Ducks

Our first duck eggs… plus some egg-laying tips

Marges First Egg (duck eggs)
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Each morning, I start the day by going outside to let our Welsh Harlequin ducks out of their Quacker Box, while The Tyrant fights heroically for a few more minutes of sleep.

The Quacker Box - duck tractor, coop, house... via tyrantfarms.com

Our ducks demanded a house worthy of their exquisite plumage. Enter the Quacker Box…

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.

Our oldest flock: Lady Margaret Thrasher (wearing white) and the three men (Sir Winton Duckbill, Lawrence of Afradia and Baby Duck).

Our original flock: Lady Margaret Thrasher (wearing white) and the three men (Sir Winton Duckbill, Lawrence of Afradia, and Baby Duck). If you’re an intending duck parent, please note that this is NOT a good male-to-female ratio to have in your duck flock.

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.)

Lady Margaret Thrasher keeping an eye on the egg-hunters.

Lady Margaret Thrasher keeping an eye on the egg hunters.

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:

  1. a golf ball
  2. 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!

Lady Margaret Thrasher's first two eggs.

Lady Margaret Thrasher’s first two 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.

Our first two duck eggs in hand!

Our first two duck eggs in hand!

We hope you’ll decide to start your own garden or raise your own ducklings

Know It or Grow It,

Aaron & Susan

Other duck articles you might enjoy:

and even more duck articles from Tyrant Farms… 

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    N
    August 9, 2022 at 2:46 am

    First, thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge with us – it’s inspiring!
    So here’s my situation:
    I have two female Silver Appleyard ducks. They were given to me by a friend, who purchased them at the local farm store, so they don’t know exactly when they were born, but think it was sometime around the end of March. I’ve never raised ducks, or any kind of bird before, so this is all new to me and I’m learning as I go (one of my searches led me to your website which has been a blessing!). I would like to try getting them to lay eggs for us, so here are my thoughts:
    We’re now going into the second week of August, so they’re a little over four months old, and I’m thinking they should be nearing egg-laying age,?
    Since we’re past the summer solstice and days are getting shorter, they probably own’t be laying eggs until next Spring, right?
    They have an enclosure with a small pond, and room to run, but not really fly, and a good size hutch inside of it, which they share. I’m starting to look into egg-laying boxes for them, and will probably make two, one for each of them. I have no idea of what they need – size, materials, what month should I set the boxes for them, placement, etc., so any info you can share would be Much Appreciated!
    Thanks again for all you do!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      August 9, 2022 at 12:06 pm

      Hi and so happy to hear our duck information has been helpful for you you! Answers to your questions plus some extra thoughts below:

      1. Paraphrasing: Your ducks are over 4 months old, so will they be laying eggs soon or will the decreasing daylight hours at this point in the year keep them from initiating egg production until next spring?

      Answer: If your ducks were WILD mallards, then they wouldn’t start laying eggs until next spring. However, Mallard-derived domestic ducks have been bred for high egg production, so you’re likely to start getting eggs soon. When? Hard to say for certain, but September would be our guess, since that would put them over the 20 week mark which is typically when they’ll start laying eggs. For example, Lady Margaret Thrasher (our first female duck featured in this article) was born in mid-May. She laid her first eggs on October 30th of the same year (~22 weeks old).

      2. “not really fly” – Like most domestics, Silver appleyards are a flightless breed so they don’t need that much overhead room in their living quarters. They do need adequate room to stretch and flap their wings, so ~3′ minimum height. Depending on the setup, people often like to make their coops/runs high enough to make access by humans easy for egg collection, cleaning, etc.

      3. Egg-laying boxes for ducks – Ducks aren’t like chickens. They don’t need egg laying boxes or anything fancy. In backyard setups with just a handful of ducks, they’ll almost always form a single communal nest in a spot that feels safe and comfortable. So you could build a little covered nook for them in the back of their enclosure to encourage them to make a nest/lay eggs in a certain spot. What they will want is some bedding material to build their nest with (and sometimes cover their eggs). We prefer large flake pine shavings in our duck coops, as we detail here: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/whats-the-best-bedding-for-your-duck-coop-or-run/. Also note that one day your ducks might all lay their eggs in the same nest, and the next day there might be eggs randomly laid throughout the coop and left on the surface of the bedding. Then the next day they might decide to build a nest in a new spot and bury the eggs after laying. Ducks like to keep you on your toes!

      If you do build a hutch or nook for them, you’ll probably want to go ahead and do that now so they have time to get comfortable with it prior to starting to lay eggs. It often takes ducks a bit of time to warm up to new objects and consider it theirs, rather than something that might present a threat.

      Hope this info helps and best of luck to you and your flock!

  • Reply
    KBee
    January 11, 2021 at 10:26 am

    We have 6 Welsh Harliquen hens… they are over 20 weeks old and not laying. I’m wondering if the shorter days has something to do with this. We got one egg, then nothing for a month.. then we’ve gotten one egg the past two days… Our persnickety ladies do not like duck feed… they prefer to goggle up the fish food. They do forage a great deal. on our 16 acres here in Texas. (They also steal the cats’ food as well as the horses’ grain. They are the queens of the farm.) If they are refusing laying supplement, does that mean they do not need it? Thank you. Your webpage is what made us decide to try Welsh Harlies.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      January 11, 2021 at 5:49 pm

      Hi there! Ha, typical Welsh Harlequins, er Welsh Harle-queens. They seem to think they run the show wherever they are. Our flock loves stealing cat food as well, but you don’t want them to make that their main diet because it’s far higher in protein than what they should be eating.

      The reason your girls aren’t laying yet is almost certainly due to the daylight hours. Light triggers hormonal shifts which then triggers egg production/shutoff. Since they were coming into egg production during low numbers of day light hours, they’re probably not going to start laying steadily until you’re at ~12 hours of light per day with temps not dropping below 20F. Commercial operations add artificial light to the coops to make them lay during fall and winter + continue feeding them layer feed through those months as well. If you’re going for sheer egg production, that may be the protocol you want to take. Just be warned that higher production comes with the price of more health problems (especially reproductive problems), which will either mean medical costs or the need to regularly cull ducks. We don’t judge farmers/producers who go that route, but if these are more farm pets rather than a potential income stream, you’ll want to welcome those breaks from laying as a chance for those little duck bodies to heal, remineralize, and prep for the rigors of the next laying season.

      As for how to get them to eat the food they’re SUPPOSED to eat, that just comes down to limiting their access to the things they’re not supposed to eat (in your case: cat and fish food). A hungry duck will eat their designated food, unless there’s something wrong with it (e.g. it’s gone bad). Out of curiosity, what are you feeding them that they’re rejecting?

      • Reply
        Kimberley Bryant
        January 12, 2021 at 4:07 pm

        Thanks for the reassurance that our ducks are not the only bullies. I do have to laugh that these little quacky things push around the 1000 lb horse.

        The food they reject is “Flock Party Egg Maker Crumbles”. We are not interested in any more egg production than we need for our family of 5. Our ducks are free range with us putting them up at night. They swim in about a 1 ac pond and have access to 15 acres, but rarely go farther than down to the pond and in my flower beds. I had high hopes they would eat squash bugs. I even smashed squash bugs and fed them to the ducks as duckings, but only one will eat them. Squash bugs are related to sink bugs.

        To anyone considering ducks, they are the best antidepressant and stress relief during these COVID filled days in the office. I come home and walk down to the pond and laugh at their antics.

        Thank you for your reassurance that they may begin to lay more frequently when spring comes around. (I’m in Texas, if we get below 20 there is a serious problem.)
        KBee

        • Aaron von Frank
          January 12, 2021 at 5:57 pm

          Totally agree about ducks being a hilarious form of stress relief!

          Re food: our girls weren’t crazy about crumble (which they’d often gag on) but they like kibble. One thing you can do with a crumble feed is add some water to it until it’s the consistency of oatmeal and see if they like it any better? If not, you may want to try another brand – and perhaps even give kibble a try. Our avian vet recommended Mazuri waterfowl feed years ago, and that’s what we’ve been using since. Unfortunately not organic, but it’s an excellent, well-balanced poultry feed. They make both a maintainer and a layer feed. We wrote about our recommended feeding regimen here: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/what-to-feed-pet-or-backyard-ducks-to-maximize-their-health-and-longevity/

  • Reply
    Jonathan
    December 5, 2013 at 10:08 am

    You guys have inspired us to get ducks down the road sometime. Congrats on your first eggs. 🙂

    • Reply
      Aaron
      December 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm

      Awesome! Glad to hear that. They’re such wonderful, funny little creatures. Please get in touch if you ever have questions or need help with your ducks.

  • Reply
    April Gordon
    October 31, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Congratulations to Margaret and bon appetit to you and ” The Tyrant.” I hope you post a photo of your first duck egg meal. I assume you will not be showing the photo to Margaret. AG

    • Reply
      Aaron
      October 31, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks! The first meal wasn’t too exciting: fried eggs for breakfast. They were really good eggs though. Hard shells and brilliant orange yolks that stood up out of the pan. Margaret doesn’t need to know… 🙂

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