Ducks are some of the most interesting animals we have kept. They were the first homestead animals we personally owned. However, for how much we love keeping ducks, there are also a few less desirable aspects of having these birds around the homestead.
If you’d like to read more of the reasons you should keep ducks, check out our sister article 10 Reasons to Keep Ducks on the Homestead.
Reasons Keeping Ducks May Not be for You
1. Ducking noise
Many of the popular duck breeds kept on the homestead originate from the common mallard. This is not the quietest of birds, and so its descendants have inherited the urge to quack.
Alternatively, you could go with the quack-less variety of muscovy. (see reasons to keep muscovies on the homestead.)
Many people choose to keep their ducks farther away from the house just to keep the sound dampened. While the noise can be annoying, it can also be usefully for knowing when an unwelcome guest is lurking around the pens.
2. Ducking mess
Ducks like to make a royal mess of any area you give them. Not only do they root through the dirt and grass looking for grubs, but they have a bad habit of needing to wash their bills all the time resulting in water everywhere.
Ducks have an instinct to filter their food through their bills with water. In a natural setting this would happen in ponds or other bodies of water. In a coop set-up your ducks will grab food from one dish and transfer it over to the water. If able to submerge their beak they will swish back and forth with their head causing any unsecured grains and feed to dislodge from the bill.
This process is not a problem for a duck! They are designed to eat this way. But now that they have rooted through the food, the water, and the mucky mud, they will head back to the water to get their bill cleaned up for another round. This dance can make short work of any clean space.
3. Ducking water challenges
The previous point sums up some of the biggest challenges with water. Because of this bill-washing instinct you will go through loads of water with almost any system.
Ducks also love to have somewhere to paddle around. If possible, this is a really nice thing to have to keep them happy. However, this can come with a good deal of cleaning, digging, supplying water, and making sure it stays safe.
The good news is that if you are going to make a pond it doesn’t have to be deep. Most common breeds including Kakhi Campbell, Rowen, Welsh Harlequins, Buff, and Indian runners all originate from a mallard, which is a dabbling duck. This means they stay on top of the water and don’t dive under at all. They will stick their bums up and try to reach what they can but will never go completely under. There are diving ducks, but they are built quite differently than dabbling ducks.
4. Ducking aggression (but not towards owners)
To put it bluntly, ducks can be rough during mating. A drake also can prefer one or several of the ladies over the others, which can cause extraneous issues for the duck. This can lead to increased stress, loss of neck feathers, abrasions in the skin and, in rare cases, a dead duck.
One way to prevent this is to know your ducks. Make sure the dynamics are working out. If not change something.
5. Duck eggs everywhere
Ducks will often lay their eggs later in the day compared to chickens. If they are sharing a coop this sometimes means they will wait until the coop is open and lay them outside wherever they may be at the time. Chickens will almost always lay their eggs in a nest-type area, but ducks seem more tolerant of not-so-perfect sites.
I have found eggs on bare open ground, beside water dishes, next to the food, or anywhere. Sometimes it can be a real Easter-egg hunt each day.
6. May escape (accidently) from electric fences
Remember that lovely thing that ducks do with their bill in the water (Point #2)? They also do that in the dirt with their head down to root around for plants, roots, and bugs while walking around.
If you have a temporary electric fence you use to contain your poultry, the ducks may accidently push themselves underneath the bottom wire while trying to feed. On an electric fence the bottom wire is usually not hot because it would constantly be grounded out.
All this explains why a duck wouldn’t feel a shock and may sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of the fence. More often than not the duck will stay by the fence and even try to get back in—they do this because ducks are very social animals and can’t stand being left to their lonesome. But you may still come across these renegade ducks, and be forced to catch and return them to their home.
7. Ducking stubborn about bedtime
Some ducks just don’t care how dark or cold it is, they are going to stay where they are and not go in the coop. This is when you realize how nice a trait it is that chickens naturally like to roost and go in at night. In contrast, ducks would, by nature, stay on the open water or tucked in the long grass in the wilderness.
This sometimes translates to bad bedtime habits for ducks. Of course, most animals can be trained, but not everyone has the time to put into that.
8. Ducks are ground sleepers
Ducks like to sleep on the ground tucked away. This can sometimes work well in a shared coop with chickens because they can occupy different places, but it can also come with other problems.
Would you want to sleep right under a flock of chickens every night???
Also the bottom of a coop is significantly colder. Ducks can be very cold tolerant, which is a good thing, but there are cases of ducks staying in one place through the night and freezing to the floor. Fortunately, there are not too many blood vessels in a ducks feet, and in most cases they can be the thawed out without any damage.
Still, this may be something to consider, especially if your coop has some wet spots.
9. Difficulties with butchering
If you are planning to keep ducks for meat, you will need to consider some of the difficulties with butchering.
Ducks are butchered almost the same way as chickens, but they have down built into their feathers. This prevents boiling water from reaching the base. Trying to pluck a duck is a truly frustrating experience.
There is wax you can use to dip a duck into that sticks to all the down. In theory, it can be peeled off. (we have never tried this personally. You can read more about defeathering with wax.) However, this is an extra step in the already complicated process of butchering. If you are only processing a few birds, the cost and bother doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Skinning your duck is also an option. We often resort to this. However, this will cause you lose all that beautiful duck fat
10. Not enough ducking space.
Ducks like to have space to explore—Remember, they are related to wild birds. They will be less troublesome and quieter if they can roam around and do their ducky thing.
Ducks free-range well, and don’t cause as much damage to garden beds, etc., as chickens because they don’t have the same pecking and scratching tendencies. However, they will tend to wander farther away from the coop over time, so will likely need to be contained as well.
If space is an issue, ducks might not be the best choice.
So, is keeping ducks for you?
We have really enjoyed our experiences keeping ducks. You can read so much more about the positive sides of keeping ducks at our list of 10 reasons to raise these birds on the homestead.
However, we do not currently have any ducks—take from that what you will.
Perhaps we’ll bring them back to our little piece of land in the future.
Hopefully this article has given you an idea as to whether or not ducks are right for your flock.
For other small homestead animals we have written about our experiences on:
–10 Reasons Keeping Rabbits May Not be for You
–10 Reasons to Keep Rabbits on the Homestead
–5 Reasons Muscovy Ducks May Not be Right for You
–10 Real Benefits of Keeping Muscovy Ducks