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Raising Ducks – Pros and Cons of Backyard Ducks

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. 

chick-days-start-your-flock-now

15 Pros of Raising Backyard Ducks

 

Hoover’s Hatchery Pekin Ducks, 10 Count Baby Ducklings [More] – Price: $59.99 – Buy Now

Did you know you can buy ducklings online (like the ones above) and have them sent directly to your homestead? Find out more at TractorSupply.com!

  1. Ducks are excellent egg layers
  2. Ducks may lay eggs almost every day
  3. If you’re allergic to chicken eggs, you may be able to eat duck eggs
  4. Ducks provide great soil aeration
  5. Ducks are great pest control
  6. Ducks free-range a wider area so they don’t destroy the ground as chickens might
  7. Ducks can be herded
  8. Ducks provide red meat
  9. You get feathers and duck down for pillows, blankets, etc.
  10. Ducks give you easy fertilizer
  11. Backyard ducks don’t startle easily
  12. Ducks don’t tend to escape as chickens might
  13. Duck eggs are worth more than chicken eggs
  14. Duck fat can be used for frying, baking, and candle making
  15. 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:

Tuff Stuff 12 ct. Plastic Egg Carton For D… [More] – Price: $3.99 – Buy Now

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.

Free-Ranging Ducks

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:

Nature’s Best Organic Feeds Duck Crumble, 5 lb., SP0231C [More] – Price: $8.99 – Buy Now

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.

raising-ducks-backyard

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
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.

Hoover’s Hatchery Mallard Ducks, 10 ct. Baby Ducklings [More] – Price: $69.99 – Buy Now

8 Cons of Raising Ducks in Your Backyard

  1. Messy
  2. Need clean water to bathe in
  3. Ducks are very vocal
  4. Ducks lay eggs where they feel like it
  5. Ducks eat more than chickens
  6. Ducks eggs are an acquired taste
  7. Fattier and possibly less meat than from a chicken
  8. Ducks need more space than chickens

Messy Ducks

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:

Rubbermaid Commercial Products Structural Foam Stock Tank, 50 Gallon Capacity, Black (Fg424300Bla)
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09/30/2022 12:43 pm GMT

Noisy

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.

Egg Hunt

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.

quail-chicken-duck-eggs

From quail egg to ostrich egg

Taste

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!

raising-ducks-backyard-homestead

Author

  • Megan is a wife and stay at home mom of boys, currently living on a small suburban homestead in Texas. In her free time, she likes to work in her garden, forage for wild edibles, and spend time with her family. Megan grew up in the big city of Houston, visiting museums and NASA, but she now loves the small-town life. Some of her hobbies include reading books, watching science fiction, and learning new skills with her family.

Rebecca

Tuesday 14th of June 2022

I love my ducks, even with all their 'cons'. I have 4 silver appleyard and 2 welsh harlequin....and had up until recently a male welsh harlequin - he had to be rehomed because he had become a bit of a pest and the girls were constantly scrapping over his attentions. It made them chattier than usual. They are so entertaining!

Debbie

Thursday 17th of March 2022

I have four ducks, not sure of the breed, the males have the green neck. They are free range, we let them out each morning and lock them up at dusk.

Two female and two male. Last summer the separated into couples. Then all winter they were together. This year has been complicated, sometimes they have been two and two, but i have see instances when I have seen the females with one male. This morning, I found the two females walking around and thought that was weird and went looking for the males. They were still in the pen, one wouldn't let the other out and it looked like they were arguing, sometimes they were getting physical w/ eachother.

What do you think will happen, what should I do. I don't want one to kill the other.

I forced one out and locked the other one up in the cage.

Please give your advice. I have had ducks several years, we've had babies, deaths by wild animals. We just want them to get along. I liked this winter when they all stayed together.

Chris

Monday 7th of June 2021

Please help! We live in an apartment complex with a small spring fed creek that runs behind. Everyone enjoys seeing the ducks and we’ve gotten people to stop throwing garbage for them and have been feeding them duck food from Tractor Supply. A couple months ago 2 ducks just showed up (probably abandoned) we believe them to be Cayuga ducks. After a few weeks they began breeding and the males got aggressive and would chase the females out of the grass and into the parking lot where they’d lay until night. The females disappeared a couple weeks ago. One showed up last week and we found the other this morning as the males were protecting her. She laid eggs in the parking lot next to an air conditioner without a nest. We’ve become quite attached to these essentially free range ducks. How do we help with the aggression and more importantly is there a way to help direct the female where to lay her eggs where they’re more protected? We’d obviously love for her to have ducklings but being so exposed is there anything we can do to help protect her in the mean time or cut the losses, build her a shelter somewhere and try and get her to use the shelter somewhere along the creek?  Any help is greatly appreciated.

Elle

Thursday 10th of June 2021

Hello,

My name is Charles van Rees, and I’m a conservation scientist and naturalist with expertise in freshwater wildlife. I have a PhD in evolutionary biology and over a decade of experience studying and working with wildlife, especially waterbirds. Here are some answers to your questions from a scientific perspective!

1) How can we look after the ducks in our neighborhood?

The best way to care for any animals in our neighborhoods is to protect their habitats, respect their space, and try to reduce our impacts on their day-to-day activities, like finding food, having a safe place to sleep, and being able to successfully produce young.

Protecting habitat for many ducks involves finding ways to prevent pollution or clean up trash around local waterways and help remove invasive plant species that could make it harder for them to get around or find food.

