Ducks vs chickens: which is the best option for backyard poultry? What are the pros and cons of each? Can you raise ducks and chickens together? Our 12-point comparison will help you answer all your poultry questions so you can make the best choice for you!
Why we started producing our own eggs — and why you might also want to…
Many years ago (around 2009), The Tyrant proclaimed it was time for us to get some egg layers.
We love eggs and eat quite a few of them each week. However, since we’re pretty careful about what we eat, we don’t eat standard factory-farmed eggs.
Not surprisingly, truly free-ranging, foraging poultry living in sunlight produce eggs that have more Vitamin D and have much better levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. In our opinion, truly free-range eggs also taste better than standard factory-farmed eggs.
Sure, we care deeply about animal welfare issues as well, but you can be totally self-centered and still see how it makes sense to only eat eggs from healthy, outdoor-living animals.
Petunia the duck and her “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 egg = chicken too, at least until we went to our friend Andrea’s house and ate the best crème brûlée we’ve ever had in our lives.
“What’s the secret ingredient,” asked The Tyrant. “Petunia,” said Andrea. “Petunia, the duck. Her eggs, that is. The duck is still outside.”
As it turned out, Andrea had a backyard duck that produced one big, beautiful egg almost every day. She also had one female chicken, and the two animals were best friends.
Duck eggs? You can eat them? Do they taste good? “Yes” is the answer to all three questions, as we immediately discovered.
Our default belief that chickens were the only viable option for producing healthy, delicious backyard eggs was shattered, and we began doing a deep dive researching the various egg-laying poultry species, how they were different, and which type of backyard poultry would be best for us.
We’ve now been proud duck parents for over a decade, learning a ton in the process. That doesn’t mean that chickens, geese, guineas, or other fowl don’t have a place in your backyard or homestead. It simply means that ducks are the best match for us.
Below, we’ll share everything you need to know to determine whether ducks or chickens (or both) are right for you!
For clarity: species’ distinctions and definitions:
All chickens are the same species, Gallus gallus domesticus. They’re junglefowl who originated in the hot, tropical climates of Southeast Asia. (Fun fact: due to their popularity with humans, chickens are now by far the most populous bird species on earth, with a population approaching 25 billion!)
Domesticated ducks are not as easy to categorize because there are two distinct, popular species:
1. Mallard-derived ducks, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus. Mallards are native to subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world but were first domesticated in Southeast Asia.
2. Muscovy ducks, Cairina moschata domestica. Native to warm/tropical regions of the Americas. Muscovies are useful warm-climate ducks, but they’re actually considered an invasive species in the US.
From here on, when we say “ducks,” we’re specifically referring to Mallard-derived domesticated breeds, NOT Muscovies or wild Mallards.
Sweeping generalizations are impossible given breed variability
The next thing you should know when comparing chickens and ducks is that it’s difficult or impossible to make a sweeping generalization on some comparisons, 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 you’re referencing. Some are bred for meat production, egg production, sociability, beauty, etc.
However, after you read this article, you’ll have a good idea of the general pros and cons of ducks and chickens, and you can then take a deeper dive into specific breeds that might be best suited to your needs.
Chicken and duck breed comparisons for future reference:
- Chicken breed comparison chart via Michigan State University
- Our duck breed comparison with a breed “calculator” to help you numerically determine the best duck breed(s) for you
Ducks vs chickens: 12-point comparison of backyard poultry
Below is a comparison of ducks vs chickens across 12 different factors that are likely to be most important for backyard poultry enthusiasts, homesteaders, and small farmers:
1. Egg production – ducks vs chickens
Key takeaway: Ducks lay more and larger eggs than chickens, plus their eggs are richer-flavored and more nutritious than chicken eggs.
Since duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs, it’s important to consider total egg yield based on weight rather than just total number of eggs. There is quite a bit of variability by breed, but you can expect 32-52 pounds of eggs per year from ducks versus 22-34 pounds of eggs per year from chickens.
Which breeds are the most productive egg layers?
- Ducks – Golden 300 Hybrid Layer and White Layer, which can lay 290-300 eggs/year.
