Thinking of getting backyard ducks vs. chickens...

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by caleyoh, Nov 15, 2013.

  1. caleyoh

    caleyoh Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 15, 2013
    San Diego, CA
    Hello all,
    I figured this would be a wonderful place to start and get any questions answered. [​IMG] I am buying my first house in San Diego and am looking into egg layers/ companions because I have always wanted them! My mother has chickens, and although she loves them, I am totally enamored with ducks. I really enjoy quirky personalities and my guy's sister is highly allergic to chickens/chicken eggs, which caused me to look further into ducks. I also LOVE vegetable gardening so it sounds like they may be helpful as means of organic pest control without totally wrecking my garden. I have been pouring over pretty much every website known to man, and daydreaming via pinterest for weeks now. I don't plan on getting any ducklings until spring but would love some input. So far the duck breeds I am most interested in are Welsh Harlequins or Muscovies. My guy isn't especially fond of the red faces, but it sounds like they may be excellent in a suburban setting! I have a multi-level backyard with a hillside above (raised beds going in asap) where I would put the duck house, and a level grass yard below. Is there anything I really need to take into consideration? Any advice would help greatly! [​IMG]
  2. starbird

    starbird Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 29, 2012
    Hi, I have never had chickens so I cannot speak of them. I do have 3 welsh harlequins and 1 buff duck. They are great fun to have around. They do require more work to care for than a dog or cat. They do eat bugs, and do lay well during certain seasons. My welshies are quite tame, two of the three are, and they are really quiet, except during breeding season. My buff duck is not very tame, but I think she is extremely beautiful, pictures of buff ducks do not do them justice, and she is a great layer.

    Now the thing about ducks is they are yard destroying machines. That well manicured lawn, gone forever. No more fertilizer or chemicals. I have not raised a garden yet, but, based on their behavior, I would not let them into a garden until it is well established. I tried to raise a few pepper plants this year and they ate the leaves off of them. I have heard people say that their chickens pick at their vegetables, such as tomatoes, but due to the bill I don't think they can do that. My ducks also eat weeds in the yard.

    I love my ducks, but they are a lot of work compared to the other pets. They have to be put up every night for their protection, so that may interfere with your life if your young and have a very active social life.

    When I got mine people told me not to handle them too much. I think that was a mistake. I think the less tame ones would have turned out better if handled more as babies. And give them lots of different foods or you may be limited in what they think are treats, as mine are.

    Good luck and I wish you the best!
    1 person likes this.
  3. RouenDuck

    RouenDuck Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 7, 2013
    I love my Welsh Harlequin! She lays a lot of eggs and is very friendly! The drakes weren't satisfied with the amount of hens we had though, so we had to get rid of them. She seemed the least hungry when we ran out of food once which made me think she was good at foraging but she eats the most of anybody! She is one of the most talkative ducks, but I have no idea if it's just her or if most Welsh Harlequins talk a lot. I don't have Muscovies so I can't tell you anything about them. I hope this helps!
  4. Going Quackers

    Going Quackers Overrun With Chickens

    May 24, 2011
    On, Canada
    I have Muscovy, actually to be precise they hold the majority share here. What can i say? well the females don't have as much flesh, it's the drakes that are heavy with that. They are not mute, that is a large misunderstanding about the breed, drakes only hiss/huff but females are capable of trills, coos, hiss and honk/quacking, difference? they generally don't make a consistent racket i own some other breeds, they are definitely chatty. My females calls winning the ultimate prize, that said my buffs are definitely NOT quiet.

    They fly, the females and well so in an urban setting i would recommend clipping the wings, mine are not but i am rural and the birds free range, so i consider that a line of defense. If one were to get technical, Muscovy are not true ducks, they are not mallard derived( every other duck is) making them more closely related to geese vs ducks.

    They like water but nothing like mallard derived, i call them puddle ducks because they enjoy low laying water best, now i do keep pools for mine so they can clean and so forth. Now as for gardens? depends lol they are BIG birds and tend to tramp stuff down, mine go about through mine BUT they ruined my lettuce, massacred the broccoli and cauliflower and ate some my flowers ... so i would caution letting them in a garden in it's prime afterwards? not so bad for fall clean out, they seem to have gotten rid of my slugs this past year that were using my hosta as a snack bar.

