Concerns with Keeping Different Types of Livestock Together

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Hobby farmers often wonder what kinds of farm animals can be kept together safely. There are many reasons why some livestock animals cannot be housed together.

Whether you are a farmer, or hobby farmer, you may be wondering what types of farm animals can be kept together safely. Sometimes keeping different livestock together is an issue of fencing, other times compatibility, but more often than not, it is an issue of diet.

Ducks and Chickens

Ducks and chickens are not good together for several reasons. First of all ducks need a place to swim, even a small tub, but this will drown a chicken. As well, if you have chicks, there is penicillin added to chick starter which is deadly for ducks. Roosters and Drakes may be aggressive towards the other birds unless kept free range.

Chickens and Turkeys

While the size difference might be the biggest concern there is also a risk of turkeys spreading blackhead disease to chickens. As such it is generally suggested to keep similar ages of birds together, but to introduce them slowly (and not to over crowd them), and not to introduce them until 6 months of age, after their immunity has really developed.

Rabbits and Chickens

This can be done only if the coop is not over crowded. Rabbits might get filthy from hopping in the chicken poop. Also feeding comes into play, the chicken food should be raised so the rabbits cannot get it. If the chickens are free ranged during the day, the rabbit will probably wander off and not return to the coop at night. A rooster might bully a rabbit, but hens probably would not. Finally one benefit is that chickens eat flies, so fly strike is less of a concern.

Chickens and Large Animals

It is fine to keep chickens, and free range them with larger animals, such as sheep, goats, and horses. Even cats are usually okay with chickens, just make sure you supervise the introductions so nobody is spooked and always allow the chickens a place to go for rest at night. Be sure the chickens cannot get into water troughs or they will drown.

sheep and  hens

photo by author

Sheep and Goats

Sheep and goats can be kept together provided that their needs are met. Goats need better shelter than sheep, particularly in rain, and need better fencing because they can climb. The biggest concern is feeding, sheep cannot have copper, which is in mineral blocks for goats and their feed. As such a keeper is best to feed sheep mix, use a sheep mineral block, and if possible offer the goats their mineral from time to time when the sheep are not present. In a mixed flock, the goats will usually stick with the goats, and the sheep with the sheep. Goats browse, where as sheep graze, so a pasture with a shrubs and grass is best. Rams and Billies will fight, and might try to mate with the opposite species, however reports of this being successful are unproven.

Sheep, Goats and Larger Animals

It is common for people to keep sheep and goats with larger animals, such as horses, because the sheep and goats are great companion animals in the case where a horse lives alone. The concern is generally fencing as sheep and goats can both walk right through fencing such as three-strands of barbed wire. As well with sheep care must be taken to avoid letting them have horse mineral with copper. Male animals, stallions, bulls, jacks, might show aggression to the smaller animals, particularly if they are bored. Donkeys, llamas, and to some extent alpacas, often serve as excellent guard animals for the smaller sheep and goats, but generally only if one of the guard animals is present, otherwise it bonds to its own kind and will not stick with the animals it is suppose to be guarding.

llama and jacob lamb

photo by author

Horses and Cattle

Although it is not uncommon for people to keep cattle and horses together there are some concerns. The biggest concern is a medicine often added to cattle feed, but is toxic to equines, the medication is known as Monensin or Rumensin. The other concern is in areas where hoof and mouth disease is a concern. While horses cannot get this disease they can spread it, so when outbreaks occur a producer would be wise not to acquire any cattle to keep with their horses, or they risk the quarantine of their horses as well as their cattle.

Donkeys and Dogs

Donkeys have a strong dislike for canines, which is why they are commonly kept as guard animal against coyotes. Donkeys will run at, strike, and kick, any dog they do not know. If you are going to keep a donkey and have pet dogs, be sure to introduce them slowly and keep the dogs out of the donkeys corral until you are sure they are safe.

donkey and cat

photo source

Dogs and Other Livestock

Well socialized dogs and livestock are generally safe together, but some breeds have a very strong prey drive and will kill various types of animals, other breeds like to herd animals and will run them too much if left alone (not allowing for the animal to graze).  For this reason it is ultra important that breed selection and proper introductions/training are given attention. Any dog who is at risk for chasing, or killing, livestock should be penned. Dogs who have killed are likely to kill again. Any dog on a farm must be kept fully vaccinated and dewormed, especially for heartworm.

Related Links

Animals that are compatible as Pets

Bantam Chickens

Four Novelty Farm Animals no Farm should be Without

How to Become a Sheep Producer


Erik Van Tongerloo
Posted on May 12, 2010
Posted on May 12, 2010