Ducks, Ducks, Ducks!

What's So Great About Them?


When I began my homesteading journey, I decided I really wanted to try farm animals. However, I only have an acre for now and I was terrified of getting in over my head. People who I followed in this journey praised chickens as the perfect gateway animal, but I didn't particularly enjoy the thought of living with a scratched up garden all the time.


So I expanded my research to rabbits and ducks. And as you can see from the title of this blog, I ended up choosing ducks.


The beginning of my duck journey didn't start with ducklings. I live alone on my homestead so the thought of handling ducklings by myself was nerve-wracking. In the end I found teenager ducks to take in around two months old, eight of them with a four/four split into two breeds. Pekins and Cayugas are the perfect all purpose ducks to begin the journey, they're fantastic foragers, decent egg layers, and will make great meat ducks as well (If that's something you want to pursue).


My plan for my ducks is to have them as an egg source until they stop laying eggs around five or six years old, then they will become meat ducks. Pekins are what most restaurants use as their duck option, because American Pekins were bred to grow faster and bigger than other ducks. Cayugas are beautiful with their iridescent feathers in green, purple, and blue with eggs that start out black and fade to green and white throughout their egg laying seasons.





Duck Eggs

Duck eggs are not only bigger than chicken eggs, but are basically two chicken eggs in one! Texture and taste are very similar between the two, and those who have an allergy or sensitivity to chicken eggs can often times have duck eggs with no issues (make sure to discuss with your doctor if the allergy is severe).


Here's a breakdown between the two: Chicken Duck

​Per Serving

50g

70g

Calories

70

130

​Fat

5g

9.6g

Protein

6g

9g

Sodium

70g

102mg

Cholesterol

210mg

618mg

Carbs

0g

1g

Vitamin A

4%

9.4%

Calcium

2%

4.5%

Iron

6%

15%

Vitamin C

0%

0%



Why Ducks?

A lot of people assume they're incredibly messy, and they can be. However, they love being clean so if you give them the resources to clean themselves they'll spend hours preening and making their feathers perfect. My Pekins are the starkest of whites.


One way I am able to keep their run clean is by having a Gravel Bottomed Run. This way, when things do get messy I can spray off the gravel and it flows down the slight grade of the property. This keeps things very tidy when they're playing in their tub and eating. Inside their hut I have bricks and gravel as the floor, and then I use Dehydrated Pine Pellets and Hay Straw as duck bedding. The pine pellets turn to sawdust when moisture or waste hit it, absorbing it and deodorizing it as well. I love this stuff. For the size of hut I have, one bag of pine pellets can last up to two weeks without odors. This, of course, depends on how much rain we get. With lots of rain like we can get in Tennessee, it can last up to a week before it begins to turn to mud.


For their water sources, I have three. I have a Water Feeder in their hut at all times, and a Small Dipping Tub in the gravel run for when I can't let them out to free-range. Outside the run in the garden, I repurposed a Horse Water Trough into a makeshift Pond, building a ramp and surrounding it with bricks to help with aesthetics. This 300 gallon trough is big enough for all eight of my ducks to swim, clean, dive, and chill out in the heat in. The water lasts about a week before it gets gross. However, when I undo the drain at the bottom of the trough that gross water flows out and fertilizes the ground in the lower gardens. This helps the clovers, alfalfa, and flowers grow bigger and better, which helps feed the ducks and offsets their feed costs. It's a nice circular system we've been able to create here on the homestead.



When you get past the mess, there's so many reasons I prefer ducks over chickens.

  1. Incredibly Resilient. If you're nervous about taking care of a farm animal for the first time, or just need one that helps the garden and provides eggs but is low maintenance, ducks are the way to go. They have very strong immune systems, always move in a flock as to avoid run ins with predators, have great self preservation skills, and are less prone to injury due to their webbed feet and lack of flight skills.

  2. Eggs. They lay very consistently, generally every 36-48 hours. Each duck matures at a different time so you'll rarely ever go a day without anything to gather. And from the above section, you know understand what makes duck eggs so special. Hatching eggs, and selling eating eggs all are worth more than chickens.

  3. Personality. These birds have such amazing personalities that are both funny and adorable. When I first got my ducks I had no way of telling them apart from each other, but I can now figure out who is who from their personalities alone. They're very expressive, smart, and curious creatures.

  4. Garden Help. I haven't had many issues with bugs around my garden this year, even though I'm in a very humid and bug friendly environment. Ducks can supplement a lot of their diet by foraging for bugs. From mosquitos, to slugs (their favorite), they'll eat whatever. And they can tell when something isn't good for them to eat so they'll avoid whatever upsets their stomach.

  5. Compost Uses. So with chicken manure, it needs to be aged before being used in the garden because it's too hot. With ducks, their manure is ready immediately for use. Every time I clean out their hut to put fresh bedding in, I'll either let the bedding sit in a wheelbarrow in a rainstorm to really get it soaked before use (this helps break it down a little bit more, and then I'll put it at the bottom of a garden bed with compost and top soil on top) or throw it in a compost pile if I'm not using it right away. Ducks have no real control of their bowels, so wherever they "go", it's basically free fertilizer.

  6. Strong Paternal Instincts. I haven't tested this theory yet, but most of my research have advocated for this. Ducks can generally raise their own young with little to no interference from people. As long as they have a good space to sit on their eggs (They don't need nesting boxes, they just like a big fluffy corner to nest in) they'll do what they need to do to raise ducklings.


In the end, choose what best fits your needs on your homestead. My love for ducks only grows the longer I have this flock. Chicken owners probably feel the exact same. You'll hear lots of conflicting stories, so research as much as possible before making a choice for yourself. It's your homestead! Either way you'll have a big learning opportunity, so go out and start your homesteading journey!