Are Ducks or Chickens Right for You? | Living the Country Life
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Are Ducks or Chickens Right for You?

Learn more about these backyard favorites to help choose which birds are right for your acreage.
  • Picking Poultry

    When it comes to raising poultry, chickens have long been the backyard standard. However, ducks are getting more attention lately as popular birds. Chickens and ducks share quite a few similarities and can live together well, but they also differ in several key ways. Before bringing home a gaggle of ducks, be sure to learn the differences between the flocks. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Ducks are Better Foragers

    Ducks eat slugs and chomp on mosquito larvae in pools of water. Dave Holderread, founder of holderread Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center in Corvallis, Oregon, says ducks are raised on pasture forage for a higher percentage of their diet than chickens, reducing feed bills. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Ducks are Messy

    It's no secret that ducks love water, but all of their splashing creates a big mess. "If there is water, even a small puddle, ducks will be in it, splashing around and getting everything wet," says Glenn Drowns, author of Storey's Guide to Raising Poultry. Keeping water away from the ducks' sleeping area will help minimize some of the mess. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Ducks are More Vulnerable to Predators

    Because domesticated ducks don't move as quickly as chickens (and many can't fly), they are more vulnerable to predators like raccoons and owls. Electric fencing and aviary netting can help protect ducks in pasture, but Drowns recommends a flock be locked up at night. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Ducks can Weather Cold

    Flocks can thrive in frigid temperatures. "In Alaska, where temperatures don't get above 0°F for weeks, ducks will still be laying while chickens are dying," Holderread says. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Ducks are Superior Layers

    In an egg-laying competition, ducks win. Ducks have an ovulation cycle of just under 24 hours (compared with just over 24 hours for chickens). "The best-laying duck breeds will outlay the best-laying chicken breeds," Holderread says. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Duck Eggs Equal More

    Duck eggs can be the same size or slightly larger than chicken eggs but are higher in protein (9 grams compared to 6 grams). Duck eggs taste a little different and may not be as good if you like hard-boiled eggs, but they're hailed as superior for baking. "Duck eggs make moister, richer baked goods," Drowns says. They often command almost double the price of free-range chicken eggs. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Ducks are Good-Natured

    For backyard poultry enthusiasts, eggs are an egg-cellent benefit of raising either chickens or ducks, but ducks offer another advantage. "Ducks are self-reliant and have wonderful personalities," Holderread says. "A lot of people call the the happiest farm animals." 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Preparing For Your Flock

    Ducks and chickens require slightly different housing and feed. Consider the following as you prepare a spot for your backyard friends. 

    Hatcheries and breeders sell multiple breeds of chicks and ducklings that differ in size, coloring, temperament, and purpose. Like chickens, ducks are classified as layers, meat birds, or dual-purpose breeds. Both species require extra care as babies, including a safe (heated) brooder, high-protein feed, and clean water. However, ducklings are hardier than chicks and can be moved outdoors after just three to four weeks, whereas many chicks won't tolerate cold until about 6 weeks old.

    Chicks require a higher-protein feed than ducklings, so the flocks should be kept in separate brooders with their own feed; as adults, both can share a "flock raiser" feed, but they'll need separate waterers. Ducks rinse their bills frequently as a means of flushing out their nostrils to prevent sinus infections. The habit dirties their water, but chickens prefer pristine drinking water. Plan to hang one waterer out of reach of the ducks, Holderread says.

    Because of their wide webbed feet and short legs, ducks cannot waddle up a ramp to enter a coop. Since most domesticated ducks can't fly, they need ground-level access to their sleeping quarters. A doghouse in a predatorproof enclosure is a good option. 

    Although ducks love to swim and happily spend hours paddling around a pond, having a small body of water is not required; a kiddie pool serves as a suitable substitute. 

    The following duck breeds are excellent layers. As with chickens, some lay better than others. If you'd like to raise ducks for their eggs, consider the next top breeds. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Khaki Campbell

    This prolific laying breed, a cross between a fawn-and-white Indian Runner and a Rouen, dates back to 1898. The light ducks weigh less than 5 pounds each and start laying eggs as early as 5 months old. A Khaki Campbell lays betweeen 250 and 340 eggs per year. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Photo courtesy of Countryside Network

    Silver Appleyard

    These colorful ducks came to the United States from England in the 1960s and became a popular backyard breed. The heavyweight-breed ducks weight between 6 and 8 pounds each. A female lays 220 to 265 white eggs per year. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks
  • Image courtesy of Imgur

    Indian Runner

    The upright bodies of these docile ducks make them stand out. Indian Runners also come in more colors - white, buff, chocolate, gray, and black - than any other breed. Each of the lightweight ducks weighs as little as 4 pounds and lays up to 250 eggs per year. 

    Date Published: April 10, 2018
    Date Updated: April 11, 2018
    Tags: Ducks

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