Are chickens better than ducks? Ducks vs chickens pros and cons.

Are chickens better than ducks? Ducks vs chickens pros and cons.

After you have been keeping chickens for a while, you may ask yourself if there is a need to add ducks to your poultry flock. This is an issue I am currently looking into. The kids want ducks. They think they are adorable. My wife says ducks are awesome and that I cannot finish one duck egg in one sitting. A friend thinks ducks are messy, filthy, and dirty. 

In this article I will dive into the issue of backyard chickens versus ducks and whether to keep chickens and ducks. Are ducks easier to raise than chickens?  

We will be looking at the different requirements for keeping chickens and ducks alongside the pros and cons for both chickens and ducks. These are:

  1. Space required.
  2. Feed consumption.
  3. Egg production.
  4. Egg nutrition.
  5. Meat yield.
  6. Health.
  7. Climatic tolerance.
  8. Noise levels.
  9. Work involved. 

Space requirements for chickens and ducks

Ducks are larger than chickens when it comes to space in the coop and runs. Ducks will need 3 to 5 square feet per bird of floor space while chickens will need 2 to 3 square feet per bird. 

Ducks do not roost and will make their own cozy nests on the floor. Ducks will save on some space when it comes to space occupied by laying boxes for chickens. Ducks do not need laying boxes but will create their own laying spaces on the floor. 

The recommended space for ducks in the run is 15 square feet per duck while for chickens the run space is 8 to 10 square feet per bird.  This is because ducks need more space to flap their large wings. Ducks also need water in a pool as they love splashing, splashing, and making mud. This means you will need to leave space for a small kiddie pool or a small dug-out pool in the run.  

Water and feed for chickens and ducks

Ducks and chickens consume different amounts of feed. Ducks will consume 4 to 6 ounces of feed per day while chickens will consume 3.5 to 4 ounces of feed per day. 

This means that it will be more expensive to feed ducks than chickens. However, the cost of feeding ducks can be reduced by letting them free range. They eat a wider variety of plants than chickens.  

Ducks love eating bugs and are a great solution to pest issues in your garden. They will eat pests and leave your garden plants intact. Letting them roam, if you have enough space, will mean that you will need to give them less feed. 

Ducks consume about 4 cups of water per day, while chickens will consume up to 2 cups of water per day.  

Ducks will not just need water for drinking but also to keep their eyes and nostrils clean. They also need water for grooming their plumage. This means they will need more water in addition to drinking water. 

Egg production in ducks and chickens. 

Chickens will begin laying at 4 to 6 months while ducks begin laying at 6 to 7 months. Ducks are more consistent in egg production than chickens. 

Commercial layers will average at about 250 eggs per year, while ducks will lay about 300 to 350 eggs per year. While backyard duck breeds will lay fewer eggs than backyard chickens, research has shown that ducks will lay more eggs than chickens. 

Ducks will need at least 15 hours of lighting for improved egg production. This is close to the 14 hours of light that chickens need for improved egg production. This means you will need to provide one more hour of supplemental lighting for ducks than chickens.

Eggs from a duck. Duck eggs can be up to 2 times larger than chicken eggs

Ducks eggs are 50%-100% larger than chicken eggs, meaning that for every 2 chicken eggs you consume, you only need 1 duck egg. 

Nutrition of chicken eggs and duck eggs

The nutritional values of duck and chicken eggs vary depending on the nutrient. Healthline, a popular medical and health publication has a great comparison chart on the nutritional profiles of ducks eggs versus chicken eggs. 

For every 3.5 ounces(100 grams) of duck and chicken eggs,  duck eggs contain more calories, protein, and fat than chicken eggs. However, chicken eggs contain more carbohydrates, choline, riboflavin, and copper when compared to duck eggs. Duck eggs contain more vitamins than chicken eggs.

Duck for Meat versus Chicken for Meat

Ducks are larger than most chicken breeds hence they will yield more meat. The only competitors for ducks in size are the large size chickens, namely the Jersey Giant Chickens and the Brahma Chickens. Adult Pekin ducks, the most popular ducks raised for meat, weigh between 8 pounds and 11 pounds while  Brahma chickens weigh between 9 and 12 pounds. 

Meat from ducks is dark, while chickens have a mix of dark and white cuts. Chicken and duck meat have similar nutritional values. Cornish cross chickens weigh about 4.5 to 6 lbs. at the point of processing, where Pekin ducks average at 5.5 lbs. This means that meat ducks and meat chickens can yield the same amount of meat at 8 weeks. However, duck breeds like Jumbo Pekin, Rouen, Muscovy, and Saxony yield more meat if given more time to gain weight.

Ducks kept for meat are butchered at between 8 to 12 weeks. This is a similar period for meat chicken breeds like the Cornish cross. Meat ducks and meat chickens are raised the same way, with similar feed. Processing is done the same way, although ducks are harder to pluck than chickens.

Health in ducks and chickens

Ducks are known to be hardy than chickens when it comes to resisting diseases. They are not affected by as many diseases that affect chickens. 

Young ducks are also hardy, tolerant to cold at younger ages than chicks. This is because they develop more feathers faster and an oil layer underneath their skin. 

Climatic tolerance for ducks and chickens.

Ducks are made for water. This gives them the ability to cool themselves with water during summer, unlike chickens which do not like getting wet at all. Ducks also have more feathers and a subcutaneous oil layer that helps them keep warm in winter. 

Mothering in Ducks and Chickens

Most birds take care of their young ones after hatching. 

Most chicken breeds are good mothers, where they take care of their chicks by keeping them warm, protecting them, and leading them to feed. 

Ducks on the other hand are said to be bad mothers, where they will sometimes abandon their young ones, leaving the work of raising their young ones to you. This is something you should be prepared for if you decide to keep ducks. 

