Ducks vs Chickens

ducks vs chickens

Ducks vs chickens is a big topic among poultry owners. Most people tend to be either team duck or team chicken. Then there are those who love them both… with a possible favourite. Both chickens and ducks have their own benefits and their own disadvantages. Ducks need a lot more water and make mud very easily. Chickens scratch up the ground and can jump/fly over a low fence. Some of their other differences are described below.

Noise Level

A very common question is “are ducks noisy?” And yes the females can be, but they are still quieter than chickens. Male ducks are very quiet compared to the females. This is quite the opposite of chickens, where the roosters are much louder than the hens. Because ducks are much quieter they are a good alternative if you live close to your neighbours but still want your own farm fresh eggs, or maybe just a couple backyard pets.

Life Span

Ducks live a lot longer than chickens do. Ducks can live up to 20 years, yet chickens only live 5-10 years. These numbers are an average. Some people will have their birds live longer and some may lose them earlier. In the end their breed along with their quality of life (nutrition, stress level, space to roam, etc) will play a large part in their life span.

Meat

Duck meat is tougher and fattier than chicken meat. It is more similar to the consistency of red meat but still considered a white meat due to duck meat being classified as poultry and its myoglobin content. It is prepared different than chicken or turkey and is a very common meat source for many parts of the world.

Chicken meat is the most common in the western world but duck meat is more common in China, Taiwan, Myanmar and France. According to Global Trade Mag “China (5.5M tonnes) remains the largest duck and goose meat consuming country worldwide, accounting for 76% of total consumption.”

Meat Production

Many people raise their birds for meat. Both ducks and chickens bred for meat are similar in weight. Chicken meat contains more protein and is richer in calcium, magnesium, and selenium and duck meat is higher in calories, fats, and most vitamins. Although duck eggs contain more cholesterol than chicken eggs, the duck meat itself actually contains less cholesterol than chicken meat.

Duck meat has a much stronger flavour than chicken or turkey. Even though ducks tend to have quite a bit more fat on them, it is mostly attached to the skin, so it can be easily removed.

Best Duck Breeds for Meat

  • Muscovy: grows up to 14 lbs
  • Jumbo Pekin: grows up to 11 lbs
  • Saxony: grows up to 10 lbs
  • Rouen: grows up to 9 lbs
  • Pekin: grows up to 7 lbs

Best Chicken Breeds for Meat

  • Jersey Giant: grows up to 13 lbs
  • Cornish Cross: grows up to 12 lbs
  • Orpington: grows up to 10 lbs
  • Buckeye: grows up to 9 lbs
  • Bresse: grows up to 7 lbs

Eggs

Appearance of Duck Egg vs Chicken Egg

Both chicken and duck eggs can come in various colours and sizes all depending on their breed. Smaller breed ducks can lay eggs similar in size to large chicken eggs, with the bigger duck breeds laying eggs up to two times the size.

Chicken eggs can be quite easy to crack yet duck eggs can be a bit more challenging due to their thicker shell and stronger membrane. For duck eggs its best to crack it on a flat surface rather than an edge. This can help avoid egg shells from entering your food. When you crack the eggs open you will notice the duck eggs have a larger yolk and clearer egg white.

Cooking Duck Eggs

Duck eggs can be used/ prepared in all the same ways chicken eggs can. Due to the higher protein and fat contents they are preferred by many bakers as they make your treats lighter, fluffier, and more flavourful.

Some say duck eggs have a stronger flavour yet others say they can’t taste the difference. The difference in taste may be caused by what is in their diet rather than duck vs chicken. One great thing about duck eggs is that some people who are allergic to chicken eggs can still eat duck eggs with no reaction.

Some people recommend staying away from duck eggs due to their high amount of cholesterol. Duck eggs contain 619mg of cholesterol compared to the 211mg that chicken eggs contain. Although previous health guidelines advised people to limit their intake of cholesterol, nutritionists have since discovered that it’s the type of cholesterol that needs to be limited.

benefits of duck eggs

Good and Bad Cholesterol

NHLBI Nutritionist Janet de Jesus best describes the two types of cholesterol. The HDL cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. It is created by the body to make hormones and bile acids. We can ingest the good cholesterol by eating foods from animal sources such as meat, organ meat, dairy foods, egg yolks, and shellfish. The cholesterol in your blood contains LDL cholesterol, which is referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

When we eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats it signals the liver to create more cholesterol. She states that “too much LDL cholesterol in the blood can combine with other substances in the blood and stick to the walls of your arteries, forming plaque which is a culprit in narrowing the arteries and leading to heart disease”

During a study in 2018, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people could safely eat up to 12 eggs per week with no adverse effects to their health.

Egg Production

Ducks generally lay all year round; though some stop if the winter gets too cold. Chickens on the other hand, usually slow down or stop for the fall/winter. Ducks also lay for more years compared to chickens. A duck typically lays eggs for 7-9 years with the first 3-5 being the most optimal and a chicken lays for 3-4 years with their optimal production lasting only 2-3 years. Below is a list of the best laying ducks and chickens. These numbers are averages and will vary depending on many factors including genetic line, diet, quality of life, and the climate they live in.

