We had always told ourselves that we would only ever raise New Hampshire chickens.
We love this breed for so many reasons– they are cold-hardy, heat-resilient, good layers, and good meat producers. They’re also excellent foragers and are cagey enough to watch out for predators in most cases.
However, this year we decided to add a new chicken breed to our flock – the Golden Comet.
After playing around with adding other birds known for their egg production, like White Leghorns or Orpingtons, we finally settled on the Golden Comet, a hybrid chicken, for its exceptional ability to produce a ton of eggs – and to produce a ton of eggs early.
But we wondered, as we were getting started, whether it’s possible to successfully raise chickens of different breeds in the same flock.
It turns out that not only is it possible, but it’s easy to do. Here are some tips and my best advice for helping you get started.
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Can I Raise Different Types of Chickens in the Same Flock?
Yes! In most cases, it is perfectly fine to raise different breeds in the same chicken coop, run, or tractor. In fact, you can often even raise bantam and regular-sized breeds of chickens in the same flock.
Sometimes bantams don’t even end up at the bottom of the pecking order due to their size. It’s important that you just make sure all feeders, nest boxes, roost bars, and waterers are set at a height that all birds – big and small – can reach them.
What is a Bantam Chicken?
Simply put, a bantam chicken is merely a chicken that, whether through natural genetics or breeding, is smaller than the regular size of its breed. In some cases, a bantam may only be a few pounds!
What Should I Consider When Adding New Chickens to a Mixed Flock?
When you are putting together your flock, consider the following characteristics to ensure that your chickens will get along (and thrive) in the environment that you have established.
- Climate – There are some birds that are good all-seasons birds, but you will want to think carefully about whether they can tolerate cold and hot temperatures. Here are some of the best heat tolerant chicken breeds.
- Life Expectancy – Not all chickens are designed to live the same amount of time. Bantams have about half the life expectancy of large fowl breeds – and remember, egg productivity time is not the same as life expectancy! Do your research and find the birds that will best meet your needs.
- Personality – Some breeds are more active and outgoing, while others are calm and shy. Think about whether you want a chicken that will get along well with your kids or other chickens, as well as whether flightiness is a concern.
- Egg Color and Size – If you care about the appearance of your egg basket, this is an important one!
- Amount of Chickens – This is perhaps one of the most important considerations to make – if you are adding multiple chickens to a coop, you need to make sure you have room for them. Don’t crowd your chickens, as this can cause a wide variety of health and behavioral issues.
- Free-Ranging – Are your chickens going to be able to free-range? No matter what kind of chickens you have, and regardless of whether you plan to raise a mixed or single-breed flock, this is an important decision to make. If your chickens are allowed to free-range, it will reduce a lot of the pressure on your coop and your enclosed run, if you have one. Therefore, you may be able to get away with a larger flock of mixed- or single-breed chickens.
What are the Most Aggressive Breeds of Chickens – and the Most Docile?
If you are thinking about raising a mixed flock of backyard chickens, it might help you to consider the demeanors that are characteristic to individual breeds.
These are the birds that are known for being the most aggressive:
- Old English Game
- Indian Game
- Derbyshire Redcap
- Old English Pheasant Fowl
- White Leghorn
- Bovans White
As a general rule of thumb, the less domesticated a chicken is, the wilder and more aggressive it is going to be.
Here are some that are known for being docile:
- Golden Comet
- Freedom Ranger
- Calder Ranger
- Isa Brown
- Hisex Ranger
- Speckled Babcock
- Bovans Goldline
- Plymouth Rock
As far as docile chickens go, hybrids and heavy breeds tend to be more laidback.
Why does this matter? If you have chickens that tend to mind their own business, they are going to be much easier to integrate into your flock than those that are more territorial. Remember, though, that the personality of your chickens will always be determined more by the individual traits and quirks of your specific bird rather than breed genetics. Watch your flock carefully when you introduce more birds to make sure they are getting along!
And know that having an aggressive chicken isn’t always a bad thing! Aggressive roosters tend to be better at protecting the flock against predators, and may also exhibit better “herding” tendencies when it comes to guiding the flock toward food or into the chicken coop at night.
Should I Raise a Mixed Flock of Backyard Chickens?
The choice is up to you. There aren’t many disadvantages to raising a mixed flock, as long as all of your birds are tolerant of your weather conditions and get along well.
In fact, there are even some benefits associated with raising a backyard flock of chickens.
For starters, it is much easier to tell your chickens apart! While there is some natural variation between birds in a breed, it can be tough to differentiate between your chickens of the same breed just based on those differences alone.
Raising a backyard flock that is mixed ensures that you will be able to discern more easily whether your birds are sick or injured. You may also be able to appreciate the unique social behaviors and vocalizations (as well as personalities!) within your flock.
It might also be easier to tell which of your hens are laying. Certain chickens lay different sizes and colors of eggs. If you choose breeds that lay distinct colors or sizes (such as a White Leghorn and a New Hampshire link) you will be able to figure out whether some hens aren’t laying, whether there are health issues going on, or even if you have some hens that might be eating eggs.
Because different breeds lay better, molt, or become broody during different times of the year, having a mixed flock of chicken breeds can also help to ensure that you get steady year-round egg production. This is super-beneficial if you are selling eggs or trying to hatch your own eggs, either by incubation or a broody hen. You never have to worry about not having enough eggs!
Can Different Breeds of Chickens Mate?
In most cases, chickens of different breeds can successfully mate. There are no problems associated with hatching mixed breed birds or incubating them yourself.
In fact, if you have a rooster, you will likely find that he tries to mate with all of your chickens – regardless of size or breed. You may have occasional issues if your larger roosters try to mate with bantam-sized chickens – this can lead to some serious injuries or feather-pulling, so keep that in mind if you are raising chickens of both genders and various sizes in your coop.
It can be fun to hatch mixed eggs because the end result will always be a mystery. Just keep in mind that you may end up with some undesirable behaviors or traits as a result of this breeding.
And if you’re showing chickens, you cannot use a mixed breed. It likely won’t be recognized by formal standards.
If you are raising hybrid chickens, know that these birds do not breed true. If you cross a hybrid chicken with another cross or another breed, you will not get the same bird as the original hybrid.
Can You Raise Ducks and Chickens in the Same Coop?
You don’t have to stick to chickens when you are raising a mixed backyard flock. You can include other types of poultry, like guinea fowl or ducks, too.
However, it can be a bit of a challenge. I always recommend keeping chickens and ducks in separate housing and allowing them to free-range together during the day.
The reasoning behind this is that ducks have different roosting and housing patterns. Ducks sleep on the floor, while chickens sleep on roosts. If your ducks sleep beneath your chickens, they’re going to get pooped on – you need to provide them with a separate area to sleep in.
In addition, a coop that contains ducks will need to have better ventilation. Ducks give off moisture as they sleep and will also raise the temperature of a coop – this can lead to condensation issues if you don’t have proper ventilation. Ventilate the coop too much, however, and your chickens are going to get chilled – it is a very delicate balance that can be hard to toe.
Ducks are also extremely messy. They like to splash and need water in order to eat. Therefore, if you put water containers in your coop, your bedding is going to become soiled very, very quickly.
Unfortunately, the same goes for raising birds like guineas. Each species has varying housing and feeding requirements that are unique to the poultry type, so it’s important that you take that into consideration before idly deciding to mix a flock.
How to Integrate New Chickens to a Flock
In a perfect world, you would start raising your entire mixed breed flock together from day one – they would start in the brooder together and grow up as a flock together.
However, that’s impractical. While that’s the best practice for sure, you can easily integrate new birds as long as you are careful about monitoring your flock.
Make sure you do not integrate chickens from a previous flock of questionable husbandry practices – it would be absolutely terrible to introduce a disease that wipes out your entire flock. To ensure you are introducing healthy birds, consider quarantining them for at least 30 days.
Once you finally introduce your new chickens, it may be beneficial to lock your chickens in the coop for the first couple of weeks. This will teach your birds where home is, and also prevent them from staying outside at night.
When you do this, monitor your entire flock carefully while they sort out the new pecking order. It’s important that you make sure your chickens are getting along together well and that your larger or more aggressive breeds aren’t picking on your smaller, docile chickens. And keep in mind that it might not be the chickens that you already have established that are the bullies – your newcomers might have their own mean streaks, too.
What do you think? Is raising a mixed flock of chickens right for you? Let me know what kind of chickens you have – and whether you are successfully keeping a mixed flock of birds – in the comment section below.
Want to learn more about raising chickens? Be sure to check out these articles!
- How to Butcher Chickens
- How to Keep Predators Away From Your Chicken
- The Best Egg-Laying Chicken Breeds
- The Ultimate Guide to the New Hampshire Chicken Breed
- How You Can Make Money Raising Chicken
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