Ducks lay eggs. Except when they don’t.

Why aren’t my ducks laying? Why did my ducks suddenly stop laying? When will my ducks lay? Shouldn’t my ducks be laying more eggs than this? It’s one of the most frustrating issues people have with their ducks, and also one of the most frequent complaints I hear.

The definitive answer is here. Every “my ducks aren’t laying eggs!” case I’ve ever heard of can be attributed to one or more of these fifteen causes:

  1. She’s not old enough.
  2. She’s too old.
  3. She’s actually a he.
  4. The days are too short.
  5. The weather is too extreme.
  6. Something is stealing the eggs.
  7. She’s hiding the eggs.
  8. She’s eating the eggs.
  9. She’s randomly laying the eggs wherever, rather than in a nest.
  10. She isn’t getting the nutrition she needs.
  11. She’s molting.
  12. She’s broody.
  13. She’s sick.
  14. She’s stressed.
  15. She’s obese.

Let’s go into a bit more detail.

She’s not old enough.

Ducks normally start laying around five to six months of age. Some people expect them to mature earlier. Also, just seeing your ducks mating doesn’t mean they’re ready to produce eggs, because drakes are able to mate before female ducks are ready to lay. Read “When do ducks start laying eggs?” for more.

She’s too old.

If you bought adult ducks from someone else who didn’t mention their age, it’s possible they’re too old to lay. Or if your ducks have been laying less and less as the years pass, it’s because they’re getting older. Ducks lay the most during their first year, and gradually slow as they age. By four or five, they probably won’t be very productive. By seven, they may have completely stopped. Keep in mind that it varies a lot and these are just averages. I currently have six-year-olds that still seem to lay quite well, and some people have ten-year-olds that still lay. Read “When do ducks stop laying eggs?” for more on when ducks stop laying.

Keep in mind that your duck hatches with all the eggs she will ever lay already inside her. This means that technically, you can’t make your ducks lay more (through artificial lighting and other techniques). You can only make them empty their supply faster. If you’ve been pushing your ducks to lay as fast as they can, they will run out of eggs sooner. This also mean that ducks such as Khaki Campbells will stop laying sooner than something like an Aylesbury. You can’t expect your duck to lay steadily for 5+ years if it’s a Khaki Campbell that has been eating a high-protein diet and been living in artificially extended days. She might have to call it quits by three.

She’s actually a he.

Are you absolutely sure your ducks are females? Sellers aren’t necessarily trustworthy. Last year, I bought four geese from a lady who claimed the all-gray geese were females and the saddleback (part gray, part white) ones were males. There are a few breeds of geese that you can sex by color, but I was suspicious because I didn’t think ours were one of those breeds. Sure enough, one of the saddleback geese started laying not long after we got her, and both of the gray geese were ganders.

Read “How to Tell if Your Duck is Boy or a Girl” if you’re not sure how to tell whether your ducks are males or females. If you have Muscovies, read this article: 10 Effective Ways to Sex Your Muscovy Duck.

By the way, have you ever actually witnessed a duck laying an egg? Here’s a closeup video of my two adorable Muscovy duck sisters, Peaches and Mitzi, laying their eggs:

The days are too short.

I think this is the most common answer to the complaint, “My ducks aren’t laying!” There are very few breeds of ducks that will lay all year round, and even those don’t necessarily lay if there isn’t enough light. Ideally, ducks need 14 to 16 hours of light per day in order to lay at their maximum potential. Many flock raisers get around this problem by giving their ducks artificial light to lengthen their “day.” Here’s information on giving artificial light to your ducks to boost their laying: How to Use Lights to Increase Duck Egg Production.

In some locations where days get very short, ducks only start laying during their first spring after they’re old enough. For example, if they hatched in March, they’d be old enough to lay around September, but by that time the days would be too short, so they would only start the next spring, most likely only after all the snow has melted. Even more extreme, but not impossible, would be a duck that hatched in January, is mature enough to lay in June, but doesn’t start laying until next April—when she is sixteen months old!

Some breeds of ducks are seasonal layers and only lay in spring no matter how long the days are. Many meat breeds and other breeds not bred for extreme egg production are like this. Mallards, for example, will likely only lay two or three clutches a year, all in spring.

Even if the days should be long enough, are your ducks kept in a dark barn or coop? If their living area is too dark, they won’t know when the sun comes up, and thus the day will seem shorter and they may not lay.

The weather is too extreme.

Temperature extremes will prevent a duck from laying. If you live in an extremely hot climate or if your ducks don’t have adequate shade or constantly-available cool water, they may not lay much. Cold also influences their laying. Muscovies are especially sensitive to cold and it can be difficult to get them to lay if there’s snow on the ground.

Even just ordinary weather changes can temporarily mess up laying cycles. I’ve noticed that our ducks lay less if we’re having a cloudy or rainy spell, although that could just be because the sun is covered in clouds and thus it seems like it takes longer to rise.

Something is stealing the eggs.

Here’s another major cause. Our German Shepherd puppy, Nora, quickly became an egg thief once she started discovering nests, although we were able to nip the habit in the bud. Foxes have also stolen many, many of our eggs.

If your ducks free range (like ours), this is a likely reason. To prevent foxes or other animals from stealing the eggs, keep your ducks locked up in a coop until they have laid their eggs. What time they lay varies a lot, but most ducks will be finished laying by 8 AM. Read “What time do ducks lay their eggs?” for more. If you go to work before this time, you might consider investing in an automatic coop door.

Unfortunately, some ducks are so desperate to lay in whatever hidden nest they deem superior to what they have in their coop that they will hold their eggs until they are let out, even if it’s past noon, so keeping them in the coop isn’t necessarily foolproof.

