Ducks Versus Chickens: The Benefits of Raising Ducks
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I love writing about food, sustainability, and urban agriculture.
Do Ducks Act Like Chickens?
When you think egg, you most likely picture a chicken egg. But raising backyard ducks is slowly growing in popularity.
My friend Katrina helps to run her family's egg business. Every morning, she gets up before going to her other jobs to let the chickens and ducks out of their coop and give everyone grain and water. The ducks like to play in the sprinkler.
One day, Katrina needed someone to "farm sit" for her while she was traveling, and I happily volunteered. As I approached the coop in the evening to shut the birds in for the night, I saw that the chickens had already gone in to roost, while the ducks were still huddled together outside. I was a bit dismayed—the thought of herding ducks did not seem promising. But as I reached their pen, on cue they all turned, and one at a time gingerly waddled up single file into the coop. No fuss or muss after all.
It was cute, it was intelligent, and I was won over to ducks! At Katrina's farm, the chickens and ducks live side-by-side, but as I learned, ducks are quite different creatures.
Ducks Are Smarter and More Personable Than Chickens
Ducks appear to be smarter and have more personality than chickens. Ducklings and goslings (baby geese) will imprint on humans, chickens will not. If a human is the first and only organism bigger than itself present at the hatching of the egg, the duckling/gosling will likely follow this person around as if it were their mother, want to sleep beside them, eat with them, etc...
Imprinting is a ridiculously cute duck feature, as demonstrated in this youtube video of a duckling desperately trying to keep up with it's human.
Ducks that are raised closely with humans can also learn to recognize faces. However, my friend Katrina warns future duck owners that Muscovy male ducklings should not be allowed to imprint. While they are sweet at a young age, as adult males they become cocky and aggressive with no fear of humans.
How Do Duck and Chicken Eggs Compare in Nutrition?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg....or the duck?
Duck eggs are superior to chicken eggs in many ways, though the stronger taste deters some people. Below is an overview of chicken and duck egg comparisons.
- Duck eggs are a bit bigger than chicken eggs. The calorie content compared: Duck Egg: 108 Kcal. Chicken Egg: 75 Kcal.
- Per gram, duck eggs pack more nutritional punch, and contain more beneficial omega 3s, minerals, and vitamins than chicken eggs.
- Duck eggs have a stronger, more oily taste than chicken eggs, and the same can certainly be said when comparing the two meats.
- Duck eggs are excellent for baking purposes because of the higher protein content of the egg. (This is due to the duck egg's higher ratio of albumen (white part) to yolk.)
- Duck eggs are an alkaline producing food, whereas chicken eggs are acidic. Alkaline producing foods create anti-cancerconditions in the body.
- Duck eggs have a higher cholesterol content than chicken eggs, which some nutritionists would say is a problem and others not, since it's the good HDL cholesterol.
- Finally, duck eggs have thicker shells than chicken eggs, allowing them to stay fresh for longer (up to 6 weeks if refrigerated!).
Other Benefits of Raising Ducks
- Ducks are easier to keep confined in simple pens, whereas chickens are escape artists that seem to find every hole.
- Ducks don't need, but enjoy having access to a small body of water. If you have around 10 ducks a kiddie pool is plenty sufficient.
- Ducks and chickens penned in a garden can serve as excellent pest eradicators, but ducks are better hunters of slugs and snails than chickens.
- In Asia, ducks are kept on rice paddy farms. As they swim about the inundated rice crops, they poop and add an important source of natural fertilizer.
