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Chickens vs. Ducks

 
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I’m sure there are chicken-people and duck-people out there, just like there are dog-people and cat-people.

I’m not trying to get an emotional debate, but more of a pros/cons list of each species when it come to all facets of growing chickens vs. ducks.

I would love to hear from those of you with experience with either chickens or ducks, or both.

Thanks a million for sharing your experience.

 
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hmm, both are great to have, both are easy to look after. depending on what your going to use them for. depending on the bread of ducks they can be as good egg layers as chickens. only drawback i can think of with ducks would be the damn mess they can make, the slightest water and they will make a huge mud puddle from it

Regards Phil
 
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I've had both and I would say chickens for eggs and ducks for meat.
Chickens are easier to deal with, they don't need any washing water and they don't make anywhere near as much of a mess as ducks, I also prefer their eggs so for eggs I pick chickens.
For meat it's ducks, they simply taste so much better, they are not much more work than chickens and they do taste 100% better, the only time they are more work is plucking urgh.

Saying this we'll be getting chickens again this year and I would like to get some indian runners (ducks) as well, however I will have to see if I can make a second coop and run for the ducks as they cannot be in the same one (legaly) and since I am right on the main road people will notice.
 
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I have to agree with Skandi. On our homestead, chickens seem more useful for eggs and ducks (we like Muscovies) are more useful for meat. They have different personalities, so they are each entertaining in their own unique way. We do eat chicken on occasion, but the Muscovies are so prolific that they make it easy to keep a good meat supply. It's true ducks are harder to pluck, but I've waxed them to remove their feathers and that does a really good job. Duck fat is also highly prized, another plus.  
 
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I prefer ducks, but that's got a lot to do with my personal living situation. I wanted slug control and they have delivered. I think they've also wiped out cutworms, which is wonderful if true. They're less destructive in my garden than chickens would be because they don't scratch. But they love to dabble and they will turn any water into a mess. I prefer dealing with that than with the scratching. Ducks are very social and don't like to be separated from the group. This means you can herd them, which is pretty handy. Ducks also lay their eggs at the same time every morning, which is a nice convenience. Finally, ducks can be kept in an area by just a small 2' high fence. One down side of ducks is that they don't go in at night the way chickens do.
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my girls
my girls
 
Skandi Rogers
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Jake Esselstyn wrote: Finally, ducks can be kept in an area by just a small 2' high fence. One down side of ducks is that they don't go in at night the way chickens do.



My ducks apparently hadn't read that! the gate is open, she just liked sitting up there and watching, she also sat on the roof when the mood took her.
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N. Neta
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Can you keep ducks and chickens in the same coop?

And what if you can't let them roam free (we have too many wild dogs, and the occasional chicken that manages to escape the coop, usually becomes breakfast to the dogs in no time)?
 
Leigh Tate
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N. Neta wrote:Can you keep ducks and chickens in the same coop?


Some people emphatically warn not too, but we did. We tried to separate them, but the ducks insisted on spending the night in the coop anyway. It may have worked for us because we kept both a rooster and a drake (still have chickens, but a stray dog killed our last Muscovy hen). The rooster and the drake pretty much protected their own ladies. However, the squabbles were quite comical. The hens would try to peck the ducks and the ducks would grab the hen's tails and hold on while the chickens squawked and tried to run away. The best they could do was to run in a circle around Mrs. Duck who wasn't letting go! Either the rooster or the drake would soon break it up.

If you have stray dogs or other predators, you need good fencing for a poultry yard. It's only the birds that are outside the yard that we've had killed by dogs or possums. (Hawks and owls are another matter.)
 
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I want to get some ducks (muscovys specifically) eventually.  I do like the meat, and would love to try their eggs.  But I really want them for slug control, and to be reliable brooders for other fowl.  Wife isn't so keen on the idea though as she's of the impression that the drakes will try to screw just about anything that moves, and a lot that doesn't.  So, if true, keeping the drakes to a minimum and separated from the chickens would be important.  Not too worried about the turkeys as they're enough bigger that I think they'd keep the drakes in line (plus I have a big tom, and he would definitely chase out any drakes).
 
