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12 Reasons why Ducks are Better than Chickens

There are many reasons why I truly believe that ducks are better than chickens.

Ssssh.... don't tell my chickens, but if I had it to do all over again, I would raise just ducks instead of chickens and ducks.

Having raised both chickens and ducks together for more than 15 years, I can unequivocally say that I not only find ducks easier to raise, I actually prefer raising them. 

But before all you chicken people start cancelling me (LOL!), please hear me out and let me explain - and don't worry, we're not getting rid of our chickens. I still love them too. 

But it's the ducks who truly hold the key to my heart.

Busting the Myth that Ducks are Messy

I'm sure you've been told, or read, or heard, "ducks are too messy".  I disagree.

And I have to say that people who say that just didn't take the time to really think about their duck set-up and create an environment for ducks specifically - instead they likely just got a few ducklings and raised them with their chickens without making any modifications. 

You need to remember that while ducks are poultry, same as chickens, they're waterfowl, which makes them different.

People who complain that ducks are harder or messier than chickens have to stop and think that instead of creating a home for their ducks tailored for their needs, they just created a chicken set-up and expected the ducks to adapt to that. Or added ducks to their coop without considering the ducks' requirements. 

I do agree that ducks love to make a mess anywhere there's water, but other than that, they are actually much cleaner than chickens. 

Ducks are always preening, and even our white Pekin ducks can be covered in mud one minute and then snow white the next. It's their super power!

So that myth aside, here are 12 reasons why I think ducks are better than chickens.

12 Reasons why Ducks are Better than Chickens 

1. Ducks are more cold-hardy than chickens.

Ducks really don't seem to mind the snow and cold weather much at all. They are much more cold-hardy than chickens. Duck don't have combs or wattles that can get frost-bitten. 

They also have an intricate artery system in their legs that I won't pretend to understand, but that allows wild ducks to paddle around in half-frozen lakes all winter long, and allows our ducks to sit in a snowbank all day or hop into their water tub in the middle of the winter. 

My ducks will sit in their water tub in the dead of winter here in Maine without a care in the world. They will also sit in a snow bank all day if I let them. They pull their feet up into the warm down on their bellies, tuck their bill under a wing and are perfectly content. 

In addition, ducklings harden off much sooner than chicks and can be moved outside at a much earlier age, usually by 5 to 6 weeks old, depending on the time of year and where you live.

If you live in a cold climate, ducks are the obvious choice over chickens.

2. Ducks are more heat-tolerant than chickens.

On the flip side, if you live in a hot climate, ducks fare far better than chickens. While the chickens are standing around panting with their wings held out from their bodies trying to get cool, our ducks are happily paddling around in their kiddie pool. 

Fill a pool for them and your ducks will tolerate temperatures well above what chickens find comfortable. 

Although it's still a good idea to keep electrolytes on hand for extreme heat, it's pretty rare for a duck to suffer heat stroke as long as they can submerge their bodies in cool water.

So if you live in a hot climate, ducks might be a better choice for you.

3. Ducks are less likely to be bothered by mites, lice or fleas than chickens.

Because they spend so much time in the water, ducks are very unlikely to be plagued by external parasites such as mites, lice or fleas that can bother chickens. 

Although ducklings aren't waterproof when they hatch (unless they hatch under a mother duck who preens them) and can easily get chilled or drown before they're about a month old, short supervised swims are good for them. 

Not only for their leg muscles, but also because that encourages them to preen afterwards which stimulates the oil glands which will eventually make them waterproof. 

Adult ducks should have access to a kiddie pool or deep tubs of water to splash around in. That should take care of any bugs wanting to take up residence on your ducks. 

4. Ducks are healthier in general.

Because of their extremely high body temperature and fast metabolism, ducks aren't as susceptible to the many pathogens and infectious diseases that you have to worry about when you have chickens.

Ducks rarely contract Coccidiosis or Marek's disease - two of the more common chicken illnesses. And although ducks can be carriers of Avian Influenza, they rarely succumb to it. 

They are also less likely to contract respiratory illnesses or have internal parasites. And because they spend so much time in the water, they rarely get egg bound or have vent prolapse issues. 

The most common things to watch for in ducks are botulism, hardware disease, wet feather and angel wing. All of which can be easily prevented with a proper diet and maintenance of their environment. 

5. Ducks make less noise than chickens.

If you live in a more suburban area, you might want to consider ducks. Not only do the females not make an awful noise like hens do when they lay their eggs (in fact, duck lay in secret under the cover of pre-dawn darkness), the male ducks don't even quack.

Drakes make a soft raspy sound, but don't full-on quack like their female counterparts, so it's possible to have a male without worrying about what your neighbors might think. No rooster crowing at dawn - and every other time of day! 

And my female ducks are pretty quiet, although they can get excited when I fill their pool or they want some free range time. But I'll listen to a duck quacking over a chicken cackling any day. And bottom line, our ducks definitely make less noise than our chickens. 

90% of the time they just chat quietly among themselves.

6. Ducks don't need roosts to sleep on or boxes to lay their eggs in.

Ducks are super low-maintenance when it comes to their sleeping arrangements and nesting needs. 

