An easy way to integrate livestock into your garden is to add poultry, specifically ducks and chickens. Both chickens and ducks provide many beneficial services for vegetable gardening. Commercial feed is expensive. Having your chickens and ducks in the garden will help reduce costs on feed. Gardens provide a healthy, natural source of soy, corn, and grain-free feed, increasing the value of your eggs and meat. Chickens and ducks are omnivorous and will eat larvae, grubs, and other insects from your garden. Chicken and ducks both produce manure that adds fertilizer to the garden and makes an excellent addition to a compost pile.
If you are new to raising poultry, be sure to have proper housing for the chickens and ducks, especially if you plan to keep them over winter. They are susceptible to predators, so fencing and shelter are important to keep your flock alive. Be cautious that ducks and chickens can easily squash seedlings and newly planted transplants. It is important to keep small plants protected from being stomped on, especially by ducks since they have wider feet and are heavier. Row covers make excellent poultry protection for seedlings and newly transplanted crops. They will eat several plants from the garden, especially leafy greens and fruit bearing crops. Ducks and chickens also love to eat seeds. A light fence or barrier can mean the difference in your poultry being a pest or a beneficial addition.
Comparing Chickens & Ducks
Chickens scratch and peck at the ground which helps keep your garden weed and sod free while aerating the soil. Chicken manure is easy to save and store as it is more solid than duck. Chickens do better at being in confinement than ducks.
Chickens tend to enjoy most vegetables grown in the garden, and less of the weeds that might be present. Chickens will instinctively scratch and try to dust bathe under mulch. This can displace the mulch in your garden. Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and can easily burn plants when applied fresh.
If left in the garden, chickens can dig it to a barren area.
Ducks are excellent at controlling the slug population. Ducks eat larger bugs that chickens do not. Duck manure is watery therefore it is absorbed in the soil faster and has less of a chance of burning the plants. Ducks also produce more manure than chickens per day. Ducks will eat several common weeds and invasive species as they are natural foragers. Ducks do not enjoy the garden vegetables as much as chickens do. Ducks are typically quieter than chickens.
Duck manure is more difficult to collect to save and age than chicken manure due to the water content. Ducks are water birds and do require a water source that they can emerge themselves in to stay healthy. This can be messy. With proper management, chickens and ducks provide many benefits to the garden in a natural way.