Best Laying Ducks Breeds

  • Welsh Harlequin: 250 to 350 cream-coloured eggs per year
  • Runner: 300-350 white and blue-green eggs per year
  • Campbell: 250-350 white to cream-coloured eggs per year
  • Magpie: 250-300 white, cream, blue, or green coloured eggs per year
  • Pekin: 200-300 extra-large white eggs per year
  • Anacona: 200-250 white, blue, cream, or green-coloured eggs per year
  • Silver Appleyard: 200-250 extra-large white eggs per year
  • Saxony: 150-250 white and blue-green eggs per year
  • Buffs: 150-200 large white to cream-colored eggs per year
  • Muscovy: 150-200 extra-large eggs per year
  • Cayuga: 100-150 cream or charcoal-coloured eggs per year

Best Laying chicken Breeds

  • Isa Brown: 300 large brown eggs per year
  • New Hampshire Red: 300 large brown eggs per year
  • Red Star: 300 medium-large eggs per year
  • Australorp: 250-350 large brown eggs per year
  • Rhode Island Red: 250-300 medium brown eggs per year
  • Golden Comet: 250-300 large brown eggs per year
  • White Leghorns: 250-300 medium white eggs per year
  • Speckled Sussex: 200-300 large brown eggs per year
  • Barred Plymouth Rock: 200-280 light brown eggs per year
  • Golden Laced Wyandotte: 200 large brown eggs per year
  • Barnevelder: 180-200 chocolate brown eggs per year
  • Ameraucana: 150-250 light blue eggs per year
  • Hamburg: 150-200 medium white eggs per year
  • Marans: 150-200 chocolate-coloured eggs per year
  • Ancona: 150-200 white eggs per year
  • Buff Orpington: 150-200 eggs per year
  • Welsummer: 150-160 dark brown eggs per year

Laying Cycles

Ducks will start laying eggs around 4-7 months old. Like human females, ducks are born with the exact number of eggs they will lay. The more they lay in a year the fewer years they will lay but it is continuous for 7-9 years, which is longer than the chicken’s 3-4 years. This depends largely on the breed and genetic line of duck.

Domestic ducks can begin laying at any time of year, climate depending. They generally lay their eggs between 4-8am however ducks can hold their eggs in if they have a preferred laying spot outside of their coop. This makes it very convenient when collecting eggs as they will have, most likely, all laid before you let them out in the morning.

Ducks can lay all winter as long as it doesn’t get too cold for too long. In somewhat mild climates, like the south-west coast of Canada, they can continue laying 5+ eggs a week all winter. If temperatures drop too low they will stop laying to conserve energy.

Chickens lay their eggs on a 26hr cycle. This means that they will lay a little later each day and you will have your whole flock laying at all hours of the day and night. This can be a pain when you want to collect eggs as they may not lay in the coop. Some chickens will go back to the same nest to lay their eggs and some will not.

In the winter when the days are shorter and colder chickens can slow down their production or stop all together. Chickens are not as cold hardy as ducks are. But, if you provide them with additional light and warmth through the winter your chickens will continue laying.

Overall Health

Unfortunately chickens are more susceptible to illness than ducks. Starting very young ducklings have the upper foot in surviving compared to chicks. Ducklings hatch with more feathers and a layer of fat. These will prevent the ducklings from catching a chill and getting sick.

Chickens need vaccines and worming treatments however, due to their hardiness, ducks do not need vaccines. Because ducks bathe daily, if they have access to water, they are less vulnerable from getting ticks or mites than chickens are.

Ducks do tend to be clumsier than chickens and can end up injuring themselves from just free ranging in your yard.

Diet

Chickens and Ducks can eat the same chicken feed as long as it is un-medicated. However, while ducks are still young, or if do not plan to free range them, they need additional niacin. If you are raising only ducks you can get a specialized duck feed that will have the added niacin they need. For more information on what you can feed ducks and how much, check out the post What Should I Feed My Ducks?

Chickens have a pointy beak and thuss are able to peck away at food scraps quite easily. Ducks have a rounded beak and require their food to be cut up small. Easy to tear or mushy foods (like leafy greens or watermelon) are fine to feed big as they will just rip it apart.

Water

Ducks require a lot more water than chickens do. They also require a deeper source of water to fully dunk their heads. Ducks dunk their heads to clear their nostrils and eyes. They also need water to help swallow their food.

Chickens are happy with bathing in the dirt; ducks need a water source to bathe. This can be anything from a large tote or kiddy pool, to a large pond. Ducks don’t care what it looks like, as long as they can get themselves clean.

Duck Housing vs Chicken Housing

Housings ducks is a little easier than chickens as ducks are happy with a small enclosure that is low to the ground with just bedding inside. Chickens on the other hand, require a place to roost as well as nesting boxes. A chicken’s coop can be much higher off the ground making them a great option for moveable chicken tractors. Some people have had success creating one for ducks, however, most say it’s not as easy for ducks. Both chickens and ducks require adequate ventilation to ensure good air flow to prevent mold and mildew.

