Farm fresh duck eggs are creamy, delicious, and are typically more durable than the thinner eggs laid by chicken hens. Raising ducks for eggs is not any more time consuming or difficult than raising chickens for the same purpose. In fact, I truly believe it is actually easier to raise ducks for eggs – or even meat.
Keeping backyard chickens has become quite popular thanks to so many states and counties enacting “right to farm” rules. But, keeping ducks has largely only been a habitat for us folks lucky enough to live in a rural area… until recently.
Backyard and small acreage homesteaders are learning that ducks can be kept for eggs without the need of a large pond, a separate coop and run from their existing chickens, and sans that panic attack that can occur when being chased and flogged by a rowdy rooster.
If you have kept chickens before, being a newbie duck keeper should be a simple endeavor.
Other than making sure the ducks have a constant clean source of drinking water and a water feature that is regularly cleaned to swim in, the husbandry is nearly identical between the two egg laying poultry bird breeds.
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Why Keep Ducks, Anyway?
All ducks lay rich and flavorful eggs, but some breeds are far better producers (and sitters) than others. Before you start pondering which duck breed will be best to keep on your homestead, spend a bit of time thinking about exactly why you want to keep ducks in the first place:
Will the ducks be kept solely for egg laying, or will they also be deemed “farm pets”, or used for meat production, as well? Would the ducks be used for a child’s 4-H project? Do you want to breed the ducks to earn extra money?
If you are going to use the ducks beyond solely an egg laying scenario, finding a single breed that can serve your dual or multi-purpose plans, is a must.
Size matters. If you only have a small space to keep the ducks in, even if they are allowed out to free range for part of the day, banta- size to two pound duck breed is recommended. The eight to 10 or more pound jumbo duck breeds should be reserved for folks who are definitely going to free range the flock AND can provide the space for a spacious run area.
If egg production is the only or top reason you plan on keeping ducks, choose a breed that lays at least 225 to 300 eggs on an annual basis.
Many domesticated duck breeds are too large to fly, but not all breeds will remain basically ground bound year round.
If the birds are going to be let out of the coop, make sure to choose a breed that either cannot really fly or commit to learning how to clip their wings and do so diligently in the recommended time frame for the breed – or it might be bye-bye ducks on your homestead.
Breed availability is also a factor to consider. The cheapest and easiest way to start a duck flock is taking advantage of the birds that are available on local farms, through local breeders, or at agricultural supply stores like Tractor Supply and Rural King.
If you want to help boost the dwindling population of heritage breed ducks that have diminished to poor or endangered levels thanks largely to factory farming, a larger price tag and perhaps extensive searching might be required to accomplish this good deed.
If you want to keep ducks to have as natural and healthy of a diet as possible and to provide at least half of their own food without costing you a dime, purchase a breed that is known to be excellent foragers
Maintaining flock levels or hatching more ducks than you need in order to earn extra cash from your birds and eggs will require buying a breed that is known to produce nice broody hens.
If you are in love with a breed (or two) that are not known to be good sitters, invest in an incubator so you can still keep reproducing future egg and money makers.
Duck Egg Facts
- The eggs laid by ducks have roughly a 185 calorie count
- Duck eggs have approximately 14 grams of fat.
- The eggs have about 1 gram of carbohydrates.
- The average duck egg weighs around two and a half ounces – or 70 grams.
- Duck eggs have 295% of the daily recommended value of cholesterol.
- A duck egg boasts 21% of the daily recommended amount of iron.
- There is 17% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin D in duck eggs.
If you are going to keep your ducks on a pond, building a stationary or floating duck house is all you will need if the poultry birds will free range. A dusk to dawn door mechanism that runs on solar power can be used to secure the ducks in the hut at night to protect them from predators, releasing them only once the sun comes up again in the morning.
Such a duck house would need to be large enough to include nesting areas inside so the birds have somewhere to safely place their eggs. Even though duck eggs are far more thick and durable than chicken eggs, they will still get crushed under the weight of birds that continuously waddle across them.
Keeping the ducks in a traditional chicken coop and run environment either alone or with a flock of chickens, is another viable housing option. The run will need a water feature of some sort even if the ducks will spend time out of the enclosure free ranging.
A duck (or chicken if you are keeping both types of birds together) that rips a hole in an inflatable pool will not only cause you to waste money on the short-lived purchase, it may also choke on the thin plastic as it clogs their throat.
