Ducks and chickens are both popular livestock options for homesteaders. They’re inexpensive, versatile, and easy to raise. They also provide you with delicious eggs and meat. Which is the best species for you? To help you decide, this guide outlines the pros and cons of raising ducks vs chickens. We’ll cover egg and meat production, space requirements, housing, diet, climate requirements, pest control, costs, and much more. By the end of it, you should have a good idea of which bird is right for your homestead.
Ducks are a type of waterfowl that are closely related to geese and swans. They can be found all over the world. Ducks live in a range of environments including forests, wetlands, and even urban areas.
Ducks are omnivorous animals. Their diet typically includes insects, seeds, plants, small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Some ducks also consume small amounts of meat. Ducks are social animals. They typically live in groups, called flocks.
Humans domesticated ducks around 4000 B.C. Ducks are raised for meat, eggs, and down. There are many different types of ducks. Most domestic ducks descend from the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). Another common type of domestic duck is the Muscovy (Cairina moschata). This guide focuses mostly on mallards as they are by far the most common in North America.
Different duck breeds have different characteristics. Some ducks produce more eggs. Some produce better meat. Different breeds are better suited for different climate conditions.
Domestic ducks are kept in duck houses, where they can be kept safe from predators. Most homesteaders also allow their ducks to free-range and forage for food.
Chickens are domesticated birds that are kept for their eggs and meat. It is believed that humans domesticated chickens around 7,000-10,000 years ago. They are descendants of junglefowl from Southeast Asia. The scientific name for chickens is Gallus gallus domesticus.
Chickens can be found all over the world. They are, by far, the most common bird species. There are around 33 billion chickens living on earth today.
Chickens are omnivorous animals. They eat a variety of foods including seeds, insects, fruits, vegetables, grains, kitchen scraps, and even small animals. They are known to scavenge for food.
Chickens are typically kept in coops, where they can be protected from predators. Many homesteaders also allow their chickens to free-range during the day.
There are around 60-100 different breeds of chickens. Different breeds have different characteristics, such as size, egg production, meat taste, growth speed, etc. The best breed for your homestead depends on whether you want to produce eggs or meat and the climate where you live.
Ducks Vs Chickens
Ducks and chickens are both excellent choices for homesteaders who want to raise backyard poultry. The requirements for raising both species are similar. These are great starter animals for new homesteaders. In this section, outline the main pros and cons of raising ducks vs chickens.
Duck Eggs Vs Chicken Eggs: Egg Production and Laying Cycles
Chickens are the most common bird used for egg production around the world. Chicken eggs are sold in grocery stores all over the world. Many assume chickens are the best egg producers just because chicken eggs are so common. Ducks are actually just as good at producing eggs. In many ways, they’re even better. It’s just not as common for people to eat duck eggs.
Egg Production of Ducks Vs Chickens
Ducks and chickens lay around the same number of eggs per year. On average, the most productive breeds of both birds lay around 250-300 eggs per year. Less productive breeds lay around 150-200 eggs per year.
Ducks produce more food because duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs. On average, ducks lay 32-52 pounds (14-23 kgs) of eggs per year. To compare, chickens lay 22-34 pounds (10-15 kgs) of eggs per year. An average duck egg weighs 70 grams or 2.5 oz while an average chicken egg weighs 50 grams or 1.5 oz. A productive duck can lay around 10 pounds more per year than a productive chicken.
Because duck eggs are larger, they contain more calories, protein, fat, cholesterol, and Omega-3s. The fact that duck eggs are larger can make them more difficult to bake with. Most recipes call for smaller chicken eggs. Larger eggs can throw off the recipe. Interestingly, some people are allergic to chicken eggs but can handle duck eggs just fine.
The most popular chicken breeds for egg production are Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Isa Browns, and Ameraucanas. The most popular duck breeds for egg production are Pekin ducks, Khaki Campbell ducks, and Anacona ducks. These species can all lay 200-300 eggs per year.
Regardless of the species and breeds you keep, there are a few steps you can take to maximize chicken or duck egg production.
Keep the coop and run clean and free of droppings. This reduces the likelihood of your birds getting sick from bacteria or parasites.
Change the nesting box bedding weekly.
Keep the feeders and waterers clean.
Install a light in your chicken coop during the winter. Chickens need at least 10 hours of daylight or they will lay fewer eggs.
Make sure your birds have good protection from the weather.
Provide a protein-rich diet.
Let your birds out to forage.
During the winter months, increase protein and calcium intake.
Provide boredom busters for chickens to prevent them from getting depressed or stressed.
Egg laying Cycles and Habits of Ducks Vs Chickens
Chickens start laying earlier in their lives than ducks. Chickens start laying eggs when they reach 4-5 months old. Ducks start laying eggs when they reach 6-7 months of age.
Ducks have a longer laying life than chickens. Some duck breeds can continue laying eggs regularly for 7-9 years. The most productive chicken breeds only lay for 2-3 years. After that, they only may only lay periodically for the next couple of years until they stop completely when they’re around 6-7 years old.
Most duck breeds lay year-round. Ducks can lay all winter long. Chickens usually stop laying or lay less frequently during the winter months. This is because chickens need more daylight hours than ducks. You can install a light in your chicken coop to increase egg production during the winter months.
