Ducks


I raise ducks and sell their eggs. My ducks spend all day foraging on pasture. They eat grass, dandelion leaves, other plants, bugs, worms, and anything else that catches their fancy. I provide them with a small amount of supplemental, non-medicated feed, but that is only to ensure they have access to all of the nutrients they need. Most of what they eat is from the pasture.

One of my hens eating grass and plantain seeds.

When we first got the ducks, our plan was to have a mobile coop surrounded by portable fences. Each night I would herd the ducks into the coop, and every morning I would get up at dawn to let them out. Approximately every week, we would move the fences and the coop to give the ducks fresh pasture to graze. That worked fine for the first couple of years or so, but eventually the older ducks learned how to get out of the fences and began teaching the younger ducks to do the same thing.

At first, we didn’t think much about the ducks getting out of the fences we set up for them. It was kind of fun having ducks running around the yard and greeting us every time we came home. Plus, they usually came back at night to roost in the house so they were still protected from most of the predators on the farm which tend to be primarily nocturnal.

However, when the hens decided to sit on nests in the spring and summer, they obviously weren’t coming back to the coop every night and thus were exposed to all the natural predators (coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, owls, hawks, bobcats, etc.) that roam our farm. Also, when the mama ducks did reappear with babies in tow, they didn’t always teach the babies to go into the coop at night. So, now we had a population of ducks that would roost in the trees, on the back porch, or in other locations around the farm at night instead of in the secure coops we had built for them.

As a wildlife biologist, I know that as prey populations increase (in this case our ducks), predator populations will also increase over time. It’s a natural process that repeats itself over and over, and during the summer of 2019 that natural process caught up with us. We lost more ducks (mostly that year’s ducklings and their mothers) to predators, than we lost in the previous 5 years combined. Not only were the predator losses unacceptable, but because the ducks kept letting themselves out of the fences and going back to their favorite spots, they had turned much of the yard into a muddy mess. Something different had to be done, because what we were doing wasn’t sustainable.

One of the new duck tractors with its flock of ducks. Moving them into the tractors provides better protection for both the ducks and the land.

In late 2019, we built multiple duck tractors, each of which can hold a small flock of ducks. The ducks can’t get out of the tractors, and nothing can get into the tractors to get the ducks. We also moved the tractors onto a different part of the farm and began an intensive, rotational grazing system. Every day I move the tractors to a fresh plot of land and it will be 6-7 weeks before the ducks return to a spot that they’ve already been on. This should allow the land time to recover because the ducks can’t keep using the same spot day after day after day.

The ducks have settled into their new arrangements nicely. They know when I’m getting ready to move their tractor and they get visibly excited. Once they get onto the new plot of land for the day, they go crazy digging for worms and eating the new grass. They also seem to have realized that they are safe in the tractors because they are less jumpy than they were when they were roaming loose.

I currently have two different types of ducks, Muscovy ducks and a hybrid breed. The Muscovies were my first ducks and I prefer their temperament, but they don’t lay very many eggs. Therefore, in the fall of 2017, I added the hybrids to my flock because this breed was bred for egg production. I sell the duck eggs locally through word of mouth and at the farmers market.

I am often asked how duck eggs compare to chicken eggs. The short answer is: they are better, at least in my opinion. I’ve never been a big fan of chicken eggs, but I absolutely love my duck eggs. Please see below for some frequently asked questions about duck eggs.Contact me if you are in the Barren or Warren county area and are interested in purchasing my duck eggs.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Duck Eggs

Are duck eggs…. good? Do they taste like chicken eggs?

Taste is always a subjective topic because everyone likes different things. I think duck eggs are richer and creamier tasting than chicken eggs. Many of my friends and clients agree. Bakers often claim that duck eggs make fluffier baked goods than chicken eggs. I’ve found that to be true with my own baking.

 

Are duck eggs the same size as chicken eggs?

Duck eggs are much larger than chicken eggs. Chicken egg sizes are based on the weight of a dozen eggs. A dozen jumbo chicken eggs must weigh at least 30 oz. A dozen of my duck eggs weigh well over 30 oz – typically they are in the 36-38 oz range, especially during the late spring and summer when the ducks lay their largest eggs.

 

How do you cook with duck eggs?

The same way you do chicken eggs. You can scramble them, boil them, bake with them, and anything else you would do with a chicken egg. Duck eggs are especially well-known in the baking world, because they tend to make baked goods moister and fluffier. For boiled eggs, use older eggs so it will be easier to separate the shell from the whites.

 

My recipe calls for 2 large eggs. Do I need to use fewer duck eggs since they are so big?

Some people substitute one and a half to two chicken eggs for one duck egg. However, I use them interchangeably in recipes and have never had a problem even though the duck eggs are much larger than chicken eggs.

 

What color are the yolks?

The color of our duck egg yolks tends to be bright yellow, but the color of the yolk varies slightly depending on what the ducks have been eating. The same is true for the nutritional profile of that egg.

Birds that have been eating a more varied diet will typically have brighter yellow yolks than birds that have not been eating as varied a diet. There are some tricks such as feeding marigold petals or yellow corn that supposedly help increase the egg yolk color, but I don’t do that. What you see is what you get with me.

 

What color are the duck eggs?

The shells of my duck eggs are white to greenish white. The color of the eggs has to do with the breed of duck or chicken that laid the egg. Research has shown that the eggshell color has nothing to do with the nutritional value of the egg.

 

Why can’t I crack the duck egg?

Duck eggshells are thicker than chicken eggshells. You have to hit duck eggs harder than chicken eggs in order to break them. This can be a good thing, especially if you are teaching a child to cook because they often shatter chicken eggs.

 

I cracked open my first duck egg and the yolk almost looked like it had started to congeal. Did the eggs get pushed to the back of the fridge and become semi-frozen? Are they still good?

Duck egg yolks are stiffer than chicken eggs. A common reaction the first time someone cracks open a duck egg is to think that the yolk has frozen or congealed in some way. That’s just the way duck eggs are. Prick the membrane that surrounds the yolk and it will be as runny as a chicken egg yolk.

 

I need to separate the yolks from the egg whites. Any suggestions for how to do that?

I have found that the easiest way to separate the whites and the yolks is to take advantage of the duck egg’s firmer yolk. I crack the egg into a bowl, gently pick up the yolk with my fingers, and move the yolk to another bowl.

 

Should I bring my egg carton back to you when I’m done with it?

No, it is illegal to reuse egg cartons. Please recycle or compost the carton when you are done with it. For more information about what to do with your egg cartons and why it is illegal to reuse them, please see this blog post that I wrote on the subject.

A dozen of my Kentucky Proud certified duck eggs.