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Raising Ducks for Eggs
Ducks are a great alternative or supplement for chickens. They will produce eggs during periods of the year when chickens won’t, but can live in the same space and even eat much of the same food. Raising the two together can be great fun – ducks have a totally different energy in the poultry-yard than chickens and their mannerisms are equally fun to watch.
So here are the top ten things to know when raising ducks for eggs:
1. Best Breeds
The best breeds to look at for eggs are Khaki Campbells, Indian Runner, Buff, Welsh Harlequin, Magpie, and Ancona ducks. Their egg-laying capabilities range from 240 eggs a year from the Ancona to the Campbell with its 340 eggs a year. Plus, a number of these ducks are considered ‘dual-purpose’ and can be harvested for meat if you breed and end up with too many drakes.
2. Cooking and Eating
Duck eggs can be eaten cooked like any chicken egg and may be slightly more nutritious, however they are most stellar in baking because of their higher fat content. They also have a longer shelf life than chicken eggs.
3. Food Allergies
Raising ducks for eggs is great – unless you’re allergic. Duck egg allergies can occur in people with no known chicken egg allergy and the severity of the allergy can be very dependent on how the eggs are cooked. Husbando has a duck egg allergy and it took us ages to figure out that he had it and we discovered it almost by chance. We bake often with duck eggs and he has no problems with them when we bake with them.
I started noticing that if we made fried egg sandwiches with duck eggs instead of chicken eggs he would get debilitating stomach pains. We put it off to a variety of other things at first, not for a minute thinking it could be an egg allergy… And then one day I decided to do an internet search to see if it was even possible to be allergic to duck eggs and discovered he was a very normally allergic person.
Interestingly, I learned that there isn’t a lot of cross-over between duck egg allergy and chicken egg allergy. In fact, some people with chicken egg allergies are able to eat duck eggs without any trouble. The issue appears to be the protein in the eggs of waterfowl.
Ducks are amazing foragers and certain breeds of ducks – such as the Indian Runner, were bred to hunt up pests like slugs and other bugs that terrorize your garden. We’ve had great success with our straw bale garden by letting the ducks go through and clear them out. And there is nothing more fun than listening to them talk to each other while they gurgle away in a little puddle eating worms and slugs and icky little grubs.
5. Raised Together
Ducks and chickens can be raised together but you need to make sure they have separate waterers. It’s not just that ducks drink way, way more than chickens (almost double) but ducks are messy. You want to make sure that their waterers are up off the ground or they will do everything they can to stand in their water while drinking. Even if it means they can only get one foot in there, they will do it. This makes the water very dirty very, very quickly.
6. Healthy Ducklings
You can raise chicks and ducklings together, however, you cannot feed them the same food. For ducklings to develop properly they need a food high in niacin and they cannot tolerate medicated chick food. Otherwise, they can share a brooding box and everything else.
7. Raising Ducklings for Eggs
Ducks love water, but ducklings cannot be allowed to submerge in water until their oils come in. You can let them start wading at about one week old, however they have to be able to walk in and out of the water and must have easy access to their heat lamp so they can get dry and warm right away. If they have regular, brief access at these younger ages it can help to speed up the development of their oil gland and they can start swimming properly by eight weeks.
8. No Pond Needed
While we’re used to seeing them in ponds and lakes, ducks don’t need water to swim in as long as they have lots of water to drink. However, if you want your ducks to be at their happiest while avoiding the hassle of putting a pond in your yard, you can use a wading pool. Change out the water when it starts to look dirty. Some ducks will even lay their eggs in a pond because they enjoy hanging out there so much.
9. No Boys Allowed
Like chickens, female ducks do not need a drake to lay eggs. In fact, I don’t recommend having any drakes if you can avoid it because of the male duck libido. The drake libido is so high they can literally damage or even kill the females if there aren’t enough girls around to share the attention. They may even go after other poultry and fowl to have their needs met. Your ducks will lay eggs without a male. Don’t borrow trouble unless you want to get into breeding.
10. Drop and Roll
Ducks are less likely to brood in no small part because they don’t really nest! The good-laying breeds are known for just dropping an egg in the middle of the yard as they forage along with their beaks in the grass. In fact, we’ve known our Runner ducks to drop eggs in the pond while swimming. This means no need for nesting boxes like with chickens – your ducks will happily sleep on the floor in some straw and lay eggs in the yard while they play.