- Chickens – Australorp and Golden Comets, which can lay 300 eggs/year.
Keep in mind that higher yearly egg production can also cause health problems in either ducks or chickens. That’s because it takes a lot of energy and nutrients to produce so many eggs, thus taxing their bodies and reproductive systems. Your feed and management approaches can reduce or increase yearly egg production.
Since our ducks are both pets AND production animals, we opt for fewer eggs and healthier, longer-lived birds. We take sick or injured ducks to our vet (for issues beyond our expertise), rather than culling them, so keeping them in good health is a financial investment for us as well.
Our management approach may not be right for you though, and that’s ok.
2. Months to production, productive life, and lifespan
Key takeaway: Ducks and chickens start laying eggs at about the same age, but ducks maintain peak egg production for more years and live longer than chickens.
a. Months to production: how long until chickens or ducks lay their first eggs?
In general, chickens and ducks will start laying eggs at around the same age, with variability by species. Ranges: 16-24 weeks for first eggs in ducks versus 18-24 weeks for first eggs in chickens.
The season you get your poultry can also influence time to first egg production. For instance, if you get ducklings in the spring, you can expect to get your first eggs in late summer (usually around Week 20). However, if you get ducklings in the summer, you likely won’t get eggs until the following late winter-early spring, since low sunlight hours will cause hormonal shifts which impede egg production.
b. Productive life: how long can ducks and chickens lay eggs?
In general, ducks have a longer productive life than chickens. Ducks can maintain peak egg production for 2-3 years, whereas chickens will maintain peak production for 1-2 years.
c. Lifespan: how long can ducks and chickens live?
Ducks typically live longer than chickens. Well cared for domestic ducks can live well into their teens and even as long as 20 years old. A chicken’s average lifespan is somewhere between 5-7 years, with a maximum of around 10 years.
On average, males in both species live longer than females since their bodies are not taxed by egg production.
Our heritage breed Welsh harlequin ducks currently range from 7-10 years old. Our females still have fairly high egg production during the warm long daylight months, although we do not push them for maximum egg production.
3. Meat production
Key takeaway: There is a high degree of breed variability, but ducks and chickens bred for meat production generally finish at around the same weight within the same time frame. Duck meat is generally more gamey than chicken meat, and can even approximate red meat.
Meat ducks versus chickens
From hatching to butchering weight:
- meat ducks can finish in 6-9 weeks (ranging from 6-10 pounds), and
- meat chickens can take 8-20 weeks to finish (ranging from 10-12 pounds).
What are the best breeds of ducks and chickens for meat?
- Ducks – Pekins (and Pekin hybrids), Aylesbury, Rouen, Silver Appleyard. Mentioned earlier, but Muscovies and hybrid Mallard-Muscovy mules known as Moulards are also excellent meat ducks, albeit of a different species.
- Chickens – Cornish Cross, Jersey Giant, Red Broiler
4. Healthcare & illness susceptibility
Key takeaway: Ducks are generally less prone to diseases and illnesses (especially in wet climates) than chickens, but it’s harder to find veterinary care for ducks than it is for chickens.
Here again, these are general distinctions that may not apply to all breeds and all circumstances. For instance:
- Larger duck and chicken breeds are more prone to leg and joint injuries than smaller breeds.
- Breeds bred for maximum egg production are more likely to have reproductive injuries and illnesses (like egg binding) than breeds that produce fewer eggs per year.
If your aim is production-focused and you cull sick or injured birds, these issues may not matter to you. However, many backyard poultry owners like us also view their poultry as pets, and will provide or seek medical intervention for them when necessary.
If and when veterinary care is needed, it’s usually easier to find vets (including farm vets) credentialed and experienced in caring for chickens than for ducks. In the veterinary world, both species are considered “exotics” which means their care is also fairly expensive relative to cats and dogs.
- Duck health guide: first aid kit, common ailments, and more
- How to treat bumblefoot in ducks – safely, effectively, and humanely
- How to treat egg binding and make a duck go broody
- How to orally medicate a duck with pills or syringes (with video)
5. Climate adaptability
Key takeaway: Ducks can thrive in a wider range of climates than chickens — and they’re especially hardy in wetter, cooler climates.
If it’s wet and cold outside, your ducks will be in heaven, but your chickens will likely be taking shelter. If it’s warm and sunny, both ducks and chickens will be happy.
Wild Mallards are migratory waterfowl suited to a wide range of environmental conditions, and domestic ducks have inherited this adaptability. There are chickens bred for more extreme environments, so no matter what type of fowl you get, consider breed characteristics when selecting for unusual/extreme environments. Likewise, duck breeds like Runners will do better in dryer and warmer climates than other ducks.
6. Housing & living areas
Key takeaway: Ducks and chickens both need safe coops and other infrastructure to protect them from predators. Chickens may need to have their wing feathers clipped to keep them contained whereas all domestic ducks are flightless.
Both ducks and chickens need to be put into a safe, predator-proof coop at night regardless of whether they’re in an urban or rural environment.
The differences between coop needs for ducks vs chickens:
- Ducks sleep on the ground whereas chickens roost on above-ground perches.
- Small flocks of ducks often form a single communal nest in a sheltered area of their coop whereas chickens generally like individual laying boxes close to their roosts.
There’s not much difference between ducks and chickens when it comes to coop space needs. While there is some variance based on breed size, duck coops should provide 2-6 square feet of space per duck whereas chicken coops should provide 3-5 square feet per chicken.
Both ducks and chickens can be trained to go into their coops before dark with a sound/call associated with their favorite treats. Ducks also group-herd very well with sticks, whereas chickens do not. Herding sticks are how we get our ducks into their coops at night!
To completely eliminate predation, many backyard poultry owners keep their birds in protected runs during the day. This is where they’ll spend their entire lives, so if you go this route, the more space and entertainment you can provide the better.
When it comes to space requirements for runs, chickens have the advantage because they can do better with less square footage. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on run square footage, but we recommend 125 sq ft for two ducks for a high quality of life. Even then, we also recommend letting your ducks out of their run with adult human supervision for additional exploration and foraging.
c. Fencing and flight
If not kept in a run or mobile tractor, both ducks and chickens need to be confined to a fenced area. Fencing helps provide some protection from ground predators but less so for aerial predators. Fencing also keeps your poultry from running away or getting lost.
Our ducks spend their days in a backyard filled with edible perennial plants that is surrounded by a 6’ tall fence. This setup makes it very difficult for aerial predators to swoop in. And most mammalian predators are nocturnal. Thus, knock on wood, we’ve never lost a duck to a predator after more than a decade.
Domestic ducks are not good flyers so there’s no chance of them flying off or over a fence. Depending on the breed, chickens can be good flyers and may need to have their wings regularly clipped to keep them flightless and contained within a fenced area.
- How to build a long-lasting predator-proof duck coop and run
- How to herd ducks, aka get your ducks in a row
- What’s the best bedding/litter for your duck coop or run?
7. Water needs
Key takeaway: Ducks have greater water needs than chickens in order to maintain ideal health and happiness.
Minimum water requirements for ducks and chickens
At a minimum, ducks need to be able to dip their heads underwater to clean out their nares/nostrils. If not, they’ll become clogged and infected. This means you’ll at least need to have a deep water bowl(s) if you get ducks.
Chickens can do just fine with only a water nipple dripper.
Do ducks need a pool?
Chickens don’t need a pool. They take dust baths in sand/soil.
However, ducks clean themselves in water, which helps them maintain ideal feather health and remove mites. We can attest that ducks also derive a great deal of joy and happiness by playing and splashing in water. We could insert a “duck out of water” joke here, but that’s too obvious!
Thus, while ducks don’t have to have a swimming pool, they’ll be much healthier and happier if they do.
Most new duck owners opt for a small baby pool, but things tend to get messy quick. This issue helps explain why ducks get a reputation as being foul fowl, but it doesn’t have to be that way…
8. Feed needs & costs
Key takeaway: Chickens eat less than ducks. It’s also harder to find pre-blended, species-appropriate feed for ducklings and mature ducks than it is for chickens. Duck feed is generally more expensive and more difficult to find organically than chicken feed.
