Hello from the HillTop!
Did you ever feel like you’ve heard a saying for so long that there is no way it could be true? Funny enough, the saying is typically true.
The last few years I’ve heard that chickens are gateway livestock. I thought, meh, I grew up on a farm, there is no way that we’ll fall to that. Then after almost a year and a half we got meat chickens and rabbits. This past year, I thought there’d be a chance to expand, but it’d be more likely turkeys or geese.
We have expanded…but not in the realm we thought or discussed…
That’s right. Ducks. Cute, little, waddling, quacking ducks. We ordered (8) little peanuts less than a month before we got them. Knowing very little about breeds, we (which really means me) decided to get one of eight different kinds of breeds to learn more about them. Our breeds include:
- Black Swedish
- White Layer
- Khaki Campbell
- Blue Swedish
- Welsh Harlequin
- Silver Appleyard
Each of these breeds I picked are known for either egg layer capabilities or being solid foragers. I researched breeds online and in a handful of books. Egg production is a bonus to add to our chicken layers. However, the foraging aspect is fantastic to keep bugs, particularly ticks, at bay. (We tend to have a huge tick population in Pennsylvania.) Especially after reading predictions on the tick population being solid this past year.
All in all the differences between raising chickens and ducks are not substantial. Please do not misunderstand, there are differences, but they are not major.
Ducks grow rapidly. The first week it wasn’t overly noticeable, but come week two the ducks grew at rapid rates. Keeping them indoors (in the garage) towards the end was proving more difficult. Honestly, I probably kept them a bit more crowded then recommend, but they were such a close nit group, I hated splitting them up. They outgrew every container I had, and even the new one I invested in.
My husband built them a duck house out of recycled material, aka a former kids playhouse. It worked out quite well and they were very pleased with the upgrade in space.
Water, water everywhere! While ducks don’t require a body of water to survive (in the sense of swimming), they do need plenty of water to drink. This was new to me, when I think ducks, I think water. I always assumed a pond was necessary. We had ducks over the course of my childhood. There was however a pond on the farm. As soon as the ducks where old enough, they lived down at the pond. They went hand in hand.
We learned the container for the ducks to drink from needed to be considered with a little more thought. Standard waters for chickens are not ideal. (Although, when we blended our chickens and ducks, I’ve found our ducks using the chicken waterers as well. But that’s not a guarantee.) Knowing that from research we used a small shallow container from the start. At about 2 weeks we moved to an unused dog dish.
While the dog dish was a solid option, the water gets EVERYWHERE. Which in turns affects the shavings. That’s the biggest issue we’ve found.
To combat, we start with lighter shavings and add a light layer every day, sometimes twice a day. We do a complete change out once every 5-7 days.
Now that our ducks are outside and in with our chickens, we keep a rubber tub for them. They drink and sit in it, so it typically gets filled twice a day.
While they can eat chicken feed, the addition of brewer’s yeast is a needed for a boost in niacin. Ducks require niacin to aid in bone growth. This was probably the easiest accommodation to make for our ducks. I add it as needed, but some people add it into a new bag of feed from the start. It’s extremely easy to locate online.
Having Our Ducks in a Row
Overall, adding ducks to our flock was easy. For the first five months we kept the ducks separate from the chickens. Towards the end of summer, we started free ranging them together. In September, we enlarged our run and added their duck house with in. It gave them significantly more space that they were happy to explore.
At first, they only ever moved as a whole flock. As they felt comfortable they moved around more freely and intermingled with the chickens. The chickens and ducks slept in separate housing, until this winter, but would spend their day together. When the temperatures dipped into the twenties consistently, we began herding them inside with the chickens. It took a few days, but as they grew accustom, they started putting themselves in the coop.
Each morning as I let them, out the chickens and ducks race to see who will make it to the food first. The ducks previous home has become a safe haven during the day for our youngest chickens seeking shelter and space from our more dominate flock mates.
The ducks are much more active than the chickens and extremely talkative. As much as they are not overly eager to let us be near them, they are friendlier to each other and the other chickens than chickens tend to be. The ducks are great foragers and hysterical to watch swimming in a small pool we fill for them every few days. They are a joy to have around our property.
Our ducks have been so enjoyable that my mother now has a flock of her own. They intrigued her so much, it was my Mother’s Day present to her last year. She has six females, several of which are the same breeds as us. They’ve become her pets and come when she calls them.
Ducks have waddled their way into our hearts and have made a home on our little half-stead. Their eggs are delicious, their foraging is exceptional and their antics are unmatched. They are Quack-tastic!