    I have chickens too, main differences? in general ducks are more hardy, less disease prone and offer good pest control/foragers. Now at the same time, they don't tend to go in at night like chickens, mine do return to the barn "area" but need coaxing to get into housing. They are much messier, ducks MUST have water, to clean, to drink and must have it when they eat, which well, water brings mud, they love mud.. so that is a factor mess.. chickens dig like dogs ducks don't but do drill holes and yank on plants, trees etc.. Droppings are larger too, so you have to consider that, it's excellent for gardens and such but it is a difference.

    I'll give you the link to duckling care, it'll help explain what your in for.. i actually began my trip into poultry with ducks and then added chickens the opposite of most.

    1 person likes this.
  5. ducksinarow

    ducksinarow Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 12, 2011
    As for as a garden goes, my ducks enjoyed eating every tomato that was just about ripe but not quite this summer. They thought I was raising them for them. I wasted money buying heirloom plants. Nothing but the best for my ducks. Better luck with your garden. LOL
    1 person likes this.
  6. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Loving this country life Premium Member

    Oct 3, 2009
    Mountains of Western N.C.
    I bet they didn't even say thank you either. I gave up on flowers and vegetables now it's flowering shrubs and sometimes they even nibble on them.
  7. Going Quackers

    Going Quackers Overrun With Chickens

    May 24, 2011
    On, Canada
    You know mine did NOT touch a single tomato and those grow out of control here, they ignore them completely. Now, they were pulling leaves off my apple trees that they could reach.
  8. Peeko

    Peeko Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 3, 2012
    Northern California
    We don't have Harlequins or Muscovies but a miniature breed. Despite that, there are things that can go in the ground and things that can't. All plants from the Brassicae family and leafy greens have to go in boxes or containers that are out of reach or they will be eaten to death. Pea shoots and berry flowers are eaten, too. Our ducks love to break over the garlic and onions by laying or stepping on them. The drake will even nibble on green onions and they all had fun digging up the wild garlic bulbs this fall. Potatoes, once a foot tall so they won't be trampled, will survive. They ignore the tomatoes as well but I have noticed that they do check the leaves for bugs and can cause damage in the process. Ducks are great for bug control. They'll eat any bug they can find or catch, except ants.

    It has taken some time for me to figure out what my ducks particular tastes are and plant things accordingly. There have been disasters, like the beautiful wild ginger they stripped clean of leaves in one day, but I am still able to garden, with a few wired off areas and a lot of containers up high. If you want to plant things they will like but not destroy, dandelions and other lawn weeds are excellent forage. Shrubs are good for napping under- ours like to sleep inside the rosemary bush or between the house and the calla lilies.


    Being in So Cal, you should try collecting rain water because ducks need lots of clean water every day to bath in. The dirty duck water is good for reusing to water the garden, but keep it off tender seedlings and leaves. We use straw as bedding material in their pen which goes into the compost when it gets poopy.

    I think you'll enjoy your duck adventure so long as you start small and responsibly include ducks into your backyard ecosystem. Remember that they are prey for many urban predators and take a bit more upkeep than chickens. But ducks make up for it with big personalities that'll provide hours of entertainment.
    1 person likes this.
  9. cosbackyard

    cosbackyard Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 20, 2013
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Chickens are orders of magnitude easier to keep. But if you like quirky duck personalities and don't mind cleaning up after them they're great to have.
    I'd recommend a non-flying breed for urban yards. As an added bonus you can put a fence up around your garden and they won't be able to fly up over it.

    My ducks don't destroy my garden, exactly. But they trample alot of stuff with their big, silly feet. They nibble at some things and they eat tomatoes. As mentioned - definitely don't let them near a garden until it's well established.

    Also - they have terrible survival instincts. As a result they'll need to have very secure housing, a fenced yard, and be herded in every night before dusk. Nearly everyone has raccoons around and they can kill your entire flock in a night.

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