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Ducks vs Chickens For Starting Out

 
Clay Rogers
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Looking at either chickens or ducks for producing eggs. I was thinking chickens as it seems to be what everyone does around here for the most part anyway. I came across an article talking about how much better/easier ducks were to raise compared to chickens.

So, I thought I would post here and ask for firsthand experience from people who have/or had both chickens and ducks.

We would still want to get chickens for meat at some point in the future though also.

Thanks for the info!
 
Charli Wilson
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I keep chickens- my old neighbour used to keep ducks- I haven't had personal experience keeping ducks though.

Chickens put themselves to bed at night! soon as it gets dark the chickens head back to their coop (so with an automatic coop-door-opener I can have free-ranging-garden chickens). Neighbour had to herd his ducks back into their pen (so they would nearly always stay in the pen all day- they didn't get to wander the garden).

I would really love to keep ducks in the garden as well- messy duck-water can go straight on growing beds without harming the plants (whereas chicken waste should be composted first). I'm afraid the ducks would smell, I'm not how I could manage that in an urban garden setting, so I'll be interested in what other folks say on this topic.
 
Ann Torrence
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I have both. Pick your poison. The chickens make dust bathing holes around the garden, depressions the size of a salad bowl. The ducks make a mess of their water, and wherever they can make a puddle, they drill their bills, making tennis ball sized holes to root up the grasses. The chickens forage further and more randomly. The ducks have their patterns and stick to it. The hens will eat their own eggs sometimes, the duck eggs all need to be washed no matter how clean I keep their bedding. Chickens eat all my scraps but have done more damage when they've gotten into to garden areas I didn't want them in. I've never had to clip a duck wing to keep them inside a fence. My ducks will put themselves up at night, mostly, but not that I'd trust an automated door. The ducks laid all winter. Some of my egg customers think the eggs are too rich. A cranky duck makes a happier sound than a content chicken.
 
Nicole Alderman
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We have ducks (had a chicken for a few weeks until a bobcat got it ). We love our ducks, and our climate is perfect for them (not so much for chickens). I think the type of climate you have is a big influence as to whether ducks or chickens are easier. Ducks like the wet and the rain, and can handle the cold better than chickens. Chickens need somewhere dry to dust bath...which can be hard to manage if it's always raining.

I also like the sounds of ducks better than chickens. A hens bock bock is cute, but a rooster crowing is not. A duck always sounds cute, like you're at your own park. If you want to breed poultry for meat, and don't care for the sound of roosters, ducks might be your best bet. Duck meat is sure tasty, and you get some really nice duck fat to cook with, too!

As for smell, as long as you manage their bedding, there really isn't any smell. This applies to chickens as much to ducks, I would think. I've run across some pretty stinky chicken coops where people rarely changed their bedding.

As for ducks not foraging far, or only following routines, I think that really varies by the ducks you have. We have anconas, and they like to follow their foraging patterns. For a while they just did circles of our house for hours on end. Our runner ducks, however, LOVE to explore. The three of them will go off to the far reaches of our property and even ventured into our pond which our anconas never went near in the two years we've had them. And, of course, once the runners find a good foraging spot, they call to the other ducks and soon enough all the ducks are over there foraging.

As for fencing, my ducks are all not supposed to fly. They do anyway. The four foot fence usually keeps them contained, but if they get a running start, they can fly over.
 
Miranda Converse
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I have both chickens and ducks as well. Most of the stuff has been covered except I don't think anyone mentioned how much ducks eat! They are pigs! They can and will find a lot of their own food if they are able to free range but if given the choice they will eat you out of house and home!

I love my ducks though! They are adorable and have such goofy personalities. A little more untrusting than chickens though. A couple of them will eat out of my hands but if I make any sudden movements they run away.

The ducks also seem a bit more stubborn about where they lay their eggs. I always have to leave at least one egg behind or they won't lay again in that spot for days. I still think one of my ducks hasn't laid in the pen (where they sleep, they free range all day) for months.

And as far as them going to bed, for the most part mine gather outside the pen but I do have to shoo them inside before I shut the door. I have noticed that it is waaay easier to get them into their pen when it's just about to be dark, too early and they protest. Occasionally a handful of them will decide they want to sleep on the neighbors pond...Chickens always put themselves to bed, all I have to do is shut the door.

