Ducks are what started us on our homesteading journey. Three little Rouen ducklings came to live with us six years ago, and we’ve never been without them in our backyard since. They are a constant enjoyment, and a useful addition to any homestead, big or small.
Here are some reasons why you should consider adding ducks to your backyard.
- Ducks are amazing foragers. Given the opportunity, ducks can dig and forage for most of their own food. They are great to have in the garden to eat up slugs, snails and other garden pests. They will also eat mosquito, flies and have been known to eat small rodents. Ducks graze on top of the grass (unlike chickens that scratch and dig the ground), leaving excellent fertilizer as they go.
- They provide eggs. Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs and some people would say tastier. The eggs are amazing to bake with and many pastry chefs prefer them because of their higher protein content.
- Excellent meat source, knowing where your food comes from is important and keeping your own supply of organic meat (if you choose to raise them organically) is very cost-effective. If your plan is to raise ducks for meat, you can buy day old ducklings like you would chicks, without having to have a breeding pair of ducks.
- Ducks are hilarious, they are funny birds that like to have a good time. While they are especially fond of water and love to swim, most ducks do not need swimming water (although they may be happier with it). In the past we have used kids swimming pools for them to play in (making sure that they have a ramp both in and out of the water), they are especially fun to watch splashing around.
- They are economical and easy to raise, because of their great foraging skills if ducks are able to graze they will only need to be supplemented with a good quality feed (more during the winter months). They easily adapt to their surroundings, whether you have a large pond or a small backyard. Many breeds make great mothers, and can easily raise 12 ducklings once or twice a year doing all the work for you. You can then decide to raise the ducklings to sell or keep them, and raise them for either meat or egg production.
- Ducks are cold-hardy, having both chickens and ducks I can tell you from experience, ducks handle the cold winter months much better than chickens. In fact, our ducks like to go outside throughout the winter to sit in the snow on sunny days. They have an extra layer of fat on them that protects them from the cold when they are in water, and this helps keep them warm in the winter.
- Ducks are generally healthier and have less diseases compared to chickens. As long as they have a dry shelter, clean water and access to food they will be happy and content.
Just like chickens, different breeds of ducks are suited for different jobs. Khaki Campbell’s are known for their egg laying capabilities while Pekin ducks are more commonly raised for meat or pets. If you are looking to raise meat birds I wouldn’t recommend call ducks, but if you wanted to breed show birds, call ducks are a great choice.
We have Rouen ducks, they are a dual-purpose breed that resemble large mallards. Our girls lay very regularly, each giving us one egg a day during the laying season (early spring to late fall). They make great mothers and given proper shelter will do all the work of raising the ducklings.
Now that you know some of the benefits of keeping ducks in your yard, here are some tips on getting started.
- Ducks prefer company, so get at least two.
- Ducks can make a mess of their water, to prevent this try putting a block of wood (untreated) in their water dish to prevent them from climbing in. We also do not feed and water the ducks in their coop at night (except in the winter months), this greatly reduces the amount of bedding we go through.
- If you want to breed and raise ducklings, consider getting a trio, one drake and two hens.
- Ducks are comfortable in almost any shelter, as long as they have somewhere dry to go they will be happy.
- They need protection from predators, make sure they are protected with appropriate shelter and fencing.
- Even though ducks don’t need swimming water, they love it. Consider getting a kid pool to let them splash around in. Keep in mind that some larger duck breeds mate easier in water than on land.
Do you have ducks in your backyard? What breeds do you have?