Here’s an oldie but a goodie from our archives:
My mother raised me to believe that you can know God has a sense of humor because he created ducks. If you’ve ever seen a duck go butt up, flapping it’s little webbed feet on the surface of the water, you’ll understand what she meant. Even if you agree, though, there’s still a possibility that ducks may not be right for you.
Perhaps my mom’s love of ducks was born in her youth, when she and her sister raised a few Easter ducklings to maturity. One of those babies got bonked in the head with a walking sprinkler and sweetly peeped the rest of it’s life.
On another occasion, the ladies of the house thought they heard a prowler and, after a call to the police department, two officers came by to check on their safety. They walked around the property to make sure all was safe, including in the back yard where the ducks free ranged. A few minutes had passed when one officer came to the door, and asked if someone could come remove a duck from the trousers of his partner. Apparently, one of the ducks had seen the officer as a threat to his people, and had attacked the only part of the officer it could reach – his rear end. Ah, ducks.
The Virtues of Backyard Ducks
Knowing her love for them, I made Mom an Easter present of a few ducklings last spring, to her great delight. Actually, we all loved them, and agreed that there’s nothing cuter than a duckling! We raised them in our brooder but moved them to an outdoor pen when they were teenagers. It turned out to be the largest and nicest of any of our animal pens.
Mom read up on how to care for them because it had been awhile since she’d lived with ducks. We got our tiny pond working, and put a filter in it. We used an empty chicken house for a safe home, and to store of straw and feed. We were off an running! The ducks were marvelous to watch – waddly, fluffy, silly. The best part was when the ducks had fresh water in their pond – land sakes!! The pond was really very shallow, but those ducks would dive in and make a circuit around the bottom before bobbing to the surface of the water. They’d splash and flap and play with each other. Like I said – ah, ducks.
Eventually, they began to lay eggs and I think they hardly missed a day (even in the winter) once they came into production, although neither breed are really known for their high volume of egg laying. The breeds we ended up with were a Swedish Blue and some funky Runner variety. I never, ever do this, but I actually succumbed to the local feed store’s display of ducklings that spring, and so I had no idea what I was getting. Yeah, they were labeled, but…. They were well mannered birds, if a little gossipy, and the Blue would even let you pick her up and love on her. We named the black one Duchess and the Blue, Gladys.
To learn more about the virtues of ducks in the backyard (think mosquito assassins), please visit this post from Mom Prepares. And, no, your ducks aren’t sick when it looks like a down pillow fight took place in your backyard, they’re just molting! Let The 104 Homestead explain. Does your duck have an abnormal wing? Timber Creek Farm can help with that.
Why Ducks Might Not Be Right For You
Duck Mess and Water
BUT – you knew there was a big but coming, right? – ducks have their drawbacks. I know a lot of people praise them as great farm birds, and they do have a lot going for them, to be sure. For one thing, they are great soil aerators and bug catchers. But they are also unbelievably messy! I thought turkeys were bad, but you’ve never seen the likes of the mess a pair of ducks will make. If you provide a water source for them, be prepared to clean, clean, clean it. We went through all kinds of filters and methods to try to keep the duck pond clean. “Pond” is a generous term for our little man-made thing, which is not a naturally fed pond. A natural pond would probably have been able to handle the muck with the natural filtration systems of plants and silt. We read on one website that the only way to keep a duck pond clean is to keep ducks out of it. True, that.
You’ll read that you can keep ducks without a pond, but you may find that it’s in your nature to sympathize with the duck and it’s desire for water. There’s a reason they’re called water fowl. My mother’s nature is very, very, very sympathetic towards any animal, and she had to have a pond for those duck babies of hers. The process of cleaning up after the ducks every week proved to be too much work. Because of our bird killing dog, we never did figure out how to free range them in order benefit from duck poop around the grass, either. To learn how to safely free range your ducks, please visit this post from Timber Creek Farm.
Then there was the matter of the eggs. Very few of us enjoyed eating them. They have a strong flavor which some people covet, but I just couldn’t palette. I tried finding ways to cook with them, but they’re so much more dense than chicken eggs, that they make a difference in recipes and you need to be prepared to compensate for that. Many people consider this a benefit, though.
For more information on duck eggs vs. chicken eggs, please visit this post by Free Range Life.
I don’t want to discourage you from trying ducks if you have your heart set on them. We just decided that until we have a little more land and, hopefully, a natural water source, we’re putting ducks on hold for now. I’m sure you duck lovers out there will have a thing to say about that but, there it is! I still consider myself a duck lover – just not a duck keeper on this land, at this phase of life. I’m good with that. Disagree and want to set me straight – just comment below and share your wisdom!
To get you started on your duck adventures, should you chose to engage, you may need these fine products:
To learn about more homestead-friendly animals (even the difficult ones), you may want to check this out:
This post shared Monday Menagerie, Homestead Barn Hop, Backyard Farming Connection Hop, The Gathering Spot, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, From the Farm Hop and was featured at The Clever Chicks Blog Hop