Every year, my husband and I have a mental battle with ourselves (and each other!) about whether we will add new animals to the farm. Usually, we both give in – we add something new!
It’s hard to resist the allure of new baby animals, particularly if it’s a new species you’ve never raised before.
Ducks come up as a possibility each and every year, and while we have raised them once, we are hesitant to try it again (that said, it’s tough to resist the allure of their adorable, fluffy little faces staring up at you from the brooder boxes in the feed store!).
There are several pros and cons to raising ducks on the homestead. Here are some of the top reasons to consider raising ducks – and a few that might convince you to stay away instead.
Should You Get Ducks? The Pros
Let’s face it – ducks are super cute. Sure, all baby animals are adorable, but ducks are probably up there on the cuteness scale.
They’re way cuter than piglets or baby chicks, in my opinion. They look like they are always smiling!
Unlike adding chickens, adding ducks to a flock is pretty simple.
Female ducks don’t mind welcoming new additions to the group, and although drakes can be a bit territorial or hormonal, for the most part, you don’t have to worry about taking too many precautions when mixing them in.
The more the merrier!
Male ducks, or drakes, are much easier to get along with than roosters. Not only are drakes good protectors of the rest of the flock, like roosters are with their hens, but they are much easier to get along with.
I’ve had roosters in the past that were so aggressive you had to carry a stick with you when you walked into the coop. That’s not the case with most male ducks.
Male ducks are also quieter than roosters. Although drakes do quack, they don’t crow loudly as roosters do – trust me, your neighbors will appreciate this one!
Ducks are incredibly fun to watch. They follow each other around and will interact with each other with their unique body language and vocalizations.
There is something truly endearing about watching a flock of ducks as they swim, dive, and splash in their pools!
Naturally, one of the biggest benefits of raising a flock of ducks is that you’ll get all the eggs you could possibly want.
Ducks have a longer laying life than chickens do, too. The average duck will lay far more eggs than the average hen, producing up to 250 eggs per year for up to nine years of age.
Although you don’t get quite as many eggs per year as you will with chickens, you’ll get more eggs over the lifespan of your duck. There’s something to be said for that, for sure!
It’s also important to note that ducks will remain more productive over the winter months than chickens will. They aren’t as affected by the shorter day length as chickens are.
Oh, and don’t forget – duck eggs have such a unique taste and texture that is perfect for baking.
Many people who are allergic to chicken eggs report that the same is not true with duck eggs, making them a good choice for people with allergies, too.
If you have a garden, you may want to consider ducks as an alternative to chickens because they won’t rip things up.
Chickens can wreak serious havoc on a garden, tearing up your lawn, your flowers, your seedlings… everything!
Ducks, on the other hand, might nibble on some of your greenery, but for the most part, won’t make a mess.
They’re just as good at pest control, too. Ducks will go after all kinds of garden pests, making them a good choice if you want all-natural pest control without the work.
Despite this, ducks also provide good soil aeration. They’ll turn up bare soil for you as needed but won’t destroy plants that are already there.
Ducks free-range a wider area so they aren’t as likely to destroy the ground as chickens are.
Unlike chickens, who will scatter everywhere when you try to herd them, ducks are much easier to herd into a confined area. This makes it easier to get them back into their coop after a day of roaming.
Duck meat is absolutely delicious. It’s far from gamey, and can be cooked in a variety of ways.
If you like to make your own pillows or other kinds of crafts, raising ducks is the way to go. You can easily use the feathers and down to do this.
Since ducks are a migratory species of waterfowl, they’ll grow fine downy feathers beneath their main features during the winter to help keep them warm in the water.
Ducks will molt those downy feathers when springtime arrives – you can collect them and use them to make all sorts of things, from pillows to jackets or blankets.
You won’t get quite as many downy feathers as you would if you were raising geese, but they’re also a lot easier (and nicer!) to raise geese.
Duck poop is just as good of a fertilizer as chicken manure is – feel free to spread it on your garden or put it in your compost.
One of the benefits of duck manure is that it is often pre-diluted for you, since your ducks will poop in their water features.
You can scoop up some water from the pond with your watering can and have an already-watered down fertilizer to use on your plants.
Most domestic ducks can’t fly that well – at least, not as well as most chickens can. Ducks are usually heavier than chickens and so they have a harder time getting up and off the ground to fly. This also means that ducks will not fly away if you let them free-ranging.
