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Duck-keeping is becoming more and more popular each year. Much like chickens, the number of eggs a duck will lay varies from breed to breed. Some breeds, like the Khaki Campbell duck, will lay eggs pretty much all year round, whereas a Mallard duck lays far few eggs each year. One of the questions I am asked most often is ‘Why aren’t my ducks laying eggs?’
There are many factors that affect how often ducks lay eggs. Some of these factors are short-term problems, other factors are permanent issues.
Her Age – At What Age Do Ducks Lay Eggs?
One reason your ducks aren’t laying may be down to their age. Ducks that are too young may not have started laying, and ducks that are too old may have stopped laying or slowed down to laying intermittently.
Ducks start laying eggs at between 4 and 7 months old, dependent on breed. Smaller breeds like Runner ducks and bantam breeds begin laying at around 4 months old. Larger breeds of ducks such as Muscovies don’t start laying until they reach around 7 months old.
Just because ducks are mating, doesn’t mean the females are producing eggs. Males often mature sooner than females which can lead to mating without egg production.
As ducks get older their egg production slows down and will eventually stop. If your ducks have been laying, but the number of eggs has started to dwindle, it may be because they are too old. If you have purchased your ducks as adults, they may already be past their laying prime.
Most breeds of duck start to lay fewer eggs once they reach the age of 4. By 7 years old most duck breeds will have stopped laying altogether, or they may just lay the occasional egg.
Remember, ducks are born with a finite number of eggs inside them. Once all of those eggs are laid, they won’t produce anymore, which is why there is no point forcing your ducks to lay eggs all year round by supplying them with artificial light in the winter.
Her Breed – Does Duck Breed Affect Egg Production?
Another major reason your ducks aren’t laying eggs might be that they are a low-production breed. Some breeds of duck lay more eggs than others. If you are keeping a breed of duck that doesn’t lay many eggs each year, it may be the reason you aren’t getting any eggs.
If your duck isn’t laying due to her breed, there isn’t anything that can be done. Just enjoy her as a pet.
Day Length – Does Time Of Year Affect Ducks Laying?
Day length is probably the most common reason your ducks aren’t laying. Very few breeds of duck lay all year round. The vast majority of breeds only lay when there are between 13 and 16 hours of daylight each day. When the days get shorter, ducks stop laying.
Commercial facilities get around this problem by providing their ducks with artificial light to lengthen the day. Personally, as I am not running a commercial egg-laying operation, I just leave my girls to stop laying when the days are too short. They will start up again in the spring.
One thing to bear in mind, if your ducks hatched in late spring or early summer, there is a good chance that by the time they are mature enough to start laying, the days have become too short. Your ducks won’t start laying until the spring.
A few breeds of duck are seasonal layers and will only lay during the spring no matter how much light the day gives them.
Weather – Does Temperature Affect Ducks Laying Eggs?
Ducks do not like extremes of temperature. Ducks will stop laying if they are either too hot or too cold. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may find your summers are too hot for the ducks, or your winters too cold.
These days I live in a fairly temperate part of the country, but when I lived in the Northeast, we had winters and springs so cold my ducks wouldn’t lay for months.
If you live in a very warm area, it is important to make sure your ducks always have access to a cool pond and plenty of shade. If you can reduce the temperature in your ducks’ enclosure, maybe with the use of shade cloth, they might start laying again.
Stress – Do Ducks Suffer From Stress?
Stress is another major factor that can affect ducks laying patterns. Ducks can become stressed surprisingly easily. There are many different causes of stress for ducks. If a duck is being bullied or mated with too aggressively she may be stressed. Being picked up too often or not having access to water can also cause a duck to be sufficiently stressed she stops laying.
Another major cause of stress to ducks is being kept in an enclosure that is too small or an enclosure that isn’t cleaned frequently enough.
If you believe your duck might have stopped laying due to stress, try to reduce or remove the cause of the stress and she should start laying again.
Poor Diet – Can Ducks Just Eat Scraps?
A common misconception is that ducks just eat bread. Needless to say, there is not sufficient nutrition in bread to help ducks grow strong, stay healthy, and lay hundreds of eggs a year.
Ducks need to be fed a proper, nutritionally balanced diet that offers them around 15% to 20% protein.
Even if your ducks are free-range, they still need to be fed a proper diet. Ducks are great scavengers and they will eat a wide variety of bugs and plants they find, but that still won’t provide everything they require.
Not being fed a proper, balanced diet can cause ducks to stop laying, as can a lack of calcium in their diet. Calcium is required to form the eggs shell. If a duck’s diet is lacking in calcium, there is a good chance they will stop laying until they build their calcium levels back up.
