I’ve put together this article to dive into comparing chickens vs ducks, and why one may fit your homestead or small-scale farm more than the other.
Chickens vs Ducks for Homesteading
I think it’s best if I break down judgment into several key categories. We’ll talk about how each of these birds differs in that particular category, so you get a nice side to side comparison of chickens and ducks, so you can choose the best backyard flock! The areas I’ll dive into are…
- Meat quality
- Care requirements
- Costs involved
Duck Eggs vs Chicken Eggs
There’s a lot that goes into what a “good layer” is. The first of these is the animal’s laying schedule (how often do they lay eggs/when do they lay eggs). Then, their productivity (how many eggs they lay). Finally, the overall quality of the egg (size, taste, etc…).
Obviously, these will vary by breed, so for the purposes of this article, we will just be looking at ducks and chickens that are considered “good layers”.
Chickens have a laying schedule of one egg every 1-1.5 days, taking several weeks off per year due to cold temperatures, which puts their annual total a little over 200 eggs per year/per bird. They have a pretty regular laying schedule, generally using the same laying box around the same time each day.
Chickens have a high tendency to become broody, meaning they want to sit on a clutch of eggs, which will result in your hens taking some extra time off of laying. The quality and size of their eggs are fantastic, with a mild taste as well.
Recommended: Collecting and Storing Fresh Chicken Eggs
Ducks have a similar laying cycle to chickens, with the main difference being that they lay at night rather than during daylight hours. Ducks are much hardier when it comes to laying in the winter.
An advantage to ducks is their aversion to becoming “broody” like chickens. Good laying breeds will average 180-200 eggs per duck/per year. Duck eggs are slightly larger than chicken eggs and have a rich taste as a result of there being more omega fatty acids.
Duck Meat vs Chicken Meat
Assessing the quality of meat is a rather subjective business. Although we can measure carcass weight, determining the difference between chickens and ducks for meat will depend on your own personal preferences.
For the most part, ducks tend to be slightly larger than chickens, but this is highly dependent on the breeds you choose. For small-scale operations, I always recommend finding a hybrid breed that will give you high-quality laying along with high meat yield.
As far as meat quality goes, your big difference is going to be the taste. Duck meat tends to be more akin to dark chicken meat, with a much stronger flavor. Duck meat is slightly fattier as well. The two types of meat can often be used interchangeably in recipes, but I definitely recommend you taste duck meat before you decide on raising them.
Care Requirements of Chickens vs Ducks
Obviously, the holy trinity of raising animals applies to both chickens and ducks: food, shelter, and water. I don’t think either of them is better or worse than the other, but I urge you to take into consideration your own specific operation/facility/needs as you begin to consider adopting chickens or ducks.
Care of Chickens
Chickens tend to be strong fliers and faster on their feet than ducks. Because of this, they require taller fencing or completely enclosed areas.
Chickens also lay in the daylight hours, so you’ll need to keep your nesting boxes close to their forage areas in order for them to lay in places where you can find the eggs! At nighttime, chickens roost high-up naturally, so make sure to provide them with perches in their coop.
Care of Ducks
If you’ve ever seen ducks move about, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that they’re a little slower than chickens at just about everything. They definitely seem out of place on land and in the air, which makes them much more vulnerable to land predators. It does also mean that they are easily contained and controlled with short fencing or simply herding them around.
Ducks lay in the nighttime hours, so they can happily forage all day while being far from their coop. Ducks do not perch, so the main coop difference is ample floor and nesting space. Ducks also require bathing water to keep their skin and feathers healthy, unlike chickens who take dry dust baths.
Once you’ve got your flock and equipment established, you’ll find that chickens and ducks are extremely comparable in most aspects, including cost. I think the only difference you’ll run into is keeping your ducks supplied with plenty of water for their bathing area. In some areas, that could mean a higher water bill, but that’s unlikely and probably won’t be enough to really shake your head at.
The other issue you’ll find, however, is that chicks are WAY easier to find than ducklings and they tend to be a bit less expensive as well. Because chickens are so much more common, you may end up needing to order ducklings, or travel a bit further to get your hands on the specific breeds you’ve decided on.
For example, the price for 10 Isa Brown chickens, one of my favorite chicken breeds, is about $27 for 10 chicks at the time of writing.
For 10 Pekin ducklings, you’re looking at about $60 (at time of writing).
You can buy twice as many chicks as ducks for the same price. Don’t let it stop you though, ducks are hardy and great value to have around. What are you going to choose, chickens or ducks, or both?
We’ve decided on chickens for our own homestead. Mainly because I can’t get used to the taste of duck eggs so I don’t think I’d use them. I don’t eat meat and my family doesn’t particularly appreciate duck meat. So, for us, the choice of chickens vs ducks is clear.
How about you? Just for fun, here’s my girls, happily demolishing an arrowroot plant…