I’m here to talk to you about backyard ducks. Why? Because ducks just rock. In fact, they might be my favorite fowl (shhh, don’t tell the chickens). Let me share with you all the reasons why I think you should have backyard ducks, then I’ll give you some of my favorite tips for raising them. If you’re an absolute duck novice, I suggest this article from The Cape Coop.
#1 You can have boys and no one will care
It’s so fun to hatch your own poultry, but many non-traditional homesteaders are in a position where roosters are a no-no. Even if ordinances and neighbor relations aren’t stopping you from rooster ownership, self-preservation might be. The majority of roosters are just plain nasty. That’s the reason Why Is My Rooster Being a Jerk? is one of my most popular articles. Drakes (aka: boy ducks) are super quiet – quieter than hens (aka: girl ducks) – and they don’t have a mean bone in their body. Never met a drake I didn’t like.
#2 Backyard ducks are garden-safe pest control
I love my chickens and they clean up the garden in the fall like no other bird can, but wholy moly can they cause mass destruction during the growing season. One escapee and my carrots will be dug up and the kale will be missing. Ducks will pull up seedlings, but once the garden is established, they won’t bother anything – except the bugs. Got slugs? Get backyard ducks. Slugs are like duck crack.
#3 Ducks are fitter than fit
Quail have very sensitive systems and go from healthy to dead seemingly overnight. Chickens are hardier, but illness will spread through a flock like you wouldn’t believe. Ducks hardly ever get sick. In my four years of duck ownership I’ve never lost an adult duck to illness. They also have fewer topical parasites than most poultry. Their time in the water takes care of that.
#4 You can have ducks and still landscape
Now landscaping might not be of the utmost importance to all farmers, but I live in a village where people’s properties are nicely manicured. I’ve already swayed from the norm having over half my property growing edibles and a big chicken coop beside the driveway, so I do what I can to still fit in. The pollinator garden has pretty edging and I mulch the front gardens. When the chickens are out they dig up my tender plants and fling mulch all over the place. All the ducks do is create little quarter-sized holes with their bills while they dig for bugs. No harm no fowl ← see what I did there.
#5 Eggs – Rich, wonderful, predictable duck eggs
Duck eggs top chicken eggs. There, I said it. They are bigger and richer and the yolk to whites ratio is just better. Ducks also lay more predictably than chickens. My chickens are free loaders, taking months off at a time. Yeah, they are getting up there in years, but that’s no excuse. My ducks are the same age and they still lay like champs almost every day year-round. They take 2-3 weeks off in late September during their big molt, but then they’re back in action. Now, they do make me hunt for their eggs, but it’s worth it in my opinion.
Some other helpful stuff to consider
Now that you are sold on the idea of getting backyard ducks, you might be wondering what kind you should get. Let me help you with these tips for choosing the right duck breed for your homestead. The right breed makes or breaks your duck-raising experience.
And about that molting, ducks have three molts – each focusing on a different type of feather. You can learn more about these seasonal molts here. Make sure you check for seasonal molt before panicking that something is wrong with your flock. Duck molting is much more intense than chicken molting and can cause undue panic.
You might be thinking “I can’t get backyard ducks, I only have one coop and there’s chickens in there.” Well good news, chickens and ducks can co-exist with a little planning. Having said that, however, if you are homesteading in the city, there are seven things you should know before taking the plunge.
And if you’re not sure about feeding ducks, check out When to Switch Your Poultry’s Feed. It talks a bit about feeding a mixed flock and has information you need to know about feeding ducklings. The most important dietary conditions are related to medicated feed and niacin.
Ducks: Tending a Small-Scale Flock for Pleasure and Profit by Cherie Langlois
Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks, 2nd Edition: Breeds, Care, Health by Dave Holderread
A Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Ducks – Keeping Ducks in Your Backyard by Dueep J Singh and John Davidson
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