Even if they are in a coop all morning and/or spend the day in an enclosed run, be sure that there are no gaps that an animal could slip through. Even small animals such as mice, rats, and snakes can be thieves. You may need to predator-proof your coop.

She’s hiding the eggs.

Your duck herself is an even more likely culprit than a wily fox. She may be laying, just not where you expect! It’s hard to convince some ducks that your nest is the best place to lay. My ducks have laid eggs in wheelbarrows that were covered and I thought could not be entered, clumps of thick grass (saw grass, at that!), bushes on the neighbor’s property, under tarps, and pretty much any hidden, dark area they could find. One of mine even thought about laying inside an empty cement mixer. Here’s an article I wrote on defeating those sneaky ladies who hide their eggs—although I can tell you from personal experience that it’s pretty much impossible to completely prevent them from hiding eggs without taking away their free ranging privileges or at least keeping them locked up in a coop or run until noon.

She’s eating the eggs.

Ducks don’t normally eat their eggs. However, once upon a time, a duck might accidentally break one of her eggs. Then she tastes it and…yum! And it becomes a habit to break and eat all her eggs, and maybe also the eggs of other ducks. Here are two articles on Backyard Chickens about breaking an egg-eater. They are about chickens, but they apply to ducks as well.

Six Tips on Breaking Your Egg-Eater

Egg Eating: What are the Causes, and How to Prevent It

She’s randomly laying the eggs wherever, rather than in a nest.

Don’t assume that eggs will only pop up inside a nest box. Some ducks have zilch interest in nests, especially the ones that are the most prolific egg-layers, such as Runners and Khaki Campbells. They will drop their egg wherever they happen to be when they feel the egg coming. If they have a pond, they might be dropping the eggs in their pond. If they free range, the eggs could be anywhere in the grass. To be sure you are able to collect her eggs, make sure she stays locked up in a coop or small run until it’s late enough in the day that she should have laid her egg.

She isn’t getting the nutrition she needs.

A duck that relies on the food it gets from free ranging, or one that only receives “treat” foods such as lettuce and watermelon is not getting enough nutrition—especially protein—to regularly lay. Also, feeding plain corn, scratch, or any commercial feed with inadequate protein will cause problems. A laying duck’s diet needs to contain approximately 17% protein.

Of course free ranging is natural, and ducks in the wild don’t have any trouble laying. The problem is, they won’t lay nearly the amount of eggs we might expect, because today’s perfectly computed feeds have been crafted to squeeze out every egg the duck is capable of laying. In the wild, they only need a few clutches. If you want your ducks to find all their food free ranging, that’s great, but you simply cannot expect 300 eggs a year, because that’s an unnatural amount and can only be achieved through unnatural feeding.

Lack of calcium is another nutritional problem that can completely stop a duck from laying. Most flock raisers offer their birds free choice oyster shell or crushed eggshells to be sure they have adequate calcium.

She’s molting.

Ducks normally molt (replacing all their old feathers with new ones) once a year, and they can’t lay and molt at the same time, because both eggs and feathers contain high levels of protein, and it’s too difficult to produce both at once. Your ducks WILL molt once a year (usually in winter) and you can’t stop that. However, problems arise when a duck is taking too long to molt or is molting more than once a year. Ducks in regions with long periods of short winter days may take up to six months to molt. A diet with low protein levels will also prolong the molting period. A sudden shortening of days may also trigger a molt (for example, if you suddenly start putting your ducks in a dark coop before the sun is down, or if your artificial light fails). A very stressful event can also cause a molt.

She’s broody.

It’s easy to tell when a duck is broody. She will sit consistently on her nest, only leaving it to drink and eat once or twice a day. She will probably hiss and peck at anyone who comes near her. Ducks often go broody right after laying a clutch, even if you’ve picked the eggs. If you don’t break her broodiness, she’ll sit on that nest for the full 28 days required for eggs to incubate and hatch (regardless of whether she actually has eggs under her), and she won’t lay during that period or even for some time after. If your duck goes broody and you aren’t intending on letting her hatch any babies, you’ll have to break her up in order for her to get back to normal life and start laying again.

If your duck has just hatched ducklings, don’t expect her to lay eggs for at least two months. She won’t lay while she’s raising ducklings.

She’s sick.

Observe your ducks for at least a few minutes a day. Be sure they’re active, eating and drinking well, and in good health. A duck that sits in the corner with droopy feathers, not eating much, if at all, is probably sick, and probably won’t lay. Parasites will also prevent a duck from laying. Be sure to rule this out when trying to pin down the cause of the absence of eggs.

She’s stressed.

Stress will hamper a duck’s laying ability severely, or even completely prevent her from laying. Is there anything stressful that frequently happens to your duck–being chased, being picked up and petted or held a lot (some ducks enjoy this, but many don’t), being in a pen that is too small, enduring unhygienic living conditions, being bullied by chickens or other animals frequently, not always having water available, or something else? Being mated too often is also stressful, so it’s not recommended to keep ducks in pairs.

Sudden changes in her lifestyle, such as being moved from one home to another, will also cut off her laying temporarily. If you just got your ducks, don’t expect eggs until they’ve had time to settle down and get used to their new surroundings. Adding new ducks to a flock can upset and stress them all, temporarily, due to the pecking order changes.

She’s obese.

Some ducks are gluttons, and obese ducks don’t lay. Ducks, like humans, are perfectly capable and in fact quite likely to eat way more than they really need to. If she’s locked up all day with no ability to forage, with food available 24/7, she could be overeating. I recommend rationing your ducks’ food, as well as not leaving it laying around all day long, and instead giving your ducks two meals a day.

Also, feeding too many treats that have little nutrition, such as scratch, bread, and lettuce, will fill her up with food that doesn’t give her much nutrition, and thus she’ll use it for fat rather than eggs.

