Are you thinking about keeping ducks but aren’t sure if it’s worth the time and effort? Maybe you have a flock of backyard chickens and now you’re thinking about adding ducks to the mix. Maybe you’ve never kept poultry before, but you’re thinking about getting a few ducks as pets. Or maybe you’re just curious about whether ducks are easy to keep
Ducks are interesting animals. Some people might keep ducks because they are fun to watch and interesting to learn about. Ducks are also good for eating, and they can help you get rid of pests in your yard.
One of the most common questions that people ask about duck keeping is whether it’s worth their time considering how messy they can be and that they consume a lot of food.
Ducks are generally easy to keep. They require a little more space and effort than chickens, but they are easier to herd and more hardy. They handle wet weather better than chickens and are usually very family-friendly.
In this article, we will compare ducks to chickens in terms of how easy they are to keep.
Table of Contents
Cleaning and Maintenance
Ducks are messier than chickens. Their liquidy poop is smelly and they love to get wet, so they can make a mess of your backyard. However, ducks don’t require a lot of maintenance if you have nough space for them to roam.
If they have access to a lot of free-range ground on your property, you will need to clean their space regularly. This includes cleaning out their water troughs and changing their bedding often.
If you keep ducks in a coop, their housing also needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent the build-up of bacteria and molds. Their love of water makes mold a common problem in duck coops compared to chickens. So make sure there is also proper ventilation.
Ducks are large birds and require a lot of feed. In most cases, you will need to provide them with a constant source of food. If you have a big feeder, this isn’t any more demanding than feeding chickens; however, you may need to spend more money.
If you keep ducks for their meat, your higher feed costs will be somewhat offset by the production of lots of delicious duck meat. However, according to data, meat chickens are still more efficient than ducks. And if you keep them as pets or for their eggs, your ducks will cost more to feed than chickens.
On the other hand, ducks are also great foragers, and they eat more grass than chickens. If you give your ducks a lot of space to roam, they will find most of their own food, saving you money and time. Muscovy ducks are particularly fond of grass and require very little feed if they have access to a lot of vegetation.
Water and Bathing
Ducks, unlike chickens, require water in which to bathe and swim to keep their feathers clean. Some say that you can raise ducks without bathing in water. While this is technically true, they will be much cleaner if they can get wet regularly.
Ducks also love to swim and play in the water, and you will be denying them an important part of their lives if you don’t provide them with a water source. They don’t need a large source of water, however. A kiddie pool that is refilled twice each week is generally plenty.
Confining and Managing Ducks
Managing and confining poultry can be easy or it can be hard work. It depends on the animal and how well you have planned for their needs.
Ducks are quite easy to move around. They will follow each other when you herd them, and you rarely will have to help a straggler find their way back to the flock. Whereas chickens are much more “confused” (perhaps more individualistic) birds and will often run in opposite directions. Herding a flock of ducks is like leading a well-trained army while leading a flock of chickens is more like herding cats.
However, with some exceptions (like the Indian Runner Ducks) most duck breeds can fly which can make them harder to confine, depending on the breed you choose. Generally, you don’t have to worry about them flying away, as domesticated ducks will stay where there is food and safety, but they may jump over a fence. In practice, most ducks won’t fly at all as long as their needs are met.
Ducks aren’t as good at tucking themselves in at night as chickens are. Most ducks can learn to go into their house or enclosure at sundown, but some won’t, which means you may have to herd them in. On the other hand, ducks generally stay closer to their living space than chickens, which means you don’t have to worry as much about them wandering off or having to search for them in the evening.
Another difference is how you experience aggressive males. Most people think of ducks as harmless, even cute, animals. However, male ducks can be quite aggressive. They may try to peck people who come too close to their flock. Fortunately, their beaks are not as sharp as those of roosters, and they are unlikely to cause any serious injury. In addition, drakes don’t have spores, and they are not nearly as agile as a rooster. Overall, an aggressive drake is less intimidating than an aggressive rooster and they are relatively easy to deal with.
Weather and Climate
Weather and climate are important factors to consider when keeping any type of animal. Birds that are sensitive to changes in weather need considerably more care than those that can withstand a broader variety of temperatures.
Both ducks and chickens are hardy birds that do well in tough weather conditions, but ducks are overall stronger in cold weather than chickens. Chickens may start to suffer during very cold northern winters if they do not have a warm place to stay inside. Ducks, on the other hand, can handle tough winter weather much better and they don’t even need a house as long as they have a good cover or lean-to to protect them from the wind and rain. They also need a protected space where they can lay eggs.
Another factor that makes ducks a bit more easy to manage, is that they handle wet weather better. They don’t mind getting wet and their feathers help keep them dry. Chickens don’t like getting wet and they can get sick if they stay in the rain or snow for too long.
In hot weather, ducks are a little more demanding than chickens. In extreme heat, ducks (particularly ducklings) can get heatstroke. You will need to make sure they have plenty of fresh, cold water and shade to cool off in. Chickens can handle hot weather better than ducks, but they still need plenty of fresh water and shade.
Ducks are prey animals just like chickens, and they are as exposed to medium- to large predators. Foxes, raccoons, and coyotes are merely some of the predators that might threaten your backyard flocks. This means that you need to take some precautions to protect them. In most cases, this just means making sure that your run is secure and that your ducks have a safe place to go if they feel threatened.
Because ducks are bigger than chickens, they are somewhat better able to scare of smaller predators, which makes them a bit safer. But you should still take the necessary precautions to protect them.
Both young chicks and ducklings are very vulnerable to predators. Duck eggs are also just as exposed to small predators as chicken eggs, so you need to take measures to protect your nests.
Overall, raising ducks is a little easier than chickens. This is especially true if you live in a cold and humid climate.
Successfully breeding any poultry is generally a matter of experience. Like chickens, some duck breeds are much better mothers than others. If you are just starting out, it’s best to stick with a known good mothering duck breed.
What distinguishes ducks from chickens is that ducklings are usually hardier than chicks. They have a thicker layer of fat already at hatching, and they can swim soon after. Baby chicks are very susceptible to hypothermia or catching a cold if they get wet, whereas ducklings love water.
In my personal experience, we usually lose more baby chicks than ducklings from any random batch.
Generally speaking, ducks are a bit harder to keep than chickens, but they are generally hardier and can handle tougher weather conditions. Ducks also handle wet weather better than chickens. Predators pose a threat to both ducks and chickens, but ducks may be better able to scare smaller predators away.
Breeding ducks is generally a matter of experience, and some duck breeds make better mothers than others, but ducklings are usually hardier than chicks and more tolerant to wet weather.
Read much more about how to keep ducks in this complete beginner’s guide.