N. Neta
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Leigh Tate wrote:If you have stray dogs or other predators, you need good fencing for a poultry yard. It's only the birds that are outside the yard that we've had killed by dogs or possums. (Hawks and owls are another matter.)


Well... we have stray dogs and hawks, so our 14 hens and a rooster are in a big pen with a high netting...
So, you say, Leigh... we could add a few ducks too...?
Any special considerations?
 
Skandi Rogers
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In the picture I posted you can see my muscovy drake in the middle of the picture, he never tried it on with the chickens, though he did make his daughters lives difficult. They all got along fine in one coop including when they have ducklings, the muscovies were in general very patient with the chickens but they would grab them if they thought the ducklings were in any trouble.
 
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So, I like chickens more. I think they're cleaner, easier, plus partner and I don't like duck eggs. I'd keep ducks for meat if I had the space but I don't.

I don't think there's anything wrong with ducks and chickens together. EXCEPT if you have a drake. Libido isn't the problem - the problem is unlike a rooster a duck has a physical multi inch corkscrew shaped penis. A rooster does not, they have just a lil bump like a gland. When a drake tries to breed a hen they can SERIOUSLY mess them up that way.

Since we have limited space and would want ducks for meat, the proximity of keeping ducks and chicken in the same pen is no good for us. It'd put our chickens at too much risk.

Also worth noting - ducks need a special (more expensive) diet and will become nutrient deficient on chicken layer feed.
 
Leigh Tate
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N. Neta wrote:So, you say, Leigh... we could add a few ducks too...?
Any special considerations?


N, I would start by researching different duck breeds you might be interested in. People definitely have their breed preferences! My experience is with Muscovies. We liked them because they are quiet ducks (rarely quack) and they are happy with just a small pond or wading pool to bath in. They didn't spend a lot of time swimming, but they love their daily bath. On the other hand, they're fliers, which meant they went where they wanted to and didn't stay in the poultry yard. Because they had access to the pasture, they free-ranged and ate very little commercial feed, although they loved chicken scratch.

So, decide what you want from ducks, eggs? meat? and take a look at the various breeds accordingly. Ducks add a lot of personality to the poultry yard, which makes them a fun addition.
 
N. Neta
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This discussion is very enlightening... for me.

Especially the differences within chickens or ducks with theirdifferent breeds...

So I guess it’s not just chickens vs. ducks...

I’d love to get more input from those with experience with different types of ducks and different types of chicken.

Let’s make this thread a resource for all those with similar questions.

Thank you so much...
 
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I think they're probably both great but better suited for different environments and people. Here is suburbia chickens are seen as more "normal" and chicken eggs sell better. Somewhere else, ducks will be better.
 
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I have kept both Wyandotte and Orpington chickens.  I prefer the Orpington...they are very mild mannered and seem to be impervious to weather conditions here in the High Desert of California. The Wynadottes I had were always picking on each other, drawing blood.  All my chickens have been hens and the only problems I ever had was when I added a rooster.  Those said roosters went to the promised land - LOL.  I now have Orpington's exclusively - they are a big bird and can hold their own against the smaller critters like rats and squirrels. They lay every day, winter and summer. They are clean layers, they don't poop on their eggs or in the laying house....and they aren't broody. Chickens seem almost no work at all compared to ducks. They aren't messy with their food so it doesn't attract rats very much. I put out a large baking dish and they eat out of that and I rarely see them scattering it outside the dish.  They don't dirty up their drinking water either.  Poop is easy to clean out of the coop. I just rake it up in no time flat because their poop is sort of shaped like a golf ball. Each chicken seems to have their own schedule on laying times. Some lay in the morning, one I have lays precisely at 11am every day.

I have 12 Runner Ducks. They are a handful. The breed is a nervous anxious fairly loud breed. Always quaking about something or nother. They have two wading pools. Within about 10 minutes of filling it, its filthy.  They will do the same thing with their drinking water.  The upside is that I pump the poopy water from the pools out to the fig orchard. Their poop is very mild and you can use it right away to fertilize, unlike chicken poop. I had trouble figuring out how to feed them so that the pigeons, sparrows and rats wouldn't be a problem.  What has worked for me successfully is mimicking what they do in the wild.  I bought those little easter egg baskets, the plastic ones, they are a $1 at Walmart. I buy enough for the year because they really only have them at Easter, maybe halloween. I put crumbles in there and add water, then stir.  They love it and it keeps the pests away, plus there is almost no waste.

