Downsides to Ducks, The 100% Honest Truth about Owning Ducks

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If you want to raise ducks as pets, to sell eggs, or even for meat raising ducks has its pros and cons, and it’s important to know the honest truth, especially the downsides to owning and caring for ducks before jumping into this venture.

With chick days right around the corner at many feed and farm stores, this is a topic that’s been weighing heavily on my mind. The fact is raising ducklings and keeping ducks can be more challenging than keeping chickens, and isn’t for all backyard flock keepers. Ducks grow fast and you can easily find yourself in a situation you may not be fully set up for, or find that you don’t actually enjoy.

I have been keeping ducks with my chickens for the past year, and while I love them and find a great deal of joy in having them. Raising domesticated ducks of any breed can be very enjoyable and rewarding, but it also has its drawbacks. It’s easy to find arguments for raising ducks, but oftentimes people are so smitten with their ducks they overlook the less desirable aspects. I feel, as with any new addition to the homestead or farm, the good and bad should be weighed up before making a decision. So today I thought I would share what I perceive as the downsides of duck raising.

Table of Contents

Ducks are Messy

I think I underestimated exactly how messy ducks were when I first brought home ducklings! Ducks poop on average every 15 minutes, that’s an actual fact. Duck poop is liquid, and prolific, and they have no control over when they poop, and will poop everywhere. Even a small flock of ducks can generate a pretty large amount of manure.

Ducks love water, they will drink more of it than you think possible, play in it, swim in it, mate in it, clean themselves in it, and want to sleep right by it. They will get water everywhere, which makes mud. You will spend a good part of your time hauling or running clean water, cleaning pools, buckets, and waterers.

They are also messy eaters. Ducks eat by taking a few bite of feed and then getting a drink, and in the process they just fling food and water everywhere. The duck food turns mushy and the water gets loaded with food crumbs. So now you have food to go with your tons of water and poop, which happens to attract flies, and I don’t know about you, but flies buzzing around makes everything feel even nasier to me.

There are definitely ways to address the messiness of ducks, and to even minimize a lot of it, but don’t underestimate the level of mess a couple of ducks can make.

A adult white female pekin duck, whose face and bill are covered in mud is standing in a grassy yard, a garden hose is slightly out of focus on the ground behind the duck.

Ducks Can be Loud

One of the most endearing traits of ducks to me is how they form tight close knit relationships with their flock mates. My ducks are thick as thieves and there is constantly communication and chatter going on amoung my 4 girls.

A lot of your flocks noise level may depend on the ducks breeds. My Pekin is fairly quiet, but my Buff Orpingtons are very vocal, and very loud, they also sound surprisingly similar to Donald Duck. Disney may have gotten a few things wrong over the years, but they absolutely hit the nail on the head with the sound of a duck communicating.

If you have neighbors nearby, they may not be as entertained by the ducks yelling at each other across the yard as you are, the noise level of a duck may become a point of contention. It’s something to keep in mind.

Drakes Can be Aggressive Towards Humans

Drakes seem to be ruled by hormones, and the cause of drake aggression towards humans can usually be traced back to one of two reasons: he feels dominant and he’s attempting to be the boss, or he wants to mate you. Both of these scenarios are completely unacceptable in my book.

If your drake is displaying his perceived dominance over you, there are ways to handle the situation. For me personally though, I keep ducks because I enjoy having them around and taking care of them. If a drake thinks he is going to intimidate me or makes it difficult for me to enjoy being around my flock I won’t keep it.

If you get ducks, and plan on keeping a drake around for the long term you need to be prepared for the potential of aggressive behavior.

Duck Mating is Horrific

When I first heard that duck mating is unpleasant, I instantly brushed it off…I live on a farm afterall, I’ve seen a lot of natural behaviors that could classify as less than pleasant. But duck mating is extremely aggressive, and takes place several times a day.

Male ducks have very high sex drives, they also can be very rough on females. If you keep multiple drakes, mating can be down right horrific, because often when one male notices another male mating the others will want to join in while the female is restrained, resulting in her injury or even death. Missing feathers from the neck, head, and back, along with large to small cuts and sores from the drake’s claws or bill, or even death can happen when a female is over-mated.