Troubleshooting Tips

When trying to pin down the exact reason your ducks are not laying, these are the main factors to consider:

  • Your duck’s age
  • Your duck’s breed
  • Your duck’s feeding habits
  • Where your ducks live
  • What time of year it is
  • What your ducks’ daily routine and living area is like

If you’re still not sure, contact me and I’ll try to help you. Be sure to list the duck’s age, breed, diet, and other pertinent information.

Additionally, here’s a sample of my favorite music group, 24K Gold Music, to cheer you up!

I listen to these uplifting, inspiring songs almost every day. You can listen to more here!

47 Comments

  1. I have an Indian runner. The seller said she is a year old. We got her in June this year. She is active, lively and comes when I call her name. She has not laid a single egg. I can rule out stress as a factor. Should I begin to worry? Thank you.

    Donna
    1. Hi Donna,

      Is it possible for you to rule anything else out? I can’t help you a whole lot beyond the information in the article without more information. For example:

      1. Describe her living area. How protected is it? How large is it?
      2. Describe her schedule. When does she eat? Where is she during the day, and during the night?
      3. Describe her diet. What does she eat? How much does she eat? How often does she eat?
      4. Is she alone? Being alone IS stressful. I am not sure if lack of a companion is stressful enough to prevent laying, but I recommend getting her a companion either way.

      Try looking over the list at the top of the article again to rule out more possibilities. I can also try to help you more, if you provide a little more information.

      Often, ducks only start laying in spring regardless of age, although that’s rather unusual for an Indian Runner. Still, I wouldn’t actually worry unless she still doesn’t lay this coming spring.

      I hope that helps!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

        1. Hi Mark,

          The addition of new birds can upset the flock dynamics and cause enough stress to cause ducks to stop laying. If the drake is aggressive, that could especially hinder laying. If they’re in a small pen, that could further exacerbate the issue.

          Has anything else changed since you got the drake–the weather, the feed, even the feeding schedule?

          There’s a chance adding a new bird could bring in diseases, but you would probably see your birds becoming sick if that was the case.

          Anyway, I suspect the addition of the drake is the reason they’re laying less. Hopefully they’ll increase their egg production again soon!

          Hannah

    2. Hi I was given 3 Indian runner ducklings 2 males & 1 female last year. Despite the male to female ratio she was happy & laying nearly every day. Over the summer I was given 2 female Pekin ducks (unknown age) & after a short period of time they seem to assimilate with the Indian runners. I thought this would take the mating pressure off the female Indian runner. She stopped laying a couple months ago and I chalked it up to molting which she was definitely doing but this process has since been completed but she has yet to resume laying any eggs. The 2 Perkins have laid eggs but not the runner. The one thing I notice that seems rather odd is she actually seems distressed when the male runners mate the pekins. So I’m completely baffled by all this bc prior to molting she was the most dependable layer easily outlaying all my chickens. Diet is the same, routine is normal. Is there anything I can do to help this situation?

      Lori
      1. Hi Lori,

        To me, the time of year seems like the most likely “culprit.” By the time she finished molting, the days were too short for her to lay. It depends on where you live, of course, but many people’s ducks aren’t laying much, if at all, right now. Runners tend to be better at laying during the winter than other breeds, but even they can use some help. Make sure her diet has plenty of protein and her shelter is warm and dry. To coax her into laying more, you can consider adding an artificial light so she’ll think the days are getting longer. Many people use artificial lights for their chickens and ducks in order to get eggs during the winter. If you’d rather not, then I think she’ll probably start laying again in spring.

        Her distress over seeing the Runners mate the Pekins is interesting, but I don’t know if that has anything to do with laying. The onset of winter is the most likely reason.

        Hope that helps!

        Sincerely,
        Hannah Miller

  2. I have 3 Indian runner ducks, 2 female one Male, they started laying an eggs day about a month ago (the females obviously), two days ago dotty just stopped laying.
    They live in a 50f x 50f enclosure with a small pond, fresh water bowls spread around and a wooden coop at ground level with fresh straw daily that I lock them in at dusk and let them out at dawn, they are fed on duck and goose mixed grain twice a day with mealwarm treats, once a day they are let out onto the main garden to forrage for about an hour or two. As far as we are aware nothing has changed but one just stopped laying eggs, she is active and seems healthy, Any advice please.

    1. Hi Mary,

      That was just two days ago? And she’s not broody? I’m not sure, but I would guess that she’s just taking a short break and will resume in a few days. My hybrid commercial layer chickens lay almost every single day, but occasionally one will take a break for a day or two.

      Do you think she could have chosen a hidden place to lay her eggs? Perhaps in the garden or somewhere outside of the enclosure, or in some hidden corner of their coop? A while back my chicken eggs dropped (I’m using chickens as an example because my ducks are Muscovies and Muscovies are not prolific layers like Indian Runners or these chickens), and it turned out that one of the hens had made a nest in the very back corner of our storage area, where almost no one ever goes.

      Beyond that, I’m not sure. It’s possible that this is the first sign of some sickness, but it’s unlikely. Most likely, she’s either taking a break or laying somewhere you don’t know.

      Hope that helps!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

  3. Hi Hanna,
    Thanks for your reply, not sure if she is broody as never kept ducks before tbh, but she is not keeping to the nest she makes in the straw she is out with the other ducks.
    Yes she has only not played for two days now but I got home tonight to find spots of blood in and around the coop, not a lot just maybe a dozen or so spots, I have checked them all for wounds but none seem to be injured, they are all as active as normal, the one not laying did a nice solid poo while I was looking at her and she didn’t look like she was straining or anything (I read something about egg bound ducks), at this stage i will just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow, I hope I am just being a “mother hen” over anxious first time mother, will keep you updated xxx

    Mary Alsbury
  4. I have 2 Indian Runners that are 2 years old (I got them Feb 2017). They live with a 1 1/2 yr old female goose and next door to them in the run lives 5 chickens. They have never had a problem with laying previously. They went into their usual moult in Feb (we live in Australia) and have not laid since then. Last year they went back to laying 1 per 2 days as the days were getting shorter. Would it be the crazy weather we have been having that has hampered their return to laying? – one minute its like summer, then next its winter! or a change in feed, my son recently brought the wrong bag of feed. Thanks for your advice

    Suzanne
    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Yes, the feed change and the weather could certainly be factors. I’ve noticed that frequent weather changes can really mess up my ducks’ laying.

      What type of feed is it? If it isn’t specifically for laying birds, it’s possible they need extra calcium. Even if it is laying feed, they may still need a calcium supplement in order to lay well.

      You’re also approaching winter, so maybe they think the days are too short already. Most ducks molt right before winter and then lay again in spring. February seems a bit early to molt to me, but I’m not really familiar with weather in Australia. Or maybe they actually haven’t finished molting? Molting can sometimes be dragged out over more than a month, especially if the diet isn’t high enough in protein.

      Also, most Runners lay extremely well–but mainly just for the first few years. Breeds that lay a lot, won’t lay for long. They slow down much faster. However, I think they’re still a bit young to show any major decrease in egg production.

      Some of the other factors in the list in my article could be possible as well. Do you think worms could be a possibility? Worms can prevent or decrease laying. Some people deworm their flock regularly.

      It’s hard to say for sure, but I do think the weather is one of the most likely factors, and possibly the feed too. You might consider trying to counteract the effect by adding artificial light in their coop. Many flock raisers use artificial light in order to trick their birds into thinking the days are longer than they are.

      Hope that helps!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

      1. Hi, I have 8 ducks in total. 3 juvenile females two of which have been laying every day and 5 x 2 month old ducklings, one of which is definitely a male. Last week my 8 month old laying Buff Orpington started to go broody. The eggs she was laying can’t possibly be fertile as the only male duck I have is only 2 months old. So I’ve been collecting the eggs on a daily basis, gently encouraging her to go outside and locking the coop door behind her so that she stays outside all day. I’ve also been fluffing up her bedding and basically destroying her nest. Well the last five days she hasn’t laid an egg at all and also the other laying duck has also now gone broody. The two of them just want to cuddle up in their house all day!
        What is happening?
        Thanks

        Dee
        1. Hi Dee,

          That sounds normal. Not all ducks like to go broody, but those that do will lay a clutch, go broody on it, and then stop laying. They can’t lay while they’re incubating! In this case, you’ve stopped her from being broody, but she still stopped laying because she finished her clutch. She’ll probably start laying again soon, after her hormones return to normal. My Muscovies, which don’t lay very much, usually will lay a clutch of 5-15 eggs, and then stop laying and go broody. After I break up their broodiness, it’s usually a few weeks before they lay again. Since Buff Orpingtons usually lay a bit more than Muscovies do, I think she would probably start laying a little sooner than “a few weeks,” but I’ve never had Buff Orpingtons, so I can’t say for sure.

          As for the other duck, I’ve heard that broodiness is contagious. One broody lady will trigger everyone else to go broody. Either that, or they both went broody just because it’s spring and it’s breeding season and they think it’s time to make babies. They can’t tell whether their eggs are fertile or not. The other duck will probably stop laying soon too. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the third young duck will decide to go broody and then stop laying, too.

          Broodiness can be annoying for us egg-hungry owners, but it’s just part of owning ducks (except for breeds like Khaki Campbells that rarely go broody). They WILL start laying again, once they get over their broodiness and their hormones return to normal. Hope that helps!

          Sincerely,
          Hannah Miller

  5. I have a Pekin who is 3 years old. She is quite attached to my other duck who is a male khaki Campbell. I have had them both since the day they hatched and they refuse to be separated. She was born with slipped tendons in both her knees but I take her to the vets on a regular basis to be sure she’s not in pain. She is on a basic pain killer which I give to her every few days as when she was on it regularly she wouldn’t eat, and then my boy wouldn’t either. They live on the Gold Coast in QLD, Australia. It gets quite warm here but they have shade and a small pool. She used to lay quite regularly but I haven’t had an egg from her in ages. She lives mostly off peas but I give her meal worms and grit as much as possible. Even cooked chicken which I found weird but my vet suggested. She is not super active but she never really has been. She swims occasionally and I put her in my large pool on a weekly basis to give her some activity. She has been moulting for AGES and I don’t know why it hasn’t stopped. My boy is not rough with her either. They only mate when I put them in my swimming pool and I usually stop them If he is getting too aggressive. I know there are lots of factors involved here. Not really sure what to do.

    Stevie-lee
    1. Hi Stevie-lee,

      She’s not laying for the same reason she can’t finish molting. I’m guessing it’s a diet problem. Peas and mealworms alone are not a diet for a duck any more than peas and bacon would be for a human. Peas are fantastic, but only when balanced with other foods. Cooked chicken and mealworms are great too, but not by themselves. I would suggest feeding her either chicken layer feed with added niacin, or waterfowl feed if you can find it. You can still add peas, mealworms, chicken, and other veggies and foods, but they can’t be a staple by themselves. I once tried feeding my ducks only wheat, and I had problems with elongated molting for adults and stunted growth in babies. One type of food never comprises a full diet. Also, she needs calcium in order to lay.

      Beyond diet, there could be other factors. I’m not a vet or experienced with drugs, but I also wonder if being on painkillers for so long could be damaging her health and messing up her system. I can’t say for sure though.

      Can she walk? Lack of activity could result in obesity, and not being able to walk could also be stressful. In general, living with a disability could be stressful even without pain.