Keeping dogs on leash, or cats indoors, can also reduce the pressures and threats that we introduce to ducks, who need to keep their vulnerable young safe during nesting season.

Feeding ducks is not a particularly good way to care for them; oftentimes foods like bread and crackers are poor nutrition for them and prevent them from finding and eating foods that would help them survive, so they can do more harm than good.

Making sure that nesting female ducks, when you find them, have space from human activities and are not disturbed, is just about the best way we can help protect their nests.

2) Is there a way to help with male aggression toward female ducks in a flock?

There is, unfortunately, no way for humans to safely intervene to reduce male (drake) aggression toward female (hen) ducks.

This is a product of the unique evolutionary history of some ducks and is largely ingrained behavior that can often happen because males far outnumber females and need to compete for the opportunity to mate and pass on their genes to the next generation.

Outside of rare cases, females typically know how to keep themselves safe in these circumstances, and interference on our part would probably cause them additional stress which would make the situation more dangerous.

3) Can wild ducks be guided to lay their eggs in a particular spot, for example, if they are choosing to lay eggs in a dangerous spot?

Every duck species has particular preferences for where they typically nest, and different individuals within a species can vary based on their life experiences and the habitat that is available to them.

Generally speaking, there is no reliable way to control where a female (hen) duck lays, but researching a species’ specific habitat preferences and trying to create conditions that match it in a safe, quiet, natural area, is the best way we can help them along.

Once a female has laid eggs somewhere, it is not only dangerous for her and her brood for humans to move her nest, but it is also illegal in many countries to handle or tamper with the eggs of a wild bird species.

The best option, then, is to try and give better alternatives for the ducks to nest in the first place, or somewhere that they can re-nest if the nest in a dangerous place fails or is destroyed.

4) Can we protect wild females while they are nesting?

Generally, it is best to give a female duck as much space as possible when she is nesting.

One way to make sure that this happens might be to post some signs nearby to alert people that they should stay out of an area or keep dogs on leash to avoid disturbing the nesting duck.

Other actions closer to the nest run the risk of frightening the female and having her abandon the nest, or leaving scents or visible trails behind that help mammal predators like foxes, raccoons, or skunks more easily find the nest and attack the female or her eggs.

5) Would a wild duck nest in a shelter built for them, and if so, how do we get them to use that shelter?

Duck species that lay their eggs in tree cavities, like Hooded mergansers, Wood ducks, Buffleheads, and Goldeneyes (among others) will readily nest in large birdhouses if you build them around water, so it is easy and perfectly legal to construct shelters that they will readily use.

Research has shown that such birdhouses should not be conspicuously placed, however, to avoid having multiple females “dump” extra eggs in the next and make it so large and unmanageable that the nesting female abandons the whole brood.

Mallards, some of the most common ducks found near human dwellings, typically nest on the ground in high grass or slightly shrubby areas to stay concealed.

Because human-constructed shelters do not resemble the types of open areas that they nest in, it would be difficult to make them nest inside. Shelters that better mimic the types of cover that they like to hide in, like tall grass, brush piles, or fallen logs, would be much more attractive to them.

Some people have constructed large, open, floating “duck houses” for mallards which have a broad platform that they can stand on and a somewhat sheltered interior for nesting, which might be an attractive option.

Elle

Monday 7th of June 2021

Hi there Chris! I completely understand your dilemma - this is a difficult situation! In general, unfortunately, wildlife is best off left alone. A lot of the time, when we interfere, we can make the group dynamics worse! Male aggression toward females is generally caused by an imbalance in the male to female ratio, which is not something we can regulate in a "wild" setting. In a backyard setting, you would split them up into a more suitable ratio.

We have a big flock of wild ducks in our dam and they mostly sort themselves out. We did not build them a shelter, but they have taken to the pump house for safety from dogs and predators! So, it's quite possible they would take to a shelter. There are no guarantees the nesting female would get the shelter though - most likely it's the strongest of the flock that get the privilege!

However, I think it's wonderful that you are enjoying the ducks in your area, which is why I've called in the help of a wildlife expert to see if he can come up with some ideas for you. I'm hoping to have something back from him by Saturday, and I will update my answer by that time!

I hope you'll see some ducklings in the near future :)

Jace

Thursday 4th of February 2021

Are there any other things we should know about different breeds of ducks, diet, space needed, size... We are thinking about getting maybe 6-8 ducks for our pond... we were thinking runners and Pekins... maybe muscovy... anything we should know about them? Loved this article! Super informational!

Elle

Thursday 10th of June 2021

Hey Jace! Here we go:

The complete beginner's guide to ducks

When do ducks start laying eggs

What to feed baby ducks

Elle

Monday 8th of February 2021

Thanks so much Jace! I'm planning an article on the different breeds of ducks - great suggestion! It'll be an overview of the things you mentioned; diet, space needed, size... I'll include egg quality as well, and which are best for eggs or meat (or both!). We wrote an article on chickens vs ducks before and it lists some of the differences in egg quality, meat quality, etc. It might give you some more info :) I used to have a couple of Muscovy ducks, they were wonderful. They were the only animals on the farm not to take sh*t from the dogs! These two were totally self-sufficient, amazingly so. They did love to come to inside the house though which got a little tiresome in the end :)

thuoc ga vip

Monday 17th of August 2020

I love your garden and your story and your lovely little ducks. What a wonderful ducktale! I would like to try this.

Elle

Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Thanks Thuoc, ducks are a whole lot of fun!