Once the ducks are out, I give them fresh food and water. Then I talk with them about whatever happens to be on their minds. Welsh Harlequin ducks are wonderful conversationalists.
Ours are particularly fond of talking about British politics, world events, and fresh home-grown seasonal produce finely chopped into duck-sized bites.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been expecting our oldest female, Lady Margaret Thrasher, to lay her first eggs given her age (about 20 weeks old). Since ducks are somewhat notorious for hiding their eggs, we were certain she was just pulling an “Easter Bunny” and hiding her eggs from us somewhere around the garden where she forages.
We’ve searched the bushes and beds in Margaret’s realm almost every day over the past week to no avail. Not one hidden duck egg was found. The Tyrant even considered squeezing Margaret to see if an egg would pop out. (This is a joke. No, ducks don’t actually work like this, so don’t try it.)
What do you do if your duck or chicken isn’t laying eggs on schedule?
As it turns out, sometimes ducks and chickens that reach egg-laying age but haven’t laid any eggs just need a little extra help to get going. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them.
So, to help Margaret realize that she needed to start laying eggs for us, we made two small additions to her life:
- a golf ball
- ground up oyster shell
A few rounds of golf and an oyster roast… What more does a duck need to produce its first eggs? Actually, the reasons for these two additions have a logical explanation:
1. Golf ball in the duck nest.
We placed a golf ball in Lady Margaret’s nest to make her think she’d already laid an egg (a white golf ball looks pretty similar to an egg, at least as far as ducks are concerned).
Apparently, this can help trigger whatever physiological processes are required to get a bird to actually lay their own eggs. If you want to make certain your ducks and chickens are fooled by the fake eggs, you can even get fake ceramic eggs on Amazon.
2. Flaked oyster shell.
We wanted to make sure Margaret the duck had access to the dietary calcium needed to help produce a good healthy egg with a well-formed, hard shell.
This oyster shell was put in a separate bowl, not mixed in with the duck food. Why? Female ducks (and chickens too) will only eat the oyster shell if they need it, and the males couldn’t care less about it.
June 2019 update: For whatever reason, out of all the calcium supplements we’ve tried (and we’ve tried quite a few), the only one our ducks will eat is Scratch-and-Peck’s Flaked Oyster Shell. They’ll also eat their own crushed egg shells, but you’ll still want to make sure to make an additional high quality calcium supplement available since calcium-depleted ducks make calcium depleted duck egg shells and/or can become egg bound.
The results of golf balls and oyster shells? Our first duck eggs!
We don’t know if it was correlation or causation, but within 48 hours of us providing Lady Margaret Thrasher with her very own golf ball and ground oyster shells, she produced two beautiful eggs.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 will go down in Tyrant Farms history as the day that we (or more accurately Lady Thrasher) produced our first ever duck eggs!
Raise heritage breed ducks & chickens!
We hope more people will continue to raise heritage breed ducks and chickens (especially the breeds on the “Livestock Conservancy’s critical, threatened, or watch list“) so we can keep these wonderful creatures from going extinct.
Growing healthy food isn’t just about altruism, economics, or our own general wellbeing. There’s something indescribably magical about the process, whether that food comes in the form of a plant or an animal. There’s a knowledge base and a sense of connection to the earth that you can’t quite put into words.
Some things can be learned, but they can’t be taught.
Aaron & Susan
Other duck articles you might enjoy:
- Duck eggs vs chicken eggs: how do they compare?
- 17 tips to keep your ducks and chickens safe from predators
- How to raise ducklings: a step by step guide
and even more duck articles from Tyrant Farms…