Pros and cons of duck raising should be carefully considered before investing in the purchase and husbandry set up for these adorable meat and egg birds – even if you just plan on keeping ducks as “farm pets.” Failing to look at both the plus and minus scale associated with raising ducks could easily result in not only a sizable money loss for you, but also cause a tragic end for the poultry birds.
Ducks can be kept not just on large homesteads and farms, but on small homesteads and even in backyards too. But, just because a flock of ducks can be successfully and happily live anywhere does not mean they necessarily should. Only after carefully weighing the pros and cons associated with duck keeping to determine if you have the time, funds, and patience to do so, should you rush to the local farm supply store or or hatchery website and make a purchase.
Duck Keeping Pros
Ducks are incredibly docile in nature. If you want to raise meat and egg birds that are not prone to attacking, a duck will be far more to your liking than keeping a rooster with chickens or geese. Drakes (male ducks) do not have spurs like roosters nor will they chase down and draw blood on their keepers and other domesticated animals or livestock.
It would be difficult to find a type of traditional barnyard livestock that is cheaper to raise. When allowed to free range during the day, ducks will provide the bulk of their diet – while ridding your yard or land of bugs. One of a duck’s favorite things to eat when foraging for food is mosquitoes – another added plus of raising these feathered beauties.
Typically, ducks are also a quiet type of livestock to raise. When compared to chickens, ducks definitely win the “quiet bird” title. I have raised ducks for years and the only time you ever hear noise from them is if you are tardy at feed time, free range put up snack time, or if they are startled and make a run for their coop to reach safety from a cat, bird of prey, etc. The outbursts of noise are always brief.
Multiple drakes can get along together a lot more amicably than multiple roosters. Mature drakes will not fight each other when sharing living quarters. As long as you keep the recommended drake to hen ratio for your chosen breed to avoid potentially harmful over procreation, there should be no worries when keeping multiple drakes to ensure the longevity of your flock.
Ducks are very accepting of new additions to the flock. Unlike geese, chickens, or turkeys, the “pecking order” with ducks will not involve attacking the unfamiliar birds. I keep ducks and chickens together in the same coop and run without incident – but everyone does not always have this easy of an experience when mingling roosters and chickens and ducks. I always keep chicks and ducklings together in the same brooder, which I feel paves the way for a happy home once the birds are turned out into a coop and run together – and when future new poultry birds are also introduced.
Ducks not only lay larger eggs than chickens, they lay them for years longer. If you want farm fresh eggs basically year round, ducks would be the way to go. Not only will duck hens produce three to four eggs per week on average, they also lay the eggs between dusk and dawn instead of on a 26 hour laying cycle that varies by chicken hen. Knowing when to look for eggs and making sure you are not missing any, helps the ducks earn their keep.
I have raised multiple types and breeds of poultry birds and have consistently found that ducks are the most intelligent. When teaching the birds the free ranging turn out and put up routine as well as their safe roaming boundaries, ducks learn, adhere to, and remember the expected daily behavior far better than other types of poultry birds,
Garden – Landscaping Destruction
Ducks will empty all of the mud puddles and low lying water pooling areas on your homestead or in your backyard. When allowed to free range to find their natural food sources their rounded bills will not do the nearly the same damage to your property, garden, or landscaping as the pointed bills of chickens.
Because domesticated duck breeds cannot really fly, a short fence is all that will be needed to keep them out of areas where you do not want them free ranging or to herd them into a temporary area to rid it of bugs – like the garden before you plant in the spring or after the harvest.
Duck Raising Cons
Ducks are messy … they can actually be really messy. If you are only familiar with raising chickens, it can be startling and frustrating at first when realizing how much more work it can be to keep a duck coop and run clean.
The droppings of ducks are both larger and more liquid that chicken or turkey droppings. The bacteria causing mess can turn a run into a nasty mud bog quickly and mandate the removal and installation of clean bedding once a week.
Because ducks cannot be without water to swim in and often splash water around when just drinking, the run and especially one foot around the run baby pool or small garden pond will become exceptionally muddy. Spreading hay around the water feature and drinking water areas WILL be a regular part of the weekly duck husbandry routine and expense. Spreading gravel around and beneath the water feature and waterer will help with drainage and the minimization of the mess.
During the cold weather months of the year ducks will still need not only drinking water but also water to swim in. Keeping the water from freezing can become a constant battle for duck keepers. I recommend floating individual water bottles or gallon jugs containing a 2 parts standard table salt and 1 part water mixture in the water features and inside of waterers to keep them from freezing.
Ducks will drink at least one liter of water per day, if your ducks are not allowed to free range to swim in a pond, expect to be filling up the waterer on a daily basis. Ducks should not be without drinking water or water deep enough to dip their heads and necks into for any longer than 8 hours. I suggest using two or three waterers in the coop run when you keep 9 or more ducks. If the ducks are not permitted out to free range for the bulk of the day, install two more waterers. Even with ample waterers (ducks swimming pool water will rapidly get too nasty to drink and will need to be hosed out and changed once a week) expect the flock to drain them every two days.
Putting Ducks In A Fish Pond
Domesticated ducks will eat fish eggs and small fish. If you want to use an existing fond that contains either ornamental fish or is stocked with fish for anglers to use for ducks as well, expect to lose some fish. Exactly how many fish eggs and young fish the ducks will consume on a daily basis will depend on the size of the flock swimming in the pond.
A duck pond, wether it is a traditional pond or a small decorative garden pond, can become nasty and smelling if proper drainage and filtration is not in place. Keeping a duck pond clean does not necessarily require expensive equipment.
Adding some duck safe aquatic plants to the pond will help filter out the duck droppings and reduce the attraction of bugs and the development of a foul odor. Ducks love to eat algae and will help to keep an infestation of that unwanted substance from growing in the pond.
There is a reason the phrase, “sitting duck” was coined. They are intensely vulnerable to predators. Although birds of prey (eagles are an exception) cannot usually lift a mature duck, young ducklings are an easy target. Without a rooster to warn and protect the flock, losing ducks during free ranging is something to be expected.
We keep livestock guardian dogs and guineas to help protect all of our meat and egg birds from both sky and ground predators like mink, weasels, bobcats, and coyotes.
Egg Sitting And Discovery
While ducks are like clockwork when it comes to laying eggs, where they lay them is another story entirely. Do not expect to find the eggs nestled snugly in a nest like chicken eggs. A duck will drop an egg wherever it is standing when the urge to lay strikes.
- Duck Egg Incubation
Many popular duck breeds are excellent layers of quality eggs, but lousy sitters. Plan on investing in a good incubator (about $100) if you want to maintain or increase flock numbers – or have ducklings to sell as a homestead side hustle.
Duck eggs are a bit more problematic to incubate than chicken eggs. They are highly susceptible to even slight fluctuations in humidity – such as when the lid is opened even briefly. Expect a 50 to 70 percent successful hatching rate when first learning how to incubate duck eggs.
There are a plethora of rewards associated with keeping ducks and just a few cons – negatives. But, the cons of raising ducks can become overwhelming and expensive if you are short on time…or patience.
If you have only a backyard or small acreage homestead (5 to 10 acres) for the ducks to live upon, consider purchasing a breed that prefers to free range close to their coop and run and are a light or medium class body size, for the most successful and stress-free results.