Raising ducks is practical as well as entertaining. Not only will ducks produce more eggs than chickens annually, the eggs are significantly larger. Unlike chicken hens, duck hens lay well into their sixth to even ninth year of life – making them perhaps the most sustainable small livestock one could keep on a homestead.
Getting a duck to lay large creamy eggs is a rather simple affair, but some breeds are more adept at the process than others – just as with chicken hens. You do not need a drake (mature male duck) to garner eggs to eat, only fertilized ones that will produce cute little fuzzy chicks.
One of the major advantages of keeping ducks for eggs is the docile nature of drakes. There will be no worries of getting viciously attacked by a rowdy rooster if you want to raise ducks for egg, meat, or breeding purposes.
Duck eggshells are not just larger than the eggs laid by chickens, they are typically hardier as well. One of the easiest ways to maximize egg production in ducks is to allow them free ranging time so they can consume as much of their natural diet as possible.
Ducks are voracious eaters. They can rid an area of tadpoles and slugs in just a single day when allowed to roam the area in search of food.
The ample protein the duck hens ingest when ridding your land of bugs, combined with a solid supply of calcium in their diet, will help them to produce rich and durable eggs year round.
10 Good Reasons To Raise Ducks For Eggs
- Thanks to the high fat count and low water count in duck eggs they are excellent for both baking and cooking. The duck eggs made baked goods especially light and fluffy.
- It is beyond rare for a duck hen to turn broody like a chicken hen when laying a clutch of eggs.
- Ducks grow more quickly than chickens and often start to lay eggs when they are only four to five months old.
- Duck eggs may boast a slightly higher nutrition count than chicken eggs because the whites of the large eggs have an ample supply of protein.
- The shelf life of duck eggs is often far longer than that of chicken eggs due to the thickness of both the eggshell and the membranes, as well.
- Quality duck egg laying breeds can produce between 200 to 350 large eggs each year.
- Ducks are fully capable of producing eggs year round, even during the winter when many if not most chicken breeds stop laying. While duck egg laying may likely slow down during the coldest months of the year, it would be beyond rare for laying to stop entirely.
- Ducks are more environmentally hardy than chickens, on average. There is almost always no reason to worry about ducks contracting potentially deadly heat exhaustion or frostbite like chickens. They cool themselves in by swimming all summer long and do not have combs and wattles that are susceptible to freezing during the winter.
- Because ducks prefer to be outside the vast majority of the time, not only does the coop remain cleaner, the spread of bacteria- and fungus-born diseases chickens are prone too from extensive coop time during the winter, are rare with duck flocks. It is not uncommon to see ducks lounging about quite contentedly in the snow and still going swimming during the winter.
- The extremely nitrogen rich droppings ducks leave on the ground when free ranging makes an excellent compost for garden crops. Setting up a compost mound inside of the duck run where ample droppings will be found even if the flock free ranges the bulk of their day, will provide great starter soil for seeds and young plants.
Is It Hard To Raise Ducks To Produce Eggs?
Ducks are generally easy keepers. They are independent poultry birds that rely very little on human intervention, especially when allowed to free range.
These egg producers are known for their robust immune systems, docile nature, and ease of training. They are also extremely routine driven. Any deviation from their standard feed, turn out, put up, or snack time will be met with loud quacking until they get their way.
Keeping your husbandry routine on a set schedule will provide stability to the flock and negate the bulk of the quacking you hear from the birds.
Domesticated ducks are very vulnerable to predators because they cannot truly fly. Chickens are vulnerable as well, but with a heavily clawed rooster and wings that can lift them high into trees, they stand a fighting chance to get away from common predators like mink, weasels, and dogs.
How Many Ducks To Keep For A Steady Supply Of Eggs?
Ducks live in a flock like chickens and guineas. They are definitely social critters that need to be in a communal environment. Keeping just one duck hen to use as both a farm pet and an egg layer is highly discouraged. You should never keep fewer than three ducks so a flock environment is facilitated.
A small flock of six ducks is highly recommended. A ratio of one drake for every hen will prevent over breeding along with the stress and potential injury of an egg layer that is overworked by a drake.
7 Best Egg Laying Duck Breeds
Both the standard and jumbo version of the Pekin duck breed routinely offer up 200 to 250 large white eggs annually. While duck hens from this breed are exceptionally consistent layer year round, they are rarely good sitters.