 
Peter Ellis
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Debates over which are easier to keep are highly subjective, including things like which sound better Ducks require water to rinse their beaks, to me that is a maintenance issue, I don't have a pond for them, so I would need to provide them with drinking water on one hand and rinsing water on the other. Some ducks are productive egg layers, but I think chickens are generally more productive layers.

Personally, when we get to our forever home (grin), my wife and I are planning on both chickens and ducks, with chickens as our primary egg providers and Muscovy ducks primarily for meat production.

But which is easier to keep? I see so many different opinions expressed about the ease of keeping different animals, that I cannot be too concerned about those opinions. I try to evaluate the animal's maintenance requirements in terms of what I am able to provide and make judgments about which to attempt on that basis.
 
Eric Brown
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I like ducks so much better than chickens, but that may be because I just got my first ducks last year, and I've had chickens for over 10 years. Chickens scratch and peck and poop everywhere I don't want them to, including jumping over fences, climbing (jumping from branch to branch) fig trees, etc., etc. My ducks do drill little holes with their bills, but they're not so big and they don't bother me. My initial impression is also that ducks can meet more of the feed needs from forage than chickens, but that may be because I have more chickens competing for the available forage and fewer ducks. And I have to say, I really enjoy the look of the ducks (and the sound.)

One thing I'll say for chickens is that I like them as mothers, especially for brooding. I'm doubtful that my ducks will reproduce as well as chickens (at least not without using chickens for mothers). I have heard that muskovies make excellent mothers, though.

My ducks are at least as good about going where they belong at the end of the day (for the night) as my chickens.
 
Nicole Alderman
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What breed(s) of ducks do you have, Eric? My ancona ducks sat, hatched, and raised a clutch of ducklings last year. I've heard some breeds are more reliable than others for raising their young, though. It'll be interesting to see if my Golden 300 or Runner ducks go broody this year (they're less than a year old right now).
 
Eric Brown
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I bought some Indian runners, and I got some Pekins with them as a free bonus, so I have both breeds.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Eric Brown wrote:I bought some Indian runners, and I got some Pekins with them as a free bonus, so I have both breeds.

Yeah, neither Runners nor Pekins are particularly known for their mothering talents. Pekins a bit moreso than Runners because they aren't optimized to pump out as many eggs as possible.

But breed tendencies can't completely stop nature either, last year my ex's family's free-range Runners [of which there were only two ducks and two drakes (I know, those poor overbred ducks)] hatched a clutch of eggs.

A clutch which she raised to maturity I will note, though this was an urban lot with very little predator pressure and their people extremely close by.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Having had both for just a couple of years, I definitely find ducks easier and more fun.

Seems like the chickens are just looking for a way to die. Predators, disease, parasites, stress, it's always something.

The ducks have been much more hardy.

(Ok, time to name breeds to make a fair assessment.
Chickens: ISA Brown, Auracana, Buff Orpington, Leghorn, and a few bantams of breeds I can't remember.
Ducks: Swedish Black and Pekin.)

So, the ducks, much more hardy. Nothing went wrong.

Maybe it was just luck, but that's been or experience.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Although, I've got to throw this out there.

If you want an easy animal to start out with, you want geese.

They graze. You don't feed them.

They start awake all night. You don't put them away.

They fight off predators their own dang selves. You don't protect them.

And the meat is like four times as delicious as any duck or chicken.

The catch? Most breeds are poor layers. You're only going to have a couple of options if eggs is your main purpose.

 
A Philipsen
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Although, I've got to throw this out there.

If you want an easy animal to start out with, you want geese.

Then how about this - a duck flock for eggs with a pair of geese in the mix for protection from predators (and making more geese for the freezer)?
Like so many other people have said, it's pretty subjective. In my yard, the ducks are much better foragers most of the year than the chickens. There's no comparison. They are also easier on my flower beds (except for the hostas) and do less damage if they accidentally get in the garden which almost never happens because they don't fly. My chickens don't either but only because I clip the little devils' wings. On the other hand, chickens can dig up a dormant garden like pros and leave it nearly weed and pest free for spring (and fertilize it in the process). However, if and when I have to pen them up, ducks are disgusting. I swear they can take one cupful of water and use it to turn an entire 10' x 20' run into a stinking, soggy mess. Even their poo is watery which, if they are free-ranging is great because it disappears into the grass but if they are penned, just contributes to the general sogginess. So, if you want them loose and you have a place to put a pond (and what has worked the best for me is a low, 20 gallon trough that we empty and move to a different spot around the orchard every few days), ducks are great. If you want to coop them up, maybe chickens are better, but either one has plusses and minuses so in the end, go with what appeals to you the most.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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A Philipsen wrote:However, if and when I have to pen them up, ducks are disgusting. I swear they can take one cupful of water and use it to turn an entire 10' x 20' run into a stinking, soggy mess. Even their poo is watery which, if they are free-ranging is great because it disappears into the grass but if they are penned, just contributes to the general sogginess.

