The Benefits of Raising Ducks

Raising ducks in your backyard gives you eggs, ducklings and entertainment.

| March/April 2011

What animal is hardier, lays more eggs, has a longer, more productive life, and is funnier and more charming than the popular backyard chicken? A duck, of course. They are also messier, more willful and require a different management style, but almost anyone who has ever been owned by a duck will agree that they are worth it.

When I moved to a neighborhood without a homeowners’ association, the first thing I wanted was a flock of chickens. Our small property borders a large pond, and, alongside my chicken research, I started looking into ducks. The more I looked, the more I liked. I never did get those chickens. Instead, I’m a happy slave to a small flock of Indian Runner and Magpie ducks from which we obtain eggs, ducklings, entertainment and a fair number of mud holes in the back lawn.

Ducks are practical

When you think of a duck, you may imagine an all-white waddler begging for bread scraps at the local pond. It’s hard to imagine such an entertaining creature also being practical. But gardeners and householders in Asia and Europe have kept waterfowl as a useful addition to the backyard menagerie for centuries, and for good reason.

Duck hens bred for egg-laying ability can lay up to 350 eggs a year, each of which will weigh 20 percent to 35 percent more than a chicken egg. Furthermore, they will produce longer than a chicken, well into a fifth or even sixth season – long after chicken hens are ready for soup.

And if you’re worried about whether those eggs will taste “weird” or not work in your recipes, never fear. Ducks fed a healthy balance of layer pellets and forage will produce an egg that tastes similar to a fresh chicken egg and provides better loft in baked goods.

As if their productivity weren’t impressive enough, these little guys act as efficient exterminators, gathering much of their own food as they work. The year we moved here, the garden was completely decimated by Japanese beetles. Fortunately, my first little flock of six ducks began an effective annihilation program the moment their mouths were large enough to swallow the destructive pests. They ate adult beetles and grubbed the larvae out of the lawn. We haven’t had a Japanese beetle problem since. 

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