10 reasons ducks make better pets than dogs: from pest control to eggs and beyond. The Pros and Cons of keeping ducks in your backyard.
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This year we became the proud owners of three Muscovy ducklings. I was really worried about how much of an expense and how time consuming owning ducks would prove to be. I read up on it extensively and kept thinking, “SURELY there’s more to it than this.” I was a bit stressed about the decision. But I decided to do it.
Well it turns out that ducks actually make pretty great pets. I love them. My kids love them. My husband even likes them. I’d even say make better pets than dogs in some ways.
10 reasons ducks make better pets than dogs
- They comfortably live outside in the heat and the cold. You’ll need to provide them with a coop to live in, but they’re comfortable in weather as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ducks are the ultimate all-natural, eco friendly exterminator (as are guinea fowl and chickens). They eat slugs, snails, grubs, mosquitoes, mosquito pupae, Japanese Beetles and their larvae, potato beetles, worms, flies, June Bugs, grasshoppers, termites, roaches, maggots, and ticks. Sometimes they will even eat mice, snakes, and frogs. If they can reach it, they will eat it (meaning, free range ducks have access to more opportunities to eat bugs), and some breeds of duck are better exterminators than others. These are our ducklings when they were verrrryyyy little, eating some beetles that I foraged for them. Pro Tip: Put a light in the duck pen at night (we built an attached duck run that’s predator proof) then place their water underneath it. This will attract the nearby bugs and give the ducks lots of yummy snacks.
- When they poop or pee on your lawn, it fertilizes it and doesn’t kill it (if you own dogs, you’ve probably been frustrated by dead yellow spots). Unlike dog poop, it’s not large enough that you need to clean it up from the grass, although you will need to clean their bedding in their house.
- They make eggs! Like chickens, turkeys, and guinea fowl, ducks produce eggs that you can eat. Save money AND go organic by grabbing your breakfast from the coop. Did you know that grocery store eggs can be up to two months old by the time they get to your table? Yikes! Duck eggs are sought after by bakeries because they are amazing in cakes and other baked goods. But don’t worry- you can also scramble them up just like a chicken egg. I’ve heard they taste great when you cook them on low or medium for a slightly longer time. While you can also keep ducks for meat, I am assuming that the average person who wants to keep ducks as pets will not want to process their ducks.
- They don’t bark. My Muscovy ducks don’t make much noise at all as they are known as the “quackless duck.” But I’ve heard other breeds of duck aren’t particularly noisy either. From what I’ve seen, even large birds like turkeys make less noise than my dogs do barking (sigh). The males may grow into more of a hiss, but they’re pretty quiet. Turn your volume allllll the way up and you might hear them.
- They’re the ultimate composters. They will eat food scraps or leftovers from your garden. I use straw in their house and the dirty straw is used in the compost bin or to mulch the garden. It’s a good setup. In terms of eco friendliness, duck waste is far superior to dog waste. Usually dog waste ends up in a landfill somewhere along with the plastic bag that it’s placed in. If you are curious what ducks can be fed from your table, check out this list of snacks that are safe for ducks and chickens. Contrary to popular belief, bread is NOT the ultimate duck food. It’s not particularly good for them- just like it’s not particularly good for us.
- They’re cheaper than dogs. I bought food the other day for them and it cost $30 for a 50 pound bag of food and 2 bales of straw. I need to mix in some oats which will make this food go even longer. I am frequently surprised by how affordable they are to keep.
- If you raise them and socialize them, they make friendly pets. Mine follow me around in the yard, my kids love to hold them, and we frequently enjoy hand feeding them. But if you don’t have the time to play with them, they are still going to be just fine. Mine are happy wandering the yard together and foraging for bugs.
- You can get more than one and it’s no big deal. I recommend getting 3 or more so they have friends to hang out with. It’s also good to have a few so that they aren’t miserable if one gets eaten by a predator (which can happen). Make sure to get more females than males. Females are the only ones who make eggs and if there aren’t enough females, the males could hurt the ones you do have. If you don’t want eggs, you could just get males (drakes).
- They are entertaining. Watching them play in a small plastic kiddie pool or your pond is so much fun. They love to dive and swim and play. They can’t learn tricks like dogs do, but they also don’t require a ton of training either.
Now I’m not anti dog. I own dogs too and I think the two pets work well together because my dogs likely scare off a lot of the predators that might otherwise make an attempt on the ducks. But there are definitely some DISTINCT advantages to ducks vs. dogs.
If you’re looking for a pet that lives outdoors, is friendly, is affordable to keep and contributes financially by providing eggs and/or meat, then ducks or chickens might be a good fit for you.
Just don’t forget- like other pets, they require regular daily care. This means going outside when it’s cold to feed and water them. But you won’t need to hire a duck walker to come twice a day while you’re a work either. Make sure to check your local laws to make sure you’re allowed to have a duck (or chicken) on your property.
Housing Your Pet Ducks
Now some people DO keep ducks as indoor pets, but it’s my belief that some animals are happiest outside. Ducks aren’t able to toilet train like a dog or cat so they really do best outdoors, fertilizing your grass and eating bugs. And they enjoy being out in the weather. Mine LOVE rainy cold days… while we sit inside all depressed about the yucky weather, they’re foraging the yard for worms and other critters. It’s pretty entertaining to watch them out the window.
Having a safe house for your ducks is an important part of duck ownership. Learn how we built our DIY Duck House or check out these detailed woodworking plans on how to build a chicken or duck coop. You can save a lot of time and money by having a good woodworking plan. For ducks, you can simply remove (or keep) the nesting boxes from the plans. I’d suggest keeping the nesting boxes in case “chicken math” happens and you end up with 12 chickens, 20 ducks, and a turkey.
Using plans versus buying a coop allows you to pick out wood and other materials for your project that will last. This is a REALLY BIG DEAL. You don’t want your coop to break down after one winter. I’ve seen some coops that were destroyed quickly from the elements and it’s just a shame to see that happen. Also- a good quality coop has great resale value if you need to build a bigger one eventually.
If you get your ducklings as babies, make sure to check out our Eco Friendly Duckling Brooder Setup. For the first 8 weeks or so, the ducklings need to be kept warm… so you may want to keep them indoors or setup a heated space in your coop.
Need an easy shelter and don’t want to DIY? Here’s what you can buy.
Omlet makes a ton of chicken shelters and runs that are movable and have lots of accessories available. You can add wheels and handles to move the run as needed which is nice. The cages look like they’re well predator-proofed, and you can get an attached run up to 13′. They even sell an automatic coop door that opens and closes when the sun rises and sets. The Eglu Go is their easily movable shelter and run. They have perches to add on, swings, treat holders, and even chicken clothing. Totally worth checking out if you like to geek out over your poultry.
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