Ducks usually lay their eggs between the hours of 4 and 8 am. This allows you to collect duck eggs at the same time each day. This is convenient. You can collect eggs after letting your ducks out to free-range each morning. Chickens have a 26 hour lay cycle. This means chickens lay eggs at different times each day. You may have to check the nesting boxes for fresh eggs multiple times per day.
One benefit of chickens is that they almost always lay in their laying boxes in their coop, once they’re trained. Ducks can lay eggs all over your property if you let them out early in the morning before they lay.
Both chickens and ducks molt. Molting is when the birds lose their old features and grow new feathers. Both species usually molt during the late summer or fall. Both species take a break from egg-laying while they’re molting.
Chickens take a longer break than ducks. You may not see get any eggs for a few days while your chickens are molting. After molting, chickens lay fewer eggs. Ducks molt twice per year. During this time, they lay fewer eggs for a few days and then resume normally.
Winner: Ducks. Ducks lay more eggs per year than chickens. They also lay larger eggs. In addition, duck eggs are more nutritious. Some people don’t eat duck eggs because they have a stronger flavor.
Duck Meat Vs Chicken Meat
Ducks and chickens can both be raised for meat. Chicken contains a mix of dark and white meat. Duck meat is mostly dark meat.
In terms of nutrition, duck and chicken are about the same. Both types of meat are healthy to eat.
Duck meat is fattier and higher in calories than chicken meat. Duck also contains more vitamins including iron and copper. In addition, duck has less cholesterol and sodium. Duck is also an excellent source of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Chicken contains more protein than duck. Chicken also contains more calcium, magnesium, and selenium.
Flavor is a bit more subjective. Some people prefer the taste of duck while others prefer the taste of chicken. Duck has a stronger, richer, and gamier flavor than chicken. Duck meat is comparable to red meat. Some people find duck to be more distinct and enjoyable. Chicken has a much more mild flavor. It’s bland if it’s not seasoned properly.
Chicken is the more versatile meat, due to its mild flavor. It can be used in a wide variety of dishes. You can cook all types of cuisine with chicken. Chicken is popular almost everywhere on earth. Pretty much everyone who eats meat enjoys chicken meat.
There are some also great dishes you can make with duck. In many parts of the world, duck is considered a delicacy. Duck is a bit less versatile than chicken due to its strong flavor. Some people don’t like it.
Duck meat is also more valuable than chicken meat. This is because duck is more exotic and the supply is lower. This may be important if you’re planning on raising poultry to sell. You can make more money selling ducks on a small scale than chickens. It will also be easier to compete because there aren’t as many duck sellers. You could make a good profit selling ducks to high-end restaurants. It would be nearly impossible for a small-scale farmer to make a profit selling chickens.
The process of butchering chickens and ducks is the same. Ducks are slightly more difficult to pluck because their feathers and down are slightly denser. It might take you a minute or two longer to process a duck than a chicken.
Chickens and ducks mature at different rates. On average, meat ducks finish in 7-9 weeks. Meat chickens finish in 6-12 weeks. The finished weight of ducks is around 6-8 pounds. The finished weight of chickens is around 3-5 pounds. The exact finish time and weight depend on the breed.
Some of the best duck breeds to raise for meat include Pekin, Aylesbury, Silver Appleyard, Muscovy, Saxony, and Rouen.
Some of the best chicken breeds to raise for meat include Cornish Cross, Jersey Giant, Red Broiler, Bresse, and Orpington.
Winner: It is hard to pick a single winner in this comparison. Both chicken and duck meat can be healthy, delicious, and nutritious. Duck meat is more flavorful while chicken meat is more versatile. Both species produce about the same amount of meat in the same amount of time.
Housing: Chicken Coops and Duck Houses
Both chickens and ducks need a safe place to roost, lay eggs, sleep, and escape the elements. They are both kept in slightly different types of housing. Chickens are kept in a chicken coop while ducks are kept in a duck house.
A chicken coop or duck house can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. There are a few key features that all poultry housing should have.
It is essential to make sure that the coop or duck house is well-ventilated. This helps to reduce the risk of disease. When the shelter stays dry, bacteria can’t grow as easily. In addition, the shelter needs to be secure enough to keep predators out. It must also be escape-proof. It should also be strong enough to withstand weather conditions including rain, wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. Finally, the coop needs to be large enough to comfortably accommodate your flock.
Duck houses and chicken coops can be bought or built. There are a variety of designs to choose from.
Chicken coops are slightly more complex than duck boxes. Chicken coops need roosting bars. These are raised perches where chickens can roost. Chicken coops also need individual nesting boxes where they can lay their eggs. Chickens like to lay their eggs in dark, private places. They also like to be elevated off the ground. A chicken coop needs to be taller than a duck box.
Ducks are a bit less picky when it comes to housing. They will make a nest on the ground, where they will lay their eggs. If you have a small flock, your ducks may share the same nesting space. They don’t need individual nesting boxes.
When it comes to space requirements, a duck box needs to be slightly larger than a chicken coop. Chickens need just 2-3 square feet of space each inside their coop. Ducks need about 4 square feet of space each inside of the duck box. This means a duck box needs to be larger than a chicken coop for the same number of birds.
You should keep your ducks’ water source outside of the shelter. This is because ducks can be extremely messy. You can keep water in your chicken coop but you should avoid it. Water attracts bugs and rodents and increases humidity, which allows bacteria to multiply.
For more info, check out my guide to duck houses. Here, I explain what a duck house is and how to build one.
