Are you thinking about adding ducks to your homestead? Like any livestock, ducks may not be a good fit for every situation.
Raising ducks has its pros and cons, and it’s important to know both before you jump into this venture. Here are some reasons I hate raising ducks.
Sometimes it bothers me that 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.
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5 Disadvantages of Raising Ducks
1. Ducks Get Water Everywhere. Every. Where. And 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. 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, 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. Ducks are 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 living in 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. Ducks are 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, and the hive mind is strong with ducks. They move as one entity, even though there are 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: 5 Reasons I Love Raising Ducks.
Oh goodness, I couldn’t agree with you more! My husband loves ducks and talked me into adding a few of them to our coop (a large shed) when a friend of his needed to re-home theirs. Unfortunately *I’m* the only one that does watering and coop cleaning, and those “adorable” ducks turned my nice coop into an absolute NIGHTMARE. I can’t say as I felt too bad when a couple wandered away and got taken by predators. We’re down to 2, and that’s MORE than enough in my book. NEVER AGAIN.
Valerie Powell says
Oh no I love my five ducks. I have 4 khakis and one Pekin All females. I have them separate from the hens with a fence. They are very entertaining and adorable. Kept in a large grass area with a caged carport area for bedding and eating. I only use a kiddy pool and change it daily. They gave a bowl of fresh water near the feed bowl. I clean the duck hone for nighttime once each day and freshen it with fresh bedding of hay each day. No odors and the grass dissipates the poop with the normal weather conditions. They lay eggs each nite in the bed and are clean about it. The hens love watching the ducks along the fence. Sorry to contradict your hate ducks report but with the right conditions you can enjoy them
Been there, done that. Feel much the same about Guineas….
Jack Speese says
I’ve raised birds all my life, and except for pigeons, most species of poultry at one time or another. I discovered your site looking for tips on fostering chicks, something I’ve never tried before. Everything you said about ducks is true, both the positive and the negative. While I have raised ducks and chickens together, you need to have plenty of space because they do indeed make a mess, especially with water. I think it’s best to raise the two separately; that way you can better manage the water. The well-known waterfowl guru Dave Holderread recommends 10 to 25 sq ft of space per bird and they do need it. I think you can get by with 10 in the summer when you have babies, and then by winter when the babies are grown and gone your breeding birds should have plenty of space in the sloppy rainy winter months. I love all poultry. I currently just have chickens, but ducks are actually my favorite. I think that for a meat bird, they are much better than chickens. Even with large breeds of chickens, a lot of the weight is bone, especially the breast. Ducks have a much better meat to bone ratio. I don’t care for eggs of any kind (which everyone thinks is funny since I’ve had poultry all my life) so duck egg production isn’t an issue for me. The hardest thing to me with ducks (besides water management) is predators. They are the most helpless poultry when it comes to predators and the only way they are completely safe is in a pen with a top. Like you, I have found ducks to be noisy, but frankly a lot less so than an obnoxious barking dog. But if you want a quiet breed (actually a different species), try Muscovies. Both sexes are practically mute. Maybe someday I’ll have ducks again, but after a horrible moving experience thanks to taxes and Obamacare, we had to downsize. It all worked out in the end, and I’m grateful that I can at least have my chickens again.
Thanks for your comment, I think you’re absolutely right. My brother raises ducks with his chickens and has no trouble at all, but he has ten times the space that we do. I have no doubt that if we had more space for raising birds we wouldn’t have had the troubles that we did. Either way, I’m really glad the ducks are now living their life on another farm, where they have room to roam, a pond, and space to themselves!
Thank you for the very insightful article. I am new to have my own little piece of property and am looking forward to having small farm animals. I have always wanted chicken and ducks, especially ducks. After reading your articles and the comments, I think I am going to wait on the ducks for a while longer. Thank you for taking the time to write about the love and hates of some of your farm life. This 4 month old now country girl appreciates it!
So many of us find out the hard way that there are down sides to many of our homestead projects. Unfortunately, these realities are either ignored, glossed over or just not experienced by some who write about these topics. At least this is what I’ve found to be true after many years experience with many different types of animals, including ducks. All the negative truths mentioned in this article match completely from my experience in raising many different kind of ducks, including Cayuga. The very best ducks I’ve found for the average homestead are muscovies. We currently and for the last several years have successfully kept a few muscovy ducks with our small flock of chickens and they have all gotten along very well.
Harv, Thanks for your comment and for understanding. I wish more people would discuss their failures as much as their successes on the homestead. It is important for people who want to live more self-sufficient to understand that everything isn’t always rosy.
Thank you for posting this. It’s so important to know the pros AND the cons to anything you get into! You didn’t mention that is you have more than one male, they will gang rape the females into exhaustion. Chickens are not safe from this activity. Mating occurs in water. If you keep a small pond for the ducks, they will attempt to mate with the chickens, and drown them. Best to keep them separate.
Well, I Have 17 geese, 7 chickens, two great pyranese dogs and four Khaki Campbell ducks. The ducks are amusing, independent and hang out with the geese at the pond. I adore them but do not care to bond with them. They are quiet…sleep outside, refused to be cooped and find their own food. The only negative I have is mine are not good mothers (when I had females). I recommend them heartily.
I actually just joined a Facebook group wanting to know the pros and cons about magpie ducks. Most people told me the good about them but one person told me if she could do things differently she would have put her chickens and ducks into separate coops. Chickens don’t handle moisture well in the winter so but ducks crave it so really if you think about it they shouldn’t be kept together. I know it’s not impossible but it would be a lot easier on everyone if they were separate. I’m sure the duck coop is still going to be a horrible clean up though lol I’m still duck free for now.
we have had 4 ducks for about 3 months now. And man is it WORK. i did about 6 months worth of research before we got them and i wish i had seen more articles like yours before we did. I really felt like we did something wrong because the ducks are so skittish! it really made me feel good to see you had the same experience. I thought i was failing as a duck mom. i’m still glad we have them its just not the experience i thought i was going to have. they are adorable and stupid and messy. i love them but its kind of like having dennis the menace but as a toddler, you have to love them but WTH. one question i do have is…do they ever go in the coop on their own? we don’t have a top to their run so every night we do a duck round up and we all but tackle them some nights. any tips? the coop is elevated so i have considered that we might need a longer/wider ramp.
Jessica, We found the best way to get the ducks into the coop was to lure them with food 🙂
I have had ducks for over 40 years. By the way they have never had a pond. However they have over 2 Acres to run in that is fenced. Nevertheless they insist on going out on the road in front of my house. It’s useless to try to close the gate. They will find a way through it. Also through the fences in general. As far as the mating goes they don’t need water for that. But certain males will harass females especially certain females and peck their eyes out mating. If you don’t have lots of females you will feel sorry for the females as the summer goes on. Their heads will at the very least be denuded. And if you don’t have any females the males will rape each other. I say rape because the males seem to like to go after ducks that are not part of their group. Yes they divide off into groups. The rest of what u say is also true. I’ve never had chickens so I don’t know about them but I do know a lot about ducks.
Lisa Donnell says
I just read your post and laughed out loud! I have had 2 ducklings for 2 weeks and I wish I had read this 3 weeks ago. Every single thing you said is sooooo true. But I don’t have chickens, so don’t know about that. We live on a lake, so I’m waiting for them to get big enough and the weather to warm up enough so they can stay outside. Would anyone happen to know when that might be? We live in N. Louisiana and are having a cool snap-40’s at night, 60’s-low 70’s during the day-hopefully out last one. I would estimate the ducklings are 4-5 weeks old.