A plastic baby pool, shallow metal or hard rubber stock tank, or a shovel dug little garden style pond will suffice. Do not use an inflatable pool, the ducks or chickens will ultimately poke holes in it and cause a significant choking hazard for the birds.
Feed And Water
Ducks need a lot more water than chickens AND they will try to “swim” in even the most shallow of water dishes. When keeping ducks it is best to use the type of waterer that has the holding tank part placed on the outside of the coop run fencing and the detachable drinking fountain tips are located on the inside.
This will prevent the ducks from getting into the water or making it dirty because they attempt to – or splatter it everywhere with their beaks … which they think is big fun.
Keeping the coop run baby pool or similar water feature clean can become a tedious chore over time. It will not take more than three or four days for the nice clean water to get not only murky, but green and nasty and stinky.
You do not want to be eating eggs laid by duck hens that spend their time flopping around – and drinking such nasty water.
Ducks can eat the same poultry layer or high protein meat bird feed as chickens in pellet or crumble form. They will also need grit added to their diet if they are not free ranging and finding gritty substances naturally on their own to help them digest their food. When raising ducklings, they can eat ONLY non-medicated chick starter.
Keeping drakes in addition to duck laying hens will allow you to have a continual supply of ducklings to maintain or grow flock numbers – or to start a homesteading side hustle breeding duck egg laying breeds to sell.
The average lifespan of a duck is eight to 10 years, but egg laying will slow down substantially at the four to five year mark.
Ducklings and chickens can be kept in the same brooder without any problems, according to my personal experience. Ducklings are a whole lot messier than chicks, so the bedding in the brooder must be changed every two to three days to avoid a rancid sour smell and to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Top 12 Duck Egg Breeds
Khaki Campbell hens are both incredible egg layers, and superb sitters. While the Pekin duck breed might lay slightly larger and more rich eggs, they do not lay as many nor are the good sitters.
Laying hens of this breed can lay between 280 to 320 eggs each year. Their peak laying years (as with nearly all duck breeds) occur during the first two years of their lives. The eggs laid during this time will not usually be as large as the ones laid when they are five years old.
Egg laying usually begins (again as with most duck breeds) around the age of six months. The large white eggs a Khaki Campbell duck lays will weigh around two and half to three quarters of an ounce.
Khaki Campbells are an independent duck breed that is known to be affable and intelligent. They are good foragers and bond tightly with the other ducks and even chickens that they are raised with in the coop.
But, it will likely take a little longer to train them to a turn out and put up routine than Pekin ducks, which adapt to learning instruction extremely quickly, in my personal experience.
This duck egg laying breed is of a medium size that weighs approximately four to four and a half pounds once mature. If you also want to keep ducks for meat, these birds will not get as large as some other solid egg laying breeds – but do produce a tender and moist type of meat.
These smart little beauties are my favorite duck breed. They are known as a top quality dual purpose duck breed because they are raised for egg laying as well as meat cultivation.
Pekin ducks have an extremely friendly personality, are amazing little foragers, and learn the free ranging and put up routine in record time.
They are a very routine driven duck breed. They want fed at the same time every day and put up at the same time, or else they will honk and quack relentlessly to garner the attention of their keepers.
When left to their own devices, Pekins should be expected to rid your yard of a vast array of bugs – or remove bugs from your garden when placed inside of a “chicken” tractor and allowed to roam between the rows.
Pekin laying hens can be expected to lay roughly 200 to 300 per year during their peak laying years. Pekin duck eggs weigh around three ounces. Although Pekin duck hens are incredible layers, they tend to be notoriously lousy sitters. If you want to grow your flock of Pekin ducks, expect to incubate any eggs that are destined for hatching.
While it is not unusual to catch a Pekin hen or two sitting her eggs and any she can steal from another nest, her interest in this activity usually only lasts for a few days – or even a few hours before swimming in the pond beckons or the boredom of sitting becomes overwhelming.
Pekin ducks weigh about eight to 11 pounds – or more, once mature.
The cylindrical body shape of Indian Runner ducks make them very easy to recognize. These consummate layers stand in an almost upright position because of how far back the legs are placed on their bodies.
Like many (but not all) top duck egg laying hens, their body is too heavy for their small wings to function well enough to allow them to fly. Indian Runner ducks weigh about four to four and a half pounds once they reach maturity.
