Being that we've been getting set up with our natural spring well, it's the first year that we've had the space or land to grow our own food, and we've taken on several landscaping projects, we've become frequent customers at Tractor Supply Co. (TSC).
A couple of months ago during one of my many visits to the store, I noticed they were selling baby chicks and ducklings. They only sale them for a month or two, and you have to buy at least six to be able to get any at all. I didn't ask them why they use this particular policy of six, but after doing some research learned that ducks are a very social species, and they have to be around other ducks to be happy, or they have to have imprinted on a human and think that they are also humans.
I would go to TSC at least once a week during this time, and every time would visit the fuzzy little poultry and listen to them chirp. I could have been more spontaneous, and just bought them the first time I seen them. However, I did know that it was a big responsibility, and that I wasn't even aware of what I would be getting into. Also, we didn't know anything about building coops or anything like that. So, I went on visiting for probably a month, then started googling different articles before I even made it out of the store.
The first decision was which ones do we want, chickens or ducks??
I read through several different posts on Pinterest. "Why you need ducks", "Why you want to raise chickens", "Why ducks aren't for you", "Why you'll regret getting chickens", etc. No matter how many articles I read, nothing could teach me what I was about to get into when I made a decision. It's a lesson you won't truly learn until you actually make your purchase.
There are some amazing comparison charts on Pinterest to help you decide if you want chickens or ducks.
These are the top 5 reasons we chose ducks:
1. To scoop their POOP!
Duck poop is an amazing natural fertilizer, and unlike chicken poop, you can put it straight into the garden. Chicken poop is great for soil as well, you just have to adjust the carbon to nitrogen balance by using a type of hot compost recipe before you can put it on your garden. I didn't read very much about this process, just knew I wanted poop easier to use then this.
2. Eat bugs, not the garden
Of course, ducks like to eat sprouts as well as chickens do...but ducks are a lot less invasive in the garden WHILE they still eat the pests that like to munch on the leafs of veggies and produce. Chickens are great to use in a Permaculture system to till a garden or compost pile for you, it just takes more effort when you have to process their poop.
Ducks are easier on the land, as they don't scratch it up with their feet. That being said, those big duck feet can trample over some sprouts, but it hasn't been much of an issue for me. It doesn't take much of a barrier to keep them out of any given area. Ducks also hunt for garden pests like snails and slugs. Some breeds, like the Muscovy, will hunt down tics, flies and other parasites for a tasty treat. Natural garden protection team? YES PLEASE!
3. Why, EGGS of course!
Duck eggs are bigger then chicken eggs, or at least most breeds are. The nutritional value of eating duck eggs varies per source, but they have at least the same amount of nutrients as chickens do. Some sources say they have more, while others say they have the same.
As a side note, eating any kind of egg produced by a duck OR chicken that has been pastured, produces an eggs with more vitamins and minerals then an egg bought at the grocery store. Rather you buy chicken or eggs from the grocery, you're participating in the cruel treatment to chickens that are hatched, harvested and raised with little room to walk, let alone having the opportunity to graze and consume a variety of natural nutrients.
4. What a healthy little duck
Duck's are a hardier species then chickens, they're immune to most of the parasites that ail chickens. We wanted an egg source that was low maintenance without ringing in a huge vet bill. According to Lisa Steele, who has written several articles at HobbyFarms.com and Fresh Eggs Daily about natural poultry care, a duck's immune system is pretty superior to a chickens.
A duck’s normal internal temperature is around 107 degrees F, making the body inhospitable to most parasite and bacteria. Ducks aren’t susceptible to coccidiosis, Marek’s disease or other illnesses common to chickens. And in light of the recent spread of the avian flu, the fact that ducks generally don’t set sick from it (but can be carriers), is also a benefit over chickens, which usually die if they contract it. Because ducks spend so much of their time in the water, they also tend to be far less susceptible than chickens to mites, lice and other external parasites.
5. Cute Factor 101
No argument necessary that ducks are cute, but they're more then that. They are such a wide variety of species and breeds, they come in all colors, shapes and sizes. We have 3 different breeds at the moment, 3 Muscovy, 2 Pekin and 3 Khaki Campbell. They weren't together as chicks, we raised the Pekin and Khaki's from ducklings, then later brought in the Muscovy after they were already adults. We kind of have 2 separate flocks that tolerate each other, but when danger is near (or just perceived) they all run together.
We all enjoy having them around, watching them waddle around, listening to them quack or whisper (depending on the breed) brings a touch of something incredibly special to the little oasis we call home. Duck's have amusing behaviors, and they seem to enjoy having us around as well.
The first year of having ducks, chickens, goats and our own garden! Join us on the journey as we share our experiences and lessons we've had to learn the hard way!