Backyard Ducks vs Chickens

The Quack Quacks are now 4.5 weeks old and some of them are even starting to Quack!  instead of baby duckling peep PEEP!  Their duckling yellow down is quickly shifting to white adult feathers, and their black down to adult black feathers. Gizmo, the crested duckling, is now sporting a stylish feather do atop her head.  So I figured maybe now is a good time to pull together the post of “Why I chose ducks for our suburban back yard instead of chickens.”  Seeing how chickens seem to be the ‘in’ thing these days, and from the time I was a little kid I’ve been a huge chicken fan (1) it is surprising to those who know me that I chose ducks.  Well, for good reason.  And so far I’m thrilled with the choice.

Spot & Gizmo giving the camera the sideways glance

My desires and wants in a backyard flock had to meet a couple of points.  1. I wanted good layers.  2.  Noise to be kept to a minimum.  3.  Easy keepers.

For chickens in the pros were:

  • Lifelong love of chickens
  • Pretty quiet, but of course you always run the risk of getting a mis-sexed rooster chick in your group of hen chicks.  Which roosters sure aren’t quiet.  My neighbor across the street and 2 doors down has one, we hear him often.
  • Overall good layers

For the chickens cons were:

  • Risk of rooster chick and then what to do with him since keeping a rooster would not be an option
  • They are not as weather hardy and need a more weather proof elaborate coop as a result
  • Higher chance of chick loss, baby chicks aren’t very hardy at all in my past experience
  • Chicks are really noisy, peep peep PEEP!!!
  • They can fly pretty high into trees and probably make it over our fence
  • They have a very sharp pecking beak

For the ducks the pros were:

  • Depending on breed can be as good if not more consistent layers than chickens
  • Duck eggs are great for baking, better than chicken eggs
  • My dog who is allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs
  • If we accidentally got a drake, it’s no problem as drakes are really quiet
  • Very weather hardy and really need fairly minimal shelter
  • More pest and disease resistant than chickens, so less chick loss
  • Most domestic duck breeds can’t fly or very far, so they will be better able to be kept in the confines of our fenced yard
  • Because they don’t scratch the ground with their claws, less able to wreck our lawn
  • No pecking beak (2)
  • The joys of imprinting, so they are generally easier to socialize and acclimate to humans
  • They tend to stay as a group better so an added bonus is herding with the corgi!

For the ducks the cons were:

  • have to well socialize and expose them to noises as ducklings to help keep the flock quieter as adults
  • need niacin supplement as no place around here sells duckling specific feed
  • use more water with them than chickens so probably our water bill will go up
  • harder to find at local feed store chick days, so need to special order (3)
  • need more square feet per duck than chickens to keep them healthy and happy

Needless to say the duck pros won out.  I then did a tremendous amount of research into duck breeds, as like I said I wanted good layers, but also quieter and more docile ducks, that would be appropriate for herding as well.  The breed that met all of those criteria (and more because as an added bonus adults are black and white, like our black and white corgi!) were Magpie Ducks.

  1. my mother can tell you how many times I begged desperately for her to let me have chickens.  Finally my chicken outlet was met for a time when my mum’s boss decided to get chickens and he and his wife let me go with them as a kid to pick out the baby chicks and I chose a New England Barred Rock who I named Ziggy. The rest of their chicks were Rhode Island Reds.  My husband knew from the time we were dating that someday his life with me would include some poultry and some goats.  The goats will require us to move, so have yet to come.
  2. My husband really appreciates this and it is a reason he doesn’t dislike our ducks.  It’s interesting how just about everyone now who has come by and I let hand feed the ducks, has jumped as if the ducks pecked them when they take the 1st treat from their hand.  Then the person realizes there was no pecking, no Ouch, that the flinch was a reflex anticipating a chicken peck and there is no need for it.  I find when they do ‘bite’ it is more like being gummed, no peck, no pain.
  3. Our ducklings came from Ideal Poultry in Texas.  I would use them again if we ever decided to change or add to our flock.  The ducklings arrived at our local post office on time, safe and happy and in excellent condition.  A friend of mine ordered 6 pekin ducklings at the same time, so my 6 magpies and her 6 pekins were shipped together and all were in excellent shape.  Actually, they accidentally only shipped 5 of the 6 pekins and when I contacted them a refund for the absent duckling was done quickly and easily.  And knock on wood, now over 4wks old all have survived and thrived, no chick loss.

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