If you want to grow the numbers of your duck flock and sustain egg laying for the long term future, Pekin duck eggs will likely need to be incubated in order to hatch.
Pekin ducks are among the most popular for farmers, homesteaders, and preppers who want a highly trainable and dual purpose poultry bird. Due to the large size of even the standard Pekin duck, they make not just a stable egg producing bird but an excellent meat bird, as well.
Out of all the duck breeds we have kept over the years, Pekin ducks have remained our staple egg producers and my favorite. In my personal opinion, Pekin ducks are the most hardy and intelligent breed.
They also have proven themselves to have the most “barnyard sense” when it comes to assessing possible threats by predators and responding to the loud and shrill danger calls sent out by our guineas.
Khaki Campbells hens lay even more large white eggs than Pekin ducks. Hens of this breed should be expected to lay approximately 340 eggs each year. These hens are not only great layers but reliable sitters, as well.
Ducks of this breed are not usually flock leaders like the Pekins, nor are they as predator aware, in my personal experience. Khaki Cambell ducks are hardy and make great followers in an established flock during free range training.
While these ducks can be equally happy living inside of a large run or free ranging, they are among the best foragers in the domestic duck world. I have watched two Khaki Campbells literally drain a large mud puddle of both bugs and water in barely more than five minutes.
If you have a problem with low lying areas or mud puddles on your homestead, these duck egg layers might be the best choice.
Duck hens from this breed lay roughly 300 eggs per year. Like the Khaki Campbell ducks, they are also exuberant foragers. Indian Runner ducks prefer to free range, but can also live contendently in a spacious coop and run environment.
Some of the favorite insect meals of an Indian Runner duck include small reptiles and snails. This quality duck egg laying breed was used in China for centuries to roam about rice paddies to protect the marshy land from these and other destructive creatures as well as from invasive weeds that could smother the crop.
Indian Runners are also often heralded for their friendly demeanor with keepers as well as their intellect. Indian Runners are also substantially climate hardy.
Ancona ducks are known not just as excellent egg layers but as a tasty meat bird, as well. Each year an ancona hen could be expected to produce around 240 duck eggs.
In general, Ancona ducks are known to be especially friendly with their keepers. These very social ducks are so large that they are less likely to be snatched by hawks even prior to reaching full maturity.
While they can live contently inside a large coop and run, Ancona ducks are far happier and productive if they are permitted to free range.
This heritage duck breed is prone to producing in excess of 300 large white eggs annually. They are often regarded as a dual purpose breed due to their large size. In addition to being superb layers, Welsh Harlequin hens are also known for their steadfast sitting abilities.
This duck breed was created by selectively breeding some Khaki Campbell ducks that were born with unusually light color mutation. Thanks to their Khaki Campbell heritage, they are prone to being not only a dependable laying and sitting breed, but hardy in most climates, as well.
This traditional duck egg breed routinely produces about 290 large eggs annually. Eggs from Magpie duck hens are as beautiful as they are tasty. The eggs vary in hue from a deep cream to shades of both blue and green.
Magpie ducks can be a little high strung and may be best coop and run kept. While they are not known for being lovingly social with their keepers, they are an extraordinarily quiet breed.
If you are homesteading in a backyard or on small rural acreage with neighbors, Magpie hens may be the best choice for a daily supply of duck eggs.
These ducks are not only a really quiet breed, they are also known to be incredibly easy keepers. Duck husbandry newbies that want to collect between 200 250 eggs each year should strongly consider keeping Buff Orpingtons.
Duck from this breed are equally happy in a spacious coop and run environment or free ranging. They often imprint heavily on their keepers, and are quite social poultry birds.
When Do Ducks Start Laying Eggs?
Exactly when a duck starts to lay eggs varies by breed, just as it does with chickens. On average, all duck breeds reach sexual maturity before they are 7 months old. The time of year a duckling is hatched plays a role in how quickly they reach sexual maturity.
Ducklings hatched from April through July are born at a time when the days are long, helping them mature more quickly. Just as sunlight is vital to egg production, it is important to a duck’s growth rate, as well.
Ducklings that are born from late September through January will most often take up to two months longer to mature because the days are far shorter this time of year.
The first few eggs a recently mature duck hen will lay will resemble a chicken egg in size. Even if the first several eggs laid are fertilized, the hatchability rate for any ducklings housed inside will be extremely low.
When Should I Collect Duck Eggs?
