If you’re a naturally curious person, you might be wondering why farmers keep ducks…or why anyone would for that matter! After all, Chickens may be the most popular bird to keep on a farm for the ease of raising them and the many purposes they fulfill, but ducks also have their own merits.
I recently had a chat with an excited friend that’s starting their homesteading journey and they had a lot to say about the purpose of ducks on a farm.
Some of the reasons why farmers keep ducks are that they produce eggs that are healthier than chicken eggs, their meat is very flavorful, they can help with pest control and lawn maintenance. They’re also easy to take care of, and are full of personality.
If you’re looking to start a homesteading or farm project yourself (or you’re just really curious about ducks on a farm), keep reading: I’ll explain these reasons in more depth…
Interested in more bird facts? Check out my article “Can Birds Move Their Eggs or Their Babies?”
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Why Have Ducks on a Farm: What Is Their Purpose?
Every year, there are nearly 31 million ducks grown in the U.S., which are then exported to other countries. There are many different breeds of ducks on the market, to name a few:
- White Pekin
Each breed has unique characteristics that make them well-suited to specific purposes. For example, the White Pekin is incredibly popular for its tender and less gamey meat.
There’s an incredibly high demand for these birds, but why? Here are 7 of the most common reasons to keep ducks…
#1: Ducks are Good Egg-Layers
For many homesteaders or farmers, this is the main reason why they keep ducks on their farms. While it does depend on your tastebuds, many say that duck eggs are tastier than your run-of-the-mill chicken eggs.
What’s more, they’re also healthier — when you compare the vitamin and mineral content per 1 gram of egg, duck eggs win over chicken eggs.
NOTE: If you don’t feed ducks a healthy diet, their eggs won’t necessarily be healthier than chicken eggs.
Depending on the duck breed you choose to raise on your property, you might find that they can keep up with (or even lay more than) egg-laying hens. If you choose a good laying breed, you can find your female ducks laying one egg per day.
#2: Ducks Produce Great Meat
Duck meat can be a great source of protein – 25% of your daily intake! They’re also rich in vitamins and minerals, such as:
- iron – 50% of daily intake
- B vitamins
- omega fatty acids
Compared to other poultry meat, duck meat might not be the healthiest because of its high-fat content. However, that’s exactly what makes it so flavorful. Duck is a popular type of meat enjoyed around the world, especially in Asia.
#3: Ducks Produce Feathers
Duck feathers can bring in additional income if you’re trying to make a profit on your farm. Their feathers can be used in a wide range of products, such as:
- down pillows
#4: Ducks Make an Enthusiastic Pest Control
Ducks love gobbling down grubs and bugs. This near-insatiable appetite makes them a strong candidate for organic pest control. Unlike chickens, they don’t have a habit of scratching at the ground, so you can trust your lawn or garden will remain intact.
To find the creepy crawlies, they like nosing their bills through the top inch of loose soil in order to find anything that moves. Time and again, a healthy flock of poultry has been shown to reduce the population of ticks and other bugs around a property.
#5: Ducks Offer Protection for Smaller Chickens
Unlike the more docile chickens, ducks (and their close cousins, geese) can be much more aggressive. Larger than chickens, they can provide protection by intimidating some of the predators that typically threaten chickens, such as:
- other rodents
At times, they will actively chase them off — ducks are even known to kill and eat mice and geese are fully capable of hissing a neighborhood dog away.
NOTE: Ducks can still be threatened by larger predators like foxes and coyotes, but they at least provide an additional level of protection for the smaller, gentler chickens.
#6: Ducks Help With Lawn Maintenance
Ducks can be great at helping you clean up your lawn and garden plots — they like snacking on weeds like dandelions and can reduce the amount of foliage you have to maintain. You might even find that you have to mow your grass less often.
When preparing your plots for the next season, or if you’ve just finished harvesting, ducks will be more than happy to follow you around and nose about for any bugs in hiding, as well as eat up any roots, plants, or seeds left behind.
#7: Ducks Provide Free Fertilizer
Ducks enjoy foraging and waddling about, but they’re not particularly mindful of their droppings — they don’t have sphincter muscles, which means they’re incapable of controlling when and where they poop.
This is actually a big plus — their propensity for walking around will mean that their droppings are spread out over the area instead of concentrated in one spot. This will improve overall soil quality and help fertilize plants around the area.
Pros and Cons of Keeping Ducks on a Farm
Of course, keeping ducks isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons to help you decide if you want a duck for your farm:
Advantages of keeping ducks on a farm
- They Have Great Entertainment Value – Watching ducks quack and waddle about can be quite a fun experience. You’ll notice that they like chattering to each other and to anyone that listens. They have more personality than other backyard animals, and they can also be incredibly loyal. If you raise them from ducklings, they can imprint on you and form a bond for life.
- They Are Easy To Care For – Ducks are incredibly easy to herd. Even if you just walk slowly with an arm out, they’ll be inclined to follow. The same can’t be said of chickens. Certain breeds of duck are also extremely hardy and good at adapting to the weather, which is good if you’re in an area with a cold climate.
- They Don’t Eat Their Own Eggs — Sometimes, chickens can end up with this bad habit. If conditions are particularly bad, they can even start eating each other. Ducks tend to be less prone to this behavior.
Disadvantages of Keeping Ducks on a Farm
- Ducks Can Be Noisy – The enthusiastic quacking of ducks might provide great ambiance for a farm, but if you have neighbors nearby, they likely won’t appreciate hearing it throughout the day.
- They’re Messy – Remember how ducks don’t control where they poop? That does come with its downsides. Their droppings are typically both larger and runnier than chicken or turkey droppings, which can quickly turn their enclosure into a nasty bog.
- They Need a Pond To Swim In – Ducks need water to swim in, so a duck pond is a must. If you live in an area where water freezes over in the winter, you’ll have to find a way to keep the water from freezing. You’ll also need to dedicate time and effort to cleaning and maintaining the pond.
Can You Keep Other Animals Instead of Ducks That Serve the Same Purpose? If So, Which Ones?
At the end of the day, ducks are just one type of poultry you can keep on the farm. If you want to keep animals that serve the same purpose and require a similar standard of care, your main options are:
- Chickens also produce eggs and meat and are relatively easy to keep
- Geese are larger and more difficult to wrangle but are very similar to ducks
- Turkeys are very large and are favored for their meat
- Guinea fowl are raised mainly for meat
If you thought that chickens were the only bird you could raise on a farm, you’re missing out! Ducks can offer many of the same products as chickens (such as meat and eggs), but you’ll have the bonus of their fierce protective instincts, along with hours of entertainment value from their quacking and waddling about. If you’re planning on starting a farm, consider getting some ducks — raising them is sure to be a unique experience.
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