Goals For 2018: Ducklings!

February 2, 2018

This time of year, if the temperature is right, we can hear the first of the season’s honeybees out buzzing around.  The frogs are starting to chirrup in the lengthening twilit evenings, and the chickens are clucking and scratching and crowing all the day long.  But there is one sound lacking here on the farm, and without it this place just doesn’t feel or sound complete.

I’m talking about the quacks and burbles of ducks.

When I was a little girl, my mother would regale my sister and I with tales of hatching a duckling in her kitchen oven when she was a child, and how wonderful and sweet that pet duck was.  He would follow her around and wag his little tail whenever she gave him treats.  I was captivated by this story, and by ducks themselves.  There’s just something about them, from their smiling bills to their happy bottom-heavy waddle.

I just love ducks!

I also love that I get to tell you that this spring we’ll be adding ducklings to our farm, including one of each type of:

  • Welsh Harlequin
  • Silver Appleyard
  • Pekin
  • Fawn and White Runner
  • Chocolate Runner
  • Cayuga
  • Buff
  • Blue Swedish

I’ve reserved a late March hatching of eight eggs and I honestly just can’t wait!

Getting homestead ducks

Why are we getting ducks?

There are lots of reasons why adding ducks to a homestead is a good idea, not least of which is because they’re just so adorable as babies and entertaining as adults.  There are some great websites out there that go into all this in a little more detail, but here are the main reasons we’re getting ducks:

Eggs:  Ducks produce far more eggs than the average chicken,  as many as 350 per year from the more prolific breeds.  As an added plus, those eggs are bigger and have higher nutritional values than chicken eggs.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a duck egg, so I don’t know what I’ll think of the taste.  But my tentative plan is to use them in my burgeoning baking hobby, as their higher fat content should make baked goods fluffier and richer.

Pest Control:  “You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency” — Bill Mollison.  I can’t remember the first time I heard that quote, but I do know that it’s genius.  The chickens have been OK when it comes to eating pests, but they disdain slugs, caterpillars and many of the other bugs that wreak havoc in the garden.  They are darn picky.  Not so, ducks.  They will happily and enthusiastically eat all those buggies that the chickens won’t, especially the slugs.

Gentler on Land: This is the big, number one reason we’re getting ducks (besides the cuteness and indulging my childhood fantasies)!  The chickens are no better than pests themselves when it comes to destroying the vegetable garden, or any landscaping, or just the lawn.  They’re not picky when it comes to scratching things up and they do it exceptionally well.  Now, I know that ducks, too, can destroy delicate seedlings in the garden, and will make mud holes anywhere given half the chance.  But overall, everything I’ve read agrees that ducks are much less destructive.

Hardiness: I live and garden on the northern Oregon coast.  I’m a bit inland from the ocean, but not enough to make any real difference in the weather.  It can be wet and cold and miserable here for more than half the year.  The chickens hate it.  Hate it.  There are some days they don’t come out of their coop at all – they just huddle together in their filth – which can obviously negatively affect their health.  We always have to keep an eye out for sickness and signs that the chickens are suffering from any infections.  Ducks, on the other hand, have an internal temperature of 107 degrees (Fahrenheit), which means that their bodies are pretty much inhospitable to parasites and bacteria.  And bad weather doesn’t phase them.  It’s raining outside?  Perfect!  It’s cold outside?  Who cares!  Ducks just go with the flow.

Getting homestead ducklings

Now don’t worry!  The chickens aren’t going anywhere!  Well, OK, to be perfectly honest we are going to move them down to the lower field, where the orchard will be.  All fenced in it will be about half an acre or more, and it will give them much more room to roam.  They’ll still get loads of delicious table scraps, and we’ll still use their eggs.

Meanwhile, we’ll convert their current coop and run to accommodate the ducks, and we’ll be able to give the ducks straight access into the garden once the plants have reached a certain height.  That way they can do their pest control thing, and keep me company with their chortles, quacks and honks.

The perfect soundtrack to working on the farm.

Will anyone else be starting a flock (or is it a brace?) of ducks this spring?  Does anyone who already has ducks have any pointers for an excited new owner?!