Ducks need more niacin than chickens
One of the biggest differences between species is that ducks need much higher levels of niacin than chickens. Niacin is not something found in chicken feed at levels that ducklings and ducks require.
How much does a duck eat?
A domestic duck eats about 5-7 ounces of feed per day (about 3 pounds per week) depending on their breed size and whether they’re laying eggs. When laying, they’ll eat more to compensate for egg production.
A popular duck/waterfowl feed we use based on our avian vet’s recommendation is Mazuri Waterfowl, which can now be purchased via online vendors like Chewy. Mazuri comes in breeder, maintainer, and starter formulations.
Mazuri costs about $50 per 50 lb bag or about $1 per pound, meaning it costs us about $3 per week to feed each duck during laying season. Our ducks also forage and we give them lots of garden greens, so this is probably a high cost estimate.
How much does a chicken eat?
A laying chicken eats about 4 ounces of feed per day; a little less for roosters and non-laying hens. Given the popularity/demand for chickens, it’s fairly easy to find chicken feed for less than $1/pound, e.g. it usually costs less to feed chickens than ducks with a comparable quality of feed.
However, as detailed previously, duck eggs are larger, more nutritious, and (in our opinion) better flavored than chicken eggs. Thus, you should also make a qualitative comparison here, not just a quantitative comparison.
- Complete guide: How to raise ducklings (and what to feed them)
- What to feed ducks to maximize their health and longevity
9. Foraging ability / pest control
Key takeaway: Both ducks and chickens are excellent foragers and pest control animals, but chickens can do more damage to a landscape than ducks since they scratch and dig while foraging.
Foraging differences and commonalities between ducks and chickens:
- Ducks use their bills (not their flippers) to forage and find prey, whereas chickens scratch and dig with their feet when foraging.
- Both ducks and chickens can cause considerable damage to lawns, gardens, and landscapes left unchecked, but chickens can cause more damage due to their foraging practices.
- In spacious, rich foraging grounds, ducks and chickens can get a high percentage of their nutritional needs met exclusively through foraging, but free-ranging makes them more susceptible to diurnal (daytime) predators.
What do ducks forage?
When foraging in our yard/gardens, our ducks eat insects, mollusks (snails and slugs are a favorite), arachnids, worms (another favorite), lizards, small snakes, small frogs and toads (which we try to hinder), and pretty much anything that moves and can fit into their bills. They also love foraging greens and have developed an informed intuition about what greens are edible versus not in our landscape.
- Top 11 garden plants for ducks and chickens
- 5 tips to keep your ducks from destroying your lawn or garden
10. Susceptibility to predators
Key takeaway: Ducks and chickens are both highly susceptible to predation in both rural and urban environments. Predator pressure in urban environments is usually worse than in rural environments due to higher population densities of certain predators like raccoons.
Is bigger better when it comes to reducing poultry predation?
Larger breeds of ducks such as Pekins are less susceptible to some aerial predators than smaller duck breeds (or chickens). By “some” we mean smaller birds of prey like hawks, not larger aerial predators like eagles.
In short, larger size does not buy your poultry predator-proofing abilities. For instance, we’ve had multiple friends whose geese were killed by predators, including one by a raccoon. This is where coops, runs, and other predator-proofing practices come into play…
11. Sociability as pets
Key takeaway: With regular handling and treats starting at a young age, both ducks and chickens can become quite comfortable with humans — even to the point of being considered pets.
Poultry: pets that make you breakfast
If you want a pet that produces your breakfast, both chickens and ducks have great potential. Here again, there is wide variability by breed. There is also wide variability by individual personality when it comes to poultry pet potential.
For instance, Saxony, Silver Appleyard, Welsh Harlequin, and Black Swedish round out the list of the most calm and social duck breeds, whereas White Crested and Khaki Campbell rank at the bottom. However, you still might have individual Khakis who are much calmer and more sociable than one of your Saxonies. Likewise, some of our Welsh Harlequins are more amenable to handling even though they’re all the same breed.
Of course, how you raise your poultry and how dedicated you are to continuously reinforcing pro-social behaviors with their humans makes a huge difference if you want to cultivate pet poultry!