Three things to prevent this.

A: Deep litter bedding. I'm talking a foot deep. Woodchips is ideal, but straw will work [but will require more frequent re-applications.]

B: Narrow water troughs. Just large enough for your largest bird to stick his head into. Making these deep enough the water level is at least 2-3 inches below the edge will ensure ducks can't displace enough water to force it to overflow the edges. Make sure there is a drain point outside of the pen for this trench, so when it needs to be drained for fresh water it won't muck up the pen.

C: Tall bathing pool with short [2 inches or less] steps going up to it and down into it, and water level 6 inches or more below the edge, plumbed to drain outside the pen and to plants which would make productive use of the 'duck water.'
 
Charli Wilson
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I already have chickens, but I'd really like ducks- just because they're gorgeous and they make lovely noises, and I have a huge giant-slug population that the chickens don't bother with.

But they'd be in an urban environment, with a pond made out of an old bathtub, and in a pen (4m by 3m) for half the time, and 'free-ranging' the other half- but only in my 25m by 25m garden, so still a small area.

Could I manage to keep 2 or 3 ducks relatively mess-free, and smell-free in this area? In a really rainy climate I suspect not... I'd like all the ducky-water from the 'pond' to feed my veg, and you can never have too many eggs, and I'd like the slug-patrol... but... would they make the garden uninhabitable!

I only keep 4 hens, again in a 4m by 3m roofed run with a 1.2m square coop. I only have to clean the coop once a week, and even in the garden for a few hours each day they don't do any damage.
 
Thomas Partridge
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I recommend chickens for starting out.

The main reason I recommend chickens is that chickens are a lot less messy than ducks and if you are starting out you don't want to have to deal with the extra complications that ducks being messy cause. Chickens also tend to be a bit friendlier (in our experience) than ducks which is also helpful if you are starting out.

If you do decide to go with ducks, I would recommend Muscovies over regular ducks. They are a bit less messy and their taste is almost the same as roast beef. If you are doing it for the eggs though you will probably want to go with the regular ducks, but be prepared to work their messiness into your system. We have yet to figure out how to do so so we just go out every week or so and cover their newest mud pits with mulch.
 
Ann Torrence
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
B: Narrow water troughs. Just large enough for your largest bird to stick his head into. Making these deep enough the water level is at least 2-3 inches below the edge will ensure ducks can't displace enough water to force it to overflow the edges. Make sure there is a drain point outside of the pen for this trench, so when it needs to be drained for fresh water it won't muck up the pen.
'

I'd like to see a photo of your set-up.
 
Clare Marmalejo
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I was about to ask this same question. I have had chickens in the past and as a kid I had two ducks that I really, really loved. We do have a lot of predators. Most of our previous flock of hens slowly got picked off so I am wondering if ducks would be hardier? I am initially wanting them for eggs but once we get our food systems more established I would really like to do meat birds too.

I was planning to get chicks in June and do a tractoring system and feed them primarily food scraps and sprouted grains and items I can grow for them. Is this possible with ducks?
 
Nicole Alderman
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I can't speak definitively, as I only had one chicken. But, it was eaten by a predator in the same span of weeks that about 8 of my ducks were eaten. It seems to me that ducks and chickens are just as likely to get eaten as the other. Though, it might depends a little on your specific predators and you're environment. A duck can stay on water and avoid a bobcat, but they're just as likely to get eaten by an eagle as a chicken, I would think.

