Choosing Between Ducks and Chickens for your Homestead
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We keep both ducks and chickens here on our homestead and I’m often asked which I like better. If you’re looking to decide between ducks and chickens, here are a few similarities and differences between the two that may help you make your choice.
(Don’t want to read all the words? This blog post is also a podcast—just press the triangle play button on the little black bar at the top of this post!)
We jumped into ducks and chickens ten or so years ago while at our previous home. Chickens worked out really well—but ducks were such a disaster that I swore I’d never have them again.
However, last year, in a moment of weakness I lifted the duck ban—and they’ve been perfect here at the farm! I am a walking example of why it’s really important to understand the similarities and the differences between the two species.
Similarities in ducks and chickens
Both lay eggs
You’ll definitely get eggs from your duck and chicken hens. While most everyone knows about chicken eggs, duck eggs tend to have a richer taste, command a higher price (in some areas), and are sought after for baked goods or homemade mayo!
Both can be raised for meat
Both ducks and chickens can be harvested for meat, although there are definitely breeds to choose if you’re specifically looking for meat—for instance, you could try Cornish Cross/Broilers for a fast growing meat chicken and Pekins/Jumbo Pekins for a fast growing meat duck!
Psst. If you’re looking for help choosing which meat chicken is right for your homestead—because there are several breeds to choose from!—check out my ebook Choosing the Best Meat Chicken for your Homestead.
I’ve often said that we have no need here for television because the animals keep us entertained. Whether it’s watching the chickens chase after a treat, or watching ducks dunk in the pond, both sets of feathered friends are sure to keep you chuckling.
Differences in ducks and chickens
The first thing you’ll hear about ducks is that they are messy. And they are. Ducks love their water and they love to make a mess with it. And if you are not realistically prepared for the water mess than ducks can make, you may end up banning duck ownership for ten years.
Seriously, if a duck can get something sopping wet, that thing will be sopping wet.
On the flip side, some people say that chickens are more destructive than ducks because chickens scratch at the ground and also make craters for dust bathing.
So, chickens scratch up everything, ducks make everything wet. Everyone makes a mess of the farm. It’s your job to figure out what kind of mess you’d rather handle.
Chicken roost at night and require roosting poles in order to smile. Ducks do not roost and instead take a nap on the ground.
Chickens need nesting boxes, ducks have ground nests.
While some people have super friendly ducks, that’s not been our personal experience—except for Einstein, our crested Pekin. But he was…a “special” duck. If I want to go outside and hang out with a feathered friend, the chickens are generally much more likely to come hang with me than the ducks.
Why choose between ducks and chickens? Keep both!
We no longer free range our chickens at our homestead, but we have several outdoor runs. And bonus for the ducks, one of those very large runs is in a spot on our homestead that is almost always wet—which makes it a great area for the ducks to hang out! Because of the lay of our particular homestead and the area available to us, we have no issues with keeping ducks and chickens separate.
However, there are plenty of folks that keep ducks and chickens together, either because they are free ranging or because of housing/space available.
How safe is multi-flock housing? from 104 Homestead
Keeping ducks and chickens together from The Cape Coop
If you decide to keep ducks and chickens together, keep in mind the differences already listed above. But another one that’s extra important to be aware of if you’re keeping a drake and a chicken hen together is this:
Male ducks (drakes) and female chickens (hens) do not, shall we say, fit together properly. A drake can actually cause damage to a chicken hen if he tries to mate with her—to the point she may need to be put down. Does this happen with every drake/chicken hen combo? No. But it can happen. It all depends on the drake and hen in question and how aggressive the drake is in his affection. Ducks and chickens are completely different in their anatomy and therefore mating can sometimes cause issues.
Both ducks and chickens are a great addition to your homestead
Whether you choose ducks, chickens, or both for your homestead, you’re guaranteed to benefit from their addition. As long as you’re aware that a duck is not definitely not a chicken, and a chicken is certainly not a duck, you’re ready to rock with adding these critters to your farmish life.
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