If you have backyard ducks, you might be trying to figure out which of your ducks are laying eggs and which ducks aren’t. This guide will help you find the answer!
1. Some ducks laying eggs, some not.
You have a flock of female ducks and you discover two eggs in their house. How do you know which ducks laid the eggs?
2. Young young ducks may be about to start laying eggs.
Your young ducks are about 16 weeks old and should start laying soon. Ideally, you can switch them to layer feed three weeks before they start laying to make sure they have the extra nutrition they’ll need.
How can you tell if they’re almost ready to start laying?
3. Older ducks are about to start laying again.
Your hens are a couple years old and stopped laying during the cold months, so you switched them off duck layer feed to maintainer feed. The weather has started warming up so you want to know if your ducks are about to start laying so you can switch them back to layer feed.
How do you tell?
Thankfully, there are some telltale signs that will help you determine when your ducks are about to lay or are currently laying…
How to tell if your duck is laying eggs (or about to lay eggs)…
One of the reasons we chose Welsh Harlequins ducks is because they’re regarded as one of the most sociable breeds (in addition to other attributes). We also made sure to handle our flock frequently as they grew up, giving them lots of treats so they had positive associations with the experience.
In addition to making them more like pets/family members than production animals, this practice has also meant that we can regularly “inspect” our ducks for any potential injuries or problems. (Read our article, 3 tips to get your ducks to like you, to learn more.)
What does this have to do with telling if your ducks are laying eggs? A lot…
The finger test: how to tell if your ducks are laying eggs
The best way to know if your birds are laying — or are about to lay — is to catch them and measure the distance between their pelvic bones.
As a duck’s body prepares to lay eggs, their pelvic bones start to loosen up and become wider apart, allowing for the passage of eggs. The opposite is also true: when they’re not laying, their pelvic bones stiffen and the width decreases.
So, pick your duck up, place your hand between their pelvic bones and measure. Our Welsh Harlequins are an average-sized breed, about 3-4 pounds. When they’re not laying, we can measure about 2 fingers across the space between their pelvic bones. When they are laying, it’s 3-4 fingers. If you have a smaller or larger breed, the width will likely be different.
Again, to establish a baseline of what your ducks feel like when they’re NOT laying, it’s important to handle them when they’ve reached adulthood but before their bodies have started preparing to lay (13 weeks or earlier).
How NOT to tell if your ducks are laying eggs
We used to think we could tell which of our ducks were and were not laying eggs via their body shape. Early in our duck parenting days, we noticed that our ducks who were not laying were smooth in their undercarriage area, while the ones who were laying had a “little lady lump” in the same area between their rib cages and pelvic bones.
Our best guess at the time? When their reproductive system is active that area of their body swells slightly with follicles about to be released, however when their body is taking a much needed rest from producing eggs there is activity and thus no swelling.
At the time, we realized this was purely anecdotal and we weren’t sure if there was any science behind it — or if the observation would hold up over the years.
Fast forward a few years and many laying ducks and laying seasons later… We now realize that you can’t visually tell from a duck’s body shape whether or not she’s laying eggs. We’ve had “lumpy” girls who aren’t laying and smooth-bellied girls who are laying eggs.
So now you know how to tell if your ducks are laying or are about to lay! You also know there’s no simple visual way to tell if your ducks are laying or not, so use the finger test if you want to know for sure.
We hope this article was helpful to you duck parents out there!
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