Over the past two years we have started to keep ducks on the homestead. We had always been chicken people—they’re a little more mainstream, but my husband wanted to try something new. While we still have chickens, ducks have become a valuable part of our farm. Here are ten reasons, as told by my husband, that we’ll keep ducks around.
10 Reasons to Keep Ducks on the Homestead
1. Pest control
Ducks have an insatiable appetite for bugs and grubs making them a great organic choice for pest control in the garden. They nose their bills through the top inch of soil (if it is loose enough) in hopes of finding anything that moves. Many people attest to the use of poultry to reduce tick population around a property. Unlike chickens, ducks do not scratch the ground and so will not scar a lawn. Using a temporary electric fence (affiliate link), or a “chicken tractor” makes managing ducks in a desired area very easy. We have both, but have recently become big fans of the electric fence method due to convenience of use and the wider area that it offers.
2. Egg production
Eggs! This was the reason we started to keep ducks in the first place. We were surprised to find that duck eggs not only tasted better than the chicken eggs (in our opinion), but they’re actually healthier for you. Ducks have higher vitamin and mineral content per gram of egg, although this largely depends on what goes into their diet. By moving our ducks around the farm we keep them happy with a variety of bugs, grubs, and plants. It also helps us save on their feed bill.
Our ducks currently lay 1 egg a day per female and are keeping up with or outlaying our chickens. If you try to compare chickens or ducks to find out what is the better layer you will realize that it comes down to breed. Always look for a good laying breed before you keep ducks for eggs. We have mostly white layers. Don’t buy muscovy ducks for eggs—they will eat more than most other ducks and lay fewer eggs (more at 5 Reasons Muscovy Ducks May Not be Right for You).
3. Meat production
Duck meat tastes excellent! It often has higher fat content than other poultry meat, but in all honesty the fat is where all the flavor is. If you want a good tasting meat bird, bring on the ducks. PS, Don’t buy muscovy ducks for meat—they eat too much and take too long to grow (more at 5 Reasons Muscovy Ducks May Not be Right for You).
4. Temperament (and sound)
Nothing can make you feel more like you live on a lovely farm than the sound of ducks quacking. There is nothing harsh about it. I think it’s calming and I find myself going out just to watch them waddle and quack about. Unlike chickens, you never get the feeling like you’re going to lose an eye or have your hands pecked if you look away for a moment. I think ducks are much nicer to have around young kids. I often let my one year old run around with the ducks as they slowly herd each other back and forth.
5. Garden clean up
Ducks can be used to clean up garden plots that you have finished harvesting or greenhouses that you want prepared for the next crop. They will eat any pesky bugs that may be residing in the soil as well as any previous plants, seeds, and roots.
6. Lawn maintenance
By using ducks on your lawn you will reduce how much you have to mow. Ducks also find some weeds, such as dandelions, more delectable than grass and eat those first leaving nothing but tiny disguised little nubs beneath the healthy lawn. Using animals to cut lawns and manage foliage is picking up steam these days.
Wherever you have your ducks foraging they will leave their lovely gifts behind, which will then feed the plants around. Ducks do not have sphincter muscles, which means they cannot control their bowel movements. This results in the good stuff not being too concentrated in any one particular spot. It’s an easy way to improve soil quality wherever the ducks are working. When their pen is cleaned out it can also be deposited on the compost pile.
8. Easy to herd
Ducks are the easiest thing to herd on feet! If you can slowly walk and occasionally put an arm out you are capable of herding ducks. I have my movable fence (affiliate link) set up on the other side of the yard from where the duck’s night pen is. Regardless, I haven’t had a single issue herding them back and forth. Currently I only have nine ducks, so this will likely be trickier with more, but generally they are much easier to herd than chickens.
These guys are tough! It depends on the breed, but generally ducks are very good at adapting to various weather. We get as low as -20 in the winter and as high as +40 in the summers and have had no problems yet. Our coop isn’t even well insulated or heated. I have heard stories of ducks waking up with their feet frozen to the ground, waiting for them to thaw, and walking around like nothing happened. Truly amazing.
10. Never going to eat their own eggs (or each other)
Ducks, to my knowledge, don’t get this bad habit. With chickens it only takes one to spread the unsavoury practice to her colleagues.
So are ducks superior to chickens? No. I think both birds are unique and have practical applications around the homestead. If you are not sold on being a chicken fanatic but still want fresh farm eggs, I suggest giving yourself the opportunity to keep ducks.