In this posting, I explain the differences between duck and chicken eggs and make recommendations for those considering adding both types of poultry to their backyard farms.
Last weekend my family visited a friend who also is doing urban farming here in Northern California. We brought her a few pounds of our honey and exchanged it for fresh cheese she makes from the milk produced by several goats she keeps in her backyard. We got a tour of her farm and during the tour I asked her about the two ducks she also is rearing.
My friend keeps "Indian Runner Ducks" a breed that walk more upright than standard duck varieties and can outproduce chickens when it comes to eggs. I mentioned that I was thinking of adding ducks to our menagerie so she sent us home with a few duck eggs to try. For those interested, here's how chicken and duck eggs compare to each other...
As you can see in the photo below, duck eggs are larger than even jumbo sized chicken eggs. The duck egg on the left weighs over 3.0 ounces, the chicken eggs weigh 1.75 and 2.25 ounces respectively.
The difference is more dramatic when you crack the eggs. Duck eggs have a much larger yolk and the ratio of yolk to white is also lower than in chicken eggs. (See below photo with duck egg on left and chicken egg on right) This impacts the texture and flavor of the eggs in certain dishes as I will explain below.
In my opinion, taste differences between chicken and duck eggs are slight. I doubt most people would taste a difference if you didn't tell them they were eating duck eggs. However, the larger yolk size may be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how you like to eat your eggs.
Fried Eggs - I don't like eating runny egg yolks, so when I fry eggs, I cook them on both sides until the yolk is solid. This is easy to do with chicken eggs, but the larger size of duck eggs makes cooking them this way difficult. To get the center of the yolk firm takes longer and this means the white may move from crisp to burnt. If you like to fry eggs so the yolk is hard, chicken eggs are better. If you love runny eggs, duck eggs may be more to your taste.
Scrambled Eggs - The larger yolk in duck eggs leads to a richer tasting scrambled egg with a more soft mouth feel. In a scrambled eggs, I prefer duck eggs.
Hard Boiled Eggs - In my opinion, this is probably the preparation where the difference between duck eggs and chicken eggs is most pronounced. Boiled egg whites have a very hard mouth feel. In chicken eggs, the ratio of white to yolk is fairly high so the overall texture is harder. In contrast, duck eggs feel softer in the mouth and the increased amount of yolk leads to a richer creamier flavor.
If you are thinking of keeping either chickens or ducks, don't let flavor of the eggs be a deciding factor. Differences exist to be sure, but they are not game changers.
If you eat primarily fried eggs, I think most people will prefer chicken to duck eggs, particularly if you're the type that likes fried eggs cooked hard. If you are a hard boiled egg lover, then duck eggs are superior. If you eat all styles of eggs, then go with chicken eggs for no other reason than the portion size is smaller.
One more thing... If you are on a cholesterol reduced diet, you probably can guess that chicken eggs are a better choice; one chicken egg has about 200 milligrams of cholesterol while a duck egg will have over 600 milligrams. Ouch!