So, you want fresh eggs for yourself?
Well, if you have a backyard with fence you probably can own chickens or ducks to satisfy you egg needs. Both of these fowl have their positives and negatives, but in today’s blog I will tell you all you need to know to make your basic decision on whether owning some of these useful creatures. You, of course, do need to check with your local laws on owning chickens or ducks if you live in town- or even certain counties have laws about “farm animals” on x amount of outside space. After checking into your local jurisdictions laws then you are ready to dive into the adventure of owning ducks, chickens, both or more.
So… Why own either?
The primary reason most homesteaders(No matter how big or small your homestead may be) own chicken or ducks is for eggs. Others also raise these and other fowl for meat as well, but today we will focus on eggs. A decent chicken or duck will lay 200+ eggs a year. Yes that is one duck or chicken. Now say you have 5 ducks or hens. That means you will get, on average, 1000 eggs a year. Unless you go through a ton of eggs, that is more than you will ever really need. You can usually sell or barter farm fresh eggs if you really have a surplus as well.
Chickens come in a wide variety or breeds, sizes, temperaments and colors. They lay a wide variety or size and color eggs depending on their breed. They are the common eggs you are most likely used to and have all the regular uses. Depending on the breed(s) you acquire you may be able to have them in a very small area or they may need a larger roaming zone. Chickens generally will need a hen-house of some sort and will lay in a nest box as long as you supply one.
Depending on your breed and whether or not you have a rooster, some chickens will go broody and hatch you our chicks that you can either sell or raise for more egg producers. Chickens are common, generally easy and inexpensive to get and start as chicks. They usually start laying eggs between 17 and 22 weeks old depending on their breed and nutrition. Chickens are generally not seasonal layers and will lay eggs most of the year. The amount of light they get can influence their laying and during the heaviest of winter they may back off or completely stop laying eggs until spring. Putting a light in their hen-house can help them continue laying all year long.
Hen chickens are generally far quieter than hen ducks for the most part. Chickens generally will lay well for 3-5 years before needing to be replaced by younger stock. Depending on the breed of chicken you get some can become very tame and even pet like.
Ducks come in almost as many different varieties as chickens. They come in many different colors and a few different sizes. I will primarily just focus on the more common “farm” ducks that most homesteaders can raise for eggs. That’s right, people do eat duck eggs. What is the difference between them and chicken eggs? Well, ducks usually lay large- x-large eggs. They have larger yolks which contain more protein but also more cholesterol and fat. Some say duck eggs have a different flavor, a more “gamey” flavor, but I never really noticed a difference but then I was used to the flavor of farm fresh chicken eggs first.
Ducks don’t generally need much of a hen-house. They will appreciate an area where they can get out of bad weather when they choose, but usually they will not seek out a house like chickens want. They also will lay their eggs wherever they want so you may be having a bit of an egg hunt sometimes. They lay eggs about as well as chickens and rarely does winter stop them from laying. Most farm duck breeds lay 200+ eggs a year.
When ducks begin laying depends a lot on when they were hatched. Generally a duck hatched in early spring will begin laying at between 6 and 8 months old, but if they are hatched later they may not lay until the next spring. Once they start laying they generally only takes breaks when molting, which chickens do as well. Ducks eggs generally lay white, off-white, grey, brown, bluish or greenish eggs depending on the breed of duck. I find ducks to be less maintenance overall and easier to care for than chickens.
What’s the Drawbacks?
Well, all animals have their own issues and things that may turn people away from them. Here I will list a few things about both chickens and ducks that may convince you they are not right for you.
- Nearly always need a hen-house to be comfortable and productive.
- Roosters(if you decide to have one) can be very loud a few times a day.
- Are prone to getting parasites, both external and internal.
- Some roosters and even, rarely, some hens can get aggressive.
- Depending on the breed, can be sensitive to summer or winter weather.
- Generally have to clean hen-house on occasion to prevent smell.
- Love making mud puddles and can drill into wet ground to make small holes.
- Generally require more time and patience to tame down to pet level.
- Lay eggs any and everywhere.
- They act hungry all the time and will eat like little feathered pigs.
- Hen ducks are the loud ones, drakes rarely even quack.
- Can be harder to sex until full gown.
I hope this has helped you decide between ducks and chickens or encouraged you to try both. There are so many more positives than negatives to having a few of these fabulous fowl around. Did you know that farm eggs are healthier and can last several months? I will get more in to the benefits of farm eggs vs store-bought in another article. Until then, I wish you the best in learning and expanding your self-sufficient lifestyle.
To your prosperity,