For the average person, choosing between ducks and chickens is often a matter of personal preference, sometimes based on superficial factors like which one is cuter.
But for preppers, there is another layer (no pun intended) to consider when making this decision. The question we’re really asking about chickens versus ducks is, “Which will be easiest to raise when the world is in chaos and food sources are scarce?”
When SHTF, your stockpiled food will only last so long; eventually, you’ll need to start producing your own. The people who thrive will be the ones who can produce nutritious food with limited resources. So, which one is better for preppers, chickens, or ducks?
Which Is Easier to Keep, Chickens or Ducks?
If you’re worried about feeding yourself and your family when SHTF, imagine trying to feed a flock of poultry!
You don’t want to end up in a position where you’re competing with them for food sources, but you also want to provide the best possible care. This plant grows almost everywhere in America, and will also double the egg production of your flock.
Options for Housing Chickens and Ducks
You have a few options when it comes to housing chickens and ducks, and these choices determine how much food you have to provide for them.
You can raise chickens and ducks in a few ways: confined in a permanent coop, allowed to range freely about your property, or kept in poultry tractors.
There are pros and cons to each method, but with all of them, the most important factors to consider are predation, egg collection, and keeping your flock out of your garden areas during certain times of the year.
Keeping Your Flock in a Coop
Chickens and ducks are both easily raised in coops, and you can even keep them together in one house. If you’re confident you can provide plenty of food and grains for your chickens, they are easier to keep in a coop than ducks.
Ducks are messier than chickens, and they like to have a pool of water, which may be hard to supply when you’re in survival mode. Also, keeping your duck coop clean may be a bigger chore than it’s worth.
The advantages of keeping ducks and chickens in a coop are that you can find their eggs more easily, and they are less likely to become someone else’s dinner. However, that means you need to provide all of their food and water.
Free Range Chickens and Ducks
Free-ranging your chickens and ducks has a lot of benefits, but it can also end up in disaster.
When I was a kid, we had a flock of 40 free-range bantam chickens that fed a hungry goshawk all winter.
By spring, there were only 8 chickens left!
Free Ranging Ducks
One of the advantages of ducks is that they prefer a free-range lifestyle and will forage for almost all their food if they can.
They still need housing to return to at night for safety and to get out of the weather, but for the most part, ducks can pretty much take care of themselves for much of the year.
Cayugas are the best duck breed for free range. They lay fewer eggs than some other breeds, but they are a hardy breed with excellent meat production.
Free Ranging Chickens
Some breeds of chickens are better for free range than others, so it’s important to choose the right breed. Chickens are more susceptible to predators than ducks because they are quieter at night. When they roost, they shut down and very rarely make any noise, and it can be easy for predators like skunks and raccoons to pick them off.
One of the best chicken breeds for free range is the Leghorn. They are excellent foragers with a natural tendency to hunt for insects. Leghorns are small to medium-sized chickens, laying about 280 eggs per year.
Using Chicken Tractors for Chickens and Ducks
Chicken tractors have become popular over the last several years, and for good reason. They are used by many poultry producers, combining the advantages of free-ranging and cooping methods.
Related: 8 Ingenious DIY Chicken Projects
Using a chicken tractor to raise ducks or chickens is healthier for your birds than keeping them in a permanent coop, reducing problems with pests and diseases. It also protects them from predators and makes it easy to find the eggs they lay.
Another benefit of using a poultry tractor is that it boosts the health of your soil. You can move it around your homestead to add fertilizer to your soil , keep weeds down, and reduce insect populations.
The natural foraging abilities of ducks make poultry tractors a top choice when it comes to housing them, and as long as you have some method to provide them with water, they’ll be happy. Since ducks are messy, the best poultry tractor is one that is tall enough to walk into so that you can clean their water and food dishes.
Ducks vs. Chickens For Eggs and Meat
When it comes to raising poultry for eggs and meat, ducks are a clear winner. In terms of pure caloric value, duck eggs, and meat have more calories per gram than chickens.
When you compare the nutritional value of ducks versus chickens, there’s almost no contest, making ducks a serious contender for the prepper lifestyle.
Taste and Nutrition
Duck eggs taste a little different than chicken eggs. They are often described as creamier and richer. They’re also higher in protein and fat than chicken eggs, and they have more folate, iron, selenium, zinc, and vitamins. One duck egg has 227% of your daily vitamin B12 requirement!
Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs by about 50%, weighing about 3.5 ounces to a chicken egg’s 2.5 ounces.
They’re often used in baking, where one duck egg can replace two chicken eggs.
Choosing the Right Breeds
There are several species of chickens and ducks, and while many breeds can be used for both egg and meat production, a lot of breeds are selected for either one or the other.
While some types of ducks don’t produce as much as some types of chickens, overall, ducks beat chickens in annual egg production. On average, chickens produce about 250 to 300 eggs per year, whereas some duck breeds can produce 300 to 350 eggs per year.
Whether you choose chickens or ducks, selecting the best breeds can be tough. One thing is for sure, you’ll want a tough breed that will produce eggs, and meat, and reproduce on its own.
When to Butcher
While both chickens and ducks can be butchered as young as six weeks of age, young ducks grow faster than chickens. Meat ducks are ready to be butchered at about 6 to 9 weeks, weighing in at 6 to 10 pounds, while meat chickens take 8 to 20 weeks to finish to a similar size.
However, butchering chickens is much easier than processing ducks. Chickens are easier to pluck. A lot of people end up skinning their ducks, but that’s not ideal because the skin contains a lot of fats and flavor.
Other Factors to Consider: Chickens vs. Ducks
Are you Team Duck or Team Chicken? If you’re still undecided, here are a few other factors to consider in the chicken vs. duck debate.
When it comes to noisy fowls, most people think of loud roosters waking them up at dawn. However, ducks are considerably noisier than chickens. One of the reasons ducks are less prone to predators is that they’ll create a huge ruckus in the middle of the night if they sense they’re being hunted.
Offspring and Life Span
The oldest chicken ever recorded lived to 22 years. Some types of ducks, including Muscovies, commonly live about 20 years when they are properly cared for. However, most domestic ducks and chickens have a lifespan of about 5 to 10 years.
Generally, ducks lay more eggs for a longer time than chickens. The egg-laying production of ducks doesn’t taper off until they are 7 to 9 years old, while chicken’s egg production tapers off after about 3 to 4 years.
For a prepper, the most important consideration when selecting a duck or chicken breed is how good they are at reproducing. While it seems like they should all be good at it because they lay eggs all the time, some breeds are broodier than others and more likely to raise young successfully.
Temperament and Behavior
Ducks and chickens are both pretty friendly creatures, although ducks tend to be calmer and friendlier than chickens.
An important consideration with ducks and chickens is being able to catch them if they get out of their coop. Ducks tend to stay in a group and are easy to herd, while chickens scatter and are very hard to catch. You’re better off keeping the door open and luring them in with feed.
Raising chickens and ducks is a great way to bring food to your table no matter what’s happening in the world. There are pros and cons to raising both, so why not keep some of each? Find a few breeds of each type, raise them all together, and you’ll learn for yourself which fits into your lifestyle the best.
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