Should you keep ducks on your homestead? Many farmers, especially experienced chicken owners seem to think that ducks are more difficult to keep than chickens. There is a misconception that you need a pond or small lake to be able to keep ducks. When I started keeping ducks, I also had many of these preconceptions most of which turned out to be wrong.
Today I will help you answer questions to help you decide if ducks are right for your homestead.
5 Considerations Before Keeping Ducks is part of a series about different farm animals. You can read the farm animal overview: Beginner’s Guide to Animals on the Farm. I provide you the answers to the questions: What is the purpose, cost, advantages, disadvantages, and special considerations of keeping ducks?
1. What is the Purpose of Keeping Ducks on the HOmestead?
There are 4 main purposes for keeping any animal on the farm: Food, Profit, Protection, and Pets Let’s explore these 4 purposes when it comes to ducks.
Honestly, I didn’ t really want to get ducks at first. Therefore I had no purpose for keeping ducks. My husband and kids wanted to buy some ducks. I also thought that ducks needed a body of water. Living on a hill, we do not have a natural body of water. Although we still have the dream of building a pond and in fact have had one failed attempt of building a pond. But that’s another story for another day.
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If you read my Beginner’s Guide to Animals on the Farm, you know that I am an animal lover and an impulse animal buyer. When my husband saw some ducks on Craigslist we decided to buy some.
However, this was my mistake, that I hope you can avoid. I didn’t define the purpose of purchasing ducks. I just thought ducks were cute and since my kids wanted some, I thought we could give it a try.
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BEFORE purchasing ducks, define your purpose for keeping ducks.
There are two main types of ducks, egg layers and meat ducks.
Did you know there are breeds of ducks that are actually more prolific egg layers than chickens? I didn’t know this when I purchased my first ducks. I wish I would have done more research. Ask yourself the purpose of buying ducks For us, it really was for pets. However, “pets with a purpose”, like laying eggs.
Keeping ducks for food
Some breeds of ducks known for egg-laying include Campbell, Runner, Buff, Welsch Harlequin. Magpie, and Ancona. Campbells are known for outlaying chickens. Runner ducks look much different than typical ducks. They stand taller. I tried to raise Runner ducks last summer, but sadly, a predator ate all 3 before they reached maturity, but more about that later.
Unfortunately, my first duck purchase was meat ducks. We purchased 6 Muscovy ducklings. Of course, they were cute as ducklings, but as they grew, they turned into these huge, ugly creatures that couldn’t even quack. In my opinion, Muscovy ducks are probably the ugliest duck available. Of course, my kids loved them and there was no way we would be eating these hideous looking creatures.
Meat ducks certainly have their purpose. It is a nice change of pace from eating chicken. However, most meat ducks do not lay eggs as well as other duck breeds. Some breeds of meat ducks include Muscovy, Pekin, Saxony. Our Muscovy ducks actually lay a fair number of eggs, but if egg-laying is the purpose of your ducks, I recommend a breed listed above.
Keeping Ducks for profit
Having ducks on your homestead or farm can be profitable. Duck eggs sell for as much as twice as much as chicken eggs. People who bake say that duck eggs make lighter, fluffier cakes and other pastries. Duck eggs are also delicious and bigger than chicken eggs. Many people who are allergic to chicken eggs are able to eat duck eggs.
Duck meat is also profitable if you have a market for it. Even more profitable if you free range your ducks and feed it organically.
Keeping Ducks for Pets
Looking back when we first got ducks, I would have to say our purpose was to have ducks as pets. However, as I mentioned earlier, by choosing the right breed you can have “pets with a purpose”. Obviously, we were not going to eat our pets, so we should have chosen a breed of duck known for laying. In order to keep ducks as pets, they should be handled a lot as ducklings. Our ducks aren’t exactly tame and I think it would take a lot of work to tame a duck to the point where it enjoyed being handled. Ducks are entertaining to watch especially in the water.
In every animal article, I explore the option of keeping an animal for protection. Obviously, ducks are not an animal to keep to protect other animals. In fact, ducks are prey animals and with that, farm ducks are especially easy prey for predators. Farm ducks must be protected by shutting them in an enclosure at night. Wild ducks are protected by spending the night on water or in a well-camouflaged nest. Before purchasing ducks, make sure you have a predator protected place such as a coop.
Choosing a Duck Breed
I mentioned earlier that I lost 3 runner ducks to predators. It has been my experience that keeping different breeds of ducks together is not a good idea. Different breeds have different temperaments.
Currently, we have 2 muscovy ducks. One is from our original duck purchase over 6 years ago and one is her daughter. We are phasing out this breed. We purchased 8 more ducks 2 years ago. 4 mallards and 4 Rouens. The Rouens bullied the mallards out of the coop and they were all eaten by predators before I realized what had happened. We then purchased 3 runner ducks and the Rouens also bullied them.
Our next duck purchase will be only Campbells or only Runners and this will be after the Rouens are gone or in a separate coop. My point is that mixing breeds is not a good idea unless you research their compatibility.
Keeping Ducks for Pest Control
Ducks can also be used for pest control. Ducks love to eat insects and are great in the garden. The best breeds for weed control are Campbells or Runner ducks. However, all ducks will assist with pest control. I allow my ducks in the garden before planting in the spring. Then I allow them back into a mature garden to feast on late-season pests. This is tricky if you also own free-range chickens because they will want to go in the garden too and scratch and eat the vegetables.
What is the cost of Keeping Ducks?
Ducks are not expensive to keep. Keeping ducks costs about the same as keeping chickens. Ducks can eat the same feed as chickens as long as it isn’t medicated. Medicated chicken feed can be toxic to ducks.
What are the advantages of Keeping Ducks on the Homestead?
We have discussed the advantages of keeping ducks on the homestead, but here they are again.
- Food – Eggs and Meat
- Profit – Selling Eggs and Meat
- Pest Control
- Entertainment as Pets
What are the disadvantages of keeping Ducks on the HOmestead?
- Ducks are messy.
I haven’t really talked about it, but ducks are messy and they do require fresh, clean, water twice a day. If you have never been around ducks before, I think you will be shocked at just how messy they can be. It is amazing how dirty they can get the waterers. They also poop a lot and it is much looser than chicken poop.
- Ducks are easy prey for predators
- Ducks can be territorial with other ducks. Keep only one breed or compatible breeds. Sometimes they do not get along with other birds such as turkeys and geese.
What are the special considerations when keeping ducks?
Ducks have high water needs. It is important to provide ducks with water that they can dip their heads into. This helps them digest their food properly and maintain proper hygiene. It is even better to have water that ducks can swim in because that is what they love to do.
Are Ducks right for your homestead?
I hope I have helped you think about owning ducks and make a decision about whether ducks are right for your homestead.
What do you think? Will you add ducks to your homestead?
Maybe you already own ducks. What is their purpose on your homestead? What breed do you own?
I would love to hear from you in the comments or on one of my social media channels.