This duck egg article was updated on Jan 11, 2018 in response to lots of questions we’ve received from people about the difference between duck eggs and chicken eggs. If you have a question about duck eggs that we don’t answer in this article, please let us know in the comments section!
Duck eggs vs chicken eggs: what’s the difference?
If you follow our articles, you know that we raise heritage breed ducks — Welsh Harlequins to be exact. These beautiful and rather hilarious birds have become a huge part of our lives, and their eggs regularly make their way onto our table.
Years ago, when we were trying to figure out what type of poultry to get for backyard egg production (see our article Fowl Battle: Ducks vs Chickens), we were won over by all the benefits that ducks and their eggs had to offer.
Nothing against chickens, we just happen to enjoy the flavor and nutrition of duck eggs more than chicken eggs. Plus, ducks are much more acclimated to thrive in our wet, humid climate than chickens are.
Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions that people ask us about duck eggs and how they compare to chicken eggs.
At the bottom of the article, you’ll also see a handy visual chart that quickly summarizes some of the key differences listed below. It would be egg-celent if you’d share the chart on Pinterest!
Are duck eggs bigger than chicken eggs?
Even though there are egg size variations between each breed of chicken and duck, duck eggs are consistently larger than chicken eggs by about 0.5 ounces.
In fact, the average weight of a duck egg (including our Welsh Harlequin duck eggs) is 2.5 ounces, which falls under the USDA’s “Jumbo” category — the largest size egg a chicken can possibly lay.
The average chicken egg (USDA Grade Large) is 2 ounces.
When we try to put our duck eggs into chicken egg cartons, the carton won’t close! Larger duck breeds, such as Silver Appleyards and Pekins, produce even larger eggs than our Welsh Harlequins do.
What do duck eggs look like? What color are they?
The colors of both duck and chicken eggs vary by breed. Depending on the breed, duck eggs may be white, dark grey, light blue, or yellowish in color.
Most of our Welsh Harlequin ducks lay oval-shaped, white eggs, although we do have one duck who lays a slightly blue egg, so there is even slight variability in duck egg color within the same breed.
Are duck egg shells different than chicken egg shells?
Yes. In addition to being larger in size, duck egg shells are thicker and harder to crack relative to chicken egg shells, which are also rather brittle by comparison.
Do ducks produce more eggs than chickens?
There is variability between breeds, but ducks generally produce more eggs than chickens throughout the year.
If you look at the breeds of chickens and ducks known for producing the most eggs per year, ducks produce 32-52 lbs of eggs per year vs. 22-34 lbs of eggs per year for chickens. This isn’t just due to ducks producing larger sized eggs, they also lay a higher quantity of eggs each year.
Here’s a great comparison table from Metzer Farms showing the estimated number of eggs each duck breed could produce per year along with average egg weight.
Note: Our philosophy on being poultry parents is to aim for the healthiest, happiest ducks possible. Egg production takes a lot of energy and nutrition out of poultry, so we don’t push our girls to maximum production with extended periods of higher protein feed or extra light. We’d rather them lay fewer eggs so they can be healthier and live longer lives.
Do I have to have a boy duck (drake) for my girl ducks to make eggs?
Not to get too graphic, but female humans don’t need men around to ovulate. Likewise, female ducks don’t need drakes around to produce eggs.
However, if you want fertilized eggs, you’ll need to have a drake in your backyard flock. To prevent over-mating, have no fewer than four female ducks per one male duck.
What’s the difference between duck eggs and chicken eggs once you crack them open?
In addition to being larger, duck eggs have a slightly higher yolk-to-white ratio than chicken eggs.
- A duck egg consists of 11% shell, 55% egg white (albumen), and 34% yolk.
- A chicken egg consists of 10% shell, 58% egg white, and 32% yolk.
This difference in ratios is partly responsible for the difference in taste and nutrition between duck eggs and chicken eggs as you’ll see down below.
Where can I buy duck eggs for eating?
We’ve been surprised to see duck eggs popping up at some mainstream grocery stores. You can also often find them at Whole Foods, and there’s a pretty good chance you can find them at a local farmers market if you ask around.
Every Asian grocery store we’ve ever been to also has duck eggs, since duck eggs are a staple in Asian cuisine. Just be careful not to mistake fresh duck eggs for century eggs or balut at your Asian grocery or you might be unpleasantly surprised!
How much do duck eggs cost?
The price of duck eggs varies pretty widely, from a low of $6/dozen to a high of $12/dozen.
Frankly, we’d be a little suspicious of buying duck eggs at the lower end of that price range since that likely means the ducks were not being raised in humane conditions or given high quality food. Please vote with your wallets when you buy your food, duck eggs included.
Do grocery store egg labels matter?
Yes, depending on the label. This Atlantic article provides a full list of the confusing labels you’ll see on grocery store eggs and what they mean.
If you don’t raise your own egg-producing poultry and you can’t get fresh eggs from local farmers you know and trust, our two cents is to buy USDA certified organic, Certified Humane Free Range, Pasture-Raised eggs. Yes, that’s a mouthful.
Why does it matter?
HOW a duck or chicken is raised has a rather dramatic impact on the health of the animal, and thus the healthiness of their eggs for you.
Our ducks are outside all day absorbing natural sunlight, swimming and cleaning themselves in their pond, foraging a wide range of insects, crustaceans, and garden-fresh produce, and eating the best duck food available. Thus, the duck eggs they produce are exceptionally healthy.
Are duck eggs healthier than chicken eggs?
Yes. Duck eggs have more protein than chicken eggs, and they’re also more nutrient-dense.