They are easy to handle birds and are usually calm, fairly quiet, and docile in nature. Hens lay large eggs that are a green shade instead of the more common white eggs. Indian Runner hens lay 270 to 300 eggs per year on average. The eggs weigh around two and a half to three ounces.
The hens start laying a little earlier than most duck breeds. You should expect to start seeing eggs when the Indian Runner hens are about four and a half months old. While the Indian Runner hens are steady and dependable layers, they are not good sitters, on average. They are also excellent free rangers.
Indian Runners can adapt to coop and run life without any issues as long as the run area is large so they have ample room to roam and water to swim in.
Silver Appleyard laying hens are exceptionally winter hard and tend to lay more eggs than some other breeds during the cold weather months. This heritage duck egg laying breed weighs in around eight to 10 pounds once mature, making them a good choice to a dual purpose meat bird, as well.
Members of this duck breed are also accomplished foragers and have an affable personality with their coop maters and human keepers. They are typically a quieter breed than Pekin ducks and sit their eggs better than this common and popular breed – but do not sit nearly as well as Khaki Campbell hens.
Khaki Campbell hens generally weigh between 250 to 270 eggs annually. The eggs weigh between two to three ounces, on average. Silver Appleyards usually start laying between five to seven months of age.
Resist the urge to wash the duck eggs and put them directly into the refrigerator. Cleaning the eggs will remove the natural protective covering the laying hen encases around the egg – which helps prevent air and bacteria from getting inside of the egg.
When stored in a space with roughly a 45 F degree (7 Celsius) temperature, they will last from about two weeks to a month. Placing unwashed eggs in the refrigerator typically increases their shelf life to three months. Unwashed eggs will last at least two weeks unrefrigerated and three months or more in the refrigerator.
This duck breed is probably the quietest you can buy – which may be a prime consideration for small town and suburban backyard keepers. In fact, Muscovy ducks do not actually quack or honk like other breeds but make a light hissing sound.
Muscovy hens lay about 180 eggs per year. While they lay fewer eggs than some breeds on this list, their eggs are often regarded for their hardiness and rich flavor. The hens are excellent sitters and tend to have loving and sustained maternal instincts once the ducklings are born.
To test the level of freshness of the duck eggs (or any egg, for the matter) place them into a bowl of lukewarm water. Eggs that sink to the bottom are fresh. Ones that float to the top need pitched. Eggs that do not sink all the way to the bottom but are not floating above the water’s surface are likely still safe to eat, but need to be used quickly.
These duck laying hens produce between 180 to 200 eggs per year. They produce really large eggs that weigh between four and a half to five and a half ounces.
Abacot Rangers are a dual purpose duck breed even though they are fairly lightweight in size. They somewhat resemble Khaki Campbell ducks, but are slightly larger.
This duck egg laying breed is known for its docile nature, hardiness, and longevity. Abacot Rangers often live past the average 10 year mark.
This duck egg laying breed is incredibly popular in Europe – but more for its flavorful meat than the eggs it produces. The Aylesbury ducks are efficient foragers as well as hardy and docile keepers. Members of this duck breed look a lot like incredibly large Pekin ducks.
Aylesbury duck hens lay only 35 to 125 eggs per year, but they lay steadily throughout the winter months. The large eggs can be either white or a tinted green shade. These ducks are a heritage breed and are on the endangered breeds list.
The Alabio duck hens lay between 200 to 250 eggs that weigh between nearly three and a half to four and a half ounces each. They are amazing foragers, but will fly away if their wings are not clipped or they are kept exclusively inside of a coop and run.
Alabio ducks are a very heat tolerant breed and hail from Indonesia, where they are among the most popular breeds kept on farms. Laying hens often go broody, making them excellent sitters.
Laying hens from this duck breed commonly produce between 220 to 290 large white eggs each year. Magpie ducks are highly regarded for their docile and hardy nature.
Due to their large size, Magpies are also often kept as dual purpose or meat birds. Foraging is one of a Magpie ducks favorite pastimes. While they can do fine in a coop and run environment, the habitat will need to be spacious to avoid boredom that may cause feather plucking.
Magpie ducks are a light breed, allowing them to have some flying ability, which you will readily notice if a member of the flock becomes startled or scared. They are better layers than sitters on average but do produce a small but steady stream of eggs during the winter months.
