When you’re starting a backyard flock, you first have to decide which species of bird you wish to raise. Do you want to raise ducks? Or do you want to raise chickens? Both species offer a rewarding experience, and indeed many people raise both! But in the beginning, it’s often best to start with one species and work your way up. Below we discuss the differences between raising ducks and chickens so you can decide which species is right for you.
Both chickens and ducks need water to survive. Nevertheless, ducks need a little bit more than your average waterer. They also need a water source to swim in for them to be truly happy. Many owners put in ponds in their backyard, but you can also add in a small baby pool to satisfy your ducks. Chickens, on the other hand, do not need these extra water sources. While a pond may look pretty, chickens are unlikely to swim in them.
Duck eggs vs. Chicken eggs
Many people start raising ducks or chickens because of their eggs. And indeed, there’s nothing better than a fresh batch of eggs in the morning! But duck eggs and chicken eggs are not interchangeable. You may prefer one to the other. Here are a few of the main differences between the two:
- While they taste similar, duck eggs have a more intense flavor
- Duck eggs are about 50-100% larger than your average chicken egg
- Duck eggs have a thicker shell, meaning they stay fresher for longer
- Chicken eggs have a lower caloric intake
Egg Laying Cycle
Not only are their eggs different, but how they lay their eggs are different as well. Chickens and ducks both lay eggs daily, but chickens are on a 26-hour laying cycle, while ducks lay their eggs anywhere between 4am and 8am. Additionally, ducks can lay their eggs for more years than chickens. You often don’t see a decrease in egg production until they reach seven to nine years of age.
Pest Control and Foraging
Both ducks and chickens have a foraging instinct, making them a great option for pest control. This is especially true when they’re allowed to free range or move around in a tractor. While both species do an excellent job, ducks tend to forage more during the winter than chickens.
Chickens and ducks can be trained, but there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that ducks are easier to train than chickens. This is largely because chickens are more skittish than ducks, so it’s harder to train them to return to the coop. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean it’s hard nor impossible, it just may take some extra time.
Many people mistakenly believe that birds are loud animals. While roosters are certainly noisy, most hens, whether chicken or duck, are pretty quiet. Chickens may occasionally cluck and communicate with each other, as will ducks. You may hear a chicken more often than a duck, but neither should cause too much noise.