17 Comments

  • The EcoFeminist

    February 2, 2018 at 5:14 am

    We absolutely love having ducks but I will say that they are just as big of Destroyers as chickens, just in different ways. Since you have a greenhouse you should be safe with your veggies but if you have other plants let me tell you they love to sample anything they can get their mouths on – but definitely they make up for it with their wonderful eggs and their hilarious antics! It’s amazing how fast they grow too… They were teenagers by about 3 or 4 weeks old!

  • Kevin

    February 2, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Hello from the UK! I’ve been following along for a while but had to reply to this post!

    We recently hatched some Runner ducklings, started with six eggs, three went under Snowy our broody Silkie hen and three went in the incubator. Two out of the three under Snowy proved infertile and ultimately she abandoned her nest with two days to go! Such a shame as she’d sat tightly for so long.

    So we ended up with four eggs in the incubator, but only two hatched, so we now have two 8 week old Runner ducklings who are doing well!

    1. sproutandsprig

      February 2, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      Thanks for writing!

      I’m so glad that at least two of the ducklings made it. Poultry mothers are such fickle things 😛 And I just love runner ducks, they are so funny looking!

  • Roda

    February 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    I so love our 20 ducks! And those eggs…amazing!

    1. sproutandsprig

      February 2, 2018 at 4:10 pm

      20! Wow! I have a feeling I might end up with more ducks down the line, too!

      1. Roda

        February 2, 2018 at 4:12 pm

        They are an addiction! Khaki Campbell and welsh harlequin are my favorites! So friendly!

  • bluestempond

    February 2, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    We have a pond and I’d love to try out ducks, but I worry that they might attract predators that we so far haven’t suffered. I’ll have to look into it. You’d also have to provide a coop, food, and heated water in the icy temperatures? Our pond doesn’t freeze over completely due to an aerator in the center.

    1. sproutandsprig

      February 2, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      It might be worth it though!

    2. The EcoFeminist

      February 3, 2018 at 6:59 am

      We have ducks and we have a heated watering bucket that works great and keeps it just under freezing during the winter… Got it on Amazon for a pretty good deal… We built a coop out of reclaimed wood along with a protected run (we have hardware cloth that goes about 8 to 10 in underground) so that when they’re not free ranging – and at night of course – they’ll be safe. Highly recommend ducks!! There’s a great introductory book called Duck Eggs Daily that was our Bible in getting started 🙂

  • wasabi honey bee

    February 2, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Oh, I’ve been dreaming of getting ducks for forever! Maybe at some point we will. Right now is DEFINITELY not the time, as our restaurant is going to open soon and I KNOW I’ll be up to my ears with that for at least quite a while. But yay for your baby ducks!

  • Nicky

    February 3, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I love ducks too but I sadly don’t have plans to get any of my own. So, I’m eagerly waiting to see your posts and pictures of your new additions when they arrive.

    1. sproutandsprig

      February 3, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      Aw, thanks!

  • Sheryl

    February 4, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    Baby ducks sound like so much fun. I wish I lived in a location where I could raise some.

  • jennybakerbee

    February 6, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Oh my goodness, this is the best news! I can’t wait until you are there for each of them the moment they hatch, I can’t wait to hear about your instant bond as they imprint on you!

  • Julie@frogpondfarm

    February 7, 2018 at 7:37 am

    Gosh I didn’t realise that ducks laid more eggs than chooks. But I did know that chickens will turn up,their nose at slugs and snails! Shame on them 😃

  • farmkids8

    February 8, 2018 at 10:35 pm

    I’ve also been thinking about getting ducks for a while the only thing that is stopping me is how messy they can be. My sister has a flock of ducks so I’ve seen the mud holes they can make. I didn’t know they ate slugs and caterpillars that information may push me into getting ducklings this year. My main reservation is ducks jumping into the horse and goat water tanks and mucking their water up.
    Oh, quick tip: ducks can’t jump as high as chickens so their laying boxes need to be down low. Have fun with them!

    1. sproutandsprig

      February 9, 2018 at 1:57 am

      Thank you for writing! I don’t know how you could keep them out of the water tanks … that would be a big consideration. I’m hoping to restrict the ducks to their own pasture, so they can’t destroy our backyard!

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