- How to get your ducks to like you: 3 tips
- 9 tips & tricks for keeping indoor pet ducks
- Is it safe to raise human babies and kids around ducks?
- How to diaper a duck w/ instructional video
Key takeaway: Female ducks are much louder than female chickens, but male chickens are much louder than male ducks.
Backyard duck noise
Throughout the day our female ducks are mostly quiet, albeit chatty with each other. When they’re in normal mode, our next door neighbors can’t hear a thing.
However, when our ducks want to get our attention, our neighbors three doors down will know about it. That’s because ducks are basically feathered bagpipes.
When are our ducks loudest? When we’re not on schedule, ergo when we’re late letting them out of the coops in the morning or we’re late letting them out of their backyard for their nightly foraging adventures. They’re also loud when there’s a snake around or when something startles them.
Not so for any drake (male duck) we’ve ever had. Even when Sir Winston Duckbill (our sole drake) is most animated, he can only summon the sounds of a raspy frog, not something that would raise the ire of a neighbor.
Backyard chicken noise
Chickens are the opposite of ducks when it comes to noise… Everyone is familiar with how loud a rooster’s morning crow can be. And that sound won’t make you popular with urban neighbors despite the fact that they’re tolerant of leaf blowers, mowers, dog barks, etc.
On the other hand, female chickens are comparatively quiet. They regularly chat and cluck with each other throughout the day, but generally don’t make vocalizations that will irritate neighbors — even when they’re loudest during morning egg laying.
Ducks vs chickens: which is best… for you?
If you’ve read our 12-point comparison between ducks and chickens above, hopefully you now realize that there is no universal answer to the question: which is best? The better question is: which poultry species is best for YOU?
And if you’re wondering whether you can raise ducks and chickens together (or even other species like guineas and geese) the answer is: yes! However, raising multiple poultry species together that have different nutritional needs, sleeping arrangements, etc requires more thought, planning, and effort.
To take a deeper dive into that topic, check out Raising mixed species poultry together: tips & advice.
We hope this ducks vs chickens comparison has been helpful for you! Now you have a clearer picture of the pros and cons of both species and which one(s) is right for you! And for a quick visual summary, check out the Google Web Story video version of ducks vs chickens!
Think you’re ready to get ducks? Additional recommended reading:
- 10 things you should know before you get ducks
- Will you save money on eggs by raising your own poulry?
- Dave Holderread’s Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks
- Kimberly Link’s The Ultimate Pet Duck Guide Book
… and more duck articles from Tyrant Farms!
Diagram: ducks vs chickens
P.S. Here’s a popular ducks vs chickens diagram we created from the original version of this article:
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Brent ArrowitzJuly 24, 2020 at 10:22 am
I got ducks for the first time this year and I have to say I enjoy them far more than chickens. I have one friendly chicken but all my ducks are sociable and some even affectionate. I have decided from now on to focus on raising ducks and I plan on starting a small farm in the next year in Vermont. I had no clue how intelligent and social they are, it’s really been an eye opener for me and I love watching them grow and I truly look forward to raising more.
Aaron von FrankJuly 24, 2020 at 6:01 pm
Thank for the info, Brent! Do you mind sharing what duck breeds you have? Best of luck on your new farm in Vermont – gorgeous area of the country up there. The Tyrant and I accidentally wrecked a boat on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain last summer, but that was our fault, not Vermont’s.
Brent ArrowitzJuly 25, 2020 at 5:09 am
Thank you! I have 3 pekins, a rouen and a cayuga duck. One of the pekins and the cayuga seem to be the most affectionate. Daffy, Donald, Daisy, Darkwing and Ping are their names. Vermont is gonna be a big experiment but I’m up for the challenge. Gonna do the whole farm and homestead thing (except my ducks will be strictly egg layers, fertilizer providers and most importantly, pets.)
