Ducks

How to tell if your ducks are laying eggs

How to tell if your ducks are laying eggs thumbnail

One of these birds isn’t laying eggs…can you tell which one? By the end of this article, you’ll probably be able to!

Do you have a happy, healthy flock of backyard ducks? Or planning to in the future? Then here are three scenarios that you’re likely to encounter:
  • You have five duck hens and you discover two eggs in their house. How do you know which ones laid the eggs?
  • Your young hens 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?
  • Your hens are a couple years old and stopped laying during the cold months, so you switched them off 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…

Jackson, one of our ducks, trying to sit on a very large, strangely shaped egg. Just kidding. This is actually a jackfruit. We call this piece of duck art

Jackson, one of our ducks, trying to sit on a very large, strangely shaped egg. Just kidding. This is actually a jackfruit. We call this piece of duck art “Jackson on Jackfruit.”

How To Tell If Your Duck Is Laying Eggs (Or About to Lay Eggs)

Ideally, you’re on friendly terms with your ducks. One of the reasons we chose Welsh Harlequins 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.

Ducks tend to lay in the early morning in a communal nest (unlike chickens who lay in individual nests). However, we've had instances where one of our girls doesn't lay before we let them out in the morning, and will start laying in a "secret" nest hidden away in the bushes.

Ducks tend to lay in the early morning in a communal nest (unlike chickens who lay in individual nests). However, we’ve had instances where one of our girls doesn’t lay before we let them out in the morning, and will start laying in a “secret” nest hidden away in the bushes.

In addition to making them more like pets/family members than production animals, this practice has also meant that we can now regularly inspect our ducks for any potential injuries or problems.

What does this have to do with telling if your ducks are laying eggs? A lot.

Option 1: The most fool-proof way

The best way to know if your birds are laying, or about to lay, is to catch them and measure the distance between their pelvic bones. As their bodies prepare 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.

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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.

Look at those child-bearing hips…

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). 

Option 2: A little less hands-on, but pretty reliable at least in our flock.

We’ve noticed that our ducks who aren’t laying are smooth in their undercarriage area, while the ones who are laying have a “little lady lump” in the same area between their rib cages and pelvic bones. Our best guess? 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. This is purely anecdotal and we’re not sure there is any science behind it, but it’s been fairly accurate with our birds.

Those lovely lady lumps (click image to enlarge)

More lady lumps (click image to enlarge)

Our ducks have another important message they wanted us to share...

Our ducks have another important message they wanted us to share…

No you know how to tell if your ducks are laying or are about to lay. We hope this article was helpful to you duck parents out there!
KIGI,

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