The recommended ratio of drakes to ducks to prevent overmating is 5-8 ducks per drake! This gives you an idea of just how high of a sex drive male ducks have.

If you are also raising chickens and are planning on having a mixed flock you need to know that drakes may even attempt to mate with chickens, which can be highly problematic. Waterfowl are one of the few birds that actually have penises. Drakes have long corkscrew mating organs that stay tucked within the duck’s body until it’s time to mate.

Rooster’s on the other hand do not have penises, nor is the female chicken reproductive tract designed for penetration. A drake attempting to mate with a hen is very dangerous for the hen and can actually kill her.

After several weeks of my duck flock’s very active mating season, that left my Pekin battered, I culled my drake and replaced him with 3 female ducks. I have no regrets and don’t miss the aggressive mating that was frequently happening in my yard.

1 adult female pekin duck and two female buff orpington ducks in a blue plastic kiddie pool mounted on top of each other during mating season.

If you Purchase Your Ducks at a Feed Store Be Prepared to Cull Your Flock

Female ducks are generally pretty laid back, but drakes can be territorial, and aggressive to other male members of their flock. Problems within a duck flock typically tend to occur when you have two or more males or an equal number of females or less to males.

Male ducks fight and kill their offspring to free up the female duck’s time. Male ducks will fight other male ducks to establish alpha status in the flock, and male ducks will fight because of hormonal surges that make them aggressive and territorial. I think you can see why you don’t want a flock made up almost entirely of hormonal jerks.

There is a general consensus among duck enthusiasts that the ducklings the feed stores get and sell as straight runs are most likely the remaining birds after the ducklings have been sexed by the hatchery for orders, and therefore contain an unusually high amount of males.

I purchased my first batch of ducklings straight run at Tractor Supply, fully prepared to harvest the drakes, and keep the hens for egg layers. At the time I really wanted egg layers. What I was not prepared for was a drastically uneven ratio of drakes to ducks, which of course is what I ended up with, and would never work if I intended to keep the peace in my coop.

I was hoping for at least 2 females and I figured with a flock of 6, statistically my odds were pretty good. What I got was 1 female duck and 5 drakes. I decided that 4 of the drakes were to be harvested, and 1 drake would be left to be a companion to our girl. Eventually my one remaining drake was also harvested because of the aggressive mating situation I mentioned earlier. I purchased 3 sexed Buff Orpington ducks directly from a hatchery to keep my Pekin company. Lesson learned.

I am grateful to have the meat in the freezer, and I was happy to be able to share some with my neighbors who helped us with the processing of the birds. Honestly, raising the birds and putting the meat in the freezer gave me a sense of accomplishment I wasn’t anticipating, but before that sense of accomplishment was a whole host of emotions that included sadness, and quite a bit of introspection.

Of course you don’t have to harvest your drakes, you can attempt to rehome them, but rehoming drakes is much easier said than done, oftentimes even free drakes will have a difficult time finding a new home.

Ducks Aren’t Typically Affectionate

Ducks are a joy to be around, they have entertaining personalities, they are actually quite intelligent and can be trainable, but they aren’t likely to enjoy snuggles and cuddles. Ducks by nature are skittish and shy. My pekin tolerates handling and is much more friendly than my Buff Orpington ducks, but she definitely prefers to be near me on her own terms, which is at somewhat of a distance.

If you think about it ducks are super vulnerable to predator attacks, restraining them or taking away their ability to flee if they feel threatened probably goes against every natural survival instinct in their body.

Ducks are Defenseless

Fox, raccoon, weasels, skunks, coyotes, hawks are just a few predators who wouldn’t mind making dinner out of your backyard flock. As duck keepers the possibility of a predator attack is never far from our minds, because let’s face it, domesticated ducks are in fact sitting ducks, and defenseless to predators. Before you even bring ducks home you should be trying to figure out how you are going to keep them safe.

Ducks are highly vulnerable to predators in ways that chickens aren’t. Flightless ducks, with their big flippers and large bodies move cumbersomely on dry land and aren’t able to easily escape predators who will attack on ground level, such as fox, and coyotes. Physical barriers will be one of the most useful predator protection you can offer your mixed flock, but occasionally even those can be breached.

