What images come to mind when someone mentions animals on the homestead? Chickens, right? Maybe goats?
Not many people consider the benefit that ducks can provide. In fact, they can usually be an easier starter animal for beginners, and here’s why:
1. Ducks are More Disease and Parasite Resistant than Chickens
I love my chickens, but sometimes I think they’ll get sick if I look at them funny. Everything affects them.
Rain? Start sneezing.
Clouds? Stop laying.
Dusty coop? Can’t breathe.
Cold weather? Utterly lethargic.
It’s a never ending cycle of babying chickens and catering to their long list of sensitivities.
Meanwhile, the ducks are happily splashing in their muddy kiddie pool without a care in the world.
I’ve never needed to deworm my ducks.
I’ve never seen lice or mites on them.
Any “illnesses” we’ve dealt with were due to either a lack of water or nutrients, not from a virus or bacteria.
I’m not saying that they can’t get sick, but it’s much less likely than a chicken.
2. Ducks are Very Cold Hardy
If there’s one thing ducks have, it’s insulation.
Their bodies naturally produce a layer of fat to help with their buoyancy, but they also have a thick covering of soft down, which makes ducks rather content to spend a day in the snow.
In fact, ducks just do better in the winter overall. They tend to need fewer hours of daylight to lay, so they’ll even out-lay chickens in the winter.
3. Ducks Control Mosquitoes
Ducks are fantastic foragers of bugs, but one of my favorite benefits to free-ranging ducks is the decrease in the number of mosquitoes.
Ducks love to eat both adult mosquitoes and their larvae, especially when the mosquitoes are breeding around bodies of water.
We live in the woods, so there is no shortage of places for mosquitoes to breed, but the ducks are able to seek them out in the brush and mud. We see a significant decrease in the number of mosquitoes when the ducks free range.
Check out this article from Mother Earth News about all of the ways ducks are beneficial for pest control: Natural Pest Control for Gardens with Ducks
4. Ducks are Great Egg Layers
Chickens have become the main stay of backyard egg eating enthusiasts, but something should be said for the egg laying abilities of ducks.
While chickens average 200 eggs per year during their most productive years (less than 2 years of age), a duck can average 180 eggs per year and continue to be a good egg producer beyond 2 years of age.
In fact, mine have been good producers well past 4 years old.
Ducks can also compliment chickens to provide eggs year round. I’ve found that my ducks tend to continue laying while my chickens are taking a break and vice versa.
Learn More: Raising Ducks for Eggs
5. Duck Eggs are 50% Larger than Chicken Eggs
The average large chicken egg weighs 50g, while the average duck egg weighs 70g. This means that you can use 2 duck eggs for every 3 chicken eggs used in cooking and baking.
They’ll also keep longer than chicken eggs because the thick, leathery shell prevents more moisture loss.
Check out this comparison from Morning Chores of quail vs chicken vs duck vs goose eggs: Duck Egg Comparison
6. Make Softer, Fluffier Baked Goods with Duck Eggs
Duck eggs contain twice as much fat as chicken eggs, which will make baked goods more moist and soft.
The added fat will also help keep them from going stale as quickly.
Be warned though, it may also make your cookies more cake-like, which is what happened to me when I tried to substitute duck eggs in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. However, I love using duck eggs in breads and cakes.
7. Duck Eggs are Excellent Sources of Folate and Omega-3s
Being larger that chicken eggs, duck eggs naturally have more nutrients as well, namely folate and Omega-3s.
In fact, they have about twice as much of each, despite only being 50% larger.
Folate, or B9, is important for neurological health as well as the brain development and prevention of neural tube defects of babies in the womb.
Omega-3s are important for both neurological and heart health. Omega-3 consumption has been linked to reduced inflammation and heart disease risk. It is also shown to help benefit individuals battling anxiety, depression, and ADHD. [source]
Learn more about the health benefits of duck eggs: Duck Eggs
8. Male Ducks are Quieter than Female Ducks
Normally, it’s roosters that get a bad rap for making a lot of noise, but females are actually the noise makers of the duck family.
In fact, one of the earliest ways to differentiate between a female and a male (or drake) duck is the loud quack of the female and the quiet, raspy voice of the drake.
9. Meat Ducks are Ready to Butcher at 8-10 weeks old
Forget about the leg problems, genetic issues, and organ failure that plagues Cornish Cross chickens. Meat ducks can be ready to butcher at 8-10 weeks old, or go on to live long, healthy lives.
Yes, they grow fast, but their hearts aren’t going to give out if they go past their “expiration date.” You can choose to keep a few to breed your own sustainable supply of duck meat.
Tip: If you do butcher at 8-10 weeks old, there’s a lot less down to pluck.
This is my favorite recipe for roast duck. Not greasy and tastes just like roast beef. BONUS: save the fat drippings to saute vegetables. The Best Way to Roast a Duck
10. Dirty Duck Pool Water Makes Great Fertilizer
In my ideal setup, I want to move the ducks closer to my garden. Part of the reason is so I can use the water from their pools to water and fertilize my plants. (The other reason is so they can eat slugs and snails.)
Duck poop is very high in nitrogen and won’t burn the plants like chicken manure.
Some homesteaders actually hook a hose to their duck pool and drain the pool while also watering. Others scoop it out with buckets.
Either way, it seems like a much more beneficial use for the water that would otherwise be dumped out and wasted.
Want to learn more about keeping ducks? Check out my article on Duck Keeping for Beginners.
So tell me, what surprises you the most about raising ducks? What other questions do you have about ducks? Comment below and let me know.