Blue Swedish Duck
The Blue Swedish duck breed is a beautiful bird that is kept for both eggs and meat. It will forage decently, but does not mind being kept in a spacious coop and run.
Laying hens of this breed lay only between 100 to 150 creamy eggs per year, but each one can weigh as much as seven and a half to nine ounces. They have little to no flying ability. Blue Swedish laying hens are good sitters and overall good little feathered mommas.
Rouen ducks look a lot like Mallard ducks, except they can actually grow larger than the wild breed as they mature. Expect members of this duck breed to take a few weeks up to two months longer to reach maturity than most other breeds. Rouen laying hens produce between 140 to 180 medium sized eggs annually.
This duck breed is considered dual purpose because they are equally prized for their meat, as well as their eggs. This is at least an average free ranging breed but in my personal experience can be a little skittish and take a while to learn the turn out and put up routine.
Orpington ducks (often called Buff Orpington just like the chicken breed) can usually lay between 200 to 250 large white eggs on an annual basis. They are a heavy bird and are also often kept for meat harvesting purposes, as well.
Members of this duck breed are better than average foragers and often very friendly with their keepers. They are equally good at free ranging and coop life.
Birds included in this breed are also big foragers and love free ranging. I have not personally found Rouen ducks to be as intelligent or easy to train as Pekins, they still are able to learn a barnyard routine fairly quickly and do not wreak havoc at put up time.
There is nothing more frustrating for a homesteader or backyard keeper than having to chase one or two ducks around a coop as night starts to fall because the little feathered cutie refuses to go into the coop.
Rouen ducks are fairly quiet (more so than Pekins) and they will not take to coming and sitting in your lap for a good scratching like some chickens, they are not skittish and have a pleasant demeanor.
7 Ways To Maximize Duck Egg Production
Increase Light Exposure
As noted above, adding light to the coop during cold weather months will help foster better egg production. The inexpensive artificial solar light sources can safely infuse the rays needed to simulate the natural light needed to lay eggs as long as the fixture uses a 40 to 60 watt bulb.
When such a light is installed in the coop, the ducks should be laying up to 90% of their normal production rate within four to six weeks.
Boost the calcium and protein intake of the duck laying hens to help maintain and improve laying quantity as well as quality. Egg shells can become far more brittle when the hen’s intake of protein or calcium has waned. Consider giving free choice treats that include meal worms, crushed egg shells, fresh veggies and fruit.
Keep the coop, run, and nesting boxes as clean as possible. Hens will refuse to lay in a dirty area, especially in a less than hygienic nesting box.
Check the size of the nesting box when the hend spends time in it to make sure it is large enough to house both the duck and the eggs, while allowing freedom of movement, as well. If the hen feels cramped, she will not sit in the nesting box.
Room To Roam
In my experience, free ranging can substantially help maximize egg laying. The more natural the environment the duck laying hens are in, the more comfortable they will be – and that helps maintain and enhance egg production.
If you cannot free range, then create a run on the coop or duck house that is as large as possible and include plantings or edible landscaping and as big of a water feature for swimming as possible.
If you are concerned about predators, especially hawks if you are raising ducks small enough that can be lifted (or have ducklings running about) consider placing bird netting over the duck pond by attaching it to the top of T-posts or wood stakes to help keep the birds better protected while they swim.
As an added bonus, allowing the ducks to either free range or go for waddles around the yard under your supervision will truly go a long way on combating flying and crawling pests.
The lack of mosquitoes and ticks here on our homestead in the middle of the woods – which includes a big pond near the coop and house, is a testament to a free ranging duck’s ability to reduce the small pest population.
Conduct regular health checks to determine if an injury or illness could be impacting duck egg production. I keep a record of the habits and health check results of each bird.
Doing something as simple as checking over their bodies and feets for wounds, signs of parasites, or extensive feather plucking can help you recognize a small issue before it becomes a huge or – or worse yet, one that spreads from a single duck laying hen to the rest of the flock.
Monitor the water and food intake as well. If you notice the flock is consuming less of either (or both) that might indicate an illness or parasite infestation.
Secure Coop and Run
Sometimes a keeper thinks the duck hens are not laying eggs because the amount of eggs being collected has diminished when the birds are in fact still laying normally.
In cases like this, the eggs are actually being stolen by predators. A mink, rat, snake, or racoon can make short work of chicken wire enclosures. Such wire works fine to keep poultry birds in but has little to no success at keeping predators out.
