E. coli are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. Although most kinds of E. coli are harmless, others can make people sick.

How it spreads: E. coli most often spreads to animals and people through the poop of infected animals, contaminated food, or the environment. People can get infected if they don’t wash their hands after touching an animal or its poop, food, toys, habitats (including coops, pens, and cages), or equipment used around these animals.

Who is at risk: Anyone can get sick from E. coli, but children younger than 5 years of age, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease.

Signs in poultry: Poultry naturally have E. coli in their gut, and don’t usually show signs of illness. Even if they look healthy and clean, poultry can still spread the bacteria to people.

Symptoms in people: Symptoms depend on the kind of E. coli causing the infection. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection is one of the most commonly diagnosed E. coli infections in the United States. Symptoms of STEC infection include stomach cramps (can be severe), diarrhea (can be bloody), and sometimes vomiting or a low fever. Symptoms usually start within 3–4 days after infection and last 5–7 days. Some people with STEC infection develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.

Every year people get Salmonella infections after handling poultry, such as chicks and ducklings. Visit the Healthy People section for more information on how to prevent becoming sick.

Who is at risk: Anyone can get a Salmonella infection, but children younger than 5 years of age, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more at risk for serious illness.

Signs in poultry: Poultry usually don’t show signs of Salmonella infection. Even if they look healthy and clean, poultry can still spread the bacteria to people.

Symptoms in people: People may experience diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms usually start within 6 hours to 4 days after infection and last 4 to 7 days.

How to stay healthy around backyard poultry

Wash your hands

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water after touching backyard poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. This includes:
    • After collecting eggs
    • After handling food or water containers or other equipment used for poultry
    • After being in areas near poultry even if you did not touch the birds
  • Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. You can also put hand sanitizer near your coop for easy access.

Be safe around poultry

  • Don’t kiss backyard poultry or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.
  • Don’t let backyard poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drinks are prepared, served, or stored.
  • Don’t eat or drink in areas where poultry live or roam.
  • Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for poultry, such as cages or food and water containers.

Handle eggs safely

Eggshells may become contaminated with Salmonella and other germs from poultry droppings (poop) or the area where they are laid. To keep your family healthy, follow the tips below when collecting and handling eggs from a backyard flock:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water right after handling eggs, chickens, or anything in their environment.
  • Keep a clean coop. Cleaning the coop, floor, nests, and perches regularly will help to keep eggs clean.
  • Collect eggs often. Eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break.
  • Throw away cracked eggs. Bacteria on the shell can more easily enter the egg though a cracked shell.
  • Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned carefully with fine sandpaper, a brush, or a cloth.
  • Don’t wash warm, fresh eggs because colder water can pull bacteria into the egg.
  • Refrigerate eggs after collection to maintain freshness and slow bacterial growth.
  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter. Raw and undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.
  • Know local regulations for selling eggs. If you sell eggs, follow local licensing requirements.

Supervise kids around poultry

  • Always supervise children around poultry and while they wash their hands afterward.
  • Don’t let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other poultry. Young children are more likely to get sick from germs like Salmonella.
  • Don’t give chicks and ducklings to young children as gifts.
    • Because their immune systems are still developing, children are more likely to get sick from germs commonly associated with poultry, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli.
  • Live poultry should not be kept in schools, childcare centers, and other facilities with children younger than 5 years of age.

Prevent bird bites and scratches

Backyard poultry and waterfowl do not have teeth, but their bills and beaks can still cause a lot of damage if they bite you. Germs can spread from poultry bites, pecks, and scratches, even when the wound does not seem deep or serious.

  • Avoid bites and scratches from your backyard poultry or waterfowl.
  • If poultry scratch or bite you:
    • Wash wounds with soap and warm water immediately.
    • Seek medical attention and tell your doctor you were bitten or scratched by a bird, especially if:
      • The bird appears sick or is acting unusual.
      • The wound or injury is serious (uncontrolled bleeding, unable to move, extreme pain, muscle or bone is showing, or the bite is over a joint).
      • The wound or site of injury becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen.

It has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot.

How to keep backyard poultry healthy

Keeping your poultry healthy helps to keep you and your family healthy. To learn how to stay healthy around backyard poultry, visit the Healthy People section.

Prepare for your backyard poultry

  • Check your state and local laws before selecting or buying baby chicks, adult poultry (hens, roosters), or waterfowl. Many cities have rules against owning roosters because their crowing violates noise ordinances. Hens will lay eggs without a rooster.
  • Find out if there is a local veterinarian who has experience with poultry to help you keep your poultry healthy.
  • Learn what types of poultry are suitable for your family. Though most poultry are quite gentle, some breeds are more aggressive and may be more likely to bite or scratch you.
  • Learn how to properly care for your poultry before you buy them. Ask your veterinarian or local cooperative extension agent about the best food, care, and enclosure or environment for the poultry you are selecting.
  • Build a coop for your poultry outside your home. Backyard poultry need a sturdy environment to protect them from organisms that spread disease such as insects and rodents and provide shelter from the weather and predators. The coop should be easy to clean.
  • Set up an area outdoors to clean and disinfect all equipment used to care for the poultry and clean their enclosure. Do not clean any items indoors, where the germs could contaminate your home.
  • Poultry can shed germs in their droppings (poop). Wear gloves when cleaning bird cages and poultry houses. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with the poultry or their environment.