Foxes have been my single biggest threat. Sly and intelligent, they have stalked out my ducks without notice until they’re ready for a swift, clean attack.

Be Prepared for Foot Injuries

Duck feet are perfectly suited for paddling around in water, but on land their large webbed feet tend to get poked, scratched and can even tear. Even with the best of care and coop hygiene injuries are bound to happen. You should be prepared to provide basic wound care, and have a supply of first aid supplies for your flock on hand.

In my area there are very few avian veterinarians, so treatment of something like bumblefoot is usually a diy endeavor. Bumblefoot is a highly infectious bacterial infection that is common in ducks and requires someone to lance, and drain the abscess. If you are squeamish around blood or don’t like the idea of performing at home treatment like this, chickens who are less prone to developing bumblefoot, or foot injuries in general might be a better idea for you.

3 Buff Orpington ducks and 1 pekin ducks splashing in a plastic kiddie pool mid winter. Large chunks of ice that have been removed from the pool can be seen on the ground beside the pool

Water and Mud

When you get ducks a large part of your week will now be dedicated to cleaning tanks and pools, hauling water, draining water, and running water.

It’s true domesticated ducks don’t need a large body of water to thrive, but despite what I’ve read on some forums, and based on my experiences they do need more than a bucket to stick their head in.

Ducks need a water source for hygiene, mating, drinking, and hanging out in. In fact if your duck doesn’t have access to a water supply large enough for them to splash around in they can develop a condition known as wet feather. Wet feather happens when a duck can’t clean her feathers and maintain the natural oily coating that keeps waterproof feathers from soaking and getting waterlogged. A duck who hasn’t been able to swim and preen in water will soak right through her feathers and downy fluff and stay wet when she does get access to water, which may cause her to become chilled and unable to stay warm.

A kiddie pool is the perfect answer if your property doesn’t have a pond or creek, and will keep your ducks happy and healthy. A kiddie pool without any kind of filtration will likely have to be drained and refilled at least every other day. During the summer I use the water from my ducks pool to water my plants and flowers, but during the winter months I have a build-up of ice around the pool to contend with.

The increase in the amount of water around your property will definitely be noticeable, and it will attract mosquitoes and flies in the summer months and become slippery patches of ice during winter.

You Might Not Be Able to Tolerate Duck Eggs

This was one of the most surprising things I’ve learned this past year while raising my ducks. It is pretty widely known that if you are allergic to chicken eggs, you may be able to eat duck eggs. But the reverse can also be true.

The first time I scrambled up a duck egg to try it out, shortly after eating it I felt nauseous, sweaty, and later had stomach cramps and issues that sent me running to my bathroom. Since I can tolerate duck eggs in cooked or baked items, I assumed my experience had to do with the fact I had my gallbladder removed due to cholecystitis. I have since read many comments in Facebook duck raising groups, and homesteading forums where others have had very similar reactions to duck eggs.

I can’t find any statistics on duck egg intolerance, but I’ve run across the topic enough times to believe while it probably isn’t common, it can happen, regardless of how you react to chicken eggs.

Ducks are Higher Maintenance than Chickens

I have seen several posts claiming ducks are lower maintenance than chickens, and I wholeheartedly have to disagree.

If you were to compare the level of care backyard poultry requires to other farm animals chickens are like having barn cats, as long as they are clean, dry and fed, they will be fine. Ducks on the other hand are much more like actual small livestock, like goats or pigs. Owning a couple of ducks (or several ducks) is a commitment of time and energy as you accommodate their needs. Generally speaking the kind of maintenance ducks require isn’t difficult, but it can be messy and time consuming.

Ducks are finickier eaters than chickens. Generally speaking, Ducks can eat chicken feed and special waterfowl feed. Still, they love when their feed ration is supplemented with leafy green vegetables. They happily wait for their daily serving of leftover salad, salad greens, broccoli, kale, herbs, and of course, peas which are loaded with niacin and support good duck health.

A side view of a female buff orpington duck standing on a sidewalk, a garden hose can be seen on the ground behind her.

Consider the Commitment

I absolutely love my ducks, and enjoy spending time with them. I don’t want to discourage you from trying ducks if you have your heart set on them. Anytime you take an animal into your care you should do your due diligence, and research regardless of if you want to raise ducks as pets, to sell eggs, or even for meat make sure you are committed to seeing it through.