Winner: Duck houses are a bit simpler to build than chicken coops. Chicken coops can be smaller than duck houses.
Space Requirement for Raising Chickens Vs Ducks
Before you bring home a flock of chickens or ducks, it’s important to make sure you have enough space to accommodate them. Chickens don’t need quite as much space as ducks.
Chickens typically need at least 10 square feet of space per bird. To compare, ducks need at least 12-15 square feet of space per bird.
These are minimum requirements. The more space your birds have to roam and forage, the better. If you live on a small property, you’re better off with chickens because they don’t need quite as much space.
The breed of duck or chicken you choose to raise can also determine how much space you need. Smaller breeds don’t need quite as much space as larger breeds. If space is limited, consider choosing smaller breeds.
You can let your birds free-range on your property or you can keep them confined to a run. If you allow your birds to free-range, you’ll need a fence to prevent them from flying away. If you keep your birds in a run, you’ll need to allow plenty of space for your birds to move around and stretch their wings.
If you decide to build a run for your birds, it should be completely covered. The run will protect your birds from predators and prevent them from escaping. They can stay in the run without supervision. If your run isn’t very large, it’s a good idea to let your birds out to free-range on your property from time to time.
If you plan to keep ducks, you’ll also have to consider the space requirement of a water source. Ducks need access to a body of water to bathe in. This is a requirement. If ducks don’t have access to water for an extended period of time, their health can suffer. If you don’t have a pond, you could use a kiddie pool. I’ll talk about this more in-depth later on.
Winner: Chickens don’t need as much space as ducks.
Fencing serves a couple of purposes. It keeps your birds on your property. They can’t run away or get lost if they’re fenced in. Fencing also protects your birds from ground predators. Chickens and ducks require different fencing heights to contain them.
Some breeds of chickens are good flyers. They can easily fly over a fence that is too low. Your fence needs to be 4-6 feet tall to keep your chickens in. Generally, egg-producing chickens can fly higher than meat-producing chickens. This is because egg-producing chickens are lighter. To keep laying chickens in, your fence should be on the higher side.
If your chickens try to fly away, you may need to clip their wings. You’ll need to clip your chicken wings about once per year after they molt to prevent them from flying.
Domestic ducks are not as adept at flying as chickens. Many breeds can’t fly at all. This means ducks can be contained with a shorter fence. As a general rule, a fence that is 2 feet tall is enough to keep ducks in. As long as your ducks have sufficient food, water, and other ducks to socialize with, they won’t even try to escape.
In addition to height, it is also important to make sure that the fence is made of sturdy materials that can’t be easily pushed over or pulled apart. This will help keep predators out.
If possible, it’s nice to have a roof over the fencing or a completely closed run. This can help to contain chickens. A roof will also provide additional protection against aerial predators, such as birds of prey.
Winner: You can get away with a smaller fence if you raise ducks. Chickens require a much taller fence to keep them contained.
Chickens can adapt to confinement better than ducks. This makes them the better choice for those who have a small backyard.
Some breeds of chickens deal with confinement better than others. When chickens are confined, they can get bored. Bored chickens can peck eggs, pluck feathers, become aggressive, and generally get depressed. Sometimes they start bullying one another or fighting.
There are some ways to alleviate boredom. Allowing your flock to free-range each day can help greatly. Giving them toys to play with, such as balls and mirrors, can also help keep them entertained. Putting out dishes of food, offering new treats, and allowing them to forage in the grass can also help keep them busy. Additionally, providing perches at different heights allows your chickens to explore more of their surroundings by changing altitude. For more info, check out this guide to boredom busters for chickens.
Ducks can be raised in confinement but they don’t adapt to the lifestyle as well as chickens. Ducks prefer to free-range. They also tend to be messier. In addition, they need access to a water source. This makes it harder to raise ducks in confinement.
Winner: Chickens are easier to raise in confinement. Ducks don’t adapt to confinement as well.
Ducks prefer to free-range. They will forage for the majority of their food if they have the opportunity. They will eat a wide variety of food including small rodents, snails, and slugs. Ducks also eat greenery and grains. This makes ducks almost self-sufficient.
Allowing your ducks to free range also reduces maintenance. Your duck house will stay much cleaner when your ducks are out foraging all day. You won’t have to clean as often. Ducks can also free-range in wet conditions.
Ducks are also less destructive to your property than chickens. They don’t dig up roots. They graze. Sometimes they will dig small holes with their bills while they’re looking for bugs. Ducks are great at pest control.
One potential drawback to allowing ducks to free-range is that they will lay eggs in random places. Try to keep your ducks in their house until after they lay in the morning. Usually, around 8 am, it’s safe to let your ducks out for the day.
Chickens also enjoy living a free-range lifestyle. They enjoy foraging for food. Chickens will eat bugs and grains. Chickens can be nearly self-sufficient. They are a bit pickier than ducks. They don’t like to eat greenery or slugs.
There is one drawback to letting your chickens free-range. Chickens can damage your property if you don’t rotate their pasture. They like to dig up roots, which kills plants and grass. If you allow your chickens to forage in the same place every day, you’ll end up with a barren dirt field. You need to rotate the pasture where your chickens graze. This isn’t necessary with ducks. Chickens also can’t free-range in wet conditions.
Even if you allow your ducks or chickens to free range, you still need to supply them with housing to protect them from predators during the night.
Winner: Both chickens and ducks do well when allowed to free-range. Ducks are more self-sufficient than chickens when they free-range.
