Most folks automatically think of chickens when it comes to fresh farm eggs on the homestead, and I love my chickens. But ducks also produce delicious eggs, and they’re definitely worth considering. Like any other homestead animal, there are pros and cons to raising ducks that you’ll want to think about before you bring them home. Continue reading to see if ducks might be a good fit for your homestead as well as some useful tips to help you get started.
- Ducks are great for pest control in the garden. If you love to garden but hate using dangerous pesticides, ducks could be the perfect solution. The nice thing about ducks is that they don’t dig up the ground as chickens do. You’ll want to keep them away from your very young seedlings, lettuces, and ripe strawberries. Otherwise, you can give them free reign to hunt for bugs, slugs, and snails in your garden.
- Ducks are cheap to feed. Ducks are excellent foragers, and they can literally feed themselves. Let them free range through your garden, and they’ll eat everything from worms, fly larvae, and mosquitos to snails. They will even graze on grass, and they’ll love to eat your kitchen scraps.
- Ducks produce delicious eggs. Duck eggs have richer, more buttery taste than chicken eggs. Even better, they proved six times more Vitamin D and twice the Vitamin A of chicken eggs.
- Many breeds are dual purpose. Many breeds of ducks not only make great egg layers, but they can also provide delicious meat for the freezer, too.
- Ducks like to graze on grass and weeds. Let your ducks run in your yard, and you won’t have to mow as often.
- They produce great fertilizer. Whether you let your ducks forage in your garden or on your lawn, they’ll leave wonderful fertilizer behind wherever they go.
- Ducks are very winter hardy. Ducks are tough birds! In general, they do well in just about any kind of weather with a proper shelter to protect them from wind and snow.
- Ducks never eat their own eggs. Egg eating can be a common problem with chickens, but I have never heard of, or experienced, ducks having this problem.
- Ducks can be messy. Ducks are at least as messy as chickens, and probably even more so. Be prepared to clean out their house often and change their water at least a couple times a day.
- Ducks are noisy. They are social animals, and they like to talk to each other, a lot! Expect to hear them talking back and forth a lot, and their alarm sounds are especially Personally, I enjoy the sounds of ducks in the yard, but if you have close neighbors, the noise is something to consider.
Some Tips to Help You Get Started with Ducks on Your Homestead
- Choose a breed that suits your needs. With dozens of breeds to choose from, there’s sure to be one that’s perfect for your homestead. I personally love Indian Runner Ducks for egg production and pest control around the homestead. They are land ducks, so they don’t require a pond, just a water dish deep enough to dunk their heads in. They produce eggs year-round and have sweet personalities. Other popular breeds for homesteaders looking for good egg production include:
Khaki Campbells- Another favorite of mine, Campbells are hardy ducks that lay lots of eggs and have great personalities. They are land ducks, too, so they don’t need a pond or pool for swimming.
Welsh Harlequins- Harlequins are great foragers, and they’re super docile. They don’t lay as many eggs as some other breeds, but you can still expect about 150 eggs each year. They are also large enough to be a meat bird, so they are dual purpose.
Anconas- Anconas are another dual-purpose bird, and their meat is generally less fatty and has better flavor than Pekin ducks. Their eggs are either white, cream or blue and you can expect them to lay about 250 eggs per year.
Magpies- These adorable ducks are super friendly, and they make great pets. Their eggs are usually white, but sometimes they can be green or blue.
- Start out with a pair. If you’re not sure about getting ducks for your homestead, start out with just a pair. Ducks are very social, so they will be lonely if you try to keep just one, but two will give you a good idea of how they’re going to do in your particular situation.
- Feeding your ducks properly. Although your ducks will forage for most of their own food, its’ best to provide them with free access to a quality duck pellet. Proper nutrition will ensure that your ducks lay as many high-quality eggs as possible.
- How much water do your ducks really need? Above all, make sure your ducks have access to plenty of clean drinking water. They need access to water that’s deep enough to dunk their entire head. Most breeds of ducks will also love to have a little kiddie pool to swim in but be prepared to clean it daily.
- Providing suitable housing for your ducks. Your ducks will be vulnerable to predators, so they will need a shelter that will keep them safe, especially at night. Ducks are more winter hardy than chickens, but you should still protect them from wind and snow and make sure they have shade in the summer. They don’t usually use a nesting box as chickens do, but they will probably go into their house to lay their eggs. A “chicken tractor” or a movable hutch along with an electric poultry net fence both make great options for keeping ducks.
While I love my chickens and they will always have a place on my homestead, I love ducks, too. Each bird has its purpose, and there’s no reason not to have both. But even if you’re not entirely sold on the idea of getting chickens for your homestead, ducks are definitely worth considering.