Ducks almost always lay their eggs between sunset and 7 am in the morning. If you collect eggs at the same time everyday there should never be a worry about missing valuable duck eggs. Chicken hens lay on a 25-hour cycle, so there is no telling when each one will drop an egg.
Expecting all of the chicken hens to lay at the same time, or about the same time, would be futile. But duck hens will nearly without fail lay within the noted time frame every time they are ready to release an egg.
The only downside to duck egg collection is in fact, the collection part. Unlike chicken hens that favor laying eggs in their nests, duck hens will drop an egg anywhere they feel like or happen to be at the moment.
Just decide you are enjoying an Easter egg hunt every morning and embrace the egg dispersal habits of duck hens with a smile. This is really the best mindset, because training a duck hen to lay eggs only in a nest is just never going to happen.
Maximizing Duck Egg Production Tips
- Hang a solar powered coop light inside either the coop itself or the run – or both, to encourage consistent egg laying even during cold weather months. Providing up to 14 hours of light to the duck hens with a 40 to 60 watt bulb can help the hens get up to 90 percent laying capacity after just a few weeks of exposure.
- Infusing more protein and calcium into a duck hen’s diet and/or using a breeder hen fee will help the poultry birds maintain the prime nutrient balance needed for peek laying and reproductive abilities.
- Maintain the proper one drake to three hen flock ratio if you are keeping drakes. Even if hatchling a lot of ducklings is not your primary goal, hens will become overly stressed or even injured if constantly subjected to the rather rough tactics involved with duck mating. A stressed or injured hen will not be a solid egg producer, no matter what breed of poultry bird you choose to keep.
- The ducks should be provided with nesting boxes even if they may only sporadically use them. I have found that my duck hens will lay eggs all over the place but then pack and roll them back to the nest for sitting – until they get bored with the process and go for a swim. Some hens will lounge in the nesting box to get away from an overly amorous drake or to feel calm and safe until right before an egg is being laid. Duck hen nesting boxes should be one foot wide, one foot deep, and 18 inches long.
- Providing the duck hens with the proper quantity of feed is also extremely important. Ducks should not be permitted to become overweight. They should have no more than .35 pounds of feed per bird available on a daily basis. Both egg production and fertility will decrease in overweight hens. Once the hens have become established layers and you are getting at least four eggs from 8 to 10 hens on a daily basis, they can have more open access to feed – with weight gain always being monitored.
- Keeping the coop and run clean, as well as the in-run water source will help the duck flock members maintain good health. An unhealthy duck will not lay the same quality and quantity as a healthy hen.
- Duck hens do not need boredom busters in the coop and run like chicken hens to prevent bad or destructive behavior. As long as the ducks have constant access to clean water for both drinking and swimming, they will be content and not experiencing unnecessary stress that can decrease egg production.
I Already Have Chickens, No What?
Many homesteaders are already keeping chickens but want to expand into ducks, as well. Space and budget limitations often provoke questions about keeping both egg producing poultry birds together.
In my many years of personal experience, there is no problem with keeping chickens and ducks in the same coop and run – or even ducklings and chickens in the same brooder.
Raising the chicks and ducklings together in the brooder from the time they are hatched or purchased goes truly helps the birds develop a friendly relationship.
It is not uncommon for any ducklings and chicks that have been brooder mates to maintain that same closeness, developing a type of “mini flock” even once they are turned loose with the existing coop.
If you have a particularly rowdy rooster, introducing ducklings could be a problem. I have had a wide variety of roosters, one that hated everyone but me and would flog them, but he still left all the chicks and ducklings that came into the flock, alone.
I once lost two chickens to a duck baby pool in the coop run. While this was tragic, all 30 or so chicks that had come before them, survived just fine.
Still, the possibility of drowning is something that you should consider when introducing new chicks into the coop and run. Mature chickens hens should be tall enough that the duck pool will not be an issue.
Creating a “dock” or floating a log in the duck pool might make the chickens feel safer if they happen to the area to grab a drink, but those types of pool attachments could also entice the chicken hens to a space where they otherwise would not have ventured.
Chickens and ducks can eat the same feed, but ducklings cannot have medicated chick starter. Feed ducklings only non-medicated chick starter. I never used medicated chick starter even with our baby chickens.
Instead, I go a more natural route and sprinkle cinnamon, turmeric, basil, sage, and oregano on their feed or make herb ball treats to help boost the immune systems of our poultry birds.