Alex BiswasAugust 29, 2018 at 7:17 pm
I have been interested in getting chickens for egg laying purposes, but after reading your blog I want ducks now! I had always kind of wanted a duck just to have around as a pet because I love them. Is it possible to both have a duck pet that has imprinted on you that will also lay eggs? Or is it best to get them after they’re hatched so they aren’t as attached to you?
susan von frankAugust 30, 2018 at 3:29 pm
Hi Alex! Yes, it’s possible to have a pet that also makes you breakfast (or as you termed it, “a duck pet that has imprinted on you that will also lay eggs”)! A couple recommendations:
1. Don’t ever just get one single duck. They’re highly social animals and they need another animal around in order to be comfortable and happy. Ideally, that other animal(s) is a duck, but we’ve had friends who had a duck and a chicken and both animals bonded to each other despite being different species. There are even people we’ve seen online who have a duck and a dog that grew up together, so it seems like anything that can provide 24-7 social/emotional support will do.
2. In our opinion, you want your ducks to like you and not be too terrified of you regardless of whether you get them for egg-laying purposes or not. The reason for that is, like any animal or pet that you keep, your ducks may occasionally get sick or injured. If/when that happens, you need to be able to inspect them and care for them without giving them a heart attack. Here’s an article we wrote with 3 tips to get your ducks to like you: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/how-to-get-your-ducks-to-like-you-three-tips/
Hope this info is helpful! Please let us know if you have any other questions.
AimeeDecember 20, 2017 at 3:22 am
Not sure how you consider ducks to be “birds that wouldn’t destroy our garden when foraging”. Ducks are just as bad as chickens from our experience – ours jumped into our 2′ tall raised beds and tried to eat all of our peas and cucumber plants, tops off the onions, carrots and garlic, and even the leaves from red bell peppers. On the ground during free ranging they also demolish marigolds, calendula, sage, fuschia, hydrangea and even nibbled at the base of the ferns so much so that they never grew back this year. Yes, we get almost an egg a day from each and they are really funny with very distinct personalities and we don’t regret having them,, but they are definitely not any easier on the plants, and next year we are definitely not letting them free range in the veggie garden!!!
Aaron von FrankDecember 20, 2017 at 1:47 pm
Woah! That sounds pretty intense! What breed do you have? We do no-till organic gardening with mulch over our soils, so by “not destroy” we meant they don’t completely dig out the beds. If left in a veggie patch unattended, they can definitely wreak havoc on the plants – especially salad greens. However, we let them ours into certain garden beds every night (especially ones with taller perennial plants) and the mostly judge forage for insects, slugs, worms, etc and add fertilizer in the process. Sorry yours are little garden monsters!
Tina HuaJanuary 22, 2017 at 11:46 pm
Do you put heater or heat lamp in the duck pen in the winter? If yes, what kind of heater and at what temperature?
Aaron von FrankFebruary 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm
No, we don’t. We live in a relatively mild area (Ag Zone 7B in upstate South Carolina). Ducks are very well adapted to cold weather so our coldest spells aren’t enough to be much of a bother to ducks. As long as they have dry bedding in their coop at night, they’re good to go. We will put down a heat mat or cable to keep their water from freezing at night though.
Tina HuaFebruary 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm
Thank you for your reply. I have a lot of questions that I would love to know about raising ducks, to make the life of my ducks better. I have a white layer and a Rouen, 10 months old. During the rainy days here in California, I’d like to keep their pen clean and hope I can get some tips. Are you still housing the ducks in the coup showing in the picture?
* How do you keep the floor clean? What materials you use for the bedding, what kind of floor is it? How often do you change the bedding ?
* Do you leave food inside the coup for them? I leave some food inside because I don’t want to let them go outside when it rains. They tend to get totally soaked in the rain and I’m afraid they can get sick because of that. I only let them out when the rain is over, but sometimes it might rains for a couple straight days. What type of feeder you use? How often do you refill it?
* What kind of heat pad you use for the water?
* What type of container you use for water? Is there any tips in disposing leftover water? I dump it on the ground but it creates a mess in the raining season.
* If possible, can you post some pictures of the coup interior, the floor, wall, bedding and feeding areas?
Thank you so much Aaron!
Aaron von FrankFebruary 27, 2017 at 10:57 am
Tina, responses to your questions:
Q. During the rainy days here in California, I’d like to keep their pen clean and hope I can get some tips. Are you still housing the ducks in the coup showing in the picture? How do you keep the floor clean? What materials you use for the bedding, what kind of floor is it? How often do you change the bedding ?
