Sometimes it bothers me that homesteading bloggers tend to avoid the difficult subjects. I mean, I get it. I do it too. Who wants to talk about things that are uncomfortable? And who wants to read that?
Well, in truth, I think a lot of people do. If you’re considering homesteading or raising animals, you need to really, really know what you’re getting yourself into before you take the leap.
When we decided to start raising ducks last spring we did as much research as we could, and could hardly come up with any reasons not to get ducks. Everything we read said they were quiet, friendly, and lovely creatures, and they can be… but they can also be troublesome, which we didn’t discover until they’d reached adulthood and formed a loud and insane duck gang right before our eyes.
I’ve already written a post about the reasons we love raising ducks, so now it’s time for the flip side of the coin.
I hope this post doesn’t ruffle too many feathers (see what I did there?) but I have to tell the truth. If you’re thinking about raising ducks, you truly need to know what this life is going to be like.
So here we go.
5 Negatives to Keeping Ducks
1. There’s water everywhere. EVERY. WHERE. And it’s all the time.
Never in my life have I seen so much water indoors as I did the first week we introduced the ducks to their new coop. Within hours there were giant puddles of water on the floor, that the ducks were having a blast splashing and jumping around in. All the straw was sopping wet, which stunk to high heaven.
The chickens were all sitting up in their roost, staring in horror at the disgusting mess their once-beautiful coop had become. It would have been quite comical, and I would have actually laughed if it hadn’t been for the enormous amount of clean up that came next. We figured out the first week that the water founts would have to stay outside from now on.
Then we realized that one water fount would no longer do. The ducks drink an extraordinary amount of water every day, and they spill an even more extraordinary amount of water when they play in the water fount.
After the first week we had to buy two more water founts just so the birds would have enough while we were at work all day. Once winter hit this became an enormous pain in the ass, as there’s no running water outside, so three water founts have to be de-iced and refilled every day in the house, then carried out to the coop while splashing ice cold water everywhere.
2. Ducks can be bullies.
Everything we read about raising ducks before bringing them home said that they get along just great with chickens and can thrive while living in the same coop together. No one mentioned that ducks can actually be little terrors and the mess they make on a daily basis makes for some uncomfortable co-habitation with chickens.
I just wanted everyone to get along. We did everything by the book, we introduced the ducks to the chickens slowly, letting them get used to each other and become one giant flock all together. We kept several water founts and several feeders so there would be no bickering over just one. We opened up the second half of the coop to double its size and built a large enclosed run for all the birds to enjoy.
None of this helped the situation. The ducks follow the chickens around, scaring them away from the precious water fount, hogging all the food, and bullying the weaker members of the flock. The ducks grab hold of the chicken’s tails and don’t let go until feathers pop out. They chase the chickens, biting at them seemingly just for fun.
The ducks rule the coop, and even the mightiest of chickens can’t top the power dynamic of a gang of ducks.
3. Their poop is ultra disgusting
I mean, sure, all poop is disgusting. Even so, duck poop has to be up there as some of the worst. There’s a big difference between chicken poop and duck poop.
Chicken poop comes out kind of dry and hardly smells. It disintegrates into the straw on the coop floor almost immediately. You barely even notice chicken poop.
Duck poop is quite the opposite. It explodes out the duck’s butt’s like rapid fire, and it’s wet. So wet. Ducks pretty much have diarrhea all the time.
We use the deep litter system in our coop and always have. We love how it cuts down on cleaning time while producing beautiful compost for the garden. The arrival of the ducks took that beautiful working system and pooped all over it.
We went from having to clean out the coop once every six months to having to clean it out every week. In the winter (which in Western NY lasts five months) we keep the water founts indoors to slow down the rate at which they freeze and need to be replaced.
The combination of splashed water from the founts and duck poop everywhere was unbelievably smelly and tossing new litter over the old litter (like we used to do for deep litter) wasn’t going to cut it anymore. We’ve gone through more straw and done more mucking in the past year than we have in the past seven years of raising chickens combined.
On the plus side, I’ve built up a considerable amount of muscle from lifting and chucking heavy, wet, poop-filled straw for the past year. Thanks ducks!
4. They’re LOUD
Everything, and I mean everything I read about raising Cayuga ducks said that they were one of the quietest duck breeds, that you’d hardly even notice them habitating your backyard.
How wrong they were. I don’t know if my ducks are freaks of nature, or if I was lied to, but ducks are NOT quiet. Our ducks are so loud you can hear them quacking a mile away, and they get themselves into a tizzy quite frequently.
I’ve even heard them quacking like crazy in the middle of night, forcing me to run out to the coop in my pajamas with a flashlight only to find them all sitting there in a pile, staring at me, like I’m the crazy one.
5. They’re Skittish and Frantic
It’s fully possible that this is just our ducks, but boy are they skittish. Everything and anything scares them and sends them frantically running full tilt for cover, and because of the flock mentality, if one does it, they all do it.
Every single time I go to the coop, to bring water or food or collect eggs, the ducks run from me like I’m the most horrifying beast they’ve ever seen, and these are ducks that I’ve hand raised since they were one day old. I’ve done everything in my power to bond with them and get them to trust me, and still they’re terrified of my every move.
Unlike our chickens, the ducks operate as one entity. If one duck does it, they all have to do it. It doesn’t matter what it is, it doesn’t matter if it’s even a good idea, the hive mind is strong with ducks. They move as one entity, even though there’s five of them.
When you have five large ducks frantically running two and fro, you’d best get out of their way. The chickens learned this quickly and now spend most of their time up on the roosts just to avoid getting trampled by a gang of ducks.
All right, now I’m sure plenty of you are shaking your fists and ready to rally in defense of ducks. Let me be clear. I don’t hate ducks…entirely. There was a big, huge learning curve with raising ducks that I wasn’t expecting. Part of that is because there’s simply not a lot of information out there about raising ducks, and certainly not much about the negatives of raising ducks.
That’s one of the big reasons I wrote this post. My goal is to educate anyone who is considering ducks, and make sure you really, really know what you’re getting into.
There are plenty of things I love about raising ducks, so if you’re in the need for some ducky feel goodery after this post, head over to: