Ducks or Chickens – Join the Great Debate

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No doubt if you have the homesteading or hobby farming bug, you have thought about all those lovely fresh eggs you could have (along with your gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes). It’s one of the first things people tend to contemplate when they want to grow their own food. But, ducks or chickens? 

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There is SO MUCH information out there about raising chickens and ducks. It seems to me most people just assume chickens are the norm because, well, when was the last time you bought a dozen duck eggs at the supermarket?

So here are what I have found to be the most important things to consider if you might want to think about raising ducks instead.

Eggs

Duck eggs are generally larger than eggs from a comparably-sized chicken. Some even substitute one duck egg in a recipe where you would need two chicken eggs.

Ducks lay more eggs per year than a chicken of roughly the same size. They also have a much longer laying lifespan, up to several years, where a typical laying hen decreases significantly after about year 2.

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Ducks have routine of laying their eggs early in the morning. This means you can collect eggs once a day without having to go in search of them all over the yard. Chickens have a 26-hour laying cycle. This means each hen lays her egg later and later each day. So if they are out foraging, who knows where the egg will drop.They don’t always go home to the nest box to lay.  And multiply this by an entire flock…..eggs everywhere!

Many people who are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs. It is rare that someone is allergic to a duck egg but not a chicken egg.

Living Arrangements

Egg-laying ducks do not jump or fly, so a two-foot tall barrier will keep them contained. Most chickens, however, can fly — over fences, up onto the roof of the coop, into the garden, etc. If you want to keep them under control, you’ll probably have to clip their wings. Ducks are happy to stay where their food, water and buddies are.

Unlike chickens, ducks nest and rest on the ground. This means you don’t need to build nest boxes or roosts. However, this means they need more floor space per bird. If you crowd too many in an enclosure,you’ll have quite a mess on your hands. Ducks drink  LOT of water, so their droppings are much more liquid than chicken manure. You’ll need plenty of bedding, or a larger pen, to keep the mess from getting out of hand.

Ideally your ducks will be out during the day and only be confined at night. If this is not possible, it might be better to get chickens. They are easier to keep in confinement.

Ducks are much easier to move to different areas than chickens. All you do is use two long poles, or your arms spread out to the sides and “swoop” them along. You could even adopt some cute expression like, “get along little duckies” to help!  So you can take them to different areas to forage easily, then back to the night pen.

Another factor if raising fowl in “town”, ducks are much quieter than chickens.

Water and Feed

Ok, yes, ducks do need some water. But a small pool will suffice if it is kept clean. They have to “bathe” to keep the oils in their feathers in condition. Chickens on the other hand, are happy to flop around in a dust bath. That’s how they keep their feathers dry fluffy.

On a side note — DO NOT think it would be cute to put ducks in the bathtub. I tried it as a kid. Guess what ducks do pretty much the ENTIRE time they are swimming!  Yep, poop.  Not pretty.

Hardiness and Availability

Ducks are much more resistant to disease than chickens. They also LOVE wet cold weather. Ever heard the saying, “madder than a wet hen?”  It’s no lie.  They HATE to get wet.

Ducks are sometimes harder to find. Chicks are usually readily available and cost less. Chickens can also be purchased with their sex already determined (for the most part). This means you won’t be getting a bunch of roosters for your laying flock. One does slip through every once in a while. Ducks are normally sold unsexed however.

Pest Control

While chickens do eat bugs when they are out foraging, they don’t eat really big garden pests like snails and slugs. Also, their sharp little claws and pointy beaks pretty much shred any plant they come in contact with. They can tear up a lawn and uproot garden plants.

Ducks have nice flat webbed feet and large rounded bills. They are much easier on the foliage. Plus they eat the big juicy bugs chickens won’

I hope this give you at least a few things to consider when choosing which animal to raise.

Quack quack!

 

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