Benefits of Ducks on Family Farms

I love ducks.  I feel blessed to have a duck flock and for my children to grow up around them.  WP_20160818_15_35_28_Pro.jpgIn fact, if I was forced to choose only one species of poultry for my farm (a choice I’d hate to make), I may very well choose ducks.

But, why?

  1. Ducks are adorable. WP_20160818_15_10_43_Pro.jpgThis is a fact. They are adorable as day-old ducklings, and they are one of the few creatures on this earth that retain close to that same level of “adorable-ness” even as adults. There is something about their little, beady eyes, their waddle, how they shake their little tails and their excitement over water that I think would cause even the grumpiest old hermit to crack a smile.
  2. Ducks are entertaining.  When it comes to water, ducks are fun to watch. During a rain shower, we watched our ducks stand under a drizzle of water coming off the roof. Some were succeeding in catching this water mid-air in their rapidly-striking bills while others just tipped their heads up and basked in this stream of fresh, cold water pouring on their heads and washing down their backs. They looked so relaxed and content that I’m sure it felt like the equivalent of a hot shower after a really long weekend with no running water. We actually paused our dinner to watch it.
  3. Ducks are a good choice for efficient eggs and meat.
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    Eggs from our ducks. The black and gray eggs come from our Cayugas, while the Anconas and Blue Swedish lay creamy-white eggs.

    Chickens cannot match the feed-to-egg ratio that ducks possess. Ducks can survive on very little purchased feed compared to chickens, given they have access to plenty of green spaces daily. The Khaki Campbell (KC) duck can lay up to 300-340 eggs each year.

    KC duck
    Khaki Campbell duck and drake http://www.metzerfarms.com

    This matches the better-known egg-laying machine, the White Leghorn chicken, but ducks can lay years longer and on less feed.  For those interested in self-sufficient farming and homesteading, the duck would be the obvious choice for egg production.  For meat production, the Pekin breed is the fastest-growing, heaviest meat duck and Cayugas are a good heritage dual-purpose duck, providing eggs and meat, though not the best at either.

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    Our calm and gentle drake, a Cayuga

    Now that we know how much we love ducks and their eggs, I’m excited to expand my flock next spring with a handful of KC ducklings.

     

  4. Duck eggs have benefits over chicken eggs.  Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs and richer in vitamins, protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
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    Duck egg on left, chicken egg on right

    The shell of a duck egg is a little thicker, allowing them to stay fresher longer.  Since they contain more albumin, cakes and breads made with duck eggs are fluffier and rise higher. Also, people with chicken egg allergies may be able to eat duck eggs. But how do duck eggs taste? Like chicken eggs! I can’t tell the difference at all. A couple members of my family can detect a slight difference, but I’d like to give them a blind taste test and quiz them on which is which. 😉

     

  5. Ducks are low-maintenance. WP_20160818_16_07_36_Pro.jpgThey need water, no doubt. One could raise ducks with just a simple chicken waterer, and the ducks would live, but for ducks to thrive (and provide buckets of free entertainment) throw a kiddie pool on the ground or dig a pond, then pull up a chair to enjoy.
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    The necessary preening after a swim

    Besides access to water, they need shade during the day and protection at night. We keep our ducks in a coop at night to protect them from coyotes, foxes and mink, otherwise they free-range the homestead and we haven’t lost a single one. They have their favorite hang-outs and never stray far from the area near our home and barn.

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    Foraging around the homestead

    Supply a small amount of feed and you will have yourself a happy flock of productive, useful ducks.

  6. Ducks eat destructive garden bugs, like the Japanese beetle.  Many people use ducks in orchards and gardens for natural pest control, while their manure fertilizes the plants and trees.  They’ll forage small plants and even amphibians and reptiles around the farm.
  7. Ducks are kid-friendly.  You don’t need to worry about your ducks bothering small children.  You may need to worry about your children bothering the ducks, though.  Unless raised as a single pet, ducks form bonds with each other and avoid human contact.  I let the kids hold a duck once in a while, but I don’t allow them to chase them around the farm often.

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    Ancona ducks (black and white) resting with a Cayuga (black)
  8. Ducks warm your heart. There have been a couple instances where the ducks have surprised me with their seeming ability to care emotionally for others. WP_20160818_15_10_09_Pro.jpg

Ready for story time?

One day as I was putting dinner on the table, Elijah alerted me to a duck situation. I took one look out the dining room window, at my motionless Ancona duck lying flat in some grass while her flock mates happily played in a puddle, and I announced she was dead. She sure looked dead. I was disappointed, sad and confused. She happened to be my favorite duck, and she was perfectly fine but an hour ago. I went out to her and I could tell she was still alive, but barely. She made no attempt to flee from my presence, nor when Ryan pulled up in his vehicle, mere inches from where she lay. I figured it was a matter of time, and although it sounds ridiculous, I placed my hands on my poor little duck and prayed for her to be healed. Still, she lay there. I hoped she wasn’t suffering, and if she was to die, that she would do so quickly. What surprised me is, suddenly, a couple of the other ducks began gathering alongside their failing member. It seemed as if they were comforting her. One laid her neck over the top of the sick duck, while another snuggled in beside her. I was touched that they noticed her condition and now I can’t help but believe ducks care how others in their flock are feeling. While that is the point of this story, I want to tell what happened to the sick duck.  I decided that if my duck pulled through, I’d name her Mirabelle, because her recovery would be a miracle. We gently moved her to the coop where she’d be safe and a couple hours later, Mirabelle was standing and preening her feathers. Shortly thereafter, she had fully rejoined her flock. Lately Mirabelle has been providing us with an egg almost every morning and I’m so happy to have my favorite duck back, quacking and waddling, where she belongs.

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Mirabelle, good as new

The next incident that gave me new respect for ducks happened just last night. The chickens and ducks were gathering around the entrance to their coop as the sun was sinking in the evening sky.  The roosters seemed a bit frisky, both challenging our red broiler cockerels and jumping on a hen or two.  I guess one of our Blue Swedish ducks wasn’t going to stand for anymore unsavory behavior at this late hour because when one of our hens began squawking in response to our rooster, the Blue Swedish launched an attack against him.  She chased him off the hen and ran him a few yards away.  He wisely kept his distance while that duck stood guard, her body positioned between him and the hens, her beady eye fixed upon him.

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Blue Swedish duck

All I could do was exchange disbelieving glances with Ryan.  I’m still trying to figure out why this duck cared one way or another about the hens, as they typically don’t associate much at all.

I love sharing this farm with our ducks. They add interest, charm and entertainment.  They provide us with delicious, large eggs and meat for the table.

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Ducks in a row

They are thrifty and efficient, making them a clear winner for anyone who wants farm-fresh goodness with low feed costs.

 

Becca

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4 thoughts on “Benefits of Ducks on Family Farms

  1. We live on a property with shared green space that includes 2 large ponds and ducks, they will even come in our yard. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a HUGE selling point. We enjoy them throughly and regularly feed them. We also enjoy the Canadian geese and the white geese we regularly have. Luckily our white geese are tame, I’ve heard and seen they can often be aggressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve talked about adding a small number of geese to our farm, too! I hope if we raise them as goslings they will be tame and friendly. I’ve read they can quickly become pets, with their likeable personalities and antics! 🙂

      Like

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