Are Ducks the New Chickens?
Over the last few years, keeping backyard chickens has become all the rage. Whether it’s wanting to know where their food is coming from, a desire to be more self-sufficient or merely wanting to go back to the basics, chicken coops are popping up in suburban backyards of families all across the country. But might keeping ducks actually be the better choice? These facts about ducks may convince you.
I have been keeping ducks alongside our chickens for nearly five years. That has given me ample opportunity to compare chickens and ducks, and I have to admit that if I had to choose between them, I would pick the ducks.
Here are 10 facts about ducks that show keeping ducks is easier than raising chickens:
1. Ducks are healthier
Because they spend so much of their time in the water, ducks are less apt to get mites, lice and other external parasites. Ducks also have hardier immune systems, tend to stay in better general health and are less likely to contract illnesses than chickens. There are just a few common duck diseases.
2. Ducks are more cold-hardy
Ducks have an added layer of fat and a thick down ‘undercoat’ that chickens don’t have. They also have waterproofing on their feathers to protect against the elements and keep them warm and dry in the rain and snow.
3. Ducks are more heat-tolerant
Ducks handle heat quite well by floating around in their pool all day. During the hot southern summers we endure, while our chickens stand around panting, crowded in front of the fans we have set up in our run, the ducks paddle about quite contentedly in their pool.
4. Ducks are quieter
Maybe hard to believe, but our chickens actually make more noise than our ducks. Chickens cackle and carry on after they lay an egg, before they lay an egg, when there’s another hen in the nesting box they want, and for no apparent reason at all. Female ducks on the other hand, although can quack loudly when agitated or excited, normally just quietly chitter-chatter.
Roosters, contrary to popular belief, don’t just crow in the morning. They crow all day long. In contrast, drakes (male ducks) don’t quack at all. They make only a soft raspy wheezing sound. On the whole, ducks are much quieter.
5. Duck eggs are larger and better for baking
Duck eggs are larger and richer in flavor than chicken eggs. They are excellent for baking due to their higher fat and lower water content. Duck eggs are also slightly more nutritious than chicken eggs. Due to their thicker shells and membranes, they also have a longer shelf life and are less likely to break than chicken eggs.
6. Ducks lay more regularly
Our ducks consistently outlay our chickens – even through the winter without any supplemental light in their house. Most domestic duck breeds are also very unlikely to go broody (broodies don’t lay eggs, so they are detrimental to your egg production).
7. Ducks adhere to a far less aggressive pecking order
Ducks welcome newcomers far more quickly than chickens do, so it’s easier when buying ducks to add to your existing flock. Whether the newcomers are chickens or ducks, our ducks seem unperturbed and seldom bother new additions to the flock. Chickens, however, take any new additions to the flock as an affront to their rigid pecking order. The result is squabbling and confrontations that can get quite serious until the new order is established and tranquility returns.
8. Ducks are easier on your lawn
While it’s true that ducks can, and will, eat anything green within their reach, as long as you plant bushes and trees that are tall enough so they can’t reach the tops, you can successfully landscape your run or backyard, even with ducks inhabiting it. Chickens, on the other hand, within days of being introduced to a new lawn will have it scratched down to bare dirt. Chickens will continue to not only eat every bit of green that tries to grow, but also dig deep depressions in the earth in which to take their dust baths or cool off in the summer. Ducks may trample your lawn a bit, but they won’t create a barren wasteland of your backyard like chickens will.
9. Ducks are wonderful for pest control
Ducks will eat every slug, worm, spider, grasshopper, cricket, fly, beetle and grub they can find. They are wonderful for natural pest control. Given the opportunity, they will also eat small snakes, toads and even mice. Chickens are more picky about the fare of bugs. Some of our hens won’t even look twice at a worm.
10. Ducklings are adorable!
Okay, this is my personal preference, but baby ducklings are irresistible. I have loved learning how to raise ducklings through the years.
On the whole, I’ve found through keeping ducks that my ducks are far more easy-going and less likely to get their feathers ruffled than chickens. They are generally calm, smart, alert and downright funny at times. Keeping ducks wins out as my top choice for a backyard flock and they will always be an important part of ours.