Should You Get Ducks? Duck Pros & Cons

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Look at this face – who wouldn’t want a duck???

Should you get ducks?

They might be super cute, but are ducks right for you?  Let’s take a look at the Duck Pros & Cons

Pro: Duckling Cuteness!  All baby animals are irresistibly adorable, but honestly ducklings have to be right up there in the top five of Cutest Baby Animals Ever!  The sweet way they always look like they are smiling, their too big for their face bills and too big for their body flappy feet, the way they snuggle perfectly into your hand and imprint on their caretakers.  They are pretty darn adorable

Should you get ducks?

Cons:  Ducklings grow.  Really fast.  Within two weeks that sweet tiny duckling is over SEVEN times it’s original size.  Still cute of course, but leaning more towards awkward, gangly pre-teen years than adorable infant.  All that growth means they are tiny eating machines – and what goes in is going to come out.  Ducklings are a special kind of messy.  They are in a whole other level of messy from any other baby animals (including humans!) that I have cared for.  They are lucky they are so cute  Click here to read more about duckling care

Pro:  Adding ducks to an existing flock is easy.  Not counting hormonal, territorial drakes, female ducks are pretty chill about welcoming newbies to the group.  If you have a group of ladies and want to get more, most ducks think the more the merrier.  If you have experience with chickens, you know it can take weeks or even months for a flock to get used to a new addition.  Click here to read more about adding ducks to your flock

Con:  Ducks are loud.  If you don’t have close neighbors this isn’t a problem, but if you are backyard farming in a suburban neighborhood it could be a problem.  I have 6 ducks and 16 chickens and those 6 ducks definitely make way more noise than all the chickens.  Especially in the morning, they like to splash around their pool, quacking loudly.  When they are out free ranging, they like to talk to each other, often from across the yard.  One will quack, another will quack several times back, another one will join in.  Most of the time, it’s happy, excited quacking, but they quack for tons of reasons where as the chickens generally just make noise when they are laying eggs.  I don’t mind the duck noise, but it could be a problem with neighbors.  If neighbors are a problem, consider just getting a couple drakes, whose voices are quieter than females.

Should you get ducks?

Pro: Drakes are easier to live with than roosters.  If you want to be able to hatch out ducklings, or just have a drake around because they are cool looking they are easy to keep.  They are not great protectors like roosters, but that is a bonus in my book because that means they are not charging after and attacking me, my kids or my guests.  Not only are they nicer, they are quieter.  Unlike chickens, male ducks are quieter than female ducks.  Drakes have a quiet, raspy quack that will not send the neighbors knocking on your door at dawn like a rooster’s crow could!

Con:  Cleaning & Maintenance.  Compared with other backyard birds, ducks are a bit more work.  You have the standard feeding & cleaning up poop chores, but with ducks there is the additional chore of emptying & filling their pools.  Keeping ducks in clean water can feel like a never ending battle.  Not only will they dirty their pool, but they will try to swim in any available water including their water bowls.  All that splishing and splashing also leads to a lot of mud and muck in the pen area.

Should you get ducks?

Pro:  They are SO fun to watch!  Chickens are nice and relaxing to watch as they peck around the yard or flap in their dirt baths, but ducks are downright amusing!  Watching them swim and dive in even a small kiddie pool is hilarious.  There is something just so endearing and pure about how happy they get when you fill the pool with fresh water.  Watching them interact with each other is also fun, they are very expressive with their body language and love to “talk” to each other.  Turn on your garden sprinkler or show them a puddle and you’d think they won the lottery.

Should you get ducks?

for live action duck fun – check out this really short clip of my ducks on a recent unseasonably warm January day when they got some much missed pool time! 

Pro:  Tons of eggs!  The average duck will out lay the average hen over the course of her life.  Most breeds of ducks raised for eggs average 200-250 eggs per year.  That is pretty similar to a laying chicken.  But chickens will only lay at those levels for two, maybe three years before their productivity takes a sharp decline.  Ducks remain productive even into old age – 6, 7, even 8 or 9 years old.  Ducks are also more productive layers during the short winter days, while many chickens take the winter off.   Plus duck eggs are awesome for making baked goods light & fluffy!  Click here to read my post on duck eggs

Duck eggs are HUGE! Chicken egg on left, duck egg on the right

Duck eggs are HUGE! Chicken egg on left, duck egg on the right

Con:  Not everyone likes duck eggs.  They do have a slightly stronger “eggy” flavor.  Not too noticeable when used in baking or cooking, but you might notice it if you scramble them up or make an omelette.  Before getting ducks, try to find some duck eggs to see if you like them.  If you decide you want ducks even though you don’t like their eggs (totally reasonable!) you can always cook the eggs up for animal feed or barter them with someone who enjoys them.