As for feeding them, I think they eat most of the same things as chickens, but they are not as good at ripping them up as chickens are. If you want to feed them scraps, you'll likely have to chop them to bite-sized pieces. They should do fine in a duck tractor, though I believe they need one a bit taller than a chicken needs. You could also paddock-shift with portable fencing. Ducks can be trained pretty easily to be herded (once you get a few trained to come when you start singing or to follow your herding movements, any new duck seems to figure it out within a week or two. Our first ducks took about 6 months to really get trained, but when we added new ones to the flock, they figured it out pretty quickly). I have secure yard for my ducks, and for a while I used portable fencing to make a paddock. Every day I'd move the paddock a few feet and just herd them from their yard to their paddock. They quite readily follow a food bowl and can be lured most anywhere with one, even if it doesn't always have much food in it.

One thing I would also add is that it was pretty easy for me to accidentally under-feed my ducks when they were free ranging. I have five acres, and they ranged over the two acres closest to their yard. I thought they were getting enough food. I had not realized how underweight mine were until I got more of the same breed . My ducks were also not laying (and the males not acting horny), despite it being spring. I upped their feed intake, and now I get eggs and my ducks are all looking a lot better.



You might find these threads useful: http://www.permies.com/t/44220/ducks/critters/shift-planning-chickens-ducks, http://www.permies.com/t/50799/ducks/critters/Free-Range-Egg-Layer-Ducks,

And, if you like watching videos, Jack Spirko has a bunch on how he raised his ducks: http://www.permies.com/t/44225/ducks/critters/Duck-Chronicles-Web-Series

And, for ideas on forage food for ducks: http://www.permies.com/t/42858/permaculture/scratch-yard-plants-chickens-ducks, http://www.permies.com/t/45930/plants/Easy-surface-sowing-seeds-duck, http://www.permies.com/t/16222/ducks/critters/Growing-duck-feed
 
Clare Marmalejo
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Wow Nicole, that you for all that fantastic information! I have read through all the links and find it really helpful. I plan to supplement a grazing diet with food so as not to starve them.

I really think I will give ducks a try. I am considering doing 6 chickens and 6 ducks... Give or take a few. This may be a silly question but can chickens and ducks graze together in the open? I am now restructuring everything! Ha-ha. My husband has a stack of old windows so I thought of doing a green house and having the small chicken coop attached... maybe deviding it to have a duck side. I might get movable fencing and alternate ducks and hens in a run unless they would do okay together? My garden is close to the house with hugelkultur beds. I would be fine letting the ducks free range but I haven't read anything definitive about ducks destroying a garden. My beds are about 2-3 feet high.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I only had a chicken for a few weeks, but I've heard of a lot of people letting them graze together. Mine were housed and free-ranged together without any problems, but I also had a half-blind chicken and ducks that had a lot of room to range. The chicken usually did her own thing, while the ducks ranged by themselves. You might get some quarreling if they are stuck together too long, but I don't really have much experience. Hopefully someone will chime in with more experience!

I do recall reading that male ducks (drakes) can be...horny...toward chickens, much to the chicken's dismay/danger, due to the drake's--um--anatomy. Here's a fun blogpost about that: http://www.nwedible.com/aggressive-duck-sex/. If you have only female ducks, you won't have to worry about that. You might not have to worry about it if there are enough female ducks for the male to go after (ratio is usually 5 females to 1 male), and there's room for a chicken to flap away if it wants nothing to do with the drake.

As for ducks destroying your garden, it really depends. Mine free range over about two acres for about 4-5 hours, and usually go after the slugs and bugs and mow the grass first...and then start eating my veggies and strawberries. They hate carrots but enjoyed my beats and peas--especially the pods. But, they also loved my potato plants and would go there right after I let them out, and then demolish the plants and make themselves sick. They also poop in the garden, and depending on how you feel about salmonella, etc, you might not want that. Ducks can jump up to two foot beds, but probably won't if they're not terribly bored. My ducks have never gotten on my keyhole garden, which is only about 1 1/2 feet tall, but in their house, they fly up on a two foot tall crate. So, if they're trapped in an area with only garden beds and small paths, they'll likely find a way to get on your beds. They LOVE walking on hugels (I put 1 1/2 foot tall fence around the hugel, and that stopped them). My ducks are all "non-flying" breeds, and so pretty much only jump up maybe two feet and fly 3-5 feet forward (I have anconas, Golden 300s and Runner Ducks). If you have one of the smaller breeds that can really fly, you might have to protect more.