Hardware cloth not only on the sides and top of run but layered on the base of the coop can keep climbing and clawing, slithering, and burrowing predators away from your nesting boxes. A racoon can often open a simple one step lock, so a two step lock that requires more mechanical skill than a raccoon possesses, should be used.
A stressed duck will simply not lay eggs, or at least not lay as many eggs as it would otherwise. Even if you also keep chickens and they are laying does not mean a stresser is not impacting the ducks in the barnyard.
Ducks are a bit more susceptible to predators than chickens, but in my experience, a hardier bird to keep when it comes to times of both intense heat and cold.
Because a duck laying hens beak cannot peck and even a small predator and it cannot really fly up and away, it is unable to defend itself – hence the phrase, “sitting duck.”
Consider investing in a livestock guardian dog to help keep the coop and duck pond area free of predators. Even if you live in a small town or suburbia and not on a rural homestead, there can still be deadly predators lurking about that can kill your duck laying hens. Keeping a livestock guardian dog or guineas can vastly help to protect your egg laying ducks.
Any one of the top egg laying duck breeds highlighted in this guide will provide frequent and quality eggs for your family. Choosing the right breed to suit your particular space limitations and husbandry plan will vastly increase your chances of success.
Following the outlined habitat set up protocols and diligently conducting weekly checks on the birds will help keep your duck hens happy, clean, healthy, and producing large and creamy rich eggs year-round.
Most duck breeds will lay an egg everyday until the hen believes she has a complete clutch for sitting – even if the breed is lousy as sitting. If the hen sits her eggs, even for a little while, she will rotate the eggs in the nest.
The female duck will shift the eggs around on a regular basis, in an effort to make sure her body heat has been distributed evenly – which is essential for hatching purposes.
Most domesticated duck breeds lay eggs in clutches (or batches) of 20. The first several eggs laid, especially from a recently mature bird, will be smaller than the rest of those in the same clutch.
These small eggs are often referred to as “fairy eggs” by keepers. Once the bird has matured and continues to fill out her clutch, the fairy eggs, which are as safe to eat as the other eggs, should dissipate. Hatching a fertilized fairy egg often does not produce successful results.
While it varies slightly between breeds, you should expect a duck hen to begin laying her first eggs once she reaches six to seven months old.
Some duck breeds are better at laying during the cold weather months than others. Like chickens, you will increase the chances of ducks laying during the winter if you keep a coop light from the late fall through the early spring.
Poultry birds need at least eight if not 10 hours of sunlight per day to foster good egg laying in respect to both quantity and quality. Thin shells often develop when either ducks or chickens – but especially chickens, lay eggs during the winter.
Solar powered little coop lights that can be hung inside the coop cost around $10 to $15 each. Unlike brooder lights, they do not produce heat or intense power that could cause dry bedding to catch on fire.
Both types of poultry bird eggs taste basically the same, but duck eggs are known to have a creamy texture and a more rich flavor. Both the yolks and the eggs themselves are larger when laid by a duck hen – even a banty duck breed.
Bakers tend to love duck eggs, both amateur and high end professional ones, because of the way yolks from duck eggs “stand up” to produce “loft” and the way the creamy texture makes dishes far more moist. Duck eggs are most often used in custards, cakes, cookies, and pies.
You can cook a duck egg just as you would a chicken egg. They taste great scrambled, fried, poached, or hard boiled. Expect the large yolk in the duck egg to have a deeper red to orange hue when cooking with it than a chicken egg.
The typical duck egg is approximately 30% larger than a chicken egg. When baking or cooking with a duck egg the general rule of thumb is to substitute two duck eggs for every three chicken eggs a recipe calls for.
Some folks use a one to one substitution ratio if a recipe calls for a large egg specifically, but doing so could run the risk of the dish or baked good being a little runny.
Ducks that lay colored eggs are commonly referred to as “Easter eggers.” Some folks keep ducks of this type simply because of the beauty of their eggs to use at Easter time in the spring even though they may not lay as many eggs year round as some other breeds.
– Indian Runners
Duck eggs that are colored are often sought after by artisans who purchase them for painting and other crafting projects.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day. her homesteading skills are unmatched, she raises chickens, goats, horses, a wide variety of vegetables, not to mention she’s an expert is all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping and many, many more.