Pro: They won’t tear up your garden.  Chickens are constantly scratching and digging.  They don’t care if it’s your lawn, your prized roses, your tomato seedlings….if they are awake they are scratching stuff up.  Ducks are not nearly as destructive.  They might nibble on your lettuce, but for the most part they don’t destroy things or make a mess of the garden.  And they are every bit as good at catching bugs and pests!  Now all bets are off if there is puddle in the garden – a muddy mess is pretty much guaranteed to happen in that case.

Should you get ducks?

I really love my ducks.  They are a lot of work and can make a mess of things, but they are an awesome addition to my little farm!  Shhhhhh, don’t tell my chickens, but I think the ducks are more fun to keep around 🙂

 


43 comments

  1. Corina says:

    I love our ducks sooo much! We have Anconas, an endangered breed. We happen to love duck eggs, so that works out just dandy. The only problem we ever had is when we incubated a batch of eggs and then introduced these new ducks to an older pair we had, the drake went nuts and beat them up.

  2. Beth Combs says:

    I have a question. I have had backyard chickens before, and we plan to get some this spring, but I have never had ducks before. My daughter really wants us to get a duck along with the chickens. My question is about housing. Can they be cooped together? Do they need a separate enclosure?

    • Liz says:

      Hi Beth, you can definitely house chickens and ducks together and they can live in the same run with a few accommodations. Ducks like to splash around and make a muddy mess, chickens don’t like that. So if you can provide a wet area for the ducks in your run and a dry area where the chickens can escape that is perfect. As far as the coop goes, most ducks do not like to roost at night like chickens, so they will just sleep on the floor in the hay. Try to give them a space to sleep that isn’t under the chicken roosts (so they don’t get pooped on all night!).

  3. Kimberly Lyons says:

    I have 6 Ancona ducks 1drake & 5 hens for about 2 years now and I also have chickens and horses and by far ducks are the hardest on our yard. They love to dig huge holes and make them into mud puddles . They have their own pool and use it daily but that doesn’t seem to matter they still love to make a mess. We have a large farm and we still have to walk around and fill huge spots in the yard… I love them and they are funny to watch but I don’t think I will be out to get anymore after these are gone.

    • Barbara Gillihan says:

      thank you Kemberly. That is the answer to a question I was going to raise… mud puddle all over the yard. We also have a nice size pond near our chicken coop. We free range most of the time, chickens coming in at night and staying in coop in bad weather. Will the ducks head for the pond? be safe from turtles? hawks? come back in at night with the chickens?

  4. Katie says:

    Can you have just a single duck + she’s happy? Seems like they are very social. I don’t want a whole flock. Maybe just 1-4 ducks in a few years after we move.

    • Liz says:

      They are very social. I would not recommend keeping a single duck unless you intend to have it live in the house with you so you can be it’s flock (don’t laugh, people do this!). You don’t need a huge flock for them to be happy, just at least two (I would recommend all female ducks in a small flock) so they can keep each other company

  5. Erin Britton says:

    Great article! I really enjoyed it. I agree about the unbridled JOY that they exhibit when their pool is filled with super fresh water!
    I have two four-month-old cayugas that I have raised from day old ducklings. Our new puppy likes to nibble at the perimeter of their pen, sometimes eating or chewing on their poop. I am worried about sicknesses that dogs can get from ducks. Do you have dogs on your homestead? What are your thoughts on this?
    Thanks.

    • Liz says:

      There is nothing quite like ducks in their pool lol! We have two dogs, a lab mix & a border collie mix, plus my daughter’s little dog that visits nearly every day. Our birds free range most of the day in the yard so the dogs unfortunately have full access to a poop buffet. Luckily none of them go crazy eating poop, but I have certainly caught them nibbling it. Lots of dogs love to eat poop and for the most part it is harmless as long as your birds are healthy (but I wouldn’t encourage it!). What is more dangerous is if your dog likes to drink out of your duck’s pool and you don’t keep up with the cleaning. Stagnant duck water will grow algae which can be deadly if your dog laps up too much of the water.

  6. Jessica says:

    I’m deciding between chickens or ducks and I’ll be honest I’m leaning more towards ducks, but I need to be clear on one thing first. Kitchen scraps. One reason I wanted chickens to begin with was because I could toss them the majority of our fruit/veggie scraps. What about ducks? Can they eat scraps like chickens can?

    • Liz says:

      The ducks are definitely pickier. They will eat some kitchen scraps, but if you really want to reuse those scraps, chickens are definitely the way to go

  7. Stephanie says:

    Can you clip the wings of a duck to keep him from flying away? There is a large pond down the road from us and afraid he might like it better.