Ducks also pretty much only eat succulent plants. Their beaks don't tear like chickens do. So, if you protect when the plants are small, the plants are usually safe when they get bigger.

Other than eating some plants and pooping, they don't do much damage. They might compact the ground a little, but not much. Mine don't even drill holes with their beaks unless the ground is so muddy it has puddles.
 
Clare Marmalejo
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Thank you again Nicole! I will keep all that in mind. I am trying to come up with a good plan that won't require too much building for my husband. I may try a few ducks and see how they do and add more later. We do have a good amount of forage space and I could eventually fence in the garden.

I am exited though! They seem really fun!
 
Tristan Vitali
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Lots of good information here but being the proud (and often ticked off) steward of muscovy, I do have to warn that muscovy are very unlike most other ducks you'll read about. They're incredibly smart, more stubborn than an old mule, and though large bodied, able fly really, really well. They're not all that skittish or flighty, make top-notch mothers and even enjoy perching if they have the option available. They don't quack but instead making chirping and whomping sounds, often sounding like someone coughing, but are overall usually so quiet that someone could easily miss the fact that they're around.

As for flying, our girls often do loops around the lower part of our property, around 30ft in the air and circling over 1/2 an acre at a time before making a perfect landing on the roof or splashing down in a pond. In fact, over the winter months, they had decided the roof was just plain awesome and spent all their outdoor time up there where the snow was shallow and sun was strong. The fact that the wind was also strong didn't seem to bother them any - feathers ruffling in the -5*F windchills, they'd sit up there for hours at a time sunning themselves.

You pretty much have to cut every single feather on their wings to "ground" these birds, and even that doesn't quite do the trick. Drakes aren't as bad simply because they get so heavy that all the flying takes too much energy, but they too can really surprise you sometimes with flight capability. They're like flying gallon wine jugs when they get going, usually no more than 5-7ft off the ground, and god help you if you get in the way

Gardens (especially heavily mulched gardens), and this one might even apply to all ducks, are a highly prized location for the trampling around in search of buried slugs and seeds. They absolutely love to completely strip the mulch from the soil, creating piles of the mulch outside the garden as they go. Thankfully, this is mostly a spring chore for them as they search out all the slugs buried down there overwintering. Sunflowers, beans, peas and squash are their preferred seed thefts right now, but they're also good at rooting out just about any brassica or chard/beet seed, adore lettuce seedlings, and will at least try just about anything else you might think to plant from seed. As for transplants, if nibbling it a little doesn't give them enough of a thrill to bother with devouring the whole plant, they'll just trample it into non-existence instead. It's as thought they're trying to stomp out the non-tasty plants so only the tasty ones grow. They're often more stubborn than they are smart, however, and even after being chased out of an area dozens of times in a single day will keep returning to it to continue their mission.

Without plenty of training, fences don't mean a darn thing to them because they can easily fly over or even climb. I had to not only fence around gardens to keep them out but also fence *over* the top - this makes it trickier for them to sneak in and do damage, but they often find ways (literally trampling the fence down, finding a hole to sneak through at ground level, digging a hole if they can't find one, or even tearing right through if the fencing isn't strong enough). Once, I caught two of the girls actually digging around a fence post with their bills in what I can only imagine was an attempt to take it down!

And oh they are stubborn. Stubborn to the point of driving a person mad at times. Our girls decided to try laying eggs in our greenhouse garden last year. It was like going up against a chess grandmaster trying to figure ways to keep them out of there - they found every single weakness in our "system" in their persistent attempts to lay eggs in there, going so far as to claw their way through the 2 layers of 6 mil plastic at one point. It was a team effort with 4 ducks participating - each morning we'd do battle with at least two of these 4 as they poked and prodded, testing every inch of the structure, chasing them away only to have them return moments later trying to get in again. We eventually won that battle, but really, it could have gone either way there for a while.