      Have you actually tried to fix the slipped tendon? Here’s a link about slipped tendons in case it has any useful or new information for you: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/slipped-tendon-in-chick-anyone-ever-try-to-fix-this-experiences.879233/

      So definitely change her diet. You might not see improvement immediately, especially since I think you’d be approaching winter in Australia, right? But hopefully she’d start laying again come spring. If not, then perhaps either her disability or the painkillers are somehow affecting her laying.

      Hope that helps!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

  6. Hi, I’ve got 4 female Aylesbury ducks that I’ve had since they were 2 days old. They are coming up to a year old in a few days. 3 of my girls have laid an egg every day since October but one of my girls has never laid an egg at all. Any advice you could give me? She’s a bit smaller then the others but she seems happy and healthy. Always eating and drinking. I read about changing their diets but if the other 3 are laying fine could it even be their diet that’s the problem?

    Michelle
    1. Hi Michelle,

      That’s interesting. I’m not really sure. Are you absolutely positive the duck is a female? Assuming so, I wonder if it could be a genetic problem, possibly caused by inbreeding? I once bought eleven ducklings. At first, they all seemed fine, but then I noticed that one wasn’t growing as fast. The other ten were healthy and the females all laid wonderfully, but this one duck stayed small. As far as I knew, she never laid a single egg. I remember her feathers were also kind of weird. Other than that, though, she seemed fine.

      Some kind of health problem would be my best guess, but I don’t know for sure. Maybe she’s just a little weaker, which made her more susceptible to parasites, which hindered her from laying. You could try deworming them, just in case. Many other health problems can hinder laying, even if they don’t have many other external symptoms.

      It’s also possible the diet is fine for the other ducks, but not for this one. Ducks can have special dietary needs and sensitivities, just like humans. You might try changing their diet anyway, just in case. I would especially consider increasing protein and calcium.

      I’m sorry I can’t help more!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

      1. Thanks for getting back to me. I’ll have a look into changing their diets. I’m not fussed if she never lays an egg just curious as to why the other 3 do but not here.
        She looks exactly like the others has more energy too just a tiny bit smaller then the others but she always has been. Very cheeky girl too lol
        Thanks a lot 😊

        Michelle
        1. I have 2 khaki and 2 Pekin, there is one who is laying rubber eggs and the others only lay maybe twice a week. This has been going on for a few months now. They share a coop with chicken but have a fence in between them. The side that my ducks are on is about 4×6. Could this have something to do with them not laying regular?

          Sherry
          1. Hi Sherry,

            That would be 24 square feet for four ducks, right? Is this their night pen only, or do they spend all their time in this area? If it’s just for the night, it should be fine, but it’s a bit too small for a full time enclosure. The rule of thumb is 4-5 square feet per duck for the night, and at least 10 square feet per duck for the day or for a full time pen. I’m not sure how much a small pen would hinder laying, though.

            What exactly do you mean by rubber eggs? She’s laying eggs with soft shells? If so, diet could be the problem. They would need more calcium, and maybe more protein as well.

            Can you rule out any other possible causes of low laying, like parasites or predators?

            Let me know if you have any other questions!

            Sincerely,
            Hannah Miller

          1. Hi Sherry,

            It should work as long as it doesn’t contain anything from pressure treated wood. Mulch retains water well, though, and ducks are good at making a mess with their water, so it’s possible it could become muddy and yucky. You could also consider sand.

            Hannah

  7. I have five ducks (4 Welsh Harlequins and a Cayuga) nearly 1 year old who have been laying consistently for almost 6 months. We did get a few small eggs over the past couple of months but I chalked it up to their youth. Now we have not found a single egg for days. They are in a good sized paddock with cattle panel fencing to free range during the day (they also get some layer feed)and locked in an old horse stall w/ chicken wire around the edges at night. They don’t appear to be molting or ill. I can only think it’s a thief – a determined possum or raccoon could possibly climb in from the top. We did find a small snake a few weeks ago – not sure what he thought he was going to do w/ that egg as it was waaayyy too big for him & snakes seem an unlikely culprit for every single egg. No evidence of rats in the barn. I guess w/o a camera it would be hard to know but need to solve this soon!

    JD
    1. Hi JD,

      I don’t know what’s causing this, but here are a few more ideas.
      Has anything changed recently? Their feed? Their schedule? Has anything stressful happened?
      What kind of weather have you had?
      Maybe you could try arriving earlier to let them out of the stall? If you only arrive at 8 AM or something, there will have been plenty of time for a predator to take the eggs. Or what if they are hiding the eggs in the paddock where they free range? In that case, it might work to let them out later.
      I think a camera is a good idea, if you can find a way to easily do it. I agree that a thief seems like one of the most likely possibilities. Once an animal finds a source of food, they will usually keep coming back. Raccoons can get into almost anything.

      I hope you find an answer soon! I know how frustrating these issues are!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

  8. Hi, I have a problem for which I would like some advice. I have a flock of parent stock which are a year old. They initially started to lay in December 2018 and the percentage laid rose up to 75% then we had a dip and problems – the egg percentages dived, I had lame ducks, paralysed ducks and some even died. I eventually isolated the problem as being low phosphorus in the diet. With the help of the supplier I tried to correct the problem remedially but this was not working as the males were having access to the females and mounting them – once they mounted them their weight would damage their backs. I decided to separate the males and the females and re-feed developer diet with the requisite Phosphorus levels for 2 months before rejoining the females. We have executed the programme and the females are now all fine, no sudden deaths have occurred. 17 days ago we changed the feed back to layer feed. Whilst the ducks were on developer the eggs being laid dropped to 7%. I now want to restore the previous levels, after 17 days there has been some molting, secondly we had a lighting problem with heavy rain that knocked out the floodlighting in the park. Right now I have 3 inherent issues 1. The birds are molting, 2. The messing up with the lighting (this has been repaired, but it took a while) 3. Stress caused by separating the females from the males. With this assessment do you think that if all the issues are resolved that normal laying levels can be resumed. Thanks Lewis

    Lewis Pendragon
    1. Hi Lewis,

      Yes, I think that laying will resume once they finish molting, now that everything else seems to have been resolved. I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t (although of course I could be wrong). Be sure that they also have plentiful access to calcium supplements.