    • Liz says:

      Most domesticated duck breeds have been bred to be too heavy for flight (some exceptions include Moscovies & Mallads) so it might not be a problem, but you can also clip their wings. There are tons of tutorials on YouTube to help you do it properly

      • Stephanie Chamblee says:

        Thanks for your help!
        Also, is it ok to house 8 chickens and 2 ducks together? I can not free range them. I will have a 10 x10 area fenced in for them. I know I’ll have to have an area for them to have water, not sure the easiest, most convenient way. If you have any tips, please let me know! Thanks for your help!

        • Liz says:

          You can definitely house them together, my chickens and ducks share a run (although most of the year they are able to free range). When we added the ducks, we made a little bump out off the side of the run (we call it the lanai lol), it’s basically just a 6×6 addition ro the run where we keep the duck pool so it’s not taking up space in the main run.

  8. Danielle says:

    I adopted two baby ducks after Hurricane Harvey when the mom didn’t come back for them. We are entertaining the idea of raising them as pets and modifying our yard to accommodate them and built a small pond for them to swim. Is that ok even though they are from the wild?

    • Liz says:

      You can definitely welcome them and make a place for them in your yard! Depending on the breed & local regulations it might be illegal to keep them as pets (as in keeping them in an enclosure or clipping their wings so they can’t fly away), so I would check with your local wildlife extension if you are thinking of doing that. But there should not be any rules on building a pond or shelter for them to enjoy, or feeding them. Before you invest a lot of money, I would also make sure the ducklings plan to stick around. Domestic duck breeds are generally bred to be too fat to fly more than a couple feet. Wild duck breeds obviously are capable of flying away, or even migrating. It’s so nice of you to take these little guys in, ducklings really do depend on their mom for everything and likely wouldn’t make it with someone helping them out. I hope you, your family & home are all safe from the storm!

  9. Marissa says:

    Hello, we are looking at adding ducks to our farm. We have 16 chickens right now but in the spring when we get chicks we have a separate pen for the chicks in the barn. Would the ducks be able to stay in that pen at night, it is about 8×7? Also would you recommend a male and a female or 2 females? We are not looking at hatching during this time.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Marissa, as long as the 8×7 pen is safe from predators, it would be fine for them to sleep in. My ducks have an house that doesn’t have a door so it is open all the time. The house is connected to the secure chicken run. 90% of the time, the ducks choose to sleep outside in the run rather than in their house. I would suggest putting some type of 3 sided enclosure in there (an old dog house would work well) just in case they want somewhere to hide. If you are not looking to hatch ducklings I would definitely recommend 2 females

  10. Rayna says:

    I am looking into getting some ducks and/or chickens. We live right alongside a river, and I’m just wondering if the ducks would wonder over to it and decide not to come back home. It’s a couple hundred yards away. Also I have a blue Heeler dog and am looking into training him to herd animals which is why I am leaning more towards getting ducks. He’s just turning one this week and is super gentle and has great manners just wondering if he will be good with them.

    • Liz says:

      You will want to be sure to establish your yard as their home before turning them loose on the river. I would suggest fencing off an area in the yard for them to be for at least a couple months. They will definitely wander a couple hundred yards for swimming, and will have a blast doing it! I would stay away from Mallards and Muscovys as those breeds are more likely to take off on you. Most other ducks will happily waddle home to the safety and food in your yard. My ducks free range in my yard all day and come back to the run on their own when it starts to get dark. Chickens are not a great choice if you are hoping to use your dog to herd. They tend to scatter when chased by a predator instead of herding together. I have definitely seen online videos of people that trained very patient dogs to track down all their chickens, but ducks are much easier to herd!

  11. Stefanie says:

    Very helpful! We had chickens in the past and I used the deep litter method in their coop. Can I do this for ducks too? With lots of very young children around (and being pregnant) I try to avoid cleaning the coop but my husband likes being able to do it much less often, so deep litter worked great for us. Also, do they need water at night if we lock them in the coop but have water in the run that they can have in the morning? We lost our flock to hawks so I’m wary of free ranging ducks.

    • Liz says:

      You can definitely do deep litter with ducks. Just be sure you are stirring it regularly as you would with chickens. If you have food in the house, you need to offer water for the ducks too because if they eat without drinking they could choke. So either take the food & water during the night, or find a way to give them access to a secure outdoor run at night with the water. I would not recommend putting the water inside because they are going to make a huge mess with it, making the bedding all wet and moist which could lead to frostbite

  12. Diane says:

    I have a huge pond where I live which is a townhouse development there are geese that visit but want to add a couple of ducks should I get 2 drakes since I don’t want babies or eggs and I don’t want noise
    Do I need to have a coop even if there is a little of woods by?

