I love our chickens. They are entertaining to watch, great pets, give us lots of yummy eggs. That being said, chickens are not the only option for eggs (and meat) on your homestead. There are poultry alternatives that can meet your egg needs or even provide additional services for you that chickens cannot. So let’s explore the all the alternatives to chickens you have to choose from!
Ducks have a lot in common with chickens and they do well together in a mixed flock. When thinking about ducks, you should know:
- Ducks do not need a pond. They do however need open water deep enough to submerge their head.
- Ducks are a bit messier than chickens- they will soil water quicker and their wide feet tend to stamp out grass (as opposed to the scratching that chickens do)
- Certain breeds, such as the Khaki Campbell, lay just as well if not better than chickens. A few of ours laid an egg a day for 3 years.
- There are some key differences in their eggs. Check out my article comparing chicken and duck eggs for more information.
Quail are perfect alternative to those on a small lot or those with HOA that may not allow chickens. When thinking about quail, you should know:
- Quail need to be housed on their own, not as part of a mixed flock
- They need a fully enclosed house and run built with their flighty nature in mind
- Their eggs are tiny and nutritious, and will lay about an egg a day with proper care and nutrition
- Quail are considered game birds and need a bit higher protein in their feed
For more about quail, check out my article on How to Raise Coturnix Quail
Guineas are one of the birds that, while they do lay eggs that are quite tasty, most people get them for their insect control capabilities. When thinking about guineas, you should know:
- Guineas are not the best fit for urban farm or small lots. They need room to roam.
- Guineas do lay eggs, but are more seasonal layers
- Guineas can do wonders for insects and pests- even snakes and rodents
- Many keep guineas in a mixed flock, I personally would not due to bullying
Check out my article discussing 5 Reasons NOT to get Guineas for my experience raising them.
Turkeys are the centerpiece for the holiday table. They provide more meat than a chicken and richer eggs. When thinking about turkeys, you should know:
- Turkeys eggs are similar in taste to duck eggs. They also do not lay as frequently (about 100 per year)
- Turkeys are very friendly and really love to be around people
- It takes about 4-5 months to reach butchering weight depending on diet and range
- Turkeys do well in a mixed flock
We currently have 2 young turkeys and they are the sweetest birds. They come running when we are outside and peek inside at us if we don’t come out to see them often enough. Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkey’s is a great place to start if you are thinking about getting a few!
Geese are just like big ducks, right? Not quite. There are lots of differences when it comes to raising these big birds. When thinking about geese, you should know:
- Geese get most of their nutrition from grass
- They do need shelter/feed provided but they prefer to be free ranged as much as possible
- Geese can be very protective- and aggressive- keep chickens, small pets, kids, etc safe until you know how your geese take to them
- They need water! Not necessarily a pond, but a pool at least.
You can read more about Geese in this article from Common Sense Homestead.
Of course these are not the only other birds, there are quite a few other specialty species- such as my most-wanted bird: the peacock! Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry is a great place to start if you want some good general information on how to care for lots of different species. So which bird or birds are right for you? We currently are home to chickens, ducks, quail, and turkeys! And I love them all.
© 2016, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.