Ducks

How to tell if your ducks are laying eggs

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How can you tell if your ducks are laying eggs? Which of your ducks are laying eggs and which aren’t? This guide will help you find the answer!


One of these ducks isn’t laying eggs…can you tell which one?

Do you have a happy, healthy flock of backyard ducks? Or planning to raise ducklings in the future? Then here are three egg-laying scenarios that you’re likely to encounter:

1. Some ducks are laying eggs, some aren’t.

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 ducks may be about to start laying eggs.

Your young ducks are about 16 weeks old and should start laying eggs soon. Ideally, you can: a) put out supplemental calcium (we like pulverized oyster shell), and b) start supplementing in some layer feed before they start laying to make sure they have the extra nutrition they’ll need.

But 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…

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 Welsh Harlequin 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)…

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.

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 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 ducks are laying eggs — 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 our ducks are NOT laying eggs, we can measure about 2 fingers across the space between their pelvic bones.
  • When they are laying eggs, it’s about 3-4 fingers across their pelvic bones.

If you have a smaller or larger breed, the width will likely be different; you’ll just have to learn your particular breed.

How to tell if your ducks are laying eggs.

Look at those child-bearing hips! This is how to tell whether your duck is laying eggs.

Again, to establish a baseline of what your ducks feel like when they’re NOT laying eggs, it’s important to continue to handle them when they’ve reached adulthood but before their bodies have started preparing to lay (13 weeks or earlier).

Give them a treat during these sorts of checkups so they form/maintain positive associations with being handled. Having ducks or other poultry that are comfortable being handled is important for a wide range of reasons, such as when they have medical problems like a bad case of bumblefoot that you need to treat. 

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 thought 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, we thought that area of their body swells slightly with follicles about to be released. 

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. 

Those lovely lady lumps (click image to enlarge)

More lady lumps (click image to enlarge). No, this is NOT an accurate way to tell if your duck is laying eggs! 

Fast forward a few years and many laying ducks and laying seasons later… We now realize that you can NOT 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. 

That means that short of catching your duck(s) in the act of laying eggs, the “finger test” is the only sure way to know whether your ducks are laying eggs — or which of your ducks are laying eggs! 


So now you know how to tell if your ducks are laying or are about to lay eggs! 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!

KIGI,

Was this article helpful? Be sure to check out more great duck articles from Tyrant Farms. 

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