In the past couple of years, folks have started keeping chickens in their backyards, homesteads, or city-based copes. Known as the ‘starter animal’ for most backyards and small farms, chickens are versatile animals to raise. Not only do they offer meat and plenty of eggs, but they also do a fantastic job of keeping bugs away. But if you’ve been raising chickens for a while and want to step up, it’s time to consider ducks as an alternative.
These adorable, fine-feathered pets offer more advantages than the now-common backyard chicken. Here, I discuss why you should raise ducks instead of chickens:
Duck is a delicacy in most areas, costing dollars at top restaurants. In addition, it takes an estimated two to four months to raise them for meat.
This is shorter than what chickens require. The fat from them is great for baking and cooking, and it will be great knowing that your ducks were raised in hygienic and healthy conditions with good feed and limited to no harmful chemicals.
Duck meat contains a significant amount of nutrients compared to chicken and other common meats.
They Are Healthier
Because ducks spend most of their time in the water, they are less susceptible to mites and other external parasites than chickens.
Any parasite that might be tempted to latch onto your ducks will end up drowning. Ducks also have healthier immune systems, tend to stay in better general health, and are less likely to contract diseases.
They Are Also More Cold-Hardy
Ducks have an additional layer of fat, which chickens tend to lack. Their feathers are weatherproofed to protect their bodies from various environmental elements.
Moreover, ducks have a thick down undercoat designed to help keep them dry and warm while they swim. Thus, ducks are more cold-hardy than chickens and prefer sleeping outside.
Ducks are comparatively more productive when laying eggs and do so for a longer period. In fact, ducks from the top egg-laying breeds may lay eggs for years.
On the flip side, chickens taper off after 2 to 3 years.
In addition, duck eggs are comparatively larger than chicken eggs. Duck breeds lay eggs much larger than what people would expect for a duck’s size.
Ducks typically lay eggs between 4 am- 8 am per day. Ducks lay their eggs in the pens where they sleep at night. This way, homesteaders can collect eggs once a day when you let your ducks outside the pen.
On the other hand, chickens have a 26-hour laying cycle, which means they have unpredictable laying times. Not to mention, chickens require daylight hours to lay eggs.
Lastly, duck eggs contain 17% percent of the requisitory vitamin D, whereas chicken eggs have only 9%.
They Love Weeds and Pests
While chickens love gobbling up insects and pests, they don’t feed on the giant slugs and snails that ducks catch. Laying ducks can easily eat an eight-inch slug.
At the same time, some breeds, like the Muscovy duck, feeds on the fly, tick, Japanese beetle, mosquito, wasp, and other insects. This way, you can enjoy controlling the pest population on your property.
Moreover, a duck’s webbed feet and the curved bill won’t scatter, tear, or scratch up plants or garden rows. On the flip side, a chicken’s feet and sharp beaks will ruin your garden, which is why they must remain in a designated area.
This way, your ducks can also help you control weeds lacking harmful herbicides. Besides munching on your weeds, they provide phosphorus-rich manure for your compost, garden, and property.
Tips to Keep in Mind When Raising Ducks
If you decide to adopt ducks, here are some tips you need to keep in mind:
Provide Plenty of Water
It’s no secret; ducks love water. New ducklings require plenty of water to swallow their food; however, they don’t need too much water. Make sure to keep your ducklings in enough water that’s deep enough to submerge their beaks. This is to help them clean off excess food.
Plus, most ducklings are not always ready to swim right away, especially without a mother duck. Their down isn’t waterproof, so they can easily catch a cold.
If you allow your ducklings to swim in the water, make sure you’re ready to dry them and keep their brooder warm and gentle. Never let your ducklings swim unsupervised until they grow adult feathers.
Have the Right Feed
Before bringing your ducklings home, make sure you have suitable feed in the brooder. Ducklings prefer to munch on crumble and should not be given a chick starter. Most feed markets offer various options specially formulated for baby waterfowl.
Make sure you read the label to ensure that your ducklings’ feed contains all essential nutrients. Ensure you choose a meal rich in niacin to boost the growth of their bones.
Your ducklings will also love special treats like mealworms, crickets, beet greens, lettuce, and so on.
Cons of Keeping a Duck
Ducks Can be Very Noisy
Ducks are expressive creatures, and they communicate a lot. When your ducks are excited or agitated, they’ll chatter a lot.
Moreover, if one duck starts talking, others join in and start quacking too. While it’s likely you’ll be unbothered by the chatter; your neighbors may not be pleased with this behavior.
If You’re Not Careful, Ducks Might Eat Your Garden
Just like pests are unsafe around ducks, so are your plants. Also, they are omnivores, so they enjoy eating plants as well.
If the plants in your garden look appealing, your ducks may start nibbling on them. They especially love greens like chicory, kale, lettuce, and chard. If you have these plants growing in your garden, make sure you shield them before letting your ducks out.
Ducks Grow Up Fast
If you get ducks because of their cuteness factor, you might get a little discouraged when they grow. Adult ducks are cute, but ducklings are far more adorable.
Ducklings can grow up to 7 times their size within a couple of weeks!
To Sum it Up
All in all, if you’re looking to get eggs all year round, have happy and healthy birds, and eliminate pesky insects and weeds, consider adding ducks in your backyard flock.