The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Pros and cons of duck eggs

Duck and chicken eggsWhen I talked Mark into letting me experiment with ducks, what interested me the most was the waterfowls' reputation for laying well in the winter months even without lights in the coop. And I'm now ready to say that their reputation is well deserved! We currently have three point-of-lay pullets in the chicken department and five similarly-aged ducks, and we receive about four eggs a day from the latter (80% lay rate) and one egg a day (if we're lucky) from the former (25% lay rate). Granted, this is without supplemental lighting in the chicken coop, which would have increased our chicken-egg numbers, but that's definitely a striking difference and a major mark in the pro-duck column!

However, I've also learned that not all eggs are created equal. Duck and chicken eggs look similar but taste and cook quite differently. The first thing you'll notice is how dirty duck eggs get if you don't harvest them from the coop very promptly --- ducks can't hop up into raised nest boxes, so they'll walk all over their eggs after laying and coat them with filth. This can be a health issue since washing can sometimes push bad bacteria through the shell and into the eggs, so we usually give dirty eggs to Lucy (who thinks all eggs are created equal).

Lemon meringue pie

Assuming you manage to swoop up the clean eggs in time (which we're getting better at), the next distinction comes when you crack a few eggs open. Duck eggshells are harder, and they have a thicker membrane underneath, which means that tiny fragments of shell are more likely to end up in your egg if you're not very careful. I'm getting better at preventing this, but I still spend quite a bit of time chasing tiny egg fragments through my uncooked eggs each morning. Unfortunately, I haven't found any solution for the very glutinous whites in the duck eggs, which tend to leave a streak of goo on the counter every time I try to decant the filling from the center of an uncooked egg.

Duck egg whiteWhich brings me to cooking. Here, I'm on the fence about which type of egg I prefer. In cakes, duck eggs shine, resulting in a pastry that is so perfect that it's nearly impossible to stop eating after one piece. (No, despite what you think, that isn't the bad part about cooking with duck eggs.) However, when scrambled, I'm less of a fan. It's important to cook duck eggs more slowly and at a lower heat than chicken eggs, but if you don't want to go over the edge into burning, the result always feels just a tiny bit less cooked than it should be. In a perfect world, I like to mix in at least 40% chicken eggs when scrambling so that the result tastes "normal."

I'd be curious from other duck-keepers. What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of duck eggs?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Ah-ha, Anna! Maybe you were waiting to see if I read your blog, which I most avidly do, esp. the day after visiting you! I sure didn't "taste" duck in your Sunday pie, yesterday! btw--Joey really exclaimed at seeing your ducks on the wet walk out--they really added to the whole experience! Last--the Grimm story I remembered is The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids. Enthralling, about the stones in its stomach! You really have a great cast of characters, maybe starring Artemesia! I'm waiting to read how you use her in a fantasy...
Comment by adrianne Mon Nov 10 09:33:23 2014
We try our hardest to grab duck eggs before they get dirty, but inevitably we get at least one a day that is very dirty. One thing that has helped is having tiny nooks that the duck can just barely fit into to lay her egg, and covered, very small houses on the ground (though the chickens seem to wait in line for the latter). We keep all of our eggs at room temperature until we are ready to use them. Then just before cooking, I will soak the egg for just a few minutes in water that is warmer than the egg. The soaking is important so that you dont have to scrub. Then wipe clean with a sponge under running water. Ive been doing this about 2 years now, and it is the best way I have found. As far as the advantages: They never stop laying, and brownies are amazing! The whites are very high in protein, so that makes for a nice, hearty, energy rich breakfast as well. The cons are, well, they just aren't a chicken egg lol.
Comment by Robert Mon Nov 10 17:19:23 2014
I have no duck eggs of my own yet, though I look forward to experimenting with adding a few ducks to our flock at some point. Eating other people's duck eggs, I do agree - they are perfect for baking!
Comment by Hannah Mon Nov 10 17:47:37 2014
We kept ducks for 15 years. I didn't have to much problem with dirty eggs my main problem was with Magpies who attacked the ducks given the chance. We prefere the taste of duck eggs and still buy them when we can get them. The only downside we found was that hard boiled eggs are imposible to shell, the shell sticks to the egg like glue.
Comment by Chris Tue Nov 11 04:18:14 2014
To peel your eggs a lot easier, add some baking soda to your cooking water. I read that in Mother Earth news a while back, and I haven't had trouble peeling a fresh egg since. It really saved my sanity.
Comment by Robert Tue Nov 11 07:47:52 2014
try covering the spilled white with salt, then wipe off the blob. works great and no muss left behind :-)
Comment by Elizabeth Sun Nov 16 01:31:09 2014

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