Would you switch from chickens to ducks? Should you?
Here’s my take on it:
Reasons to Switch From Chickens to Ducks
I have found ducks to be much smarter than the chickens and geese I had free-ranging in my yard before. There’s one spot in my yard where I’m trying to introduce some native grasses, and by repeatedly shooing the ducks away, I have been able to train them to stay away from that area.
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As you may recall from Paul Wheaton’s “6 Ways to Raise Chickens” presentation, free-range chickens tend to make a mess out of everything below their favorite roosts.
Not so with ducks, who keep all their poop right on the ground. In fact, their poop is a big part of why I’ve started keeping these birds.
Ducks Bring Fertility to the Land
Ducks make great fertilizer—they are truly prolific poopers. With a moveable paddock system, you could control that poop somewhat and direct it to different areas where you want it.
I used to use geese for this purpose—especially out in my fruit tree orchard. But my family got tired of the noise and nuisance caused by the geese in the yard, so I needed to change things up.
Ducks were just the thing. They fill their water trays with poopy water, and I just dump the trays out near the base of my fruit trees.
Killing Two Birds with One … Other Bird
By using ducks to replace the eggs from my free-range chickens and using the ducks’ droppings to fertilize my orchard, I was able to replace both chickens and geese. That lowers my feed bill, and I’ve still got fresh eggs on the table.
Don’t worry—I’m not done with chickens forever. I’m working on a new portable paddock system, and as soon as that’s up and running, I’m planning to reintroduce a flock of chickens (although they won’t be free range). In the meantime, ducks are a perfect solution.
This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on May 31, 2016.
Marjory Wildcraft is the founder of The Grow Network, which is a community of people focused on modern self-sufficient living. She has been featured by National Geographic as an expert in off-grid living, she hosted the Mother Earth News Online Homesteading Summit, and she is listed in Who’s Who in America for having inspired hundreds of thousands of backyard gardens. Marjory was the focus of an article that won Reuter’s Food Sustainability Media Award, and she recently authored The Grow System: The Essential Guide to Modern Self-Sufficient Living—From Growing Food to Making Medicine.