Far from ideal companions
QWe keep nine happy, healthy girls, along with two mischievous Khaki Campbell ducks. While wet weather does not help their condition, our three copper black Marans lost most of their breast and neck feathers during the wet spell earlier in the year. The other breeds and ducks seem fine. We have checked meticulously for mites, all the girls are eating well and they lay daily, giving us 11 eggs most days. They get quality food — pellets, mixed corn, sweetcorn and mealworms as a treat — plus a lunchtime selection of fruit and veg. They have garlic in their water, oregano and codliver oil. So I’m at a loss as to what to do to help them. Any advice?
VR SAYS: Ducks and chickens should ideally not be kept together due to the ducks’ watery lifestyle making muddy areas which can encourage disease. It may even be the ducks removing the feathers from the hens, especially if there is a drake. If the ducks are both females, the risk of feather removal is less, but they will still make the area muddy due to their filterfeeding activities, encouraging intestinal parasites. Layers pellets should be the main feed, as it is balanced and has all the ingredients for the health of the poultry, plus enough for egg production. There are too many treats here, for example maize (mixed corn) is not advised in warm weather as it is very heating and the birds can get aggressive. It is also very fattening. Whole wheat is better. You could add a seaweed supplement to encourage strong feather growth which won’t hurt the hens that have all their feathers. It will just be wasted as it only works on growing feathers, ie at a moult or if feathers are missing. Check too that the hens are not pushing their heads through wire netting as this will damage feathers.