City dwellers can practice urban farming by keeping chickens in their backyards, but that’s not the only poultry option. Some people are now turning to ducks rather than chickens as their domesticated bird of choice.

Benefits to raising traditional barnyard animals in a suburban (or urban) settings include self-sufficiency and the ability to connect with your roots. Also, watching any baby birds grow up before your eyes can be a fun family activity.

Depending on where you live, ducks may be the better option of the two birds. Ducks spend time in the water, making them less susceptible to diseases, such as mites or parasites. Ducks have an extra layer of fat to protect them from the elements and can sleep outside, even in Washington’s inclement weather. Ducks are social animals, and welcome new members to their flock without ruffling any feathers. They will also forage for food on their own, providing free weed and insect maintenance.

Duck eggs are as versatile as chicken eggs, and are often richer in flavor and fat and water content. Duck eggs work best in baking because of their high fat content, but less so as straight hard-boiled eggs.

If you already have chickens and want to make the switch to ducks, it is simple to do so. According to Becky Koplowitz, assistant manager at Hohl Feed & Seed, you can use the same chick starter kit, brooder, and bedding for both baby chickens and ducks. You can also use the same bread scraps and fresh greens to feed the ducks.

Of course, like any other living thing, ducks have their downsides. They need a body of water of some kind, and the water requires routine cleaning and changing. Ducks aren’t as productive at egg laying as chickens, Koplowitz said, which is why ducks are usually kept as recreational pets. Chickens require less space, and can survive in the snow better than ducks can. Ultimately, whatever fowl you choose, if you’re properly prepared, you’ll have a new feathered friend.

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"Watching any baby birds grow up before your eyes can be a fun family activity."