Ducks are not chickens.
This may seem like an obvious statement but if you’re a seasoned chicken keeper and want to get into to ducks, know that they have very different needs and present a unique set of obstacles.
I have a soft spot for ducks. I find them simply adorable. Not that baby chicks aren’t cute, it’s just that ducklings have a certain innocence about them. Maybe it’s the soft curves of the bill, or the glassy eyes…but they get me, every time!
I try to resist each spring when we go to the feed store. I’ve learned my lesson with ducks, it’s not the same with ducks as it is with chickens.
Too many chickens and you find yourself cleaning the coop a little more often, maybe you have to buy an extra bag of feed now and then. Eh…no big deal right!
With too many ducks, your coop turns into chocolate pudding and you have a mess!!!
Ducks need space, mostly to distribute all the water. Everything that involves a duck involves water.
And if you give them a teaspoon, they will try to take a bath in it.
Ducks need water to swallow food. So every time they fill their bill with feed, they will waddle over to the waterer and swish that bill full of feed around in the water to swallow. Then they waddle back to the feed bin with dripping bill and scoop another mouthful.
Soon the feed is wet and clumpy, the waterer is murky with feed and the floor of the coop is sopping wet from all that dripping.
A ducks droppings are also very watery.
If you multiply this by 4 or 5 ducks, you’ll soon have a mess.
Mucking out the duck coop isn’t as easy as cleaning the chickens. With our chicken coop, the pine bedding is soiled, but it’s still light and fluffy. I can lift a full, flat shovel with little effort and the job goes by quickly.
With ducks, the bedding compacts into an adobe brick of soiled, damp material that’s heavy to lift, and can be hard to break apart. Especially in the winter.
We tried deep litter once with our ducks. I think it would have been easier that spring to just burn the coop down and build a new one than partake in the cleaning process.
The best solution that I’ve found is to give ducks a lot of space. Let them free range (if possible), and keep their food and water outside (if possible). The wind and sunlight will help dry the concentrated areas and the freedom to roam keeps our flock clean.
Ducks also enjoy a place to swim and splash.
It allows them to distribute the healthy oils onto their feathers.
A small, self filtering, natural body of water works best, but don’t overpopulate the capacity of the pond. Waterfowl will quickly pollute the water and can cause bacterial problems.
You can provide small flocks with man made options like a kiddy pool. But be prepared to empty it every day and fill it with clean water. Ducks will soil the water very quickly and if not kept clean you will get odors.
Also consider how the surrounding area will accept a kiddy pool (40 gallons?) worth of water being dumped each day. Will the area dry? Or will you get massive mud puddles of soiled water?
Having the option of moving the pool each day will help.
My personal opinion is that ducks are worth the effort. And you may also, but just be aware of the effort that is required with ducks.
This year these three Khaki Campbell’s won my heart.
They are excellent layers, out-laying some of the most prolific chicken breeds at times.
I’m telling myself that that all the fresh duck eggs will be my reward for cleaning up after these guys.
With these three it brings our waterfowl total to 9.
3 Khaki Campbells
1 Toulouse Goose
1 Pilgrim Goose
And I think we’re full!
I’m pulling the waterfowl vacancy sign out front.