Hygiene in Ducks and Chickens

Duck hygiene is where most poultry keepers swear never to keep ducks again. They like getting wet and their droppings stink more than for chickens.

 If you are proving a baby pool for your ducks, be assured they will make it dirty in 5 minutes. Since you are to provide clean water for ducks to play with, you will need to keep refilling the pool.  You will also need to clean it every 2 days. 

Noise levels in chickens and ducks

The jury is still out there on which are most noisy, ducks or chickens. The verdict seems to be tipping against the chickens, meaning that ducks are generally noisier. 

All ducks, except for muscovy ducks quack. Louder quacks than chicken noises. Sometimes repeated quacks for long periods of time. Muscovy ducks on the other hand do not quack. This makes them the best duck to keep in your backyard. However, you will need to fence muscovy ducks in properly. This is because, unlike other ducks, they can fly and do roost. 

Pekin ducks, the best duck meat breed are the loudest of all ducks. A quack here, a quack there, and a quack all the time. In a backyard setting, Pekin ducks are a sure way of annoying your neighbors.

Chickens, except for roosters are usually quiet, kept comfortable, well-fed, and safe. Quiet chicken breeds for your backyard include buff Orpingtons, Plymouth rock, Rhode island red, wyandotte, Sussex, Australorp, Brahma, and Silkies.

Ducks chickens and your garden

Ducks will eat slugs, bugs, and weeds in your garden and leave your plants intact. However, they love lettuce and strawberries. Ducks will also eat garden plants that have been used as a treat. Talk of an acquired taste!

This is contrary to chickens, who will scratch and tear everything down in your garden. 

Both ducks and chickens can be used in fall to winterize your gardens before planting your bulbs from winter. 

Are ducks or chickens cleaner? 

Ducks like splashing water. This makes them messy than chickens. Chickens are cleaners since their only contact with water is when they are drinking. Ducks also have more droppings, which are wetter and stink more than chicken droppings. 

Are ducks or chickens smarter?

Most poultry keepers consider ducks to be smarter than chickens. Ducks will be able to tell the difference between two people.

If one person feeds them with treats and the other person their normal feed, they will geese excited when they see the person with treats. They will also be able to tell if a person is a stranger. 

You can train ducks to respond to their names. Calling ducks by name will elicit some response. 

Ducks will also try to imprint from their owners. Imprinting is a type of learning in animals, where young ones learn from their parents everything about life. What to eat, how to scratch, how to drink, etc.

Ducklings will imprint from the keepers if the keeper was there when they hatched.  Ducklings will think that the keeper is the mother duck and will try to imitate and learn from them. 

Duckling trying to walk like its owner. Notice how it tries to keep up with the pace.

Are ducks or chickens better pets?

Ducks are a good option for a pet poultry bird. This is if you are looking for friendly easy-going gentle pets. Keep in mind that you will have to overlook the messiness and noise. Ducks are more docile to each other than chickens. You can name your ducks and they will respond to their names. 

The average lifespan of ducks is 5 to 10 years. This is a similar lifespan for chickens. If taken good care of, they can live for up to 20 years. 

Are ducks easier to raise than chickens?

Ducks require extra care than chickens. This makes it a bit more labor-intensive to raise ducks than chickens. That said, both ducks and chickens have their own special needs and sometimes need to take care of in their own special way.

Work involved in raising ducks and chickens. 

Ducks and chickens have their own special needs. This calls for different tasks to meet these needs. The work involved in raising ducks and chickens intersects at some tasks. However, some tasks are unique to each and need to be planned for. Let us look at these tasks based on the needs of chickens and ducks 

ChickensDucksTask/Work Involved
Need roosts.Do not roost apart from Muscovy ducks.Provide roosts for chickens and Muscovy ducks. 
Need nesting boxes.Do not need nesting boxes since they lay on the nests they make on the floor.Provide nesting boxes for chickens.  Provide straw for ducks.  They will use these to make nests.
Do not niacin throughout their lives.Need Niacin throughout their lives for strong bones.Provide Niacin supplement for ducks.
Chicks a given medicated feed to act as prophylaxis against coccidiosis. Are not affected by coccidiosis, hence is no need for medicated feeds.Provide medicated feeds for chicks. 
Do not need water baths/pool. No task of cleaning the pool. Need water pools for dipping their heads in order to clean their noses, eyes, and beaks.
This means you will need to clean and fill their pool since they foul the water quickly. 
If you do not have a pond, provide water for ducks in a kiddie pool or shallow swimming pool. 
Clean the pool every two days. 
Refill the pool once the ducks splash out the water. 
You need to collect eggs multiple times in the day since they lay at any time of the dayDucks lay eggs between 4 am and 10 am. This means you can schedule to collect eggs once a day. You can also let them out of the coop after 10 when they are done laying. This will make it easy to collect eggs. Collect duck eggs once a day.
Collect chicken eggs several times a day 
No need to clean the coop daily. You might need to clean duck pens daily since they are messyClean duck pens on a daily basis
Chicken come back to their coop in the evening. Do not expect ducks to get into their coops in the evening. Be prepared to round them up. Otherwise, they will sleep out. 
Round ducks up and herd them to their coop or pens. 
Chickens will know when to get into their coops. No need to round them up
Chicks do not need supervision when in water, because they will not get into the waterDucklings love swimming, but they will drown when they get tired. This calls for the need for supervised swimming sessions. Supervise ducklings when they are swimming

Final Thoughts

Poultry keepers trying to decide whether to start with ducks or chickens, should first anaylyse the benefits and drawbacks when it comes to keeping chickens and ducks. The work involved should be considered and planned for accordingly. 

My advise would to be start with chickens, then decide whether it will be of added value to keep ducks.

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About James Polystead

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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