      To avoid issues of males overmating the females and damaging their backs, I would recommend a ratio of one male per at least six females.

      It’s great that you were able to find the problem with the phosphorus! I hope you have success after this is all over!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

  9. Hi,
    We have a Muscovy that lives in our yard and has babies in our secret garden every year. This year we locked them in the secret garden after they hatched and they all survived. They are about 4 months now, and we’ve released them back onto the river in our back yard. We still feed them every day, and they stay near our back gate. I have to assume the mom is laying eggs and the babies will some day too. Should I leave a laying box out? How can I capture these eggs?

    Joyce
    1. Hi Joyce,

      The mom isn’t necessarily laying. It takes several months for them to get back into laying after having babies. The babies will start laying at approximately six months of age, assuming it isn’t too cold and late in the year by then (it depends on where you live). They will lay somewhere in the vicinity of their home, so it will probably be somewhere nearby. Putting a nest box out near where they like to stay would certainly encourage them to lay there, although it wouldn’t guarantee it. Muscovies like to choose very hidden nests and are picky about where they lay, usually. Even the best nest boxes might not always appeal to a particular duck. But it might help.

      Hope that helps!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

  10. How do you tell if a duck is too fat? Your article has given me some good suggestions for why my 2 one year old runners stopped laying a couple of months ago. 1) they did moult, but that seems to have been over a couple of weeks. 2) we introduced 4 new 12 week olds about a week before they stopped laying 3) they have food available 24×7 but their duck pellets are mixed 60:40 with wheat, and twice a day they get treats of fruit and veg, they have a huge pen with loads of foraging.
    So, it could be they’ll start soon because the stress of moulting and meeting the new girls is over, or it could be they’re fat, or it could be there’s not enough protein in their diet (although there are lots of bugs etc about just now). Any thoughts of where to start?

    Christine Bowles
    1. Hi Christine,

      They finished molting a few weeks ago? Molting definitely has a huge effect on their laying and it can take time for them to kick back in after molting, so that could easily be the cause, although I would expect them to return to laying very soon if so.

      The stress from introducing the new ducks could have had an affect, but if that was a few months ago, that shouldn’t be making a difference anymore.

      The diet, though, could have an effect. It sounds like a pretty healthy diet, but not one that would maintain top egg production. Wheat is about 12% protein, and the ideal percentage for laying is about 17%. The veggies and fruit are very low in protein, so they would probably lower the ducks’ average protein consumption. And foraging, well, it’s hard to say, but a good chunk of that is veggies too. Unfortunately, constant laying is unnatural and thus can only be maintained with an unnatural diet. Foraging, veggies, and wheat are all healthy and natural, but they also make the ducks lay a more natural amount. If you want to feed them this way, that’s great (that’s what I do, too), but you might not get quite as many eggs as someone who feeds exclusively commercial feed. It can also prolong molting. I remember experimenting with feeding my ducks nothing but wheat (plus forage and veggies) a few years ago. The adults did okay, and they were Muscovies, so they didn’t lay a tremendous amount anyway, but they took forever to molt.

      As for being fat, actually, I don’t know of any reliable way to feel them or look at them and tell for sure whether they’re fat or not. Obesity in ducks hasn’t been researched or studied. You might try weighing them and see if they weigh as much as Runners are usually supposed to weigh. If your Runners have plenty of energy and do a lot of running around, and they still have their slender bowling pin shape, you’re probably good. I don’t think you have much to worry about. Runners aren’t prone to getting fat.

      Metzer Farms has some insights: https://www.metzerfarms.com/Articles/DucksAndGeeseOverweight.pdf

      I agree that feeding once or twice a day is probably better, especially since they have access to forage.

      Anyway, if you don’t think anything else in the article could be the problem (predators, hiding the eggs, etc.), then I’m guessing that the lower protein diet has just elongated the molting and is making them take a little longer to get back to normal. If they don’t start laying pretty soon, though, you might want to experiment with changing their diet.

      Hope that helps!

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

      1. Thanks Hannah

        That’s all very reassuring. They seem happy and active, and aren’t actually eating much in the way of pellets and wheat at the moment – it’s prime bug season here! The new girls are just coming up to 20 weeks old so I think I’ll see what happens in another month or so when they’ll be due to start laying.

        Thanks for your information and suggestions, very helpful.

        Kind regards

        Christine

        Christine Bowles
  11. Hi
    I am trying use your Contact form to send you a few questions. At the bottom of the form below the Captcha there is a blank box. After I do the Captcha and submit it says incorrcet user input. What am I supposed to answer or put in that box so my message will get sent to you? Why don’t you just say your email address somewhere in the homepage?

    so here was my questions:

    Thank you for being willing to answer a few Muscovy duck questions. We
    currently have Muscovy ducks and we raise them for eating the eggs, occasionally for meat, and for general fun to watch! They are fun. Ours live on the ocean salt water.

    1) Is there a way to sex the eggs before they’ve hatched?

    2) Just outside their nests the ground has poop (not in the nests). Is it good to wash/clean that area outside the nest, or is it better to not disturb them?

    3) When a baby hatches we usually take it out to rear for a week in a special area for babies before selling them. Is reaching into the nest to get the baby each day OK, or is it better to wait until all have hatched before getting them?

    4) When a baby hatches sometimes it gets stuck in the shell, is it OK to pull it out or is there a better way?