They sleep on the floor on a bed of straw or other soft bedding and will make their own nest in the corner to lay their eggs in. 

So it's very easy to turn an existing playhouse or garden shed into a duck accommodation. 

Or you can buy a pre-fab shed or other small structure to house your ducks in. No worrying about installing roosting bars or nesting boxes like chickens need.

7. Ducks are better layers than chickens.

Speaking of laying eggs, ducks are better layers than chickens. They rarely go broody, which is a benefit if you're wanting more eggs not more baby ducklings! 

They also continue to lay eggs with fewer hours of daylight than chickens require, so you very well might be collecting eggs all winter. 

Ducks also molt a bit differently than chickens, so you won't experience the drastic egg shortage in the fall during an annual fall molting season. 

Because they usually lay their eggs just before sunrise, and then cover them up with straw, which insulates them nicely from the cold in the winter, you'll likely not find any frozen duck eggs. 

Ducks also tend to lay for more years than chickens. 

While chickens produce the most eggs during years two and three, and then production can drop around 20% a year after that, ducks will often continue to lay nearly an egg a day until they are five or six years old - or older.

8. Duck eggs are better for baking than chicken eggs.

Not only are duck eggs larger than chicken eggs (about 30% larger to be exact), because duck eggs are higher in fat, they are better for baking than chicken eggs. The higher fat content makes baked goods taste richer and also rise better. 

Your cakes will be fluffier when you use duck eggs in them. And even scrambled eggs or an omelet will have a fuller taste and better rise when you use duck eggs.  And let's not talk about angel food cake or souffles! 

You can get away with using your smaller duck eggs one for one in any baking recipe, but the ratio is actually 2 duck eggs equals 3 chicken eggs. 

Or you can whisk the dusk eggs and then weigh out 2 ounces (or 3 tablespoons) per egg the recipe calls for.

9. Ducks are friendlier to newcomers than chickens are.

Anyone who has tried to add new chickens to their chicken flock knows just how difficult it can be - and how badly it can go. 

Chickens are very competitive and take their pecking order extremely seriously and don't like any additions to the flock that might put their spot in jeopardy.

Ducks, on the other hand, are far more welcoming to new ducks. I find that they get excited to have new friends! 

They don't adhere to any kind of strict pecking order and their attitude is "the more the merrier". 

While we're on that topic, ducks just have better dispositions in general. They are happy when the sun is out, they're happy when it's raining. They even seem to not mind snow. 

They are happy with some weeds tossed into a water bowl as treats. I find ducks very easy to please. In contrast, I feel like I'm always letting my chickens down somehow. They just seem more judgey to me.

Ducks don't usually pick on each other since they don't really care about a pecking order the way chickens do. 

And drakes are rarely people-aggressive like roosters can be (although young drakes in particular can be pretty "excitable" during spring mating season, so sometimes may need to be separated to give the females a break).

But overall, adding to a duck flock is as easy as getting a new duck and setting it on the ground near the others. Period.

10. Ducks are easier on your landscaping.

If you raise chickens, you know how incredibly destructive they are to lawns and landscaping. 

They will kick all your mulch out of the flower beds, scratch up all your plants, and make depressions all over the yard to take their dust baths in. 

Chickens will eat all your vegetables and hop over any fence you try to put up.

Ducks, in the other hand, are much easier on your landscaping. Not only are they less likely to be able to get over even a low fence, other than maybe trampling smaller plants (which are easy to cage until they get bigger), they rarely do much damage to landscaping. 

Our ducks will munch on our hostas if given the opportunity, but the plants come back up the following spring, no worries. 

And for the most part when they free range, the ducks are more interesting in splashing in their pool or drilling down into the ground for worms and grubs (which is actually great for aerating your lawn!).

11. Ducks are a bit better at free ranging.

Although adult domestic ducks can't fly (other than mallards and call ducks), so they are extremely vulnerable to predators because they're pretty awkward and clumsy on dry land, ducks are actually better at staying safe during free range time than chickens are. 

They have extremely good eyesight and always have one eye to the sky looking for aerial predators. 

And when they see one, unlike chickens who scramble and run for cover, the ducks freeze in place, watching until the coast is clear again. Much like a rabbit does when it senses danger. 

Ducks instinctively know that they will never be able to outrun a predator, so they count on the fact that many predators hunt by looking for movement, and hope that by staying completely still, they won't be detected. 

Our ducks usually just congregate around their kiddie pool when I let them out to free range, so I can control where they are for the most part depending on where I fill the pool for them. 

The ducks also stay together and travel as a group. They don't scatter all over the place like chickens do, so when it's time to round them up, they're much easier to herd than chickens. 

Fun fact: you call chickens to come to you, but ducks you herd from behind. Just get one going in the right direction and they all will literally fall into line and follow that one. Just try doing that with chickens! 

12. Ducklings are adorable.

If I haven't convinced you already to raise a few ducks, then here's my last argument. Ducklings are adorable. 

If you think baby chicks are cute, you have never spent time with a brooder full of ducklings.

And of you're considering adding a few ducks,  be sure to read some of the articles about raising ducks on my blog and pick up a copy of my book Duck Eggs Daily.  

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