Eve from TN on September 17, 2018:
The Author of this article and anyone else that agrees with this writer, is sadly so wrong. Not only chickens/roosters but any animal that is given the time, love and care will "imprint" on a human. If by "imprint" you mean love and care about you, the human. The kids and I had an alligator named Thor who loved all of us humans and other pets. He was a cuddle baby even at 110 lbs. We also had a huge macaw (Franky), a boa (Herbert) and a huge, fat, beautiful female rat named Clementine who was very nurturing and had COD when it came to the cleanliness of the house an everyones comfort. Everyone would be curled up on the couch and Clementine would run from one to the other, my son and his boa, Herb, our dog Wally, tucking them into the blankets and checking on everyones comfort before climbing up on me to settle in. I loved Clementine with all my heart. I was mom 1 and Clementine was mom 2. She was amazing. I still tear up thinking about her. Couple months after turning 5yrs old she had a stroke and her back legs were paralized. It was simply incredible how all the animals treated her. With such tenderness and obvious concern during the next 4 months. When she passed, we grew very concerned with how sad all the animals got. None of our pets but Franky ate for a very long time. But Franky was the one with her when she passed and did not want to part from her. Truely breaks my heart remembering her. All of our animals were raised the same way, as part of the family, all together, with love. They loved us and they loved each other. We firmly believe they did not know they were all individually different kinds of animals. They all acted a little bit like each other and acted as if they were also just like us. To the outside world it was amazing. To us it was normal. Well, my now grown daughter has chickens. They are all not normal chickens, because they have spent all their time growing up with my daughter, her husband, kids and two dogs. These chickens all have names they know, individual personalities and they all are crazy in love with their human/canine family. They too have forgotten they are chickens. They interact with everyone, love to play, loving attention and affection. They want held, love kisses and being talked to and they show love in return. She has two chickens that are naughty brats. When one or the other gets yelled at, they run as fast as possible an hide. And peak out waiting for when it is safe to come out. lol People who see it, think it is unbelievable craziness. This link I have here is a rooster name Bree. No one can watch this and not come away with the realization that this rooster loves his mama. He is as "imprinted" as he can get to his human. After this video, there are many more to choose from of all different types of animals, even a komodo dragon name Winston, who is loved and obviously loves in return his human being. Like I said, given the time, love and care... I believe just about any animal will "imprint". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTPBcrmST58
Eve from TN on September 17, 2018:
The Author of this article and anyone else that agrees with this writer, is sadly so wrong. The kids and I had an alligator that acted like a cross between our dog and the kids. When Thor had to go to the bathroom he went to the door and scratched. When he was hungry, he went to the fridge or the cabinet where his food was. While we ate, he politely begged. He wanted to be around us and do what we did, like take baths with my kids. He would watch tv with us and loved to be held and kissed. It was too funny when he was done eating he would bring his bowl to us at the sink or dish washer. We always expected that one day he would put his dish in the dish washer but he never did. lol He was obviously happy when we came home and loved us and bonded with us. We also had a huge macaw (Franky), a boa (Herbert) and a huge big fat female rat named Clementine. They were all raised the same way, as part of the family, all together, with love. They all acted as if they were just like us. Well, my grown daughter has chickens. People who see it, think it is unbelievable craziness. After this video, there are many more to choose from of all different types of animals, even a komodo dragon name Winston, who is loved and obviously loves in return, his human being. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTPBcrmST58
Paul Edmondson from Burlingame, CA on August 11, 2013:
What about laying? Do ducks produce as many eggs as chickens?
Tara McNerney (author) from Washington, DC on June 29, 2012:
Huyenchi, that's very true - ducks are more noisy! You can hear those quakers from far away, that's for sure. And I didn't realize they ate more than chickens, thanks for that added tidbit!
Sadie423, that's amazing your two year old duck is still laying an egg a day! She must be very well cared for. =)
Angelo52 on June 29, 2012:
I've raised chickens in the past but never ducks. Lots of good information for anyone that is allowed by law to keep chickens and ducks on their property.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 29, 2012:
It's so cute how those ducks queued into the coop like that! I've never tried a duck egg, but now I'm rather intrigued. I didn't know ducks were catching on in a manner similar to chickens. It'll be interesting to see if the trend catches hold!
Jeff Gamble from Denton, Texas on June 29, 2012:
Great information on ducks, they do seem easier to keep than chickens
huyenchi from London - Hanoi on June 29, 2012:
True, we raise both duck and chicken in our farm, we love both but ducks are more noisy and they eat so fast that the chickens might remain hunger though they are calmer than chicken
sadie423 from North Carolina on June 29, 2012:
We have 1 Khaki Campbell duck. She is 2 and still lays an egg a day- better than any of our chickens. I love baking with her eggs. We also have Swedish black and blue ducklings. My 10 yr old wants more so he can sell the duck eggs. In our home the chickens are more personable, my boys have them completely tamed, but we've never hatched ducks to see if they would imprint on us. Great article!
Ginny from Arlington, VA on June 29, 2012:
What a fascinating article! Thanks for the information!
In Homesteading by M.D. Creekmore April 13, 2018
Beginning your small homestead is an exciting process every step of the way! One of those exciting, pivotal steps in a homesteads’ early development is the introducing of livestock. Whether you have already begun exploring the idea of creating your backyard homestead or have started living the dream, you most likely have heard the often recommended starter livestock is chickens! They are somewhat low maintenance compared to other farm animals, take up little space, are efficient producers of eggs and meat, highly entertaining, and relatively low-cost.
