Chickens have been domesticated for thousands of years, are kept on almost every continent around the world, and are a commodity and a mainstay of human civilization. Ducks are in a way as well, especially in certain areas- but their popularity is small in comparison. Why is that? Why do people seem to prefer chickens over ducks? Why do chickens get so much attention and ducks happen to be sort of a sideline? As a keeper of both, I ask myself this a lot- and for good reason. Here’s why.
Ducks are Healthy
Given basic good care, ducks are healthy animals. They have excellent immune systems, and are hardier in cold and even hot weather than chickens. There are some breed specific exceptions to this rule but overall, a duck will give you a lot less to worry about in terms of sickness than a chicken will over its lifetime. There are so many terrible diseases that befall chickens compared to ducks- even some diseases that have vaccinations ready and waiting should you think you need them. There are no vaccinations for ducks, as they don’t need them.
Ducks are Hardy
Ducks take cold, wet, and snow in stride. They wait out hot weather without much fuss. They seem to ENJOY those cloudy, cold, wet, windy miserable days that make chickens (and humans!) sick with annoying upper respiratory infections and other such nonsense. They will play in the snow in temperatures well below zero. When chickens are hunkering against the house with the cold north winds tossing up their light and fluffy feathers each way, ducks are out in the thick of it rooting for worms and bugs in the middle of the field. When it’s hot, a small kiddy pool of hose water keeps them happy, and if you have a pond, even better. You won’t see a pant or a complaint from a duck.
Ducks Provide Really Well
Despite what many people think, there are breeds of duck that lay better than the best laying breeds of chicken, even in the cold and snow, such as the Khaki Campbell. A duck will also lay better and longer than a chicken will. Expect an egg a day with a well laying duck for 5 years or so. Chickens typically top out at a year, and then production suffers. Duck eggs are delicious, more nutritious, and more “gourmet” than chicken eggs. Duck eggs are excellent in cooking and baking, and they’re rich and beautiful eaten fried or scrambled. Square eggs are a great novelty for kids. Ducks also taste heavenly- their flesh is all dark meat and delicious, and easy to prepare. Processing duck is a lot like chicken, and with the right equipment is also just as easy.
Ducks Live Happily with People
Domestic breeds of duck are very friendly animals and often make loving, long lived pets. With a light in a coop, ducks reliably coop up at night in a secure space and enjoy nesting in clean straw and bedding. They make excellent and gentle garden pest eradicators- as they don’t scratch or eat new plant seedlings and destroy garden beds like chickens do. They’ll leave your tomatoes alone, eating the grubs and bugs that want to eat your tomatoes. They are quiet animals and don’t crow loudly, making them good choices for inner-city birds.
Ducks are wonderful birds to have on the homestead for food, and wonderful, healthy pets. They have many advantages over chickens. Consider adding some ducks to your flock!