Diet: Feed for Ducks and Chickens
Diet is crucial for chickens and ducks to produce quality meat or eggs. Chickens and ducks are both omnivorous animals. Both species eat grains, insects, vegetation, small animals, and pretty much anything else they can find.
The diet of both chickens and ducks can be supplemented with table scraps as well as fruits and vegetables. Their diets are very similar. That said, each bird has slightly different dietary needs that should be considered when feeding them.
Chickens and ducks will both forage for their own food when given the opportunity. Both species have a natural instinct to forage. Allowing your birds to forage greatly reduces your feed cost. You don’t have to buy as much feed when your birds eat bugs, seeds, and greens that grow naturally on your property. Allowing your birds to forage also helps to control insect populations on your homestead. It’s also healthy for the birds.
Ducks prefer to forage for the majority of their food. They will eat bugs, slugs, snails, seeds, grains, vegetables, and whatever else they can find. In addition, ducks will also eat aquatic plants and animals if they have access to a pond or waterway. Ducks can forage for the majority of their food. Ducks tend to forage more and eat more pasture than chickens.
Chickens only forage for part of their food. They won’t eat snails or slugs. Chickens generally eat more grain and processed feed than ducks. This means you’ll have to buy more feed when raising chickens.
In terms of nutrition, duck feed typically contains more protein and fat than chicken feed. Chicken feed often has a higher carb content than duck feed.
Some feeds can be given to both chickens and ducks. Other feeds are designed for one species or the other. Generally, chickens can eat duck feed but ducks can’t eat all chicken feed.
The diet of chickens and ducks also varies depending on the breed. Some breeds can forage better than others. Larger breeds need more food than smaller breeds to sustain their larger bodies and grow.
Egg-producing birds also require a different diet than birds that are raised for meat. For example, laying hens need much more calcium in their diet to produce eggshells. Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate. Meat birds need more calories to grow quickly.
The diet also varies depending on whether the birds are raised in confinement or allowed to forage on pasture. If your birds are raised in confinement, you’ll need to give them more feed because they aren’t foraging for part of their food. Pasture-fed birds may barely need any feed for much of the year.
The climate also affects your bird’s diet. During the winter, you’ll need to give your chickens and ducks more feed. They will need more protein to keep them warm. Birds burn more energy keeping themselves warm during the winter. They also won’t be able to forage as much during the winter. Particularly if the ground is covered in snow. They will need more feed because they won’t be getting as many calories from foraging.
Diet plays an important role in the health and well-being of your chickens and ducks, so it is important for owners to be aware of the types of feed and nutrition that their birds need. Birds that are not fed a balanced diet can become sick.
Winner: Ducks and chickens have a similar diet.
Foraging and Pest Control
If you allow your chickens to forage, they can cause some damage to your lawn, garden, and landscaping. Chickens scratch and dig with their feet while foraging. They can dig up roots and kill vegetation.
Ducks forage with their bill. They can also cause some damage to your lawn but the damage is less severe.
When allowing your birds to forage, it’s a good idea to rotate their pasture if possible. If you have a small yard, you’ll want to keep an eye on the condition of the yard. If your birds start causing damage, consider reducing their foraging time so your yard can recover.
Ducks and chickens both help to control pests. Ducks do a better job of controlling pests than chickens. They eat all kinds of bugs including large slugs and spiders.
Chickens also eat bugs but they aren’t quite as good at pest control. The reason is that chickens aren’t capable of eating as large of bugs as ducks due to their anatomy.
Of course, both chickens and ducks also eat beneficial critters as well. This can be a drawback. For example, they can eat worms, frogs and toads, and lizards.
Winner: Ducks are better at pest control and are less harmful to your land.
Climate Adaptability and Hardiness of Ducks Vs Chickens: Tolerance to Hot and Cold Weather
Both chickens and ducks can be raised in a wide range of climate conditions.
Ducks are among the most adaptable of all bird species when it comes to climate. They are comfortable in both hot and cold climates.
Ducks are able to handle cold and wet climates far better than chickens. They have a layer of down feathers that help to insulate them from extreme temperatures. Ducks are less likely to develop frostbite during the winter than chickens.
Duck feathers also do a better job of shedding water than chicken feathers. Ducks are waterfowl, after all. They have evolved to swim and live in wet conditions. In hot weather, ducks can jump in the water to cool off.
Ducks can survive and thrive in a wide variety of habitats. They can lay all winter long. If you live in a cold and wet region, you may be better off duck keeping.
Chickens originated in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Even though they are tropical birds, they are surprisingly adaptable creatures. Chickens can thrive in a wide range of climates. In hot climates, they stay cool by panting and flapping their wings. In cold climates, they huddle together for warmth. In extremely cold weather, chickens can develop frostbite.
Chickens need to be raised in dryer conditions. Their feathers can’t repel water as well as ducks. Chickens can develop diseases when raised in wet climates because bacteria can multiply more easily in standing water.
Chickens also use more energy to keep warm than ducks. For this reason, chickens often lay fewer eggs during the winter months. Sometimes they stop lying completely. This is important to keep in mind if you’re raising chickens for eggs. Both chickens and ducks need to eat more food during the winter to stay warm.
During the winter, chickens spend more time in their coop than ducks. As a result, the coop will get dirtier faster. Bacteria can also grow in the dirty coop. You’ll have to clean the coop more frequently to keep your birds healthy during the winter.
