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Ducks vs. Chickens
One of the first thoughts that crosses the minds of new homesteaders is raising chickens and getting fresh, organic, home-grown eggs. Ducks, however, have become a strong competitor for chickens on many homesteads. But which is better?
We’re going to do a side-by-side comparison of the key issues that influence the decision in choosing between ducks and chickens on the homestead.
Ducks vs. Chickens
When it comes to animal health, chickens are a little more work. Many chicken breeds cannot handle hot or cold weather, though there are some that are very cold hardy. Plus, with their combs, even a cold-hardy chicken can get frostbite and end up permanently damaged. Chickens are also more prone to parasites and some diseases.
Ducks tend to be more cold-hardy and have a greater heat tolerance than chickens. They also tend to do a better job of fighting off parasites and have fewer diseases that can cause issues.
All chickens, even hens, are noisy. Roosters are very noisy, but after a hen lays an egg, she loudly and proudly clucks so that everyone knows her work is done.
Depending on the breed, ducks can be much quieter than chickens unless calling to their flock. Drakes are not particularly noisy, especially compared to roosters. In general, as long as the whole flock of ducks can see one another you may hear them mutter as they forage, but there won’t be loud calls.
Eggs are one of the biggest reasons that homesteaders look to chickens. Chicken eggs are very familiar in taste and consistency. However, only certain breeds are considered excellent layers with egg-laying rates that are roughly an egg a day. Plus, during a molt, chickens won’t lay at all, and they need a certain amount of sunlight during the winter months in order to maintain production. Plus, some people may be allergic to chicken eggs but able to eat duck eggs.
Ducks lay more consistently than chickens and lay bigger, more nutritious eggs. Duck can taste weird to those used to chicken eggs when scrambled or fried, but they are ideal for baking. On the downside, while you can count on your chickens to lay in a nesting box, ducks drop eggs wherever the urge hits them. This can leave you out hunting for eggs in your yard, hoping to find them before they spoil.
Chickens will win a cleanliness battle every time. They’re just way less mess than ducks. Their poop is more solid and they don’t stomp their dirty feet in the watering dish all the time.
Ducks are dirty and they love to forage around in the mud then bring their muddy bills to the water dish. First, they’ll squirt the mud into the water while they drink, then they’ll try to stand in it.
Chickens can be a bit of a bother in the yard if you let them roam free. They love to scratch and will scratch young plants right out of the ground. Older plants will quickly have their roots left bare and exposed. However, they are quick to go after all kinds of bugs with gusto, so if you can find ways to protect your plants from them they are a great ally.
Ducks leave plants alone making them a much better option if you struggle to find ways to keep your birds out of your beds. Plus they provide different pest control than chickens – got slugs? Ducks will eradicate your slug problem.
Both ducks and chickens are judged on personality by their breed. Some people say that ducks are much more friendly, others chickens. In my experience chickens are infinitely more friendly. We have raised both and the ducks run from us while the chickens come at the same time. We’re now on our third generation of ducks and chickens and this has held true for each one.
Chicken housing requires more work than duck housing – they need nesting boxes for laying eggs and a place to roost at night. However, chickens take up less space because they roost off the ground which means you can “store” them vertically at night.
Ducks are less work, their housing needs are fairly simple and they can be housed with almost any other livestock you have, even chickens, as long as there is enough space for them to sleep on the floor. However, while ducks do not require a pond, you do have to provide a wading water source for them so they can drink and eat properly.