All this said, I love our ducks - they're incredible! They're smart, curious creatures that often look at you with an understanding in their eyes beyond that of even half the "humans" out there. They'll often crowd around watching as I'm out building structures or digging new ponds and gardens, quietly chirping amongst themselves as if discussing what I'm up to today. Their eggs are enormous, creamy, wonderfully flavorful and have nice hard shells that make them difficult to break accidentally. They make fierce and dedicated mothers when allowed to that will defend their nests and young at all costs. They handle the cold way better than even I can and produce copious amounts of what can only be called magic fertilizer mulch. They're smart enough to put themselves "away" as the sun sets if you let them and both agile enough, and imposing enough, to fend for themselves when it comes to many predators. And yes, roast beef is a good way to describe the meat - very lean and bordering on outright "tough" if you don't get them young enough, but unmistakably beefy.

Very different from other duck breeds.
 
Mick Fisch
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Pick your poison.


I have had both. I would second this statement. had khaki campbell ducks and comets, delawares and cornish cross chickens, all free range (in different times and flocks). They both provide eggs.

I would put the Cornish Cross in a separate category than the rest because the cornish cross, to state it gently, were almost too stupid to feed themselves. They wouldn't scratch and hunt for food like the other birds. They just stood there looking at the empty food tray. Maybe my birds were from the shallow end of the gene pool. I never got any more because a bird like that just seemed wrong to me.

That said there are some differences.

Differences I observed:

1. Ducks don't move as fast and they bunch up and so are easier to herd if the need arises. (Chickens scatter, hoping the predator will go for the other bird.)

2. My duck egg eggs were bigger, some people say they can tell the difference in taste. I can't tell the difference. My wife has a fairly big allergic reaction to chicken eggs and meat, a very mild, almost nonexistant reaction to duck eggs.

3. I think the ducks are smarter. Sometimes the ducks would stay down by the pond late so I would step out on the back porch and clap my hands. Within a minute or so, here they would come, waddling as fast as they could up to the duck house. If someone shut their door (which happened sometimes), the chickens would all scatter and hide, often leading to a missing chicken come morning. The ducks would come to our glass back door and look in at us and quack until someone opened their duckhouse door.

4. I felt like the ducks handled the cold better.

5. I personally found the chickens to be more destructive. They are better at getting over fences and into places you don't want them. (I kept 1 wing clipped on all my birds to prevent flying). Ducks don't jump very well.

6. I just found the ducks more enjoyable to watch and deal with. Their talking among themselves is pleasanter to hear.

7. I had some predation problems with both, but once I got a drake, my predation problems with the ducks went down to essentially zero. We could watch him keeping watch over his ladies (probably mainly looking for other drakes, but he was looking out for predators also). Several times we saw him bring all the ducks up to the duck house in the middle of the day, keep them in there for a while, come out and look around and finally bring them back out (assuming he decided the coast was clear). Once a hawk was after them and he herded the ducks into a bit of water and stood between them and the hawk flapping his wings (trying to look big and bad I assume) until the hawk left. We never kept a rooster and maybe that is why our chickens tended to have more predation problems. The ducks seemed happier with a single drake. I theorize it brought order to the little ducky world.

8. Too many drakes is real problem. At one point I had as many drakes as ducks and the ducks pretty much quit laying. The drakes were just wearing them out. When I got rid of all but one drake, things got calm once again.

9. When I had chickens free ranging, ticks went from a plague to almost disappeared. I always had chickens when I had ducks, but no ducks without chickens, so it's possible ducks hammer the ticks also, I don't know.

Things common to both:

1. The chickens and the ducks were good at scrounging up lots of food around the property.

2. The ducks and comets were both great layers.

3. Both ducks and comets (accept the cornish cross, who made the other birds all look like geniuses) put themselves up at night.

4. They will both decimate a young garden. Both love to work over a heavy mulch. Chickens are dangerous to a garden a lot longer though.


My personal preference is ducks. I know that you don't need a pond to keep ducks, but my ducks enjoyed the water a lot. I felt like it added to the ducks quality of life quite a bit. If you don't have a tick problem my advice would be ducks. If you don't have water, I would put a cheap kiddy pool up hill from your garden and use a hose dipped all the way under the water to siphon it out every day or so, onto the garden.
 
Bobby Clark Jr
Posts: 25
Location: Lamar County Mississippi
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We have had both ducks and chickens as well as geese. They all ran together in the same large pen with no real problems, always somebody wanting to move up the pecking order, but no fights to the death! Right now we only have chickens. As far as which is easier I have not seen much difference. If/when I get back into ducks it will be Muscovys. I read somewhere that the name was Indian for mosquito eaters, don't know, always seemed to have skeeters anyway! Both will destroy a garden, even bantys, just slower. The wife does not like duck yuk, and it seems they think the very best place to go is just outside the house door, ours not theirs! I think if I was just starting out I would get a few of both and see what works.
 