Interesting enough, the ducks don't like it when it rains.....they head straight for the duck house.  Go figure. The chickens....they will wander around in the orchard in 60mph winds. Rain, hail, they don't care.

Egg wise, I much prefer the duck eggs to the chicken eggs. Much richer and the yolks are huge which works for me as I am not a fan of the white part of the egg.  They lay in the morning, a lot of times before 8am. They all lay in the same nest under the tree. Once they lay they could care less about the egg which is nice.  If I get too many eggs in a week, I scramble them up and give it to them in a tub.  They LOVE that.

Ducks are going to live a lot longer than chickens.  I have some ducks that are 6 years old and still laying.  Ducks never, ever squabble or fight with each other and Runners are super easy to herd. They won't go over the 2' fence but they love to squeeze under the fence to go wander about. I'd say the ducks eat more than the chickens. Ducks aren't too much on foraging but they can cause as much damage if they get into the garden. I feed organic feed and lots of greens to the ducks. Never had one get sick in 10 years, so they are pretty hardy.  Runners don't fly so they are pretty content to stay where  you want them.

Some chickens take up a habit of pecking you, and can hurt you. My Runners....it never crosses their mind to do such a thing. But that may be specific to the breed.  Runners are worth having just to make you laugh...they always go everywhere together and standing upright, its a visual treat I never get tired of. They look like that human wave thing people do in football stadiums. But they are a lot of work compared to the chickens.
 
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My ducks v chickens experience is limited (they weren't my thing, on my dad's farm, growing up, so this is mostly recent), but similar to Purity's, except that my Buff Orpingtons can go broody - last year, 2 of my 6 did. But, I consider that a good thing, because it means they will raise whatever I stick under them - including Pekin ducks' eggs.

Duck eggs are richer, firmer, slightly stronger flavored, with bigger yolk:white ratios than chickens, but not all duck eggs are the same, either. Pekins produce bigger eggs, while at least some of the smaller ducks produce eggs about the size of a jumbo or extra large chicken egg. I love duck eggs for both eating and baking - and they make for the best eggnog I've ever had, but my husband prefers chicken eggs, for eating.
 
N. Neta
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Purity Lopez wrote:I have kept both Wyandotte and Orpington chickens....
I have 12 Runner Ducks. They are a handful.


What a fantastic comparison, Purity.
Thank you SO MUCH.
 
N. Neta
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This is an interesting point of view...



Anyone has a similar or opposite experience?
 
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Ducks are harder simply because of their water needs. Particularly in winter. They muck up/splash out all the water all the time.

Pros of ducks are the eggs are great for baking

The cons of duck eggs are that they do not whip like chicken eggs do and make nasty textured brownies.

I like ducks. They're funny and cute. I just have chickens. Easier to care for. Plus with the ducks laying willy nilly on the ground and the pigs wandering about eating all the eggs there was no point in keeping the little quackers.
 
N. Neta
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elle sagenev wrote:Pros of ducks are the eggs are great for baking


I heard that duck eggs can be kept for a shorter period because they’re more porous...
Is that right?
 
elle sagenev
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N. Neta wrote:This is an interesting point of view...



Anyone has a similar or opposite experience?



I did not have similar experiences. My ducks would not go up at night voluntarily and herding ducks is hard. I had no problems mingling my chickens, ducks, peacocks and guineas. Might be a space thing. I had no problem with my drakes chasing babies. We did have a few mean drakes but that's easily solved with a knife.
 
elle sagenev
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N. Neta wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Pros of ducks are the eggs are great for baking


I heard that duck eggs can be kept for a shorter period because they’re more porous...
Is that right?



That I do not know. I sold them a lot and baked with them so I never had them sitting around for that long anyway.
 
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In my research I have come across glowing reports on the virtues of  Khaki Campbell ducks.
- 300+ eggs a year make them the most prolific layer of all fowl
- quiet
- don't require so much water as other breeds, they are more of a land duck.
-- not so messy as other ducks
-very hardy
 
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Hi,

depending what you want and what purpose they shall cover is one side of the coin.