A deeper dive into duck egg nutrition facts:
Protein – Since duck egg whites are more protein-dense and larger than chicken egg whites, each duck egg contains almost twice as much protein as chicken eggs. The average duck egg contains 9 grams of protein whereas the average chicken egg contains about 5 grams of protein.
Vitamins and Minerals – Relative to chicken eggs, duck eggs have higher concentrations of 17 of the 20 essential vitamins and minerals that the USDA National Nutrient Database measures. Examples:
- 472 IU of Vitamin A per duck egg vs 244 IU per chicken egg;
- 2.7 mg. of iron per duck egg versus 0.9 mg. per chicken egg;
- 184 mg. of choline (great for brain, nervous system, and liver health) per duck egg vs 126 mg. per chicken egg;
- 56 mcg. of folate (essential for DNA creation and cell division) per duck egg vs 23 mcg. per chicken egg.
Do duck eggs have more fat and cholesterol than chicken eggs?
Yes, duck eggs have more fat than chicken eggs: 9.6 grams versus 5 grams. Duck eggs also have more cholesterol than chicken eggs: 884 mg versus 425 mg.
Does this make duck eggs less healthy than chicken eggs? Are eggs bad for you in general?
As Anthony Komaroff, MD, from Harvard Medical School details, no, the fat in duck eggs does not present any elevated health risks for most people.
And according to the Cleveland Clinic, the majority of people don’t need to worry about dietary cholesterol unless they have certain medical conditions or are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol.
Again, as emphasized above, the health of the animals producing your eggs also impacts the relative healthiness of the eggs they produce. That’s why healthy ducks and chickens raised outdoors have better ratios of “good” fats and cholesterol versus “bad” fats and cholesterol.
If I’m allergic to chicken eggs, will I be allergic to duck eggs?
Maybe, maybe not.
A small percentage of people are allergic to the specific type of protein in chicken eggs. Since the protein in duck eggs is different than the protein in chicken eggs, many people with chicken egg allergies report that they’re able to eat duck eggs with no problem.
The opposite may also be true… You might have duck egg allergies, but not have chicken egg allergies.
When trying a new food, start small before consuming larger quantities – especially if you’re prone to food allergies.
What do duck eggs taste like?
Duck eggs are creamier and richer in flavor than chicken eggs.
This is partly due to duck eggs having larger yolks – thus more fat. It’s also due to differences in the way that duck egg yolks taste.
Duck egg yolks have a creamy, smooth flavor whereas my wife (The Tyrant) describes chicken egg yolks as having a more sulfury flavor.
Do duck eggs taste better than chicken eggs?
What tastes “better” is subjective, but we think that duck eggs taste better than chicken eggs.
In fact, we conducted a small duck egg taste test with five family members a few years back. We hard boiled high quality chicken eggs and our own duck eggs, then let everyone sample half an egg of each one. (The test subjects didn’t know which egg was which – yes, single blind versus double blind experiment, but still…).
The result? 4 out of 5 participants favored the duck eggs over the chicken eggs. They also acknowledged that there didn’t seem to be a huge difference between the two eggs.
Can you eat raw duck eggs?
Medical professionals will tell you not to eat raw eggs (duck or chicken) due to the potential for salmonella.
When we do use raw duck eggs, we always: 1) thoroughly wash the shells with hot water and soap before cracking, and 2) only use fresh duck eggs that are no more than a few days old.
Is there a difference between cooking with duck eggs versus chicken eggs?
Yes. We know a lot of professional chefs and bakers. Without fail, they universally prefer duck eggs to chicken eggs due to the richer, creamier flavor.
Since duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs, we use 2 duck eggs for a recipe that calls for 3 L/XL chicken eggs.
As for scrambled eggs, fried eggs, etc, use duck eggs exactly as you would chicken eggs.
Do you have to wash or refrigerate duck eggs?
It depends. If you’re getting fresh-laid duck eggs (or chicken eggs) from your backyard, you don’t actually have to wash or refrigerate them (assuming the eggs don’t have cracks and are poo-free).
If you’re selling eggs in the United States, you are legally required to wash and refrigerate your eggs.
However, as this NPR story highlights, most other countries (including industrialized countries) do NOT wash their eggs. That’s because ducks, chickens, and other poultry cover their eggs with a protective coating called “bloom” when they’re laying their eggs, which prevents the eggs from being contaminated.
How long will duck eggs last?
Unwashed, unrefrigerated duck eggs will last at least 2 weeks indoors at room temperature, and up to 3 months if refrigerated.
Washed, refrigerated duck eggs will last for 5 weeks or longer.
Some people say duck eggs will last longer than chicken eggs due to their thicker shells, but we’ve never tested that hypothesis.
Do note that the moment you wash newly laid eggs, you’ll remove their natural protective coating, so you’ll need to refrigerate them immediately for maximum storage life.
How can you tell if duck eggs are good or bad?
Our ducks have hidden their nests from us before for unknown time periods. When this happens, we’ll often find up to 10 eggs of unknown age in the nest. So this info will likely come in handy for other duck parents (or chicken parents) too…
First, smell each egg. If it smells bad (the distinctive rotten egg smell), get rid of it.
Second, fill a large bowl of water and plunk the eggs in to conduct a “float test.”
- Any eggs that float are bad.
- Eggs that sink to the bottom are good.
- The ones that lay flat on the bottom are the freshest eggs. The eggs on the bottom that are at an upright position are still good, just a bit older. (These slightly older eggs actually make the best, easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs.)
Ok, we hope that answers ALL of your duck egg questions. If not, please ask away in the comments below!