Both ducks and chickens need the proper protection from predators while inside their coop. ¼ inch hardware cloth is recommended to cover any windows/ openings where rodents, mink, raccoons, foxes etc. could get in. If their coop floor is directly on the dirt you will need to dig 1ft down and 6 inches away from all sides of the coop and place hardware cloth to prevent any predator digging under neath.

Can you Compost Duck or Chicken Waste?

Yes for ducks and no for chickens. One of the great things about ducks is their waste (bedding and droppings) can be added directly to the garden. Caution should be taken around fruit and vegetable plants that are low to the ground to reduce the risk of ingesting bacteria from their poop. But it is great for all greenery/ flowering type gardens as well as to add to your garden beds when preparing them for winter.

If you have a small pool for your ducks you can empty it right into your garden, again just make sure it doesn’t go directly onto the fruits or veggies. Carefully pouring the water around the base of the plants will benefit them greatly. Pouring too aggressively and the water will splash up onto your produce.

When it comes to chicken waste, it is not the same. Chicken droppings and bedding need to be composted down before adding to the garden or it will burn the roots of the plants. Just put it in a pile and leave it for several months. Once it has composted down it can be added to the gardens.

Climate

All domestic duck breeds do well in all climates. They can be much more cold-hardy than chickens and can also handle the heat better. This is due to their protection from the rain via waterproofing and extra layer of fat to keep them warm. In the summer they are able to go for a dip in the pond to cool off.

Chicken breeds tend to be either cold-hardy or heat tolerant, so it’s more important for you to choose a breed of chicken that can handle your climate. A heat tolerant breed will not do as well in Alaska compared to a cold hardy breed.

Ducks vs Chickens for Pest Control

Ducks are the winners here. They are much better at pest control due to the fact that ducks will eat any bug or worm and has no problem chasing down and gobbling up whole slugs and snails. Chickens tend to be pickier with what creatures they will eat. Some chickens will eat any bug or slug they come across whereas other chickens won’t touch any of it, making them less reliable in the pest control department.

two Indian runner ducks foraging

Ducks love and thrive in the wet and rainy conditions, which is perfect as that is when the slugs and snails come out. When it’s raining chickens tend to hide and stay under a shelter providing you with no pest control. And overall, ducks eat a lot more slugs and snails per bird than chickens do. Chickens may eat a couple and then be more interested in eating your garden than searching for more bugs.

Several farmers have moved to duck pest control for their farms. They release the ducks out into their orchards in the morning, sometimes by the hundreds  to go and eat all the bugs and be a terrific organic option for pest control on a large scale. And you get the added bonus of fertilizer being spread around as they go.

Which has Better Personality, Chicken or Duck?

When looking at personality most people will say ducks have a lot more personality and more fun to watch. Ducks are much more accepting of new members and are not as aggressive in terms of pecking order. Chickens can be quite mean towards each other as well as new members and thus adding a temporary enclosure beside the current enclosure can help the old birds get used to the new birds without being able to harm them.

Roosters are also known for being very protective and can end up being aggressive towards people as well as predators. Unfortunately it mostly comes down to each individual rooster and their personality. Some roosters from the same clutch of eggs can be very aggressive and some may not be.

The same goes for drakes (male duck), although they do not pose as much of a danger to humans as roosters do. Roosters have spurs on the back of their feet for fighting with other males, drakes do not. Drakes can still be protective of their ladies and can chase you down and bite you. But you just have to pick him up and it all stops. Some drakes will only get aggressive during mating season and some will be aggressive all year. Again it comes down to each individual duck, along with how many females are being kept with him. If you have a higher female to male ratio they tend to be slightly less aggressive.

Trainability

Ducks are trainable and more intelligent than chickens. They are quite easy to corral back into their pen or coop using just your arms spread out to the side, or calling them. This does not work the same for chickens. Chickens tend to be more all over the place and don’t stay close together like ducks do. If you tried to herd them back to their coop they would go in all directions, whereas ducks will stay together and sometimes will go in an orderly fashion.

Both chickens and ducks can be trained to come when called by using the same noise or phrase every time you bring them treats. If you want hand tame birds it’s best to start early with both types of poultry. The more time you spend with them the friendlier they will become.

And now the most asked question in regards to keeping backyard poultry…

Are Ducks or Chickens Better for your Backyard?

Depending on the size of your backyard I would say ducks are better, as long as you keep your numbers down. If you don’t have a huge backyard than keeping just a couple ducks (minimum 2-3) will do just fine. They won’t scratch up all your grass and roots.

As stated above ducks are great at pest control and if given the opportunity to free range around your whole yard on a consistent basis they will greatly reduce the number of pests in the garden. They also add fertilizer everywhere they go. Their poos are quite wet and runny and thus get absorbed into the ground much quicker than the 6-9 months for chicken poo to decompose.

At the end of it all ducks are a better choice as long as you can handle their water situation. If you think you are ready for ducks check out 25 important things to know before getting ducks.

Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment below


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