Hidden nest

I Found a Hidden Nest! (How To Stop Your Duck From Hiding Her Eggs – Proven Tips)

The other day, I was wandering around the duck yard, looking for two rascals who were late for bed, when I saw this: three lovely white eggs, snug under a wood pile.

Muscovies are notorious nest hiders (and have a bit of an annoying propensity to hate bedtime, too). They think hiding their nest is their life’s duty.

In fact, pretty much any breed often inclined to go broody is likely to hide their nests sometimes, because ducks who go broody are also interested in going broody where no one will find them…at least, so they hope.

Owners of ducks who like to play egg hide-and-seek frequently receive a pleasant surprise in the form of running into hidden treasure: a nest, sometimes with twenty or more eggs in it.

The only problem?

Sometimes the eggs are so old they’re rotten.

Sometimes the nest location is wonderfully chosen…but only to the duck. Duck owners have been known to find nests inside their car (if they left their windows down), in the neighbor’s yard, in places completely unreachable to us big humans.

Crazy nest
Some nest, Coffee. Some nest. (For anyone wondering what that crazy contraption she’s sitting in is, it is a crazy contraption. If I remember right, it was a bunch of plastic bottles tiet to a wooden frame, which was used as a flotation device for a water pump, or something like that. Crazy, I know. That’s the kind of autoschediasm we tend to come up with.)

Sometimes, the owner never finds the nest. A duck vanishes, and a month later, she reappears with a trail of ducklings waddling along behind her.

Or the foxes find the nest before the owner does.




So there is one big question facing all owners of the sneaky ducks who like to hide their nests:

How do I discourage my ducks from hiding their nests?

Simply, make your own nest boxes. BUT…there’s one big but here:

They have to be nests the ducks will actually want to use.

And there’s one key to an irresistible nest:

PRIVACY.

When I was younger and had my first flock of Muscovies, my dad made a gorgeous wooden nest condominium with three comfy nests. I filled them so full of dried grass clippings that I couldn’t imagine the ducks turning down such a cozy spot. Surely they’d love it.

Right?

Well, they NEVER laid in it. Not once.

It was such a pity. We even painted the nest boxes all pretty and white.

They thought it was nothing more than something to poop on.

Nest box ducks didn't use
This is the fancy nest that failed miserably. It looks perfect, doesn’t it? Not according to the ducks!

Why did they reject it?

On the other hand, my entire flock of ducks all competed for nesting rights in a tiny, floorless nest made of scrap wood that was half-rotten and tattered at the edges.

My old flock in front of their nest boxes.
This is an old photo my childhood flock in front of their nest boxes, the fancy one they hated, and the homely, unembellished one they loved. See how dark it is? That’s the answer.

Eventually I figured it out.

The fancy nest faced the feeding area and was completely open. You could see the inside of the nest standing up, or two hundred feet away. The scrap wood nest had a piece of plywood partially over the front so that the opening was so low that even the ducks had to put their heads down to get in. Even squatting, a human couldn’t see in.

There were two other problems with the fancy nest.

One, the white color didn’t help. It made the interior much brighter and more visible. The scrap wood nest was just the color of wood.

Two, they had removable wire screen bottoms with hay on top. Some ducks don’t mind artificial bottoms, but most ducks prefer to lay on the warm, humid, natural ground, perhaps with a little bit of straw or hay and some soft feathers plucked from mommy duck’s chest. The scrap wood nest had no bottom at all.

Most ducks will no sooner deposit their precious eggs in the open than most humans will take a shower naked in the middle of a street.

So, if you want your ducks to lay in your nest boxes, they have to be private. Some duck owners hang a piece of cloth in front. The opening should be no bigger than the duck.

Here’s a few other tips for creating compelling nests and discouraging ducks from laying who-knows-where:




If possible, they should touch the ground, so the ducks can scrape out a depression in the dirt. Many ducks prefer a natural floor.

Many people put fake eggs, such as golf balls, in the nests, with the intention of showing the hens that it’s a safe place to lay.

Also, try to minimize nesting areas in your ducks’ yard. Mow the grass, remove wood piles, and scout out all possible locations where a duck might choose to make her nest.

Anytime you find out your ducks have been laying outside the coop, you might try locking them in the coop for a few days to force them to lay there. This might convince them to get back in the habit of laying where they’re supposed to.

Try to let them out of their coop or pen after they have finished laying. Read What Time of Day Do Ducks Lay Eggs? for more.

If you let your ducks out early, or they seem to always lay late, try putting nest boxes in their yard. My ducks often have not laid by the time I let them out of their pen. I have several nest boxes scattered around their yard.

Also, they seem to pay more attention to new nesting areas, so I like to move these boxes around every once in a while. Recently, I moved a box under a cluster of thorny bushes and put a cinder block in front to make it even more private. Instantly, a gang of ducks came to check it out, and it wasn’t long before about five ducks were competing for nesting rights in that box. A few weeks later, no one paid attention to it anymore. So I moved it again. And they laid in it again.

Good nest box
Not only do the ducks like this nest, it was so successful and popular that, earlier this year (February 2017), two ducks went broody in it simultaneously and ended up co-parenting a clutch of adorable ducklings.

But no matter what you do, there will still be the occasional rogue who just doesn’t like anything the humans provide and manages to hold her egg until she’s free from the coop. She wants to make her own hidden, secret nest where nobody will ever find her.

How do I find these hidden nests?

It’s fun when you run across a hidden nest with a treasure trove of eggs. But often, we would rather know about these nests, especially if they happen to be in a bad location.

If your ducks free-range over a large area, it’s especially difficult, because there may be almost no end to the possible nest areas, so it’s impossible to search them all.

But don’t lose hope. There’s one little secret.

They hide their nests well, but they can’t hide themselves when they head to their cubbyhole to lay.

When you let your ducks out, keep an eye out for any ducks that make a beeline in an unusual direction.

And then follow them.

They might lead you to their hoard.

COMING SOON:

  • What to do if you find an old nest with a huge collection of eggs and are wondering whether they’re good to eat or not. There’s a surprisingly simple test to find out whether an egg is good or not.
  • Nest box design ideas.

2 thoughts on “I Found a Hidden Nest! (How To Stop Your Duck From Hiding Her Eggs – Proven Tips)”

  1. All of your information is very helpful. We were not even aware of behaviours of Muscovies. They are very interesting though. Our female laid about 20 eggs, in a hidden spot, and we left her there. We would pull back the piece of wood she was hiding under to check on her, but she seemed fine. Over a month later, still no ducklings, and because of predators locally we carefully moved her, nest and eggs, to a safer area. Even before we moved her we realised that the eggs were disappearing and there were no shells to give indication of what happened. When we moved her there were 5 eggs, and now there is only 1. Is it possible that she would eat them if stressed? It is a confusing situation. Anyway, we’re going to try to set their (she and her ‘hubby’) area up more conducive to their liking…and see if they are happier. They’ve been living in the chicken coop, and hen pen…but Hawks took all of our 11 hens in the space of a month. We want to make a more secure pen for more hens, and our Muscovies. Thanks for all your info..but, if you could let me know if the females would eat their own eggs it would be helpful. Thank you very much.

    1. It’s possible for a duck to start eating its own eggs, but it’s not common. It usually happens by accident–a duck will accidentally break an egg, discover how delicious they are, and then make a habit out of breaking and eating them. I’ve had trouble with egg theft and it’s almost always due to foxes, who snatch the egg whole and run off with it. Our puppy stole eggs, too, when we first got her (we taught her not to). If she had been breaking her own eggs, you would probably see residue. So I think it was probably a predator. Hope you have better luck next time! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.