    5) Once the babies have hatched should we leave the empty egg shells in the nest for the mother to eat or outside the nest or something else? If the empty shells are inside the nest will their sharp edges and points hurt the other hatchlings?

    Wow a lot of questions! Thank you for your input we really appreciate any and all help.

    Theary
    1. Hi Theary,

      I’m sorry for the problems you had with the contact form. I use it because if I don’t have a contact form with a captcha, I get way more spam than real emails. But I’ll consider putting an image with my email address on the homepage (if I just write it out, bots will be able to read it). That blank box is strange. I’ve never seen it before and it’s definitely not supposed to be there. It’s probably a bug with the Google Captcha plugin; I’ll look into it. Thank you so much for telling me, because it might have been months before I noticed otherwise.

      Now to your questions…

      1. Nope. Even commercial hatcheries still have to employ a “chick sexer” to manually sex each chick after they hatch. I wouldn’t be surprised if some kind of egg ultrasound is invented someday, but even if it is, it would probably be very expensive.

      2. Sure, you can clean this area. You wouldn’t want to spray water into the nests, and it would probably be better to not do it in early morning when they’re actively laying eggs, but it’s not a big deal to bother them a little otherwise.

      3. Well, since you’re taking them away from their mother, you should probably take them as soon as you can so they don’t have a chance to imprint on their mother. Once they do imprint, separating them is extremely stressful. I personally think it would be better to use an incubator if you’re going to be taking the babies away to sell, so she doesn’t go through the stress of sitting for five weeks and not getting any babies, so perhaps you could consider that, or consider letting her keep a couple.

      4. It’s possible to assist a duckling, but you have to be very, very careful and only assist once you’re sure the blood vessels have receded. If you try to help too early, you might rupture the blood vessels and kill the duckling. And rather than just pulling them out, it’s better to chip away the shell just enough that they are no longer stuck, and then wait for them to finish the job, because sometimes they haven’t fully absorbed the yolk sac even after the blood vessels are gone, and if you just pull them out, you could rupture what’s left of the yolk sac. I wrote an article about assisting a hatch here: https://www.raising-ducks.com/when-assist-hatching/

      5. Some mothers will eat the shells, which is fine. Others don’t, in which case you should certainly remove the shells. I’m not sure if the sharp points would be a risk to other hatchlings, but you’ll need to remove them at some point anyway if the mother doesn’t eat them. Where I live, fire ants love to feed on the membrane and other stuff in the shell, so if the ducks or I don’t remove the shells quickly, the nest can become infested with fire ants. I lost one duckling to fire ants and have been very careful ever since.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Sincerely,
      Hannah Miller

  12. Hi,
    I have four Indian runner ducks- one female and three males. They are about 6 months old and never fight or are aggressive. But the female is not laying. I’m in New Zealand so it is quite hot. Also we have been having a drought. They also have a homemade shelter/coop thing with a nesting box in it. They have a small pond with fresh water. They forage around the garden all day and get peas as a treat and duck crumble twice a day. They are very active and don’t seem stressed at all. I want to get some ducklings from them. Do I need to separate the males and female? (they are all brothers and sisters).

    Kiri
    1. Hi Kiri,

      I’m sorry for the late reply. The female is six months old–so she’s never laid any eggs? Six months old is when many ducks first start laying. I think it’s a bit late for Indian Runners, but it’s not alarming or anything. I think she’s probably just not quite ready to lay yet, but she should start soon. The heat might affect her some. My ducks often stop laying when it’s extremely hot. It might help if you switch her to a layer feed (I think “duck crumble” refers to a generic waterfowl feed, right?), or at least give her extra calcium in the form of oyster shells or crushed up eggshells.

      Runners are one of the breeds who sometimes like to drop their eggs in the middle of nowhere, rather than putting them in a nest. Have you looked around? Maybe she is indeed laying and has put her eggs in the pond or garden or something. If they’re locked in the coop for the night, then the eggs are likely to be laid somewhere in the coop, but it’s not a guarantee, as sometimes they lay later in the day.

      If you breed your ducks, please make a plan for what to do with the babies. Far too many people breed their ducks for no real reason and then end up with too many extra drakes that they don’t know what to do with. I’m not against people breeding their ducks, but don’t do it if you don’t have a plan for what to do with extra drakes if it’s necessary.

      If the drakes are all getting along fine right now and aren’t overmating the female, I don’t think you need to separate them. But that may not last forever. They’re still very young and things could change.

      Anyway, if you don’t think any of the other 15 reasons I listed in my article explain her lack of laying, I’m guessing she’s just not quite ready yet but will start on her own within a few weeks.

      Hope that helps!

      Hannah

  13. I have three Khaki Campbell females and one male. Only one of our female is laying the others aren’t. One of them is less than is a year old and the other two are two years old. The older ones laid all year round last year, but after their molt and this winter they just stopped except one of them. They free range and have a large pond. I do have chickens and geese , but I have never seen any scuffling. I was assuming one of our chickens are stealing the eggs, but I check for eggs when I let them out.I also don’t let them out until noon to make sure they lay. I have ruled out season, daylight, age, illness, broodiness, weight, and molt. It is currently early spring. Our male does frequently courtship the females on the pond and has mated them a few times based on what i see. They are very active and appear stressed. They have all laid before. Sorry, this is all over the place, but i hope it helped.

    Mariella
    1. Hi Mariella,

      So one of the older ones is still laying and the younger one and other older one aren’t?

      You say you’ve ruled out daylight, but is there a lot of light in your coop? If they’re in there until noon, and if your coop is rather dark, it could make them think the days are shorter. Maybe you’ve already thought about that, but I thought I’d mention it just in case.