Some breeds of chickens and ducks are hardier than others. Some are better adapted to hot weather. Others are better adapted to cold weather. If you live in a particularly cold climate and you want to raise chickens or ducks, you should raise a cold hardy breed. If you live in a particularly hot climate and you want to raise chickens or ducks, you should choose a heat-tolerant breed. Most duck breeds can adapt to any climate. Some chicken breeds can’t be raised in extremely hot or cold climates.
Winner: Ducks are adaptable to a wider range of climates. They are also hardier.
Cleanliness of Ducks Vs Chickens
To ensure that your birds stay healthy, you need to keep your chicken coop and duck house clean. If you let your bird’s shelter get dirty, bacteria and parasites can multiply. Your birds are much more likely to get sick if they live in a dirty coop. Disease can spread quickly across your flock if one of your birds gets infected.
Ducks are messier than chickens. You may have to clean a duck house more often than a chicken coop. It may also take a bit more time to clean a duck house.
One reason is that ducks naturally have wetter droppings than chickens. It gets everywhere in the duck house. To help keep your duck house clean longer, consider using absorbent litter at the bottom. This can help keep everything dry longer. Your ducks will appreciate it because they like to sleep on the ground.
Chickens are a little cleaner than ducks. You don’t have to clean a chicken coop as frequently. Mainly because their waste is more solid. You can also install dropping boards in your chicken coop to speed up the cleanup process. This can save you time.
On average, you should plan on cleaning your duck house once or twice per week. You should clean your chicken coop once a week to once every other week. You can clean a coop in around 20 minutes.
Exactly how frequently you need to clean your duck house or chicken coop depends on a number of factors including how much time your birds spend inside, the size of the shelter, and the type of birds you’re keeping. During the winter, the birds may spend more time indoors to stay out of the elements. You’ll need to clean more frequently as a result. If your birds spend most of the day foraging, the shelter will stay clean longer. Some breeds also are messier than others.
You should perform a more thorough cleaning of your chicken coop or duck house every three to six months. During this cleaning, you should disinfect all feeders and waterers as well as all surfaces inside the shelter. Be sure to use a non-toxic cleaner.
Winner: Chickens are cleaner than ducks.
Both ducks and chickens make some noise. Chickens cluck and ducks quack. In general, chickens are slightly noisier than ducks.
Ducks tend to make noise more consistently than chickens. Female ducks quack amongst themselves when they’re in their pond and while they’re just waddling around your yard. Ducks can get quite loud when they want to get your attention or when they’re startled. For example, if you forget to let your ducks out or feed them on time, you and your neighbors will hear them honking.
Chickens, on the other hand, are quiet most of the time. They only cluck when they’re annoyed or angry. They also make some noise while laying an egg. When they’re foraging, they’re mostly quiet.
Of course, roosters are the loudest of all. They crow at dawn and throughout the day. For this reason, there are usually restrictions on where you can keep roosters. They generally aren’t allowed in residential areas.
You don’t need to keep a rooster if you’re only raising hens for chicken eggs. If you want to hatch chicks, you will need a rooster to fertilize the eggs
Drakes (male ducks) are much quieter than roosters. They don’t quack. Instead, male ducks make a kind of raspy sound. They’re very quiet.
You can reduce the noise level of your chickens by keeping ‘boredom busters’ or toys around for your chickens to play with. When your chickens are entertained, they won’t fight or pick on one another. They won’t make much noise. Ducks don’t need boredom busters. They will keep themselves entertained by splashing around in the pool or sitting in the sun.
The noise level of ducks and chickens also depends on the breed and the number of birds being kept. Some breeds are noisier than others. Of course, the more birds you have, the more sound your flock will produce. 20 birds are a lot louder than 3.
It’s particularly important to consider noise if you have neighbors nearby. If you live in a residential setting, you won’t want to keep a rooster that crows every morning and wakes the neighborhood up. In fact, this is probably illegal.
If you’re looking for a more tranquil setting, ducks may be the better choice. The sound of quacking ducks can be peaceful. If you don’t mind a little noise, chickens can be a great option. Overall, the noise level is very similar with both species. Neither species is particularly loud, with the exception of roosters.
Winner: Ducks make less noise than chickens. Both birds are relatively quiet.
Health and Illness
Ducks are generally more resistant to disease than chickens. They’re hardier animals. Particularly when they’re younger. Chickens need to build up their immune system over time. It’s easier for chickens to get sick.
Chickens can be susceptible to a number of illnesses. One of the most common chicken diseases is avian influenza, which can be deadly. The virus is typically spread through contact with infected birds It can quickly spread through a whole flock. Backyard chickens are also at risk for Salmonella infection. This bacteria is often found in contaminated food, water, or soil, and it can cause severe illness in humans. Chickens can also contract parasites, such as worms or mites.
Ducks can also fall ill. It’s important to be aware of the signs of disease. Common duck illnesses include duck virus hepatitis, duck plague, avian cholera, and various respiratory diseases and infections. These diseases are all relatively rare. Ducks can also be susceptible to certain types of cancer. Another potential issue is parasites, which can cause a variety of different ailments. The most common type of parasite for ducks is the large roundworm.
To help prevent disease, it is important to maintain clean living conditions for backyard poultry. For chickens, it’s important to maintain dry conditions. You should also regularly monitor your birds for signs of illness.
