Why You Should Be Raising Ducks in Your Garden

A small flock of free-range ducks can be a great addition to your garden by giving you tasty fresh eggs, natural fertilizer and effective pest control.

| December 2012

Ducks are wonderful creatures that add value and resilience to any garden, plant scientist Carol Deppe writes. In her practical and thorough book The Resilient Gardener (Chelsea Green Publishing 2012), Deppe explains the joy of raising ducks for self-reliant food production and garden pest control. Read more about the case for keeping backyard poultry in this excerpt from the book’s “The Laying Flock” chapter. 

Buy this book in the GRIT store: The Resilient Gardener.

My ducks can use parts of the yard that are too steep, too wet much of the year, or too heavily shaded for gardening. Their manure fertilizes the yard and garden. Here in maritime Oregon, it is much easier to grow grass and slugs than garden plants. Ducks are great at converting grass and slugs into eggs. And the quality of those eggs exceeds anything I can buy. Ducks are experts at yard and garden pest control. Poultry provide us with garden fertilizer and make good use of excess or second-grade garden produce. In addition, free-range eggs can supply us with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which aren’t available from plant foods. Is it any wonder that so many gardeners love poultry? Gardening and poultry go together naturally.

My resilience is enhanced profoundly by having ducks, even, strangely enough, not counting the eggs. I’m a happier and more joyful person with ducks. My life is richer. If I find myself feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, I just go and sit with the ducks for a while. It seems to be impossible to stay depressed for very long when surrounded by a flock of foraging ducks.

Many people who want to produce their own eggs think of chickens automatically and never consider whether their needs might be better served by ducks. This is true even in the maritime Northwest, where ducks (but not chickens) can forage happily outdoors year-round. I encourage everyone who wants a home laying flock to start by fully considering the chicken versus duck issue.

Urban Poultry (and Suburban)

Even with only a small suburban or urban yard, you may be able to keep a few laying ducks or chickens. Check with your local animal control officer and with neighborhood association rules. Portland and Eugene, Oregon, for example, will let you keep three hens or ducks. Corvallis, Oregon, will let you keep a flock as long as you keep them on your own land. I now live outside the Corvallis city limits. However, a neighborhood association’s rules apply. Our neighborhood association allows horses, cattle, sheep, and home poultry flocks, but not goats, pigs, or commercial poultry flocks.

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