With all this said, ducks are amazingly entertaining, funny, sensitive and form deep bonds with their flockmates. They will provide you with endless joy if you properly accommodate their needs and are prepared for the hard work that comes with caring for them.

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  1. This is a fantastic article! I witnessed male aggression towards a female with offspring today and was very bewildered and saddened. After reading your article, I understand it, but still feel horrified. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Yep this article is 100% true

    I’ve had three females, sent to farm because they did not stop SCREAMING it was unbelievable

    So tried two males hatched from eggs.. Exactly the same issue SCREAMING constantly. The difference is the screaming is lower tone but equally as frequent and loud.

    They are Very messy and after these I won’t be getting any more!!!

  3. Thank you. I was getting ready to pick up 2 more hen ducks tomorrow to go with my 3. Yes, they are a lot of work and very messy. I’m glad I read your article here as it made me realize the 3 I have are enough for the size of my coop. I love ducks and was planning on adding two Pekins to my little flock of Muscovies.

    1. Muscovy are the best! I’d had them for years the momma’s will even hatch out chicken eggs quite successfully! Unfortunately after a bad storm with high winds we’d lost our last 3.

  4. I so appreciate your frankness. I was so close to getting a few pekin ducks of my own but your honesty has helped me decide not to get Daffy and Donald

  5. thanks for the honest assessment.
    i am having some of my own struggles. but the duck meat is good enough to make this endeavor worth it. i found that sawdust is the best bedding. also i set up a kiddie pool with a constant trickle of water in and out. i put some aquatic plants to cover the water. its not bad. and the nearby tree is liking the effluent. i give the little ducks a place to run to with a narrow entrance bc the adult drakes will wreck the little ducks. finally i trained my dog to live with the ducks and protect them from predators. in my area (golan heights) these are mainly mongoose which are really vicious.
    good luck and happy farming

  6. What do you think of this. I have too many males. My females ducks are starting to lose their feather in their back of their heads and in the area where the male stands when mating. I really do not want to sell then — they will just die — since I have all them as pets. But it feels like its needed if I want to restore the health of the females. Having more ducks is not an option. I feel bad, even if it’s needed for the greater good.

  7. I got my ducks two years ago and I’ve never looked back. They were strictly purchased as pets and the eggs are just a bonus. My welshies are the light of my life and I even have a personalized license plate that says DUCK MOM. ha ha. Their names are Arya Waddlemeyer, Rosemary Vanderbill and Phoebe von Quack. I’ve learned a couple things about ducks… I almost lost my precious Arya last year… It was thanksgiving weekend and I noticed she was separating herself from the others and hiding in odd places, she wasn’t really eating and just NOT herself. As soon as the avian vet opened on Monday, I rushed her in. She had eaten little lead pebbles. NC has over 300 minerals, more than any other state, and apparently we have metal rocks! The vet had seen it before. She had lead poisoning. She needed surgery to remove them but was too weak so we spent 4 days treating her for the toxins and getting her strength up before her surgery that Friday. The surgery didn’t work. There is so much sand and stuff in a duck tummy that the vet just couldn’t get to it. We had to either wait for it to pass on it’s own or wait for it to move to a better location and try again, while continuing treatments for lead poisoning until one or the other happened. Arya lived in the house during this time and her sisters knew she was in there and would NOT shut up, lol, QUAAAACKWUAAAACK…. so it wasn’t long before I let them ALL inside. During the multiple throat injections and pill pushings a day, Arya became a ‘snuggle duck’. She is now the sweetest most loving duck ever. UGH. I can’t even… I hate that I’m at work right now, I just want an Arya snuggle. lol! The other girls KNOW she gets special treatment and I can SEE them picking on her for it sometimes, AND using it to their advantage other times… like standing in circle and softly chattering to each other and then sending her in first to beg for mealworms. ha ha. Then I read an article that said that in 2016 we discovered that ducks have abstract thought. They are not just clever, but are capable of problem solving and have a sense of humor from one day old. VERY few animals are capable of these things. Take THAT chickens… lol. I’ve also come to learn that while they may not be able to be potty trained because they can’t control their poops… they DO KNOW the poops are COMING. Arya has never pooped on me. I don’t restrain her in my lap and when she starts to struggle I set her down. She will immediately poop. She knows it’s coming and doesn’t WANT to go on me so she tries to get down quickly…