Kayla Paperette
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I have chickens, and from what I hear they are a little easier to maintain. Ducks tend to wander more, and chickens kind of stick around closer. Also, I personally prefer chicken eggs over duck eggs.
 
Ben Zukisian
Posts: 86
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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dog duck hugelkultur
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Ducks and chickens do fine together, but just like when raising just one type of bird, space reduces conflict. However, conflict plays out differently with disparately sized animals than with homogenous ones, but I have not seen any bullying between species worse than what the chickens do to each other. It seems disparate size makes for fewer and less severe conflicts because dominance gets established. I would also recommend an old Spanish (a closer to wild breed) turkey as a superior protection alternative to a drake or rooster (minus the breeding benefits of course but with the bonus of turkey eggs, the best of all in my opinion). I do have one wandering turkey right now after she got broody and got tired of my taking her eggs in our yard and is hiding in another, but the other turkey who I got with my original chicks and ducks almost 2 years ago is firmly embedded in the flock and even has a chicken roost with her in her maple tree above the coop. I would strongly recommend "My Life as a Turkey" to understand how smart wild ones can be, but to summarize they have a different call for every species of predator, 200x our hearing ability, and are a great raptor spotter/deterrent amongst the flock. I even took a neighbor's big Rhode Is. rooster last week to forestall his end and get some chicks and he was terrified of the turkey as well as the ducks. I have only lost chicks and ducklings to predation, no adult birds, and I have many predators here in NW California adjacent to the redwoods. My great pyrenees-akbash helps too, but really the turkey (and mama duck) is always telling me where raptors are with her gaze to the sky while the chickens are oblivious. Also, remember the problem is the solution and those mud pits, properly placed and with your help getting down deeper, could be turned into key line ponds for nutrient collection. Duck pond water is awesome fertilizer, is ok straight around all but the most sensitive plants with a ph of 6.2-6.5, and is higher in P than N so is better for fruiting plants.
 
Debra Russell
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Both have their place. I am an urban gardener. So I do not have the property for free range chickens. But I do manage 2 ducks as tenants in my heavily mulched garden. They do very well as pest control and I love their personality. I have had chickens for 25 years. Wow the ducks are so different in personality and needs.  I LOVE DUCKS,  I have designed my garden with the ducks in mind. I decide what I plant and what I don't with the ducks in mind.  I even started a FB group  called ducks in the garden where we discuss their garden management.  But if you are wanting to build fertility on you property the chicken tractors may be superior.  SO that's my 2 cents worth.
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Clare Marmalejo
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I ended up getting both! My chickens are in a tractor that we can easily move and my ducks free range. The ducks are happy with the rain water creek in the back of my yard and prefer it to the pools I bought them. Go figure. There isn't a ton of water in the creek now but I may dam part of it up this fall/winter to provide a better swimming hole in these leaner months.

The ducks leave most things in my garden alone but did wipe out an area of tomatoes. The plants are fine but the tomatoes disappeared. that is my only complaint... and their smelly pen. I have several inches of pine shavings and plan to add more.

I love the ducks. They are cute and fun to watch. Much more personable than chickens. I am sad to cull them in a few weeks but I know it will work out in all our favors long term (except the culls of course).

Thanks for all the advice. Wildush turkey sound great but where on earth would I get one?

 
Debra Russell
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I have experience successfully managing and manipulating duck behavior in the garden. I have a face book group Ducks In the Garden that's purpose is sharing these techniques. As for your tomatoes lost Yes tomatoes are one of their favorite foods. But I do not lose any. What I do is plant a cherry tomato plant that I allow to sprawl across the ground. So my ducks can help themselves to duck size tomatoes. Since these are available they leave my regular size staked tomatoes alone. You can even control which areas they work in the garden by water placements. My magiccal most powerful tool is Swiss Chard. Plant lots of it.  They will then graze on it. because they like it. And it is tough enough to bounce back. I do not plant lettuce in the duck patrolled garden. I plant it else where or in a raised bed. We need to except duck eat plants. So plant them their own vegetables you are growing your own duck food.
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