Creating a biodiversity into your permaculture or food forest the other as both have their places and duties.

You have too much small bugs and tics you miss some chicken support, but if you have too much snails then its because you are lacking ducks. (Just as a single example seen)

We always had chicken and ducks and they get well along. (Also Turkeys play by us in Thailand a huge role when it comes to the big caterpillars on Moringa trees)
Off cause they have from time to time their dispute but they won't kill each other and after a fast learning curve either of them find out who is the "character" on the other side who is to avoid to cross the path.

At the end of all the benefits you create for yourself a better diversity on your dinner plate.

 
 
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I'm wanting Muscovy ducks , but not in my backyard because there is not enough room, ducks are messy, it rains a lot here.
I plan on having them at my grow lot,  when I retire, as companions and a small business.
I don't see slaughtering them myself, but I could farm that out, and given the prices I've seen for duck meat, it could turn a tidy profit.
 
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N. Neta wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Pros of ducks are the eggs are great for baking


I heard that duck eggs can be kept for a shorter period because they’re more porous...
Is that right?



One time, before we had ducks, my husband bought 10+flats of duck eggs. Each flat had 2.5 dozen eggs. We had those eggs in our garage, un-washed, for months. Even four months later, most of them were still good. So, I don't think they go bad faster.

I have both chickens and ducks, and they have their own strengths. My ducks honestly don't make a huge mud puddle mess unless they are confined in a small area. We have a trampoline that we fences and we move it every day. If it's rainy and the ducks are stuck in there, they will literally turn everything inside that trampoline into mud. It's a big brown circle, and they'll do it in as little as 4 hours (13 ducks and a goose in the trampoline). But, if I let them free range in the acre around our house, they don't wreck any havoc. There's no nasty mud puddles, no great masses of poop (unless they decide they like the patio). They also don't make nearly as much of a mess if you only give them a pail to drink out of, and a small tray (2-3 inches deep, something like 20 inches by 40 inches long. Something like an oil pan or plastic drawer) to bathe in.

Chickens DESTROY. I can let ducks free range in the garden, and they don't really kill anything, and they eat the spiders and rollipollies that eat my plants. I'll fence them out if I'm sprouting peas or beans, but other than that, I really don't worry about them. If a chicken gets in a garden, that garden is tilled and destroyed in like 30 minutes. 1 chicken in garden bed = mass destruction.

I think, if you have a 1/4 acre or more, and you want something to free range around your garden, make eggs nearly-round, eat slugs, and be cute, and maybe be meat, get ducks. Get just 3-4 ducks if you only have 1/4 acre. Don't try to cram a lot of ducks into a small space--you will get mud and poop slicks.

If you have a small property, want compost turners, want ground tillers, and want to have them in a small space or intense rotational ranging, get chickens. You can give chickens most types of food, and they'll tear it up and turn it into eggs &/or compost. That won't happen with ducks. Ducks aren't nice feathered composters. They just can't rip and tear up food like chickens.  Ducks don't do well in more confined areas, while chickens seem to do all right as long as you give them lots of bedding (pine shavings/straw/leaves/ other carbon sources).

My ducks free range unless I'm inside, and then they're in their trampoline that I move every day. 13 ducks and a goose in there is too much, even moved every day. It would be better with 5 ducks...but, well, we have more than that so we don't have to get rid of our drakes. My 3 chickens are not allowed to free range. They destroy everything. But, I can take them random meet scraps and weeds and food bits and they'll eat them up and turn them into eggs. I honestly don't want any more than 3 chickens. 3 is enough to eat my food scraps and make some eggs and eat my bindweed.
 
N. Neta
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matt Krownus wrote:In my research I have come across glowing reports on the virtues of  Khaki Campbell ducks.
- 300+ eggs a year make them the most prolific layer of all fowl
- quiet
- don't require so much water as other breeds, they are more of a land duck.
-- not so messy as other ducks
-very hardy


That’s great to know, Matt.
Thank you for that...
 