    Anyway, I just wanted to share those few things from my experience keeping ducks. My girls are spoiled brats. They even have their own youtube channel (the one with all the ducks)! My sister keeps chickens and we often argue over which is better but I think the answer is OBVIOUS. NOTHING WORTH HAVING COMES EASY. Chickens are boring, in my opinion. Ducks are HILARIOUS, mine love music and when a song they like comes on, they will twitch their wings, and when I sing to them softly, they lay down and fall asleep. They are capable of love and will actually show you affection if you pay attention/know what the signs are.

    Ducks are SO rewarding. But you’re not wrong. Actually, you were spot on! They are high maintenance. The care is easy but time consuming. They are messy messy messy! They made quick work of devouring every flower I ever planted on my property in the last 15 years and my beautiful little 900 gallon fish pond is history. Every water plant was eaten, including very expensive lilies and you can’t see the fish at all because you can’t see through the water anymore. lol. Sacrifices, man… but SO worth it. Because ducks are absolutely worth having!

    1. @Amanda Lambert, I realize this is an older post but I wanted to share an interesting plant fact about a plant that makes seeds that look like leadballs but they contain arsenic. This weed has little pea pods with about 1/8 inch or smaller peas that we can eat with salads even though they contain arsenic.

      When the seed pods turn black they kind of open on their own in a curly tail fashion and shoot the seeds out which at that point are black seeds and hard. You can eat the seeds as well and this is when you will note the almond flavor which is more prominent when they are black as that is the taste of arsenic. It will not kill you but you do not need to eat it in massive amounts.

      Now try explaining this to your pet duck that sees the seeds as food and has no idea of when to stop eating them. The arsenic will make them sick and it’s possible that in volume it could kill the duck.

      I’m sure that when you went to the vet they saw the black pellets as lead metal due to the x-rays and I have no idea how this would actually show up and for that matter I’m not even sure if arsenic itself falls into the metals family? I am going to try to find the name of the plant before I in this article reply and I will see if I can post some photos that I took today.

      The reason why I’m so interested in this is being‘s because I am debating on picking up three or four Peking ducks from our local family owned seed store. I am near the coast

      in Wilmington North Carolina and the weed is called Vetch. My yard has a lot of it and it returns year after year in the spring and seeds in the end of Spring (end of April).

      Vetch is one of my arch weed enemies that I try to pull every year.

      So I am driving and dictating and I apologize for any errors in translation and dictation but hopefully this is accurate enough.

      About Vetch for eating “Is vetch safe to eat?
      Many wild and cultivated foods contain some toxins, including vetch. This is why the way foods are processed is so important. Common vetch contains various toxins including cyanagens (think cyanide) and amino acids. For this reason only small amounts of the ‘peas’ should be eaten raw (no more than 10% of your diet).

      Large amounts are safe to eat when boiled for 2 hours or pressure-cooked for 20 minutes. Dried peas can taste a little almondy because of the cyanide – it’s a pleasant flavour to eat one or two raw. You can get away with eating more green rather than dried peas raw. The green peas taste of peas!”

      Pictures can be seen here:

      I hope this helps!

  8. Let’s not forget what they will do to your beautiful flowers and yard if left unattended for even a couple minutes while watering. You will have no plants or grass left as they will pull everything out and create a mud pool. My drake was much worse when it came to this but my ladies always followed him. Ducks are very high maintenance. I currently only have two females but the two of them are by far more work than my 14 chickens.

  9. This is such a well written and easy to read article; thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience.

    My wife and I were donated 3 ducklings by some friends who found them crossing a busy road. Despite hanging around the mother couldn’t be found, so they brought them to us.

    What an eye opener! They were 3 or 4 days old when we got them and they’re now about 5 weeks old. Sadly one died during their first night with us but the other two are strong and healthy.

    This website is a treasure trove of useful information. Thank you.

  10. Thanks for this in depth opinion! I’ve been doing a ton of research on owning ducks while deciding what to do on our property and way too many people gloss over the realities that come with owning ducks. This is a well rounded, well written view.