I have had great success feeding my duck’s Duck and Goose Layer Pellets from MannaPro. I order them from Amazon (check the current price on Amazon)
She Is Molting – Do Ducks Molt?
Another trait ducks share with chickens is their need to molt once a year. Molting is the process where ducks lose a large number of their feathers and replace them with fresh ones.
The problem with molting is that the new feathers require large quantities of protein, as does egg production. If your duck has decided to either molt in the spring when she should be laying eggs, or molt more than once a year, which happens sometimes, she may stop laying.
There are a number of reasons ducks molt more than once a year and these include because they are eating a diet too low in protein, because they are stressed or because their days are suddenly shortened (such as when they are kept indoors and their artificial light fails).
She Is Broody – Do Ducks Go Broody?
Many of the modern breeds of duck we keep on our homesteads have had their desire to sit on their eggs bred out of them thanks to years of selective breeding. Occasionally however a duck will decide she is going to go broody and sit on her eggs.
Once a duck has gone broody, she will often be determined to sit on her nest for the full 28 days, even if her eggs have been removed. She will only leave the nest once or twice a day to drink and eat.
A broody duck won’t lay any eggs once she has started her 28-day incubation period. Even after she finishes sitting on the nest, she may not start laying for up to 8 weeks.
It can be very difficult to persuade a broody duck to give up sitting on the nest and start laying again. Even if you remove the eggs from under her, she may continue to sit on the empty nest for the duration of the incubation period.
In the past, I have managed to persuade a duck to give up being broody, but the only way I could do it was to take away the eggs and completely break apart the nest she had made. She hung around the nest site for a couple of days, but then she gave up and went back to being her normal self. She still didn’t lay for over 2 weeks, but she did eventually start up again.
I have heard stories of ducks who simply refused to quit being broody and would just rebuild their nets every time they were broken up.
She Is Sick – Poorly Ducks Don’t Lay Eggs!
Like any animal, ducks can occasionally succumb to pests, diseases, and infections. When a duck is unwell it is normal that she will stop laying.
Some of the most common issues ducks suffer from are mites, Bumblefoot, and Wet Feather as well as Sticky Eye and a prolapsed vent. Any of these issues can cause a duck to stop laying.
Ducks are well known for eating anything and everything they find, which can include string, rubber bands, and even pieces of plastic. Eating such items can lead to an impacted crop, which may also cause a duck to stop laying.
I recently had a duck that suffered from Bumblefoot (an infection when my duck cut its foot) and I had good luck treating it with Vetericyn which I picked up from Amazon (more information about Vetericyn here on Amazon website)
If you think your duck is sick or suffering from a pest such as mites, take some time to observe your duck and work out what the problem might be. By identifying the issue you will be better prepared to source the correct treatment.
She Is Overweight
A duck’s weight can have an impact on her ability to lay eggs. As mentioned above, ducks will eat just about anything they find. Add this to our desire to give our ducks treats on a regular basis, and we can easily find ourselves with ducks that are too fat to lay.
Some ducks are kept in enclosures that are small and offer little space to move around in. Ducks that don’t get enough exercise can also easily become overweight, leading to a drop in egg production.
If you believe your duck’s size may have an impact on her ability to lay eggs, consider placing her on a strict diet, only feeding her proper duck food, and don’t offer any treats. Also, ensuring your ducks move around enough will help reduce their weight.
She Is Hiding Her Eggs
When we look into the nest box and see no eggs we naturally assume our ducks aren’t laying. Sometimes however a duck may decide to lay somewhere else. It is not uncommon for a duck to build a nest elsewhere and decide to lat there instead.
Depending on how large an area your ducks have access to will determine how likely it is she has built a nest somewhere else nearby.
My own ducks have a fairly large area around a pond, and every now and then I will find a nest somewhere it shouldn’t be. I usually just remove the eggs and break up the nest, spreading the nest material around as far as I can so she is less likely to rebuild the nest.
Something Is Eating The Eggs
Unfortunately, it isn’t just us that find duck eggs tasty. There are a whole host of predators that will take and eat duck eggs. Rats, opossums, foxes, snakes, and skunks to name just a few of the likely culprits that could be taking and eating your ducks’ eggs before you do.
If you believe a predator may be taking your duck eggs, spend some time looking around the ducks’ enclosure and house to see if there are any obvious entry points. Remember, rats and snakes especially are able to fit through very small holes, so be sure to fill any likely entrances.
She Is Actually A He!
Ok, so I know this one sounds unlikely, but believe me, I have been there. You firmly believe you have a female duck, only to find somewhere down the line that Eve is actually Steve!
Sexing a duck can be tricky, depending on the breed. If you are not sure how to sex your ducks, try to find a local duck keeper that can help you.