by Victoria Redhed Miller
Here at Canyon Creek Farms, we have been raising laying hens since 2007, and laying ducks since 2008. Here’s a brief comparison of duck and chicken eggs.
At various times we have raised Blue Swedish and Indian Runner ducks, and now maintain a laying flock of Khaki Campbell ducks. The Khakis have consistently started laying at 5 to 5-1/2 months of age, several weeks ahead of our dual-purpose New Hampshire hens. When production is highest in the spring, we typically collect 5-6 eggs per week from each of our 24 laying ducks; each of our hens delivers 3-5 eggs per week.
|Young Khaki Campbell hens|
You may have read that Khaki Campbells can average 320 eggs or more per year. I think this would only be possible if the coops were artificially lit during the fall and winter months, which we choose not to do. On the other hand, our ducks continue laying farther into the fall than our hens typically do; the production slowdown generally runs from mid-November to mid-January. Depending on when the molt starts, our hen egg production usually drops to almost nothing by mid-October.
As with chickens, the optimum egg production of ducks depends on proper nutrition. Young ducks grow faster than chickens, and require more protein to sustain this growth rate. They also benefit from added Vitamin B12, in the form of either oats (our ducks love rolled oats) or brewer’s yeast. Our ducks love to forage, so give them access to pasture if you can.
Characteristics of the eggs
|Duck egg on the left compared to a large chicken egg on the right|
The most obvious difference between chicken and duck eggs is that duck eggs are larger. While they vary in size like chicken eggs, our duck eggs average between 3 and 3-1/2 ounces, compared to a large chicken egg, which weighs between 2 and 2-1/4 ounces.
The shell of duck eggs is noticeably stronger than that of chicken eggs, contributing to longer shelf life of the eggs.
People often ask us what duck eggs taste like. Opinions vary, but generally most people think they are a bit richer and creamier than chicken eggs. When laying ducks have access to pasture, their eggs, like chicken eggs, tend to have less cholesterol, more beta-carotene and more Vitamin A, among other nutritional benefits.
Duck eggs have slightly different proteins in the albumen (the white). Some people who are allergic to chicken eggs find that they can tolerate duck eggs; we have many customers who buy our duck eggs for this reason. Check with your doctor first, though, to make sure that this is safe for you to try.
Marketing duck eggs
We have been selling our chicken and duck eggs locally for about six years now. Our main customer is a restaurant, the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim. In the spring when we have lots of extra eggs, the surplus goes to several local retail stores. We’ve found that duck eggs have a particular niche market here. We know several serious bakers who swear by duck eggs for baking; the egg white has higher viscosity than that of chicken eggs, making duck eggs an excellent choice for recipes calling for the eggs to be separated. The baker at the Alder Wood Bistro uses nothing but our duck eggs for all the desserts she makes, including a wonderful gluten-free flourless brownie.
Duck eggs are more valuable than chicken eggs, partly because they are larger, and also because they are not as plentiful in many areas as chicken eggs. Our duck eggs currently fetch a wholesale price of $6.00 per dozen; depending on your location, they may sell for more or less than that. In Washington State, we are required to have an Egg Dealer’s License to sell our eggs wholesale. Be sure to check your local regulations before selling your homegrown eggs.
Ducks are fun and easy to raise, and excellent producers of table eggs. Chances are there is a market for duck eggs where you are, if you’re looking for a small farm enterprise. Once you try your first farm-fresh duck egg, you might find, like we did, that there is nothing like it.
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Victoria Redhed Miller is a writer, photographer, and homesteader who lives off-grid on a 40-acre farm in the foothills of Washington’s Olympic Mountains with her husband David. As well as raising heritage chickens, turkeys and ducks, she works towards enhancing her family’s self-sufficiency through gardening, food preservation, craft brewing and distilling, antique repair and restoration, and other traditional skills. She is the author of Pure Poultry: Living Well With Heritage Chickens, Turkeys, and Ducks.