If you're looking to add some poultry to your homestead, the 2 most popular choices are chickens or ducks. Some people prefer one or the other and some have both. We raise both. We had chickens for several years before adding the ducks and after having them for a few months I swore I'd never get them again! NEVER. EVER.
However, since then, I have come to understand that ducks are not chickens and they have their own.....lets say uniqueness.
While they both lay eggs, can be used for meat and can supply hours of entertainment, thats pretty much where the similarities end.
The biggest difference is the mess factor. That's a HUGE one and if your not prepared for it, you will also swear them off forever. Ducks LOVE water. Ducks NEED water. If a duck can find something to get sopping wet and muddy they will. While chickens on the other hand are not as messy, but they do scratch up giant craters for dust baths that I have embarrassingly fallen into when I'm not paying attention.
Another difference is personality. If I ever want to hang out with a feathered friend, it will be a chicken. When I walk around doing my chores several of my girls will usually be following me around demanding some attention. The ducks on the other hand will pretty much ignore me and if I get to close they will run away. While I have talked to people who have friendly ducks, that has not been my experience. Quite the opposite actually, my male duck would attack me as soon as I turned my back for no good reason then to just show me who's boss. I had to take care of that pretty quick, and now he's OK. Still not nice, but he no longer attacks.
The other differences are roosting and nesting boxes. Chickens need a high ledge to sleep on, where as ducks like the ground. Chickens use a nice cozy nesting box to lay their eggs, and again, ducks like the ground. Ducks are alot more hearty in winter but still need their water to keep clean. So be prepared to break the ice on their pool and refill it with fresh water in the cold winter months.
We free range our ducks and chickens and they have their separate housing. But if you plan on housing them together be aware that a male duck can try to mate a chicken and can really hurt them. Do all drakes do that? No, but its something to keep in mind when housing them together. So, whether you get chickens, ducks or both your guaranteed benefits and entertainment from both!