Not as often considered but arguably as efficient, easy, and enjoyable an animal, even in the urban setting, is the duck. Chickens and ducks fall under the poultry category. Both are positively entertaining, both are efficient producers of meat and eggs, both require little space, and both are relatively easy and cheap to raise.
When truly weighing the pros and cons, after acquiring the facts, one might start to see the argument over which bird is better for a small-scale homesteader isn’t so easily decided. Maybe you live on an acre or two in the country, or maybe you live in an urban setting with a small yard. Either one of these scenarios would be suitable for a small flock of either.
Truthfully, the backyard homestead could really never be complete without some sort of feathery friend.
If you’re looking to become a little more self-sufficient, chickens or ducks would make a fantastic addition. One advantage to choosing chickens over ducks is the fact that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of breeds to choose from vs the 17 duck breeds typically used on the homestead and recognized by the American Poultry Association. It is easy to find the perfect chicken breed for family needs, as well as a breed suitable for the climate, and backyard situation.
More than likely several breeds found will seem to be the “perfect fit”. How to narrow down the never-ending choices? Simply start with asking yourself what function and role you are expecting your chickens to serve and play. Is a surplus of eggs top priority?
Anyone with their own backyard flock or has tasted fresh eggs will tell you that they are so much more flavorful than any egg you will find in a store! Layer breeds are usually smaller than meat birds and cost less to feed. The layers have been bred specifically to convert their food energy into eggs rather than to put much meat on their bones.
Leghorns, Golden Comets, and Welsumers all are considered to be excellent layers laying between 250-280 eggs per year. This is not to say that they won’t lay more or less as it all depends on their level of care.
In the event chicken dumplings and kung pow chicken frequently make your dinner menu, it would be worth looking into meat breeds instead. Cochin, Jersey Giant, and Dorking have all been bred to make huge meat birds. They are not necessarily great layers because their food energy goes into making them larger and meatier.
The best meat birds are usually hybrids rather than purebreds. The most popular chicken for the small-scale homestead is good for both egg laying and meat, the dual-purpose breed. Rhode Island Reds, Sussex, and Silver-laced Wyandottes all are popular for first serving as efficient egg layers and then later for meat. By the time their prime years for egg laying have passed, the dual-purpose breed has plumped up enough to butcher.
Dual-purpose breeds neither produce quite as many eggs as the layer-breeds nor grow as hefty as meat birds but as far as space is considered they provide a happy medium for one who may not have the time or acreage to raise two separate flocks. As long as you keep laying and meat birds separate, due to their differing nutrition requirements, different breeds may be raised together to create a mixed flock. This makes for a beautiful collection of birds and it is fun to see the wide variety of temperaments.
Chickens require far less space than say a goat or cow! In order for these birds to live comfortably, it is recommended they are allotted between 3sq. ft.-4sq. ft. per bird. Folks do squeeze more into a space however, it creates an environment where chickens may be more susceptible to diseases and more likely to pick on one another.
Only two chickens are required to get the flock started. More importantly than keeping chickens from escaping will be keeping other predators from getting to your flock. Generally, chickens do not “run away” but they have a long list of predators including larger predatory birds, cats, dogs, snakes, raccoons, and many more.
A final note on housing, birds need a place to stay dry, warm, and also to keep cool. Providing them with a small shelter that is insulated, ventilated, and provides perches and nesting boxes are all equally important. Coops can be easily constructed out of recycled wood, purchased brand new, or found on craigslist.
If space is super limited there are even bantam breeds that are less than half the size of “normal” chickens. These are typically more ornamental and serve as pets or show birds. There are competitions all over for entering beautiful poultry and can make a little side income for the homestead.
Bantams are so small they don’t make great meat birds or egg layers. Even without entering them in shows they still have their purpose. These sweet little chickens can really be let loose in a garden to munch bugs and till or “scratch” up the dirt. Any chicken larger than a bantam would do some serious damage to growing plants. Chicken poop makes excellent fertilizer.
Despite the many exciting reasons to add chickens to the small-scale homestead, one might find they are actually more of a duck person. Ducks tend to be on the quieter side unless they are hungry or excited. Some interesting points are to be made about the quality and quantity of duck eggs vs chicken eggs.
This may come as a surprise but many duck breeds lay more eggs than chicken breeds! The khaki Campbell has been said shockingly to lay more than 340 eggs in a year! Runner ducks also lay more eggs than chickens on average. Sometimes ducks will lay more than one egg in a day.
