Ducks

A Fowl Battle: Ducks vs Chickens

Where to get Organic Duck Food
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 eat factory eggs, because we don’t really want to eat arsenic and pharmaceuticals. Plus, not surprisingly, truly free-ranging birds produce eggs that are healthier for people. Sure, we care 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.

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.

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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 and The Ultimate Pet Duck Guide Book. 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.

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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!

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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. ;)

KIGI,




white-duck-featured-image

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

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  • https://www.facebook.com/patricia.c.walker.16 Patricia Chandler Walker

    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.

    • http://www.tyrantfarms.com Susan

      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. :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/patricia.c.walker.16 Patricia Chandler Walker

    What is the threat by hawks once they get grown?

    • http://www.tyrantfarms.com Susan

      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.

    • http://www.tyrantfarms.com Susan

      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).

  • https://www.facebook.com/patricia.c.walker.16 Patricia Chandler Walker

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

    • https://www.growjourney.com Aaron von Frank

      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.

  • https://www.facebook.com/patricia.c.walker.16 Patricia Chandler Walker

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

  • Michelle

    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.

  • http://familygonehealthy.com Courtney

    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.

  • Sophia

    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).

  • https://www.growjourney.com Aaron von Frank

    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? :)

  • https://www.growjourney.com Aaron von Frank

    Did you guys end up getting ducks, Courtney?

  • https://www.growjourney.com Aaron von Frank

    Neat! Sounds like you’ve got some interesting chickens there. I’ve never heard of chickens fetching. That seems like a very intelligent chicken.

  • Tina Hua

    Do you put heater or heat lamp in the duck pen in the winter? If yes, what kind of heater and at what temperature?

    • http://www.tyrantfarms.com/ Aaron von Frank

      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 Hua

        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!

        • http://www.tyrantfarms.com/ Aaron von Frank

          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.