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I've had chickens and ducks...both Muscovy and Mallard type ducks. I will say that Muscovy ducks are much smarter than Mallard types. Muscovies will set and  hatch eggs, make the best mothers and keep track of their ducklings better than Mallard types. However, if you want eggs, Mallard types (Runner, Rouen, Kahaki Campbell) are good layers year round. Best for meat (and ease of raising) are Muscovy.

Muscovy ducks are pretty east to train to herd. That means easy to put inside at night, easy to train to verbal commands (I used to call my Muscovy ducks at night using the same phrase.."Bed time for Bonzos") and using two long sticks (arm extensions), they went right in. They are great for slug control and eat grasses and clovers. They will fly off, so trimming one wing's flight feathers will keep them inside a 4 foot fence.

If you decide to raise Muscovy ducks, look for a breeder who raises the type for meat. I have seen some Muscovy drakes that will weigh up to 15#, even larger if well fed. The drawback is they have to be at least 17 weeks old to slaughter. This has to do with feather growth, if you slaughter them too young, feathers don't come out easily. That's where DUCK WAX comes in handy.

Ducklings are fragile and shouldn't be allowed to swim in deep water until they are feathered out or they have a mother duck to keep them warm. I kept my broody ducks and ducklings in a fenced area with shallow water pools (actually used an old tray, only about 1" deep). I did have to replenish the water several times a day and the mother duck kept the ducklings warm under her.

Eggs from Muscovy ducks have a very large yolk...due to the fact that incubation for Muscovy ducks is 32-35 days. Larger yolk allows a longer incubation...the yolk is the food for the growing duckling inside the egg. Muscovy duck eggs make the BEST egg salad ever! And custard is outrageous! Chefs who make fresh pasta always wanted my duck eggs.

You can send two mother ducks outside with ducklings...a Muscovy and a Peking or Mallard type and the Muscovy is the only one who will come back with all her ducklings.

If I had it to do over again, I would raise white China geese again. They are the best watchdogs on the planet! Also very aggressive to strangers or outsiders.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I have both chickens and ducks, and they have their own strengths.


Thank you so much, Nicole, for this elaborate and informative answer.
I learned a lot...
 
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My experience is strictly from a beginner’s perspective.  We brought home three Buff Orpington ducks last March 16th.  Although the timing was in direct response to the complete lack of eggs in the store the plan to get ducks was researched for countless hours.
Although eggs were the catalyst for the initial purpose the companionship and responsibility that they brought my teenage daughter were so vital during the lockdown we jokingly call them emotional support ducks.  They are completely chill under every situation except aircraft flying over or the rake being used.  (Not towards them, just it’s existence).
As for their contribution: eggs, of course.  They never stopped laying this winter.  We housed them overnight in a small coop/ run in our shed as our low temperatures in Spokane can stay well below freezing for weeks.  During the day they had full run of our backyard with an igloo of sorts made from straw bales for shelter.
They have two kiddie size pools (repurposed jet engine intake covers) available most of the year.  The water from these pools is poured on garden plants when it gets too ducky.  The feathers from molting are collected by small birds early in the mornings.  My suburban neighbors refer to our yard as a nature sanctuary.  We have even had a frog show up.  The ducks did more for the community aspect than I imagined as families bring their children and grandchildren to see them.
My daughter and my self repeatedly say that no kid should have to grow up without ducks.
 
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I hope I'm not too late! I just want to throw in one more thing the wife and I love about keeping ducks as opposed to chickens - they sound like ducks! The sound is cute in all, but it is really good for hiding yard birds in the suburbs. We are technically within the city limits, so yard birds of any kind are illegal. But we also live near a lake, so the sounds of ducks are very common. A chicken would stand out, but a duck is right at home and nobody walking by thinks twice about hearing them.
 
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Kristin Ludwig wrote:My experience is strictly from a beginner’s perspective.  We brought home three Buff Orpington ducks last March 16th...


Brilliant, Kristin.
This is really helpful.
Thank you so much.
 
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Ben Lynde wrote: I just want to throw in one more thing the wife and I love about keeping ducks as opposed to chickens - they sound like ducks.


Good point for some folks to consider, Ben.
We actually have 14 hens and a rooster, but here it’s all good.
Make it an awesome day.
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