How to choose and introduce poultry

  • Buy backyard poultry from hatcheries that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP) external icon . This program is intended to reduce Salmonella in baby poultry in the hatchery, which can help prevent the spread of illness from poultry to people.
  • Pick poultry that are bright, alert, and active. Poultry should have smooth, sleek, and soft feathers that are free of debris or droppings. Poultry that seem sluggish, aren’t moving around very much, or look dirty may be ill.
  • When bringing new poultry to an existing flock:
    • Keep new poultry separated for at least 30 days before they are introduced to your other poultry. This will help prevent the new poultry from passing disease to your flock. Remember that poultry can appear healthy and clean, but still spread harmful germs that make people sick.
    • Clean your hands, shoes, clothing, and equipment when moving between the two groups of poultry during this period of separation. For example, you can dedicate separate pairs of gloves, coveralls, and boots to each group, and you should wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you go between the two groups.
    • Always take care of your existing flock before caring for your new poultry.
  • Contact your veterinarian or local extension agent if you notice any signs of illness in your poultry. Sick poultry can:
    • Be less active than normal
    • Eat or drink less than normal
    • Have ruffled feathers, discharge from the eyes or nose, difficulty breathing, or runny diarrhea
    • Produce fewer eggs than normal
    • Produce discolored, irregular, or misshapen eggs
    • Die unexpectedly of no apparent cause
  • Your veterinarian or local extension agent can work with you to determine the cause of the illness and help ensure that it does not spread to the rest of the poultry.

Importing poultry into the United States

  • USDA regulates the importation of poultry and poultry hatching eggs. USDA restricts the importation of poultry and poultry hatching eggs from countries with reported cases of avian influenza.
  • People interested in importing poultry or poultry hatching eggs should visit the USDA live animal importation website external icon .

How to house backyard poultry

Don’t allow poultry or waterfowl inside your home for any reason, including areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.

  • Provide your backyard poultry with a safe, sturdy environment outdoors, with housing areas and feeders/waterers that can be easily cleaned and disinfected. Poultry can be kept warm outdoors in the winter in a draft-free shelter or by using a safe heating source.
    • Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.

How to clean poultry cages and coops

  • Use a diluted bleach solution or another disinfectant to clean and disinfect surfaces that have come in contact with poultry.
  • Clean poultry enclosures or cages with bottled dish soap and a commercial disinfectant made for this purpose. When using disinfectants, follow the label instructions for diluting the disinfectant and for how long to leave it on the surface before wiping or rinsing it off.
  • Go outside to clean any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers. Don’t clean these items inside the house. This could bring harmful germs into your home.
  • Tips for cleaning poultry cages or enclosures:
    • First, remove debris (manure, broken egg material, droppings, dirt) by wiping the equipment with a brush soaked in warm water and soap.
    • Once most of the debris is removed and the surface is generally clean, then apply the disinfectant. Dilute the disinfectant properly according to label directions before applying it. Most disinfectants only work on clean surfaces and don’t work if they are applied directly to a dirty surface.
    • Leave the disinfectant on the surface for the amount of time listed on the label (usually anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes). Then rinse and allow the surface to dry before reuse.

Monitor your poultry’s health

  • Work closely with a veterinarian or local extension agent who has experience with poultry for routine evaluation and care to keep your flock healthy and prevent diseases.
    • If you aren’t sure if your veterinarian treats poultry, call ahead to ask. If they do not see poultry, they can refer you to a qualified veterinarian in your area that does.
  • Keep coops and enclosures clean to prevent the build-up of animal droppings. These droppings could attract insects, rodents, and wildlife that carry disease.
  • When you clean droppings and cages, wear work or utility gloves. Don’t pick up droppings with your bare hands and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • If your poultry become sick or die soon after purchase, inform the feed store or hatchery. Also, contact your veterinarian or local cooperative extension agent to investigate the cause of death. Consider waiting at least 30 days before replacing the poultry. Don’t reuse the enclosure until it has been properly cleaned and disinfected.
  • A healthy bird can still spread germs to people and other animals. If you become sick shortly after buying or adopting a bird, tell your health care provider about your new animal and other animals that live in your household.

Practice biosecurity

Biosecurity external icon is the key to keeping your poultry healthy. Practicing good biosecurity reduces the chance of your poultry or your yard being exposed to diseases like avian influenza or Newcastle disease. These diseases can be spread by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles, either accidentally or on purpose.

The following steps are important in keeping your poultry healthy and having good biosecurity practices:

  • Keep your distance — Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds.
  • Keep it clean — Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools, and equipment.
  • Don’t haul disease home — Also clean vehicles and cages.
  • Don’t borrow disease from your neighbor — Avoid sharing tools and equipment with neighbors.
  • Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases — Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Report sick birds — Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths.

What About Service Animals?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landlords may not prohibit a service animal from living in a rental, even if there is a no-pet policy. Further, they may not charge a pet deposit (refundable or non-refundable) or a monthly rent increase for a service animal, or restrict the breed, species, or size of the animal.

The important distinction here is that a service animal is not a pet. Service animals are trained for distinct jobs, and are required for the management of a tenant’s disability. Also important to note is that the ADA’s provisions do not apply to emotional support animals, since they do not qualify as service animals. It is possible to work around a no-pet policy with an emotional support animal, but there are no guarantees.

If you looking to rent with a service animal, be sure to have documentation on hand that proves their status. You are not required to disclose to a potential landlord anything about your disability, but you will need to prove that your animal companion is a registered service animal. If you have an emotional support animal, have a doctor’s note stating your need that you can provide if warranted.

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