They also don’t startle as easily as chickens do, so they’re less likely to take flight and find themselves in a tree when you sneak up on them.
Ducks have minimal health issues. They tend to have hardy immune systems and for whatever reason, aren’t as prone to many of the diseases that can affect chickens.
Of course, you will want to still follow proper care guidelines when feeding and housing them, of course, to keep them healthy.
Ducks are easy to sex, for the most part. During breeding season, male ducks develop curled feathers in their tails. In some breeds, males are different colors.
You can also tell the ducks apart by their voices- females are louder while males have a softer quack.
Duck fat is not only phenomenal for cooking, but it can also be used for crafts. In particular, duck fat has many uses in candle making.
What to Consider When Raising Ducks: The Cons
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately? I suppose this could also be an advantage to raising ducks, too) ducks grow very quickly.
Within just a couple of weeks, your once sweet, cute, tiny duckling will be about seven times its original size.
Naturally, it will still be quite adorable, but it will be eating and especially popping a lot more than it once was. You need to account for that rapid growth when planning out space for your ducks.
Although ducks aren’t quite as loud as other kinds of poultry, like guineas, they can still produce quite the commotion.
If you have neighbors close by, that can be an issue, as well as if you live in an urban area where there are restrictions on what kind and how many poultry you can raise.
Ducks are especially loud first thing in the morning, when they’re splashing in their pool or free-ranging.
Usually, the noise is happy and excited noise, but it can still be a bit annoying if you have neighbors that live close by.
If you are thinking you can feed your ducks exactly what you are already feeding your chickens, think again…
Ducks have a different diet. They need additional protein and niacin, and they shouldn’t have medicated feed.
Compared to other backyard poultry, like chickens, ducks are a lot more work when it comes to clean-up.
You not only have to feed them and clean up their poop, as you would with chickens, but you also have to add water to the equation.
Not just drinking water – naturally, all poultry species need that. However, with ducks, you have to worry about their pools and ponds.
These bathing areas are necessary for ducks and can get messy in a hurry. Not only that, but ducks will use that water to muck up their housing and pen.
Personally, I love the taste of duck eggs and I think they’re great for baking.
However, the main reason we haven’t jumped right back into raising ducks is that they can be tough to sell or get rid of when you have an excess. Not everybody likes them.
Duck eggs have a somewhat “eggier” flavor than chicken eggs.
This isn’t really that noticeable when you’re cooking or baking with them, but they aren’t as well suited to an omelet or scramble, in my opinion.
That can be a deterrent if you decide you don’t like duck eggs or can’t find anybody to give the extras to.
One major challenge of raising ducks for eggs is that they’ll lay them wherever they please.
This can be super annoying when it’s time to collect eggs – you never know where you might find them!
It is difficult to train ducks to lay their eggs in the same spot every time, as you can do with chickens.
Some duck owners have reported that their males can get a bit too aggressive with the female ducks during breeding season.
To combat this, you’re going to need to keep a balanced ratio of one male to five females.
A male can easily “service” that many females, but this will reduce the stress on one single female and reduce potential health problems and injuries as a result.
Ducks need more space than chickens when it comes to their coop and run.
Chickens prefer to roost in a nest up off the ground, but ducks would rather sleep on the ground.
That means that your coop will need to be much larger, since they’ll stay at ground level, and it will also need to have some protection against predators and the cold that can infiltrate from the ground up.
Granted, you don’t have to move your coop to a new location that often, since ducks will roam around the yard instead of staying close to the coop, as chickens will.
They can also be easily herded back to the coop, so there’s a trade-off there.
So – should you raise ducks? Ultimately, the answer is up to you.
You’ll want to weigh both the pros and cons of doing so before you jump in, as raising ducks can require quite a significant investment of time, money, energy, and love.
However, if you decide that raising ducks might not be a good choice, keep in mind that there are plenty of other poultry species you can choose from when it comes to populating your homestead.
Chickens are the most popular option, but you might also consider poultry species like guinea fowl, geese, peafowl, and turkeys.
If you decide to raise ducks, just make sure you provide for their basic needs in terms of housing, food, and water. The rest should come naturally!
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep, and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor. Learn more about Rebekah here.