    • Liz says:

      The problem with introducing domesticated ducks to a pond is that domestic ducks have been bred over generations to be too large to fly (farmers don’t want their ducks to fly away!). Ducks are really slow on land. So they will have very little protection from predators. So you will definitely want to have a little house that you can close them up securely in each night. If you are going the route of them being your pets that your townhouse development is ok with you free ranging in the pond, a male/male pair would be fine. Once you teach them where their home is, they should return to the coop each night and then you just have to close it up at dusk. If you aren’t really planning on feeding & sheltering them and just want to enjoy some ducks on the pond I would recommend getting a male/female pair of Mallards (this is how they live in the wild, if you get a male/male pair they will just leave to find a mate). Unlike most domestic breeds which are raised for eggs or meat, Mallards are mostly raised for dog training or hunting preserves so they want them to retain the ability of flight. You can purchase Mallards from most duck hatcheries, but they are still small enough to fly and smart enough to really forage like their wild cousins. Depending on your climate, they will likely fly south in the winter, but ducks are very habitual animals and they almost always return to the place of their birth each season (and their female offspring are likely to also come back each year if the pond can support them). But it’s worth noting that the geese that already live there might be very unhappy to have newcomers on the pond and could chase them off. Geese can be very territorial, especially during spring (mating season)

  13. Danyel says:

    I am considering getting ducks this spring. We have a pond. We rescued baby mallards a few years ago and raised them until they migrated. Would raising domestic ducklings be the same? Should a coop be close to the pond? Our yard isn’t fenced, will they wander next door? How noisy are they?

    • Liz says:

      As far as care of them goes, it would be pretty similar but domestic duck breeds are bred to be too big to fly so they will not be migrating. They also will not be as good at foraging as wild ducks so you will be providing most of their food. Which means caring & housing for them will be a year round activity. The coop doesn’t necessarily need to be close to the pond. You will want to make it conveniently located to your house so you can easily close the coop at night and open it in the morning, and for cleaning, feeding, etc.

      • Liz says:

        opps hit reply too soon! yes, they will definitely wander into the neighbor’s yards and roads. If you can fence off an area with a 4 foot wire fence that can help keep them out of the neighbor’s. Domestic ducks spend more of their time on land than wild ducks, so while they will enjoy swimming in the pond, a lot of their days will be on land digging through the grass looking for bugs. They aren’t super noisy if you just have a few. The females are louder than the males, but mine are loudest in the morning when I’m out feeding them (yelling at me to hurry up lol), and during mating. During the day, it’s more of a couple quacks here and there that shouldn’t bother the neighbors too much. If these are just pets, I would recommend just getting all females. It will cut down on fighting and mating which are two of the times they are loudest

  14. Robert Hebekeuser says:

    We live on a small off grid homestead in northern Michigan , there’s a small river that runs thru the entire property, will I be able to keep a few ducks , free ranging, or will they get in the river not come back

    • Liz says:

      It’s hard to say. If you free range them I would give them a solid 6 months in a fenced off area first so they really get the idea that this is their home, this is where their food is, their shelter is. Ducks like to find some place secure at night and they are creatures of habit (just look at migrating ducks that fly hundreds of miles just to return to the same pond each year). I would stay away from Mallards or Muscovies as many of them can still fly and are more adventurous than other domesticated breeds

  15. Patricia lowry says:

    I have been feeding the Millard ducks where I live and now they are attacking the female who has just 7 ducklings but only has 4 left. The mum tries to come over to me for feeding at least 3 times a day with her ducklings and most times the mallard are waiting for her and chase her and then at least 4 to 5 M allards on top of her. She always manages to get to her babies. It’s so distressing to see. I don’t know what to do for the best.should I stop feeding the M allards all the time?

    • Liz says:

      Unfortunately, during mating season that is totally normal behavior. The males get a little crazy and will gang up on a female. So even though you feeding her is what is enticing her to come out, I don’t think they are really fighting over the food. It’s likely more about mating rights. It can be really distressing to watch, hopefully as the summer comes on they will settle down. You might want to stop feeding them for a couple weeks while mama’s ducklings get bigger so they don’t get hurt by one of the males. The babies grow really fast and are usually on their own after 5-7 weeks

  16. Jessica says:

    I am doing my research and preparing for duck next year. We live on 3.5 acres so we have plenty of space, but we also have an above ground pool 53″ high). Can the domesticated duck (supposedly they don’t fly?) get up into the pool? Will that hurt them? It is chlorinated, not saltwater.

    • Liz says:

      It’s really unlikely they could get up that high. I have a four foot fence around my free range area and my ducks can’t even come close to flying over it. Their “flying” is really them just running around with their wings flapping lol. *maybe* they get a 5-6 inches off the ground. If you get small call ducks, Mallards or Muscovies they can usually fly though. They definitely shouldn’t be allowed to drink the chlorinated water.

  17. Jessica says:

    Perfect! Thank you for the VERY prompt reply! I really enjoy your page and have bookmarked for future reference. 🙂

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