By Heather Harris of The Homesteading Hippy
If chickens are a homesteader’s “gateway animal,” then ducks must be a full on addiction. Their personalities are unique, quirky and lovable. And the fluffy bottoms of ducklings are just so cute, they can steal your heart quickly. Add to that the yummy richness of duck eggs, and you have the top five reasons for adding ducks to your yard or homestead.
Ducks have great personalities.
This was our number one reason to add them to our homestead, to be honest. While it’s relaxing to watch a chicken peck the ground, nothing beats the entertainment value of watching a duck shake its tail feathers as it waddles excitedly toward a pool. They can be quite talkative as well, and you will get a sense of who’s the head duck rather quickly among your flock. Although their temperaments can range widely between “Nervous Nellies” or “Calm Cassies,” they are normally very gentle, especially around kids, and will often quack for a treat of fresh berries or the weeds you just pulled from your garden.
Ducks are easier to care for than chickens.
I live in Northern Indiana, where winter makes up five months of the year. During the winter, we have to increase the feed for our chickens, perhaps add supplemental light, and take greater measures to close up their coop during winter storms to protect them. Our ducks have never needed that extra care. As long as they have water that isn’t frozen, duck eggs continue to come consistently throughout the winter without an increase of feed. They require no extra light to continue laying, and are just as happy in the snow as they are in grass.
Besides the fact that they are generally 1½-2 times the size of a chicken egg, most chefs will tell you that duck eggs are better for baking. They have a richer taste, especially when served scrambled or fried. As a bonus, many people who can’t eat chicken eggs due to an allergy are able to consume duck eggs with no problem. Of course, having more protein and minerals than chicken eggs isn’t a bad thing either.
If you want to sell eggs for cash, duck eggs are the way to go. In my area, chicken eggs go for $1.50-$3.00 per dozen, but duck eggs can go for upwards of $5-$10 per dozen.
Ducks are easier on the garden than chickens.
Ducks are better at foraging than chickens, and they will chase mosquitoes down to catch and eat them. Since they are better at foraging, they actually require less feed than our chickens do. Most of the time, our ducks can be let loose in the garden to eat slugs without damaging the plants or beds and they will happily clean up any cabbage worms as well. They have been known to munch on a tomato or two, but they usually only eat the ones that have fallen from the vine.
We often put their pool under a trellised squash bed, with the plants hanging down for shade. Then, after they swim around in the cool of the evening, we dump the mucky duck water directly on the squash plants. The ducks get shade during the day, and the plants get fertilized well in the evening. We have also taken some of that water to water other garden beds, by dipping a bucket into the pool and carrying it over.
Drakes make very little noise.
The females, or ducks, are the ones that do all the quacking. Drakes make more of a hissing sound, which is a nice change from a rooster’s noisy crowing. This makes it easier to keep a breeding pair on your homestead to increase your flock when you want/need to, as you will always have fertile duck eggs. Yes, always. The drakes are pretty prone to getting their way with the ducks any time they want.
Those are just five of the many reasons to add ducks to your homestead. What are some reasons I missed? What breeds of ducks are your favorite?
Heather and her family live in Northern Indiana where they work hard at raising 80% of their own food each year, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, quail, rabbits and a large garden. Join their (mis)adventures at The Homesteading Hippy or laugh with them on their new YouTube series.