Waterfowl also produce larger and more flavorful eggs. It is said that duck eggs are healthier than chicken eggs. There is a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids found in ducks eggs. Their eggs stay fresher longer than chicken eggs due to the thicker shells. Many folks with egg allergies claim they do not react to duck eggs the same way they do to chicken eggs and therefore may still consume duck eggs despite their allergy.
Just as there are layer-breeds, meat-breeds, bantams and dual-purpose breeds for chickens, the same goes for ducks. Another surprise found is that ducks make a quicker meat harvest. The most popular meat duck is the Pekin which is ready for harvest at ten weeks vs chickens which are not usually harvested before 3 months.
Rouen and Cayuga ducks also make huge meat birds that are quick to harvest. Duck meat is comparable to chicken meat. Both are considered lean meats. Without stripping the duck of its skin, however, there is far more cholesterol in duck. If you are considering ducks for a small-scale homestead again the dual-purpose breed is highly recommended. A couple of dual-purpose breeds that are worth looking into are the Swedish and the Welsh Harlequins which are both beautiful egg laying and meaty birds.
Ducks require the maximum space that you would need for chickens. They require on average no less than 4sq. ft. per bird. The housing situation is a bit less complicated. A duck will not be found perching and typically would not choose an elevated coop. Also, ducks will lay their eggs right on the ground and do not need nesting boxes.
Simple housing is sufficient such as a dog house or even a wood box so long as they are protected from the elements. Where the duck gets a little more tricky to keep than chickens lies in their need for a water feature. You simply can not keep healthy ducks without having water for them to splash around in. This water also needs to be maintained and kept or your ducks could become diseased. A healthy pond is your best bet in a smaller space. A kiddy pool will do just fine.
The water will definitely need to be replaced every few days for a couple of ducks and replaced every day if you have more than a few. For this very reason, chicken keepers may argue it is worth the extra construction to house chickens vs the high maintenance of a duck pool. The water does get nasty and if you live in a small urban backyard what would happen to the water each time it is dumped out? Hopefully, it would not run onto your neighbor’s property.
The argument of chickens vs ducks is not easily solved. Personal preference is what it really comes down to. Some folks love waking up early to the sound of a rooster crowing, revel with the hens sweet clucking, and love to collect the beautifully patterned feathers of their chickens.
Others might loathe the sound of crowing, or their neighbors might, and find the down feathers of the duck to be far more useful. It is quite convenient duck poop can be put straight in the garden unlike the chickens’ poop, which needs to be composted before used as a fertilizer. It is definitely a possibility duck eggs will be too flavorful or not a pleasant taste, in your opinion, compared to the more popular chicken egg.
Neither choice, chicken or duck, is the right or wrong choice for the small-scale homestead. There definitely could be a better choice for you, your family, climate, backyard situation, and neighbors though. Assessing your needs and what you are able to provide for a backyard flock of any kind is what it truly comes down to with the chicken vs the duck. Really though, why pick one or the other? With a little creativity in housing, it is always possible to keep both!
Get to know your ducks by keeping these characteristics in mind:
One minor issue is that you can’t differentiate the sex of ducks as you do many other animals.
Therefore, you have to know a duck’s characteristics to ensure that you have a male and a female.
Female ducks look like ordinary ducks, but her quacks will sound like honks and are loud.
The male duck will have a small tail feather, which curls right at the tail’s tip, and usually, males follow the female.
When the male leads the hen, though, you will see that he bobs his head down and up in communication.
He also quacks at her softly to get her where he wants the female duck to be.
While males are soft-spoken, they are also courageous for example, if you get too close to the hen and eggs, the male duck guards her and protects her.
He won’t flog as a rooster might but will bob his head, almost like he’s trying to nudge you to get you to move away.
If you don’t end up moving, he will get angry.
Then, the female duck will hiss, which is a sign that you need to move away from them.
Integrating Chickens and Ducks
Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops
Last Updated: 22 July 2020
This post contains affiliate links. For more information click here.
You’ve been happily keeping chickens for a while now and it’s great fun. Something’s missing though. You can’t quite put your finger on it, until…you wake up from a dream where all of your chickens were walking around with webbed feet. Hmm, that’s a bit puzzling. Or does the idea of wacky little web- footed ducks splashing around in a pond get you absolutely giddy? If so, let’s chat about egg-spanding your flock with…wait for it…DUCKS!
