Let’s dive into the pros and cons of raising ducks in your backyard! Are backyard ducks right for you?
Raising Ducks in Your Backyard
Those of us living on homesteads, whether they’re in the country or urban areas, have many things to consider when starting out. From fruits to vegetables to farm animals, there are ways to narrow down the available options based upon environment, growing season, and what your family will eat or sell.
Animals are no different. Ducks have always been around as an option, but until recently they have not been on the radar for most homesteaders. Nowadays, raising ducks has become more mainstream, and for several reasons.
When we think of ducks, we think of the migratory waterfowl that fly southward in the winter for warmer pastures, but they are now becoming a more popular fowl for homesteaders’ pastures. Raising domesticated ducks of any breed has many upsides to it.
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15 Pros of Raising Backyard Ducks
- Ducks are excellent egg layers
- Ducks may lay eggs almost every day
- If you’re allergic to chicken eggs, you may be able to eat duck eggs
- Ducks provide great soil aeration
- Ducks are great pest control
- Ducks free-range a wider area so they don’t destroy the ground as chickens might
- Ducks can be herded
- Ducks provide red meat
- You get feathers and duck down for pillows, blankets, etc.
- Ducks give you easy fertilizer
- Backyard ducks don’t startle easily
- Ducks don’t tend to escape as chickens might
- Duck eggs are worth more than chicken eggs
- Duck fat can be used for frying, baking, and candle making
- Friendly duck-chatter around the homestead!
A big positive is that once your backyard ducks are mature enough, they tend to be excellent egg layers and most breeds tend to lay eggs almost once a day. Another plus with duck eggs is that if you are allergic to chicken eggs you will often (but not always) be able to eat duck eggs, although the duck eggs may have a stronger taste than most people are used to. You’ll need bigger egg cartons for your eggs, like this one:
Recommended: Raising Baby Ducks
For the homesteader, things that serve more than one purpose are always greatly valued, and that goes for crops and livestock as well. Cows produce good manure for compost and fertilizer, goats are good for keeping weeds and grasses at bay, and chickens eat bugs and provide some manure.
Ducks, however, are an unsung hero of the homestead. Ducks provide very good soil aeration much like chickens do. Unlike chickens, though, backyard ducks are not nearly as picky about the bugs and grubs they eat and tend to eat a lot more.
They also tend to be naturally wider-ranging and do not have to be moved around in a tractor coop each day to prevent them from tearing up or destroying the ground around their home.
Herding & Eating Ducks
Ducks can also be herded, which makes it easy to get them back into their coop for the night after a day of roaming around their homestead.
Most, if not all, breeds of ducks are also very tasty and provide good meat that does not taste too “gamey” and can be cooked in many different ways. The meat from ducks is a red meat along the lines of beef, while chicken is a white meat.
When raising ducks, make sure you feed your ducks a good, preferably organic feed, like this one:
Duck Feathers & Fertilizer
A few other things ducks can provide in addition to eggs, meat, and pest control are feathers and fertilizer. Since ducks are a migratory waterfowl, they grow a layer of fine downy feathers underneath their main feathers during the colder winter months to keep warm while flying and swimming on cold water.
When warmer weather comes, ducks begin to molt those warm little downy feathers, and that is the perfect time to collect the feathers to make pillows, blankets, jackets, or anything else warm you might need. Ducks may not provide as many down feathers as geese do, but their nicer temperament more than makes up for that.
The easy fertilizer that backyard ducks provide is also a positive side effect of raising ducks. Ducks need a pond or water feature of some sort to thrive and they tend to poop wherever they wander. Since the water has already diluted the duck manure and needs to be changed frequently, homesteaders can put that water into a watering can and put the ready-made fertilizer directly into the garden.
I just love this specialized duck coop from Fifthroom.com, it has a pond for ducks built-in!
6 x 10 Dura-Temp Duck House with Small Pond from: Fifthroom.com
Minimal Health Issues
There are a couple of last positives about keeping ducks on the homestead. The first one is that ducks tend to have minimal health issues for animals that live so close together. They are fairly hardy birds and have excellent immune systems that keep them from getting most diseases that are common to chickens.
Second, ducks don’t have a propensity to escape over fences or walls as much as chickens do. Domestic ducks can fly, but can’t fly as high as a chicken might due to their weight; domestic ducks also don’t startle as easily.
A bonus of raising ducks in your backyard is that they are adorably cute and “talk” or chatter.
8 Cons of Raising Ducks in Your Backyard
- Need clean water to bathe in
- Ducks are very vocal
- Ducks lay eggs where they feel like it
- Ducks eat more than chickens
- Ducks eggs are an acquired taste
- Fattier and possibly less meat than from a chicken
- Ducks need more space than chickens
Now, for the downsides of raising ducks. The biggest downside of raising ducks is the mess they leave. Since they are waterfowl, they require a lot of water, hence the name “waterfowl”. The water has to be changed frequently in order to maintain cleanliness, since ducks have a habit of fouling their water source with mud, poop, and whatever else is around them. These simple troughs work well as a duck pond:
- Seamless construction for outstanding durability
- Five sizes to fit all your watering needs; from 50 gallons up to 300 gallons
- Optional all-plastic anti-siphon float valve provides constant water level
- Measures 51-2/3" x 31" x 12", Made in the USA
They are also louder than other birds such as chickens, as ducks tend to chatter throughout the day as they go about their business. This might not be a problem for homesteaders with a good amount of land and no close neighbors nearby, but for those urban or suburban homesteaders with neighbors close by this might present more of an issue with noise.
While chickens lay their eggs in their coop, ducks lay their eggs wherever they happen to be when it is the time of day for them to lay their eggs. If they aren’t in their coop at that time, that may mean having to go hunt for the ducks’ eggs.
The eggs tend to be bigger, on average, than chickens’ eggs, but if you are not used to the taste, many people say that ducks’ eggs tend to have a sharper or stronger flavor and may be a little off-putting. Another thing to keep in mind is that while backyard ducks eat more than other birds such as chickens, their eggs can be sold for more, which can offset the cost of extra feed.
Also, while duck meat is tasty, domesticated backyard ducks that do not have to fly to migrate tend to be much fattier than wild ducks or even chickens, and might have less meat on them than a similar-sized chicken might. While a homesteader might get less meat for eating, the upside to getting this much fat off the bird is having a source of cooking fat for frying or baking as well as for candle making.
Duck Space Needs
One last thing to keep in mind about raising ducks is the amount of space they will take up on the homestead. Aside from the water features that ducks will need, which was mentioned earlier, ducks also need a much bigger coop than, say, a chicken might need.
While birds such as chickens like to roost in a nest that is raised off the ground, ducks do not roost like this and prefer to sleep on the ground. This means that ducks will need a much larger coop to live in since they live at ground level instead of on the second floor of their coop as chickens would.
An upside to keep in mind with this setup, though, is that the ducks’ coop would not have to be moved to a new location frequently since ducks tend to roam around their yard while hunting for food instead of staying close to their coop. Ducks can also be herded back to their coop, which can make up for the fact that they will roam around the yard.
There is a lot of information to take in on whether or not to raise ducks on your homestead. Backyard ducks are now coming into vogue as a bird to keep instead of or alongside, chickens for their meat, eggs, feathers, and fat. As with any new addition to the homestead, the good and bad should be weighed up before making a decision, even if the new addition would be as cute and chatty as a duck.
Are you raising ducks, or thinking about it? Let us know your experiences below!