Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Ever wanted to add chickens to your flock? Think again.
When we first bought our house, I was so excited. We had 5 acres. What do you do with 5 acres? Most people would probably suggest putting in a sweet patio or a pool, but my first thought was: animals.
I've always wanted to grow up on a farm. There's just something about them. The sweet smell of hay. The cows mooing. The ducks waddling. The tractors backfiring. There's just something so beautifully simplistic about it. Plus, having children growing up on a farm--learning the importance of taking care of animals, the fragility of life, and all the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into it--has always been a bit of a dream.
After slowly, but surely working on the hubby, convincing him that we absolutely needed animals, the next question was: what kind?
We wanted to start out small. Cows seemed too daunting. Horses--too expensive. Pigs--too hard to handle. Goats--too destructive. Sheep--well, they're still up for debate.
The obvious choice was chickens. Insanely popular, cheap, & lay breakfast--bonus!
So, we got in the car, headed to Tractor Supply, and picked out 5 little, fuzzy, yellow ducks.
Ducks? Why Ducks?
Well, I'm glad you asked. We did a lot of research before choosing ducks over chickens. For our lifestyle, ducks made more sense, and every day, I see those little quackers and am so happy that's what we chose.
1. D U C K S I N A R O W
We've all heard the saying--get your ducks in a row. Ever wonder why that is? Because they all stay in a row. Unlike chickens, which typically disperse, ducks stick together. Okay, what's so special about that? Well, if you find one, you find them all. If they wander off, you know they're all together. You never need to find the one, lost sheep. Plus, herding them back into the coop at night is just that much easier--just steer them in with one foul swoop, no need to individually catch and bring them in one by one. Also, this herd behavior doubles as predator protection. Hawks/foxes/etc might pick off individuals, but there's always power in numbers.
2. T H E G R A S S I S G R E E N E R
We let our ducks free range as much as possible. The variety in their diet makes them happier and healthier. Plus, we have less bugs, ticks, and slugs because of it. HUGE score. And when you look at our lawn, its green, lush, and without holes. How is this possible when the ducks have free access?
Well, in case you didn't know, chickens dig. They scratch at the ground to find insects and also dig holes to take dirt baths. Ducks, on the other hand, don't scratch, dig, or otherwise destroy lawns. They just waddle around and forage in the grass. Their poop is also very watery (they drink a lot of water), so it just immediately seeps back into the soil and is a great fertilizer--which means greener grass and not stepping on poop! (Duck poop is ready to use as a fertilizer immediately after, well, excreted. Chicken poop should ideally sit and ferment for 1 year before use because it is very high in Nitrogen).
3. T O U G H C O O K I E S
Do you ever look outside on a cold, rainy day and think, "This is great duck weather." There's a reason for that. Ducks, unlike chickens, love water. They're perfectly content with being wet, as their feathers are covered with a waterproofing oil. You've also heard of down jackets? Typically made with goose down, these feathers are great insulators. Ducks also have down, although not as densely packed as geese, that keep them warm well into negative temperatures, through rain, snow, sleet, what have you. They're overall much hardier than their chicken cousins--and less susceptible to diseases too!
4. B U T T N U G G E T S
Let's talk egg production. Most people have chickens because they want fresh eggs. There's not too many that raise chickens for meat (although ducks are larger and produce more meat than chickens). But let's get back to eggs. For chickens, a great layer lays 250+ eggs/year. There are chicken breeds that are poor layers. There are duck breeds that are poor layers. On our little homestead, we have 2 different breeds of duck--Anconas (laying 280+ eggs/year) and Pekins (laying 200+ eggs/year). Egg production is based on many, many factors, including diet, stress level, and living conditions. All I can say is, on our farm, every lil lady gives us an egg-a-day.
And if you've never seen a duck egg, you're in for a treat. At least 2x bigger than a chicken egg, you can fill up on a 1 egg omelet. Plus, they have a rich, creamy, almost smoky taste--definitely superior to chicken in my book.
5. W A K E U P C A L L S
If you have a rooster, you also run the risk of early morning wake up calls. Male ducks (called drakes), on the other hand, are more quiet than the females. They don't actually quack, but instead make more of a quiet, raspy sound. The females are the ones that make the signature "quack." Some breeds are more vocal than others. Ours only quack when someone comes up our driveway (they're awesome guard ducks!) and when it's feeding time.
6. S T R A I G H T U P A D O R A B L E
Alright, this is more opinion than fact, but anything that waddles is simply adorable. Baby chicks and ducklings are obviously too cute to handle, but what happens when they grow up? Maybe it's just me, but I don't think adult chickens are particularly cute. I'm not sure if they lost me with the combs, pointy beaks, or the talons on their feet, but somewhere down the line they go from cute to--ugh--not so cute.
Call me biased, but ducks are lil cuties--even as adults. With their rounded bills, webbed feet, and their constant waddle-waddling, ducks are adorable. Have you ever seen them playing in the water--splashing, quacking, swimming? Precious. You won't want to look away. Plus, the fact that they all stick together and never want to be away from their feathered friends is straight up delightful.
Sorry chicken lovers, but this lady isn't trading her ducks in anytime soon.
What about you? Are you Team Chicken or Team Duck?