A: Our ducks are in a fenced back yard and only go into their coops at night for protection from predators (possums, raccoons, etc). The coop rests on the ground on top of a hardware cloth strip – this prevent any predators from digging from underneath to get to them. We use pine shavings to keep their house dry and clean. Just a quick top up of the shavings each night before they go in. Once the shavings have built up to about 12″ deep, we remove and compost the shavings, and start over. (A complete bedding changeout happens about once every two months, I think.)
Q. Do you leave food inside the coup for them? I leave some food inside because I don’t want to let them go outside when it rains. They tend to get totally soaked in the rain and I’m afraid they can get sick because of that. I only let them out when the rain is over, but sometimes it might rains for a couple straight days. What type of feeder you use? How often do you refill it?
A: Yes, we have food and water inside for them. Nothing fancy: just ceramic bowls propped up off the floor a bit on a rock or piece of log to keep them from pooping in them or tipping them over. We top up their bowls each night before we “tuck them in.”
As far as rain goes, ducks love rain and cool weather. If your ducks get totally soaked after a short rain, that might be an indication that their feather health isn’t as good as it should be. “Like water off of a duck’s back” is quite accurate – their feathers should be well-oiled and highly water-resistant. Good diet, adequate sunlight, and good water to clean/preen themselves in is the ideal recipe for healthy ducks and duck feathers. They will get wet after a long rain or a long swim (along their underbellies) but they’re dry again a few minutes after preening.
Q. What kind of heat pad you use for the water? What type of container you use for water? Is there any tips in disposing leftover water? I dump it on the ground but it creates a mess in the raining season.
A: It seldom gets cold enough here for us to have to resort to heating the water in their coop. When it does, we just use the seedling heat mats we have from seed starting. I believe there are heated bowls you can buy now where the heating elements are built into the dish, if that’s a problem for you. We use fallen leaves and triple ground wood chips in the areas where our ducks spend their day to prevent it from becoming a mud pit (and possibly a good site for parasites and anaerobic/pathogenic bacteria). We also have a lot of fruit and berry plants back there so we just dump the duck’s water on the mulch around the base of those trees.
AimeeDecember 20, 2017 at 3:26 am
Ducks love the rain – they are water fowl, let them go out and have fun! They can stand temps down to 15 deg F. Get a heated bucket – we got one on Amazon for $40 and it works like a charm – and dump the old water in your garden – great fertilizer! Strongly recommend the book “Duck Eggs Daily” and the author’s blog as well, lots of common sense tips.
Tina HuaDecember 22, 2017 at 6:04 pm
Thanks for the suggestion. I checked out Amazon, there were so many heated buckets. Can you post a link to the one you’ve got? TY
Aaron von FrankDecember 20, 2017 at 1:56 pm
Sorry we missed your questions, Tina! Responses below:
1. “During the rainy days here in California, I’d like to keep their pen clean and hope I can get some tips. Are you still housing the ducks in the coup showing in the picture?” Yes, we’re still using the same coup we built four years ago. We haven’t really moved it at all, so it’s sunken into the ground and is starting to get some wood rot. Our next coup will probably be constructed from a lightweight aluminum.
2. “How do you keep the floor clean? What materials you use for the bedding, what kind of floor is it? How often do you change the bedding?” We put a think layer of pine shavings down each night before we put them up. We do this for about 6-8 weeks until it’s really built up, then we shovel out all the bedding and use it as a base for our compost.
3. “Do you leave food inside the coup for them? I leave some food inside because I don’t want to let them go outside when it rains. They tend to get totally soaked in the rain and I’m afraid they can get sick because of that. I only let them out when the rain is over, but sometimes it might rains for a couple straight days. What type of feeder you use? How often do you refill it?” Yes, we put food and water (with fresh greens) in with them at night. We use metal no-tip bowls. Unlike chickens, ducks LOVE rain, so let your girls out to enjoy it! The wetter and colder the better, assuming they have good feather health and are generally healthy.
4. “What kind of heat pad you use for the water?” In our area, it’s very seldom to get deep freezes that cause their water to freeze at night. When that happens, we use soil cables and/or heating mats that we have for seed starting.
5. “What type of container you use for water? Is there any tips in disposing leftover water? I dump it on the ground but it creates a mess in the raining season.” We use no-tip metal bowls. We dump the water into our no-till garden beds that have heavy mulch on them, so it doesn’t ever create a mud pit.
Aaron von FrankJanuary 18, 2017 at 1:40 pm
Neat! Sounds like you’ve got some interesting chickens there. I’ve never heard of chickens fetching. That seems like a very intelligent chicken.
Aaron von FrankJanuary 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm
Did you guys end up getting ducks, Courtney?
Aaron von FrankJanuary 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm
Our comment system was broken for a while so our responses looked like they were posting but weren’t. Anyway, two years later, thanks for sharing! How is your duck flock doing? And your now-twelve year old? 🙂
SophiaMay 11, 2015 at 11:24 pm
I’d have to disagree with chickens not being cuddly. I love ducks too, but I love my 8 chickens more than even my cats. I raised my chickens from 4 weeks old, not day one, and the majority of them are all socialable and even cuddly. Daisy, a blue andalusian, loves to sit on my feet or hands when I go into the run. She will trample the others to get to me and then will follow me around while I do my chores. She jumps on my lamp when I sit down as well. Dixie, another andalusian, flies up to my shoulders to chill there like a parrot. Tater, an easter egger, climbs into my lap every afternoon for a nap while I stroke her. April, a salmon faverolle, loves her chest rubbed and will come up to my and nudge my hand like a dog until I do it. All of my chickens are very personable and I love them tons, even though they are just chickens. They will all eat out of my hand and my white marans, Elsa and Betty Lou will on occasion play fetch with their treat ball. After I throw the ball, Elsa will push it back to me with her beak and Betty will walk behind her, eating the treats as they come out. Not bashing ducks by any means, because I love my two ducks as well, but they aren’t near as cuddly as my chickens and they were raised from day one with hours of handling daily (one is a welsh harlequin, another is a giant pekin, and the other is a buff).
CourtneyAugust 26, 2014 at 9:45 am
Thanks for this article! We recently bought some land and are building a house. My husband plans on getting some chickens and ducks, and the comparison chart was really useful.
MichelleAugust 23, 2014 at 5:50 pm
I. JUST. LOVE. THE. DUCKS! We have layers (chickens) regularly, last year we got pekins for meat, this year, we are letting them live to see how we like the eggs. Ducks have so much personality, I just love them! My 10 yr old is always outside with them, loving them, and they snuggle up with her, nibbling on her neck and ear…it’s so darn cute! They have a special noise that sounds like a whistle when they call her and they start calling her around 7 am which is when she is typically up! How can you not love that?? Sadly, it’s time for the freezer for one of them (the odd female)….daughter can’t wait to make something with the down. Yeah, we’ll see how it goes….will definitely get more than 3 next year. Maybe get rid of the chickens.
Patricia Chandler WalkerOctober 1, 2013 at 4:01 pm
Thanks! If I ever get in a postion to get some I’ll take you along to do the sexing LOL
Patricia Chandler WalkerOctober 1, 2013 at 12:53 am
one more question or two. How much do the Harlequins cost? On the chart iit had food cost, is that after foraging?
Aaron von FrankJanuary 18, 2017 at 1:46 pm
Sorry, Patricia. Comment system was broken for a long time and we didn’t realize it. Cost – it depends on where you get them and the quantity. Most breeders will give you a quantity discount, but if you just want a few birds, or you want them to be a sexed run (all females), it will cost a bit more. We got most of ours from Metzer Farms. It’s about $5-$6/duckling, but they’ll charge a “small order fee” of $40 if you just order a few birds.
Patricia Chandler WalkerOctober 1, 2013 at 12:49 am
What is the threat by hawks once they get grown?
SusanOctober 1, 2013 at 9:45 am
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.
SusanOctober 1, 2013 at 9:54 am
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).
Patricia Chandler WalkerSeptember 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm
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.
SusanSeptember 30, 2013 at 10:01 pm
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. 🙂