My husband and I were talking about getting ducks next year, when we had a chance to catch up from everything new we are doing this year. It was agreed up, and a pinky-swear oath was performed. Then that man took me to the feed store. Let’s just say that they had a few older Rouen ducks on sale (not brand new ducklings) and that “on sale” are a siren song to this farm girl. We talked about it while we walked around the store getting the items that we actually came for, and by the time we made our way back to the ducks, we had agreed, that while this was probably a bad idea, what could go wrong? A few minutes later, we were the proud new parents of two ducks; hopefully a drake and a duck.
Let me tell you what I knew about raising ducks before last week: they’re cute and they like water, and their eggs taste pretty darn good. Let me tell you what I know about ducks this week: they are so messy! In all seriousness though, what is different about raising ducks than, say raising chickens? There are a few things about ducks to keep in mind if you decide to raise them, and really the information is almost common sense.
Ducks are a good investment because they will lay eggs year round without the help of a light, instead of taking a small break like chickens. Their eggs have more fat content, and are perfect for baking. Personally, I think the extra fattiness of the eggs make them more buttery and therefore an egg-cellent breakfast food.
Ducks are also more resistant to heat, cold and disease than chickens. They have a layer of fat that protects them from the cold in the winter, dip themselves in water in the heat of the summer and in general, are just easier to keep healthy.
And to go back to what I knew about ducks a couple of weeks ago, they are darn cute. We value our animals for their personalities as much as for the food they provide. It’s like going to the home improvement store; spending money fixing up the house is a little painful, but if the cashier is a ham, the trip is easier to take. We know that cleaning up after the ducks at least three times a day will be painful, but the fact that they are funny helps take some of the pain away.
So what should you keep in mind about raising ducks now that I have you convinced you need some? First, if you have a secure chicken coop and yard, your ducks can live there. They need a lot of water, and will make a mess of the chicken waterer, so what we are doing is inside the coop, we have a hanging chicken waterer with the nipples and the ducks have their own waterer. Outside all the water is fair game. We have started feeding our birds a mixed flock feed so that it meets the dietary requirements of all our different kinds of feathered friends.
Ducks make their nests on the ground, so a little extra hay in a corner would be sufficient for our two ducks. Just don’t put them under the chicken roosts or your ducks will get pooped on, and nobody likes that.
And ducks can forage with the best of them. If you have the space for them to free range, they will mostly feed themselves. They will keep the bug population down in your yard, all without tearing it up the way chickens tend to do. Just make sure you are free ranging on a yard that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals.
With a little understanding of their messy ways, your ducks will quickly become an integral part of a mixed flock and hold a special place in your heart and homestead. I look forward to finding new breeds of ducks to raise, as well as watching our silly birds swim and bob on their pond (currently under construction).