If you suspect that a duck or chicken is sick, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can often improve the chances of a full recovery.
It can be harder to find a veterinarian who can treat ducks. They’re slightly exotic. Most vets can treat chickens. They are very common pets.
Chickens and ducks can also have some of the same health issues. Larger breeds of both species can suffer from joint issues in their legs. This is common in meat birds because they are so heavy. Smaller duck and chicken breeds are less likely to suffer leg injuries.
Breeds of ducks and chickens that are bred to produce a large number of eggs per year are more likely to suffer from reproduction issues. For example, egg binding is a relatively common issue. Birds that produce fewer eggs are less likely to suffer from reproductive issues.
Winner: Ducks are less susceptible to disease than chickens.
Water Requirement of Ducks Vs Chickens
One of the main differences between keeping ducks vs chickens is that ducks require a large water source. They are waterfowl, after all.
Ducks need regular access to water to stay healthy. Ducks need to stick their heads underwater to clear their nasal passage. If ducks don’t clean their nasal passages, they can become infected. Ducks also need water to bathe in and preen their feathers. This helps maintain feather health. In addition, ducks drink large amounts of water. On average, ducks drink about 1 liter of water each per day. Ducks also get a lot of joy from splashing around and swimming in water.
Ducks shouldn’t go more than 8 hours without access to water. Spending too much time without water can adversely affect the duck’s health.
Ducks generally prefer larger water sources like a pond or pool. Of course, if you have access to a natural body of water, such as a lake or river, that’s even better. If you don’t have a pond, they can also use smaller containers such as kiddie pools or metal troughs.
It is important to make sure that your ducks’ water source is clean and fresh. Ducks are susceptible to diseases. Dirty water can be contaminated with bacteria. Illness can quickly spread.
You will need to periodically clean the water in your duck’s pool. This involves draining the water and adding fresh water. If you have a pond, you can use fish or plants to help keep the water clean naturally. Ducks will often eat aquatic plants or insects, so their water source should be free of any potential toxins.
Ducks need a water source year-round. If you live in an area with harsh winters, you may have trouble preventing your duck pond from freezing. For this reason, ducks may not be an ideal choice for extremely cold climates.
Chickens don’t need a large water source. All they need is clean drinking water. On average, a chicken needs about half a liter of water per day. Your chickens should always have access to drinking water. Place a waterer in their run and pasture. You don’t need to place a waterer in the coop.
Chickens don’t bathe in water, they bathe in dust. Chickens will often dig up a section of the pasture and let it dry out. They take dust baths here. The fact that you don’t need a large pool of water makes chickens easier to keep.
Winner: Chickens because they don’t need a large water source. All they need is drinking water.
Predator Vulnerability of Ducks Vs Chickens
Both ducks and chickens are highly vulnerable to predation from a variety of animals. Among the most common predators are dogs, coyotes, foxes, wolves, hawks, raccoons, eagles, weasels, bobcats, skunks, owls, and snakes. Any of these animals can kill and eat your birds.
You have to worry about predators in both urban areas and rural environments. Generally, there are more predators in urban areas. This is because there is a higher density of dogs and raccoons in urban areas. These are some of the biggest killers of chickens.
Ducks are a bit more susceptible to predators than chickens. This is because domestic ducks can’t fly away. Ducks are also slower than chickens. They just waddle around. They can’t really run. This makes it easier for predators to catch ducks.
Chickens are more likely to escape from ground predators because they can fly away out of the reach of most predators. Chickens can also run faster than ducks. This gives them a better chance of escaping. Still, chickens are easy prey.
Larger breeds of chickens and ducks are a bit less susceptible to aerial predators than smaller breeds. A smaller bird usually won’t target a large duck or chicken. Larger birds of prey, such as eagles, can still eat your large birds.
While chickens and ducks are relatively defenseless against predators, there are a few steps that you can take to help protect them. The first is to build a secure run for your birds to free-range during the day. The enclosure should be kept close to the house or other buildings, as this will help deter predators. To make your enclosure secure against digging predators, such as foxes, the fence should go 12-18″ (30-45 cm) deep into the ground. It should also be equipped with a chicken coop or duck house where your birds can safely sleep at night. The chicken coop or duck house should have a solid floor to prevent predators from digging underneath.
It’s also important to keep an eye out for signs of potential predators. Look for footprints, droppings, or digging around the enclosure. If you spot any signs of predators, take some time to secure your bird’s run and shelter. Keep an eye out for damage to the run and shelter. Predators can try to dig or claw their way in and cause damage.
Winner: Both chickens and ducks are highly susceptible to predation. Chickens are a bit less vulnerable to predators than ducks.
Ducks Vs Chickens as Pets
Many people consider their backyard chickens and ducks to be pets. In addition to keeping you company, they can lay you eggs for breakfast. Ducks and chickens can make excellent pets.
Both ducks and chickens are extremely entertaining to watch. It’s fun to watch ducks splashing around in their pond and waddling around your yard. It’s equally entertaining to watch chickens pecking and scratching around. They’re goofy animals. Both adults and children love watching them.
Chickens and ducks aren’t cuddly pets like dogs and cats. They don’t like to be petted or hugged. They won’t roll over and let you pet their bellies. You can’t really teach them any tricks. If you handle them often as they grow up, you can pick up your chickens and ducks and pet them a bit.
Ducks can be a bit easier to handle than chickens because they can’t fly. They’re easier to catch. Ducks also tend to be a bit less aggressive.
