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Are Chickens or Ducks Better Pets?

We’ve made it easy to compare the top 10 categories to consider when choosing whether to raise chickens or raise ducks. We’ll help you land on the best choice for you (and for them).

chicken and duck illustration

1. Health

Ducks spend most of their time in the water; if there's a bowl, puddle, or bucket of water, they’re in it. It’s a 24/7 pool party for ducks, so external parasites and mites have a more challenging time clinging on during swim sessions. Ducks also tend to have a hardier immune system, along with a heavy set of waterproof feathers to protect them. Overall ducks are known to have fewer health issues compared to chickens. Unfortunately, chickens tend to have more health issues than ducks. It can be more difficult for them to deep clean all their feathers of external pests, and are more susceptible to disease and illness.

2. Climate

Ducks originate from North America, Europe, and Asia so they can naturally handle the summer heat, drenching spring rain, cold winters, and everything in between. Chickens are a descendant of a tropical jungle bird originating from Southeast Asia, so their ideal climate is much more limited. The optimal temperature range for chickens is 65°-75°F; anything above 75°F can result in stress because they lack sweat glands. Heat can quickly get trapped under their feathers and result in heatstroke. Ducks thrive in just about any temperature (within reason). They're hardy down to around 20°F, but anything below can lead to frostbite on their feet. Furthermore, a wet duck is an extremely happy duck, whereas a wet chicken is a sad, probably going to get sick chicken.

3. Noise Level

It all depends on who you talk to (and what breed of duck they have), but we’d generally go against the popular answer and say that ducks are noisier than chickens. We’re not including roosters because yah….then ducks are quieter. Most claim ducks are more silent, so maybe we have some chatty ladies because our Khaki Campbells can loudly quack in unison for hours. Our neighbor’s twelve chickens hardly register on the decibel meter, and we often forget they’re there. It all depends on how social and active your ducks are. Any time one of our ducks catches a glimpse of us walking by or hears the back door open...they all start quacking to get our attention for treats or a coop visit.

4. Laying

Again, this depends on what breed, but generally, ducks tend to be more prolific layers. Not only are the size of their eggs larger, but the frequency and their overall span of laying (both seasonally and lifetime) are higher than chickens. The average duck can lay eggs for 7 to 9 years (many report even longer just with fewer eggs), and chickens usually tend to peter out after 2 to 3 years. Typically ducks lay their eggs between 4 and 8 am every day, working off a 24-hour cycle, but chickens, on the other hand, work off a 26-hour schedule, leading to unpredictable laying times. Finally, ducks usually continue laying throughout the winter, and chickens generally keep to a seasonal laying schedule between spring and early winter.

5. Eggs

It’s entirely opinion-based. Yes, duck eggs have higher fat and albumen content, but there is no way to claim which egg “tastes better,” but we favor duck eggs over chicken eggs. Nutritionally speaking, ducks blow chicken eggs out of the water with nearly an entire day’s worth of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that helps create new red blood cells and supports nerve function. Another significant benefit of duck eggs is that they can substitute for most people who have chicken egg allergies. Compared to chicken eggs, duck eggs also have a longer and less likely to break shelf life thanks to their thicker, rubber-like eggshell that keeps out quality-killing air and bacteria.

6. Poop

There are so many angles on chicken versus duck poop, so we’re calling this a tie, and we’ll tell you why. Ducks have “messier” poop because they drink more water, so there will never be any dry poops chickens are known for. If you’re an avid gardener but have limited patience, you’ll be stoked because duck’s nitrogen-rich poop is immediately ready on day one to fertilize plants naturally. Chicken manure requires anywhere from 45 days to 9 months of composting (watering, turning, etc.) before it’s ready for safe garden use. If you’re limited on space to dedicate to composting, you'll be happy to learn chickens produce less poop per day than ducks. But it all depends on your end game (and space available) for their waste. Ducks spend most of their time pooping in their pool or pond, so they’re automatically creating readily available nutrient-rich water for nearby vegetables and flowers.

7. Pest Control

Both species are going to be amazing natural foragers. What puts ducks as the superior forager is their diet goes beyond insects, slugs and worms that chickens tend to stick to. Small gophers and mice, frogs, and frog eggs are all on the duck menu. Up to 25% of a duck’s diet can be foraged, where chickens can only supplement between 5 to 15%.

8. Garden-Friendly

It’s a tie, and we’ll tell you why. Sure, if your garden is brimming with unappetizing plants, chickens and ducks will leave them alone, so you’ll proudly claim your flock is the more garden-friendly species. Enter ANY tasty plant, and you’ll swear chickens or ducks are garden Godzillas. Of course, it makes total sense. If someone leaves out a box of mini donuts (or whatever your favorite treat is), you’ll pick off a few every time you walk by while that tray of broccoli next to the mini donuts goes untouched. If it’s tasty to them, they’ll strip it bare. Yes, ducks have been touted as “more gentle” on plants because of their webbed feet, but they’ll root around, creating micro holes to find bugs. Chickens will scratch the earth bare to find bugs and have the same lack of restraint when it comes to tasty plants nearby. Flocks need containment with dedicated foraging space or make sure to fence "off-limit" plants, so you’re not hosting an all you can eat buffet.

9. Pecking Order

No matter the species, pecking order or hierarchy exists. Someone is calling the shots for everyone, and a pecking order determines who gets first access to food and preferred areas. Ducks have a more mellow style, but it still exists, it just tends to be less aggressive overall. If you ever see your ducks in the water and one has their wings half splayed out while another is trying or successfully climbed on their back...that duck on top is making sure everyone knows they’re the dominant duck. Chickens have a more aggressive style to establish dominance, focusing on bullying their way to the top. Their escalating plan of action starts with strutting, fluffing feathers, squawking, then, if the message is not received, pecking and plucking of feathers begins. In extreme cases, it can get violent (or result in death) if blood is drawn. Newbies tend to be accepted easier and faster within the duck community, but additions to a rigid chicken pecking order create drama until the new order is established.

10. Water

Probably not a surprise here. Ducks need far more water than chickens. The obvious is ducks love to play and swim in the water, but beyond that, ducks drink double the amount of water. They consume about 4 cups of water compared to a chicken sipping around 2 cups per day. If access to clean, fresh, and affordable water is limited in your area, consider chickens. Ducks certainly survive without large ponds or a pool to play in, but they will not be as happy (or healthy) as their water-rich counterparts.

Did this list help you decide if you want to raise chickens or ducks? We hope so! If you're still on the fence, take the time you need to plan and budget. Raising a flock is a long-term time and financial commitment, and it's best not to rush in. If you are on team duck, check out our growth and feed timeline to learn what to expect when ducklings arrive on day one then grow into mature ducks.


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