Bob von Kitten watches over his ducklings.

A Fowl Battle: Ducks vs Chickens

Bob von Kitten watches over his ducklings.
A little over a year ago, The Tyrant proclaimed that it was time for us to get some egg layers.

We love eggs and eat quite a few of them each week. However, we’re pretty careful about what we eat. We don’t consider factory eggs to be true eggs, because we don’t think arsenic and pharmaceutical cocktails constitute true food. Plus, common sense and science both say that free-ranging birds produce eggs that are healthier for people. Many people say that healthy, fresh free range eggs taste better than factory eggs too (we can’t offer an opinion here since we haven’t eaten factory eggs in years nor do we intend to).

Lucinda: The Secret Ingredient

Notice that we haven’t said “chicken eggs” yet? Well, there’s a reason for that. Typically, when someone hears the word “egg” they immediately get a mental image of a chicken. We used to think that too… until we went to our friend Andrea’s house and ate the best creme brulee we’ve ever had in our lives.

“What’s the secret ingredient,” asked The Tyrant. “Petunia,” said Andrea. “Petunia, the duck.”

As it turned out, Andrea had a backyard duck that produced one big, beautiful egg every day that summer.

Duck eggs? You can eat them? Do they taste good? “Yes” is the answer to all three questions. Our belief that chickens were the only viable option for producing healthy, delicious eggs had been shattered. Thankfully, the nearby SwampRabbit Cafe & Grocery also carries healthy, local duck eggs so we’ve been able to continue feeding our newfound duck egg addiction.

Ducks vs Chickens: Which Are Better?

Soon after our duck egg creme brulee experience, we started reading up on ducks. After all, we had to make a fowl decision: chickens or ducks? Which critter would be the better option for us at Tyrant Farms?

Beyond the online resources like backyardchickens.com, we dug into Dave Holderread’s “Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks.” Now, to be clear, it’s impossible to make a sweeping generalization about either chickens or ducks, just as it is impossible to say “cars are better than trucks.” It depends on your needs and it also depends on the specific breed of duck or chicken your referencing. Some are bred for meat production, some for egg production and some for sociability or beauty.

We wanted prolific-laying, hardy, disease & parasite-resistant, low maintenance, long-lived birds that wouldn’t destroy our garden when foraging. After doing some research, spending time with our friends’ chickens, and (now) having raised seven heritage breed Welsh Harlequin ducks this summer, we’ve come to realize that we’re decidedly in the “ducks are better than chickens” camp.

Here’s why:
backyard ducks vs chickens comparison chart, by Tyrant Farms
Scared chicken

One More Reason To Get Ducks…

Have you ever seen cuddly chickens? No? Neither have we. If you raise certain breeds of sociable ducks from day-one (like Welsh Harlequins), you won’t just have great egglayers, you’ll have loving pets too!

Here are some adorable duck photos that are 100% guaranteed to make you smile and yearn for your own backyard (or farmyard) ducks:

Two day old ducklings at Tyrant Farms.

Two day old ducklings at Tyrant Farms.

Duckling's first outdoor adventure at Tyrant Farms.

Duckling’s first outdoor adventure at Tyrant Farms.

Ducklings sleeping on their makeshift nest (a thyme plant).

Ducklings sleeping on their makeshift nest (a thyme plant).

Month old ducklings getting ready for movie night on the sofa at Tyrant Farms.

Month-old ducklings getting ready for movie night on the sofa at Tyrant Farms.

Six week old duckling enjoying a nap and belly rub.

Six week old duckling enjoying a nap and belly rub on The Tyrant’s lap.

What Do You Think?

If you’ve tried both chicken and duck eggs, which do you like better? If you’ve raised both types of birds, which do you prefer? We’d love to hear what you think. Make sure your comments are fowl-mouthed. ;)

Know It or Grow It!

Aaron & Susan

PS: Come join us in celebrating the two-year birthday of our favorite local grocery store, Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery, tomorrow (Saturday, September 28) from noon – 2pm (main festivities from 12 – 6pm). We’re bringing two of our ducks, Lady Margaret Thrasher and Sir Winston Duckbill, both of whom would love to make your acquaintance!

Think more people need to know about the virtues of backyard ducks and duck eggs? If so, please share this post with your friends. Her Ladyship, Margaret Thrasher, thanks you for your support. Also, be sure to subscribe to Farm Bytes so you can get other stories (not all sad/humor), helpful gardening tips, and recipes delivered fresh to your inbox from Tyrant Farms. Thank you!

7 Comments

  1. Okay I am convinced. I want some. I love ducks anyway and don’t like chickens (my dislike has grown since I have someone who lives behind my house who raises roosters who are chained in their pens and who crow all day, multiply that sound by 30-50). But I need to taste some duck eggs. When I was growing up my Grandfather had a bird game farm in La. My grandmother would use duck and quail eggs frequently, but that’s been a long time ago. I hope I can get by the Swamp Rabbit and check it out as well as get some duck eggs.

    • Susan says:

      Ha! We remember you telling us about your chicken fiasco when you were over. Sorry to hear that it hasn’t improved. Neighbors should have more common sense than to have crowing roosters in a residential neighborhood. :( Our male harlequins can’t even quack – they just make a raspy noise that sounds like a frog croaking. The females are the ones who can make some noise when they get excited, but it’s just an occasional honk. How interesting about your background with your grandparents! Since you don’t remember the taste of duck eggs, definitely stop by the Swamp Rabbit to give them a try to make sure you like them. We’d offer you some, but our oldest female is still 1-4 weeks from laying and the 3 other females are about 2 months away. We can’t wait until we get fresh eggs. We’re curious to see the taste considering how good their diet is here. They get quite pampered with all kinds of fresh organic produce and insects. :)

  2. What is the threat by hawks once they get grown?

    • Susan says:

      There is a breeder in TR that sells Welsh Harlequins and other ducks for less than $10 each when they’re young. That’s where we got our first four. The problem with that approach was that we didn’t know how to sex the ducks (and neither did he) so we ended up with 3 males / 1 female. We know how to sex them now, so we’d be pretty confident picking them out in the future. Our second set (3 females) was ordered from a well-known breeder, Metzer Farms, on the west coast. As soon as they hatch, Metzer sexes them and puts them in the mail. Ours arrived a day later at 6am at the post office and they called us immediately to pick them up from the loading dock. Obviously, the second batch was a bit more expensive. Including shipping, the total price per bird was probably about $25 including the extra food we had included in their shipping box. If you buy more than 10 birds, they give you special pricing.

    • Susan says:

      Sorry, our replies are a bit out of order here. :)
      Q: What is the threat by hawks once they get grown?
      A: We’ve heard that hawks will still come after them when they’re older, but we haven’t had that problem. We have a lot of hawks around and our older birds are out foraging in the yard all day long.

      Q: On the chart it had food cost, is that after foraging?
      A: That stat comes from the Holderread book. We haven’t precisely measured our ducks food consumption by weight per bird. Our guess is that this stat refers to total food consumption, not just their feed. Ours probably get a lot higher percentage of their diet from “foraged” food since we also give them tons of fruit and veggie scraps each day. Basically, you can probably skew those feed to forage ratios depending on what you have in your yard/garden and/or what food scraps you’re willing to cut up and feed them (they can’t eat big pieces of stuff).

  3. one more question or two. How much do the Harlequins cost? On the chart iit had food cost, is that after foraging?

  4. Thanks! If I ever get in a postion to get some I’ll take you along to do the sexing LOL

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