Some breeds are friendlier than others. For example, Saxony, Black Swedish, Silver Appleyard, and Welsh Harlequin ducks are known for being a bit more social and laid back than other duck breeds. Khaki Campbell and White Crested ducks are a bit less personable. Some chicken breeds are friendlier than others as well.
The way you raise your birds also affects their behavior. If regularly handle your chicks or ducklings from a young age and offer them treats as they mature, they can grow comfortable around humans. They become social and even develop their own personalities. If you just buy fully-grown chickens or ducks from a farm, they probably won’t be very social.
Winner: Both chickens and ducks can make great pets. Ducks are a bit more friendly than chickens.
Training Ducks Vs Chickens
It is possible to train both chickens and ducks. Ducks are a bit easier to train. They seem to be slightly more intelligent. It takes more time to train chickens to follow a daily routine.
There are a few simple things you’ll need to train your birds to make keeping them a bit easier. You will need to teach your birds to free-range. Ideally, you want to train them to leave the coop or house when you let them out in the morning and come back home at night. You should try to let them out and bring them back in at the same time each night to help them learn their routine.
You need to coop-train your chicks when you initially move them into their coop. To do this, you will need to take them into the coop every night and show them where to roost. You will have to teach them to go into their coop every night. This can take some time. Treats help. Eventually, they will go in mostly on their own. You also need to train ducks to go into their house. They tend to pick this up a bit faster.
It is possible to train your birds to go into the coop or house when called. It helps if the call is associated with a treat that they enjoy. Shake the bag of treats and scatter some around and your birds will come running.
You can also group-heard ducks with a hearding staff. It pretty much impossible to heard chickens this way. They scatter in all directions.
If you have a large property, it is possible to heard ducks to forage in different locations. This isn’t really possible with chickens. They will wander all over if they’re not fenced in.
Winner: Ducks are a bit easier to train than chickens.
Availability and Price of Ducks Vs Chickens
Chickens are more commonly available than ducks. Visit any farm supply store and you’ll see chicks for sale. Some pet shops also sell chicks. Usually, you’ll have several chicken breeds to choose from.
Ducks aren’t quite as popular. Most farm supply stores sell ducklings. Some don’t. Usually, they only stock one breed.
Chicks are almost always sexed before they’re sold. When you buy them, you know you’re getting females that will lay eggs. You won’t get any roosters unless you want to buy roosters.
Ducklings are usually sold straight run. This means they aren’t sexed. You get what you get. You might end up getting some male ducks, even if you only want female ducks.
Chickens are usually cheaper than ducks to buy. On average, chicks cost just $3-$5 each. Ducks are a bit more expensive. Ducklings usually cost $10-$15 each. If you just want a small flock, the price difference is minimal.
If you want to buy a particular breed of chicken or duck, you may have to order online and have them shipped to your home. Some duck breeds may not be available locally.
There are always a wide variety of chickens available. Some duck breeds can be hard to find. If you want a particular heritage breed, you might have to special order them from a breeder.
You should do your research before buying chickens or ducks. Only buy from a reputable breeder to ensure that you’re getting healthy and productive birds. It’s also important to research the specific duck or chicken breeds that you’re buying to make sure they meet your requirements buying.
Winner: Chickens are more widely available. They are also cheaper to buy.
FAQ About Ducks and Chickens
In this section, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about keeping ducks and chickens on a small homestead.
Can You Raise Ducks and Chickens Together?
Yes. You can raise ducks and chickens together. You don’t have to choose between the two. While ducks and chickens may have different personalities and behaviors, the two species can cohabitate peacefully. They can even enjoy each other’s company.
You can raise chickens and ducks in the same brooder from the day they hatch. When ducks and chickens are raised together from a young age, they bond and become used to being close companions quickly. It’s important to note that ducklings are larger and grow faster than chicks. I have never heard of a duckling harming a chick but I imagine it’s possible.
When you keep chicks and ducklings in the same brooder, the bedding will get dirty faster than if you keep chicks alone. You should clean it every 2-3 days to prevent bacteria growth. Young birds are particularly susceptible to illnesses caused by bacteria. They can get sick or die.
The biggest challenge you’re likely to encounter when raising chickens and ducks together is housing. Ducks and chickens have different housing requirements. Ideally, you shouldn’t keep ducks and chickens in the same sleeping quarters. Having said that, is possible to keep ducks and chickens in the same coop. Plenty of people do it successfully.
The main issue with keeping ducks and chickens in the same coop is that ducks track a lot of water into their living quarters. This increases the humidity inside the coop. Chickens can’t handle the extra moisture. They need a dry place to sleep so they don’t get sick.
To keep the shelter sufficiently dry, you would need to add plenty of ventilation. If the coop is too moist, chickens can suffer a variety of health problems. Particularly during the winter.
If you have the space, you should build a separate chicken coop and duck house if you want to keep both species. This way, your birds can sleep in different shelters and all share the same run or foraging area. It is possible to build a coop that is suitable for both chickens and ducks. The coop should be tall enough so your chickens have a comfortable place to roost at night.
You’ll also want to consider your birds diet. Ducks and chickens have slightly different nutritional needs. They both like to forage for the same types of food but you may need to buy separate feed for each species. Chickens can usually eat duck feed. Ducks can’t eat chicken feed.
