Purchasing ducks is a big commitment, even if you are only buying a handful of these adorable little creatures. Taking on the responsibility of caring for another life should never be entered into lightly. Before opening your wallet, you must KNOW that you have the time, space, and the money to properly care for the ducks year round.
Ducks can be kept in not only rural environments, but in suburban and in some cases, urban environments as well. You do not need a pond to keep ducks, just a water feature like a decorative garden pond or a baby pool that is large enough to accommodate swimming by several flock members at once – ducks are definitely communal animals.
Keeping ducks has surely grown in popularity over the past decade. Many homesteaders of all sizes have opted to branch out from chicken keeping – or even skip the chickens entirely, and take on the role of duck keeper.
Why? Because ducks are not only adorable and hardy animals, ducks lay far more eggs than chickens and do so for a significant amount of years longer than the traditional meat and egg birds. While many folks cannot bear the thought of slaughtering their cute little egg giving ducks – many of which are often treated as “farm pets” the meat they produce is quite tasty.
Other than cleaning out a baby pool in the run if you do not have a natural water source, ducks take no longer to care for and clean up after than chickens. When trying to decide whether or not you should buy ducks, pondering the following questions and duck facts will help guide you through the process. So, if your considering, learn the difference between raising ducks vs chickens and check out our reasons on supporting raising ducks below:
Top 10 Reasons You Should Buy Ducks
The large and creamy eggs laid by ducks are not only bigger but more nutrient rich than chicken eggs. Using duck eggs when baking or cooking – especially when making a meringue will make the recipe far more light and fluffy.
Some folks find that duck eggs have too much of an “eggy” taste when scrambling or frying them to eat for breakfast as you would chicken eggs. If you have never eaten one before, it would be wise to scramble a few and taste them to make sure garnering a dozen or more eggs a week from a couple of duck hens is really something your family will regularly use in the kitchen.
It is not uncommon for top quality egg laying duck breeds to drop between 250 and 300 eggs on an annual basis. I have yet to hear tell of a single chicken breed that is capable and willing, to lay that many eggs. The shells of duck eggs are also a bit harder than a chicken egg, making it less prone to cracking as the flock moves about inside of the coop and run.
- Pest Control
Ducks are just about the cutest and most efficient type of pest control you could ever want or need. Most domesticated duck breeds are excellent foragers and love to spend any time not floating on the water on the hunt for bugs.
Because of their larger bill and overall bulk, ducks are capable of eating pests that are up to 8 inches long – including thick pests like slugs and growing tadpoles. If you want to keep ducks in the same decorative garden pond as the attractive koi fish you already have, disaster could ensure. While a mature duck is not capable of slurping down a full grown koi fish, they can (make that will) eat the fish eggs and young of any fish type that also lives in their watering hole.
- Less Garden And Yard Harm
Chickens often wreak havoc in the garden and flower beds. Geese are even worse, they can wipe out an entire bed of growing greens in a single afternoon. Ducks will not be able to resist munching on any lettuce they can reach, or perhaps even some cabbage or kale if left in a garden unattended too long, but they will not blow through the growing plot like their poultry bird peers.
The ducks will clear the ground or garden row surface area of bugs (both of the destructive and beneficial variety) but will not dig up entire plants seeking a yummy grub for a snack.
- Cold And Hot Weather Hardiness
Ducks are extremely more hot and cold weather hardy than chickens. Both hens and drakes (male ducks) keep cool in the summer by dipping their heads and bills into water and by spending many hours lounging in their water source. Thus, heat stroke in a duck is basically non-existent, the same cannot be said for chickens during hot summer days.
During the winter the ducks will still want to bathe in water. Even this innate and natural desire will not bring about the frostbite many chicken breeds are prone to merely from venturing outside of the coop to walk around the run in a light snow.
- Growth Rate
Ducklings grow quickly – a lot more quickly than chickens. When a duckling is only one week old it will be independent enough to start foraging for its own food and be big enough and hard enough to venture outside of the coop and run in search of bugs and greens.
Being able to reduce the amount of time a young bird must spend in a brooder not only helps keep the electric bill down (those heat lamps sure do burn up a lot of power) but also vastly reduces the amount of time and money that must be spent on cleaning out bedding. This is especially helpful because ducklings are a whole lot messier than chicks when it comes to both drinking and leaving their watery droppings ALL OVER the brooder
Drakes are not known to ever get aggressive and attack other flock members or their human keepers like roosters. While a drake might ward off amorous attempts of another drake towards his favorite hens, there is no chance a bloody fight will ensure to keep her.
The pecking order in a duck flock is more relaxed than in a chicken flock. New mature ducks, ducklings, and even chickens when both types of birds are kept together, are either peacefully ignored for a while or outright welcomed into the tribe.
- Domesticated Ducks Do Not Really Fly
Domesticated breeds of ducks cannot fly or at least not well. If a breed can actually catch wind and get off of the ground, he or she will not fly more than a foot or two in distance with its webbed feet barely off the ground in the process.
Cleaning up a duck coop or duck house will not require scraping droppings from the top of a feeder, water, perch, or boredom buster toy. You also will not have to worry about a free ranging duck flock from leaving unseemly droppings on your gate latches, fence posts, or garden furniture.
- Noise Level
Ducks learn their routine quickly and will know if you are a few minutes late for feeding or evening put up after free ranging all day. They will get excited and quack and honk if you are late and most assuredly when they see you coming, but there will be no loud geese style honking or roosters crowing at dawn to greet the day when keeping ducks.
In my personal experience after keeping both chickens and ducks for many years – and a variety of breeds of both types of poultry birds, I can firmly state that ducks are of superior intelligence. They imprint on their keepers quickly and learn to run to you if they are frightened by a predator or hurt. Ducks also take to free range training quickly. Offering a healthy treat at put up to teach the ducks to come back to the coop and go inside – without being chased around and up and down, and all over the place like with some chickens and roosters, can be successfully accomplished in a matter of days … even when ducklings are thrown into the mix.
- Health And Pest Resistant
Ducks tend to have a more robust immune system and are just generally healthier overall than chickens. Because these poultry birds spend as much time in the water as possible, they frequently wash away any dropping bacteria from their feet and bellies.
Again, due to their avid appreciation for swimming, bathing, and floating around in the water, ducks are incredibly less susceptible to contracting parasites and mites, than chickens, geese, and turkeys. The diseases spread by such pests as well as bacteria that becomes attached to the body and spread throughout the living quarters, are greatly reduced thanks again to the cleanliness habits of these fine feathered friends.
If you are new to keeping poultry birds or any type of small livestock, ducks would be a great place to start. They are mild-mannered and easy to handle birds that are enjoyable to watch waddle about and swim. Even children as young as two can start learning responsibility and vital homesteading skills by aiding in the daily duck husbandry chores – without fear of getting attacked by a bird with a sharp beak and spurs on its feet.