Many chicken keepers eventually add ducks to their flock. It’s only natural as chickens and ducks share very similar living conditions. And, while ducks do tend to be a tad messy, what with the water, and the splashing, and the mud. they do make congenial companions for your chooks.
While integrating chickens and ducks is a manageable process, in order for chickens and ducks to co-egg-xist harmoniously they must have LOTS of living space. Also there are some slight differences that you’ll need to take into consideration: type of feed/nutrition needed, nesting needs, sleeping arrangements, and the inevitable clash of the dust bath vs the water bath.
Okay, so, chickens and ducks need lots of space. A good idea then is to allot a bit more than enough space-just like the cliché says, “Better safe than sorry”. Since chickens and ducks generally require about .37 meters of space per bird in the coop and about .93 meters in the run, add a square meter or two of extra space in each. Why is space so important? Squabbles will be less of an issue with ample space to escape a bossy coop mate. We all know that squabbles are a natural part of raising chickens however, when you add some web footed quackers into the mix, a completely different species, it just makes good sense to give them space!
Let’s move on to feeding your cluckers and quackers. Thankfully, both chickens and ducks can eat chicken feed. Yay! However, there’s more to it than that. Both types of birds are fully feathered and ready to live outdoors at eight weeks. At this stage of their development and up until they reach eighteen weeks old, they can both eat grower feed. Once they are eighteen weeks old, switch to layer feed. Just one glitch- layer feed contains too much calcium for ducks, so you need to provide a supplement of wheat for your water lovin’ birds. But, if your hens eat too much wheat and thus, don’t get sufficient amounts of protein that they would from eating just layer feed, egg production will suffer. The solution is simple, -place the wheat in a shorter bucket and cover with water. The wheat will fortunately sink to the bottom allowing the ducks access to all they can eat, while keeping your chooks from pecking and snacking on it.
Nesting needs are easily managed also. Duck nesting areas should be on the ground. Chicken nesting boxes on the other hand, should be at least a few inches off the ground, but can be higher. So, perhaps place your chicken’s nesting boxes above the duck’s nesting area, otherwise chooks will most likely wander into the duck’s nests, scratching and pecking,
When it’s time, chickens instinctively put themselves to bed. Ducks usually do not. Ducks do tend to enjoy sleeping outdoors no matter what the temperature. So, if your ducks typically free range during the day, you will probably have to herd them inside at dusk. If they prefer to be amateur astronomers and star gaze, they’re free to waddle into their run.
Last but certainly not least- the dust bath vs the water bath. Obviously the two do not mix well. Well, they do, but the end result is just plain muddy! So, you’ll want to keep a good distance between these two favorite activities. Remember though, that chickens cannot swim! So, please be sure to use a shallow bath for the ducks, so your innocent and inquisitive chooks don’t accidentally hop up onto the rim, end up going for an unexpected swim and are unable to get out.
So, this is all so very egg-citing, hmm? Just imagine…DUCKS waddling around amongst your cherished chooks! Oh, boy! Even more egg-citing, though, is housing your new quackers right alongside your chooks in one of the egg-cellently made coops from Backyard Chicken Coops. Backyard Chicken Coops will bring your daydream alive with their wonderful and innovative coops created and crafted to provide all of your birds a lovely and safe place to call home.
As chicken keepers, we want harmony amongst our chooks and other feathered friends. Therefore it's so important that we do an eggcellent job when caring for them. There are so many things to consider when becoming a chicken parent from other pets to health issues. Many chicken keepers struggle to handle chicken health or behaviour issues, especially in the first few years of having a flock.
This is why I recommend Chickenpedia to all my readers. They have comprehensive online courses on everything you didn’t know you need to know and then some more! From healthcare to raising baby chicks to feeding and behavior, you’ll find beginner-friendly courses that’ll give you the knowledge and confidence to successfully look after your chickens.
As a member, you will get access to ALL their fantastic courses. No need to wing it, become the ultimate chicken eggspert! Check out Chickenpedia today!
How Many Ducks Do You Need To Raise Them For Eggs
Ducks are inherently social creatures, typically far more so than chickens. A bored duck can become depressed and frustrated and stop or reduce the amount of eggs that it lays. Keeping at least three ducks at a time, but preferably five or six, is a good ratio for proper socialization.
If you are keeping drakes as well, the best ratio is four to five laying hens to ever mature drake. You don’t need a drake for the duck hen to produce eggs, only to fertilize them.