As you can see, there are some differences that need to be taken into account when it comes to ducks and chicken maintenance. Overall, raising ducks and chickens together is both feasible and rewarding.
If you like, you can also keep other types of poultry with your chickens and ducks such as geese and guineas. You shouldn’t raise chickens and turkeys together. It is possible to raise ducks and turkeys together.
How many Chickens or Ducks do You Need to Raise for Eggs?
Chickens and ducks both need to be raised in flocks. They shouldn’t be raised alone. At a minimum, you should keep three chickens or three ducks. If you try to keep fewer, your birds may feel lonely and depressed. Your birds won’t produce as many eggs if they’re lonely and depressed. They can also get sick more easily.
The number of chickens or ducks you need to raise depends on the space you have as well as the number of eggs or the amount of meat you want to produce. For an average family of four, 4-6 chickens or ducks will lay plenty of eggs. If you plan to raise chickens for meat for a family of four, you may need to raise about 200 chickens per year or 20-35 chickens at a time.
If you’ve never kept poultry before, you can get started with three-six ducks or chickens and increase your flock over time. Generally, ducks will provide more eggs compared to chickens and duck eggs are larger.
At the high end, you can keep as many ducks or chickens as you have space for on your property. You’ll need about 10-15 square feet of space per bird. Remember, the more birds you keep, the more maintenance time they will require.
If you want to produce fertilized eggs to sell or hatch, you’ll need to keep a male. The optimal male-to-female ratio for both ducks and chickens is one male for every five to six females.
Do I Need a Pond To Keep Ducks?
No. Contrary to popular belief, ducks don’t need a pond or large body of water to thrive. A plastic baby pool is the perfect size and depth for ducks to take a dip. Alternatively, you could use a large metal trough. Of course, if you have a pond, your ducks will love it.
The only requirement is that the pool must be deep enough for the ducks to submerge their head and bodies. It should have a minimum depth of 18 inches. 24 inches is better. If possible, the pool should also have a shallow shelf that’s around 6-8″ deep for your ducks to stand on.
Just having water isn’t enough. You need to keep the water in the pool clean to prevent bacterial growth.
Best Duck Breeds For Homesteaders
The best duck breed to raise on your homestead depends on several factors, including whether you want to produce duck eggs or meat, the climate you live in, and the amount of space you have. In this section, I’ll list some of the most popular duck breeds to raise on a homestead.
Best Laying Duck Breeds
Golden 300 Hybrid
Bees Duck Breeds for Meat Production
Best Chicken Breeds for Homesteaders
The best chicken breed to raise on your homestead depends on several factors, including whether you want to produce eggs or meat, the climate you live in, and the amount of space you have. In this section, I’ll list some of the most popular chicken breeds to raise on a homestead.
Best Laying Chicken Breeds
Rhode Island Red
New Hampshire Red
Golden Laced Wyandotte
Barred Plymouth Rock
Best Chicken Breeds for Meat Production
Who Should Consider Raising Ducks?
If you are looking for a unique animal to keep on your homestead, strongly consider ducks! Ducks are low-maintenance and hardy birds. They require minimal infrastructure. All you really need is a duck house, a short fence to keep them in your yard, and a plastic baby pool full of fresh water. You can provide most of the food ducks need with natural backyard resources such as bugs, small animals, grass, and garden plants. Ducks can be mostly self-sufficient in terms of food. They can even help your backyard garden by eating pests and fertilizing the soil. In addition, ducks can handle cold and wet climates well. Not to mention that they are incredibly enjoyable companions full of personality. Ducks make great additions to any backyard homestead. Whether you want duck eggs, meat, or just companionship, backyard ducks can be an excellent choice for beginner and expert homesteaders alike.
Who Should Raise Backyard Chickens?
Backyard chicken keeping can be a great addition to any homestead, no matter the size. Raising backyard chickens provides eggs, meat, and fertilizer for you you and your family. Moreover, chickens can bring many benefits to your backyard such as insect control, soil health improvement, and hours of entertainment. With the current focus on sustainable living, backyard chickens are a great way for anyone wanting to start the journey towards becoming more self-sufficient to begin. Even those with limited space can benefit from Raising chickens since they require less land than larger livestock animals yet still provide delicious food in return. All you need to raise chickens is a coop and a fence. If you’re just getting started, chickens can be a great choice. They are often considered a starter animal for those who are new to homesteading. If you want to become a bit more self-sufficient, consider adding chickens to your homestead.
Final Thought About Ducks Vs Chickens
Chickens and ducks share a lot of similarities. Both species can produce eggs and meat. They share similar diets. They have similar space requirements. The cost of raising them is similar. Both species can be raised in confinement or free-range. They both require similar housing. Both are targeted by the same types of predators.
There are a few differences to consider when choosing which species to raise on your homestead. Ducks are better suited to cold and wet climates than chickens. Chickens require higher fencing to keep them in. Ducks require a pool of water. Of course, the meat and eggs taste different. Duck meat is richer than chicken. Some people love it and others don’t care for it. Duck eggs taste a bit stronger than chicken eggs.
Before choosing which backyard poultry to raise, you’ll want to consider the climate where you live and your personal preference. Whichever species you choose to raise on your homestead, I hope this guide has helped you in making your decision.
If you’re interested in raising other livestock on your homestead, check out my guide: 17 Best Homesteading Animals for Self-Sufficiency.
Do you raise ducks or chickens on your homestead? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!
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