A fowl battle: ducks vs chickens

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Ducks vs chickens: which are the best poultry to get for your backyard flock? Knowing the pros and cons of both ducks and chickens BEFORE you decide which to get can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches.

One day years 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, since we’re pretty careful about what we eat, we don’t eat standard factory-farmed eggs.

Not surprisingly, truly free-ranging, foraging birds 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: 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 egg=chicken too… 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.”

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 carried healthy, local duck eggs so we were able to continue feeding our newfound duck egg addiction.

Ducks vs Chickens: Which Are Better?

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

Beyond online resources, we also read books such as Dave Holderread’s Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks and The Ultimate Pet Duck Guide Book.

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 you’re referencing. Some breeds 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 multiple generations of heritage breed Welsh Harlequin ducks, we’ve come to realize that we’re decidedly in the “ducks are better than chickens” camp — at least for our backyard system here in rainy, humid South Carolina.

Diagram: ducks vs chickens


After seeing the basic differences between duck and chickens in a single chart, you might see why we decided to get ducks vs chickens:

backyard ducks vs chickens comparison chart, by Tyrant Farms

What about duck eggs vs chicken eggs?

Yes, there are significant differences between duck eggs and chicken eggs in size, flavor, nutrition, and other factors.

We’ve written about all the differences between duck and chicken eggs plus interesting duck egg facts in another article.Scared chicken

One More Reason To Get Ducks…

Have you ever seen cuddly chickens? No? Neither have we. Although a few people have told us they occasionally have a friendly, lovable chicken.

If you raise certain breeds of sociable ducks from day one, you won’t just have great egglayers, you’ll also have loving pets too! (Here’s how to get your ducks to like you.)

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.

Ducks vs chickens: 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 about ducks vs chickens!

Please make sure your comments are fowl-mouthed. 😉



Be sure to check out our other posts about raising ducks!

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