      My Muscovies seem to be able to hold their egg for hours and hours if they’re stuck in their pen and want to lay somewhere outside of it. I normally let mine out early in the morning, but there have been days when we had to leave them in longer, and those that were laying outside rarely laid their eggs during that period of extra confinement. Khaki Campbells are unlikely to make any hidden nests, however.

      Khaki Campbells generally only lay well for their first two years, and then they start slowing down. I believe they stop at five or six years old. They shouldn’t stop yet, for sure, but maybe this year they’re taking longer to get back into laying after the molt and winter. I’m not sure, though. There aren’t any obvious answers in this case.

      Has it been extremely hot where you live? My ducks aren’t laying right now, partly because I messed up their feeding schedule and changed their feed at the same time, and partly because it’s been really hot lately. Do your ducks have water in their coop? Some people don’t give their ducks water during the night, but if they’re in there until noon, they definitely would need it, especially in hot weather. Eggs contain a lot of water. If it’s hot, they also need a lot of shade. Lots of rain or cold weather also could affect them.

      What are they eating?

      Have you dewormed them? Worms can cause a drop in egg production.

      I can’t really say what’s going on. This is all I can think of right now. I hope at least one of them perhaps gave you an idea or possibility. I hope you figure out what’s going on and they start laying again soon! 🙂

      Hannah

  14. Hello,
    I have 4 female khaki and 4 female muscovies we got then over a year ago and they are all over 1 year old. They live with 2 Chinese geese in a very secure 12X24 house with a constant supply of water. We feed them egg layer with 17% protein and the occasional treats. And we let them out at dawn and put away at dusk other than that they have full access to 2 anchors of forest. We also have the same problem with the geese, when we got them they were all laying but they never resumed when we brought them home. There is no sign of molting.
    And no extreme temps.
    Please help

    1. Hi Grae,

      When did they stop laying? Do you mean you’ve had the geese for over a year and they haven’t laid a single egg? Surely the ducks, at least, have laid during the last year.

      I’m guessing that they’re laying outside the coop. Ducks occasionally lay at dawn, but my ducks usually lay between 6 and 11 AM.

      In 2 acres of forest, there are nearly unlimited places they could hide their eggs. The Muscovies, especially, are almost guaranteed to be hiding their eggs somewhere in that forest, and predators could be eating them there. The Khaki Campbells might be making nests, but it’s also likely they’re just randomly laying their eggs wherever.

      Maybe you can try letting them out a bit later. However, especially the first day you do this, they may refuse to lay their egg until you let them out. They actually can hold in their egg, if they’re desperate to lay in some specific nest. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kahaki Campbells, at least, will lay in their coop if you wait until 9 AM or so to let them out.

      You can also try watching them when you let them out and seeing where they run. They might lead you to their nests.

      There are other possibilities, of course (perhaps they’re not getting enough food? perhaps they have worms?), but this is what strikes me as by far the most likely.

      As for the geese, they probably wouldn’t be laying this time of year anyway. Geese lay best when there are 11 hours of sunlight, and they quit laying by the time there are 13 hours of sunlight. Depending on where you live, you might have to wait until the days are shorter before they lay again.

      I hope that helps and I hope you figure out what’s wrong and start getting eggs again soon!

      Hannah

  15. About 5 weeks ago I purchased 1 male and 2 mature khaki Campbell ducks who were laying with their previous owner. I picked them up and brought them to their new home. The first two days after they arrived, they each laid an egg. Since that point they’ve completely stopped laying. They have adequate food (1lb a day for all three) and water and are in a pen so nothing is taking their eggs. Any suggestions on how to jump start their laying?

    Sadie
    1. Hi Sadie,

      Stress probably caused their laying to stop initially, but yeah, if it’s been five weeks, I would have expected them to start up again–unless they started molting. Do you know if they’re molting? Have you seen a lot of feathers around? That will take several weeks and they will not lay if they’re molting.

      It sounds like the amount of food is probably enough, but what type is it? Is it designed for laying birds? Do you have extra calcium available?

      Have you considered the possibility that the previous owner lied about their laying ability?

      If nothing else on this list sounds like the culprit, here are a couple things that might help to restart their laying:

      1. Parsley is supposed to be a laying stimulant. I don’t know how strong it is or if it has been proven, but a lot of people use it and insist it works. I’ve tried it and it did seem to work, but it could have been a coincidence, seeing as I was expecting my ducks to start laying more around then anyway. It might be worth trying giving your birds a little bit of parsley for a few days.

      2. Supplemental light. Many people who are interested in getting as many eggs as they can will use artificial light in the coops so that their birds don’t notice the days are getting shorter, since lengthening days trigger their laying and shortening days can stop them. It usually doesn’t have as much of an effect on Khaki Campbells as other breeds, but it might still help.

      I hope that helps and I hope your ducks start laying again soon!

      Hannah

      1. Thank you for your reply! I don’t believe that they are molting as there are not a lot of feathers present or missing on the girls. I believe that the farm I bought them from was honest and they did lay the first two days. They are eating layer feed that I mix from commercial feed but add oats, sunflower seeds, and DUA. I will try to add some parsley into their diet as I have lots in the garden. Thanks again!

        Sadie
  16. Do you know anything about call ducks? I got a pair 2 months ago, and no breeding or eggs yet. They are 1 1/2 years old, in a large enclosure, on a good diet, have a nest box and pool. Just wondered if perhaps they weren’t good layers?

    Nancy
    1. Hi Nancy,

      You’re right, Call ducks are not good layers. They are only useful as pets or ornamental birds. They generally lay 25-75 eggs a year, sometimes even less, so they’re actually one of the worst breeds there is if you’re looking for eggs. They are also seasonal layers and are unlikely to lay past June.

      Hannah

  17. Hello Hanna,

    I was wondering if there is something else I need to be doing to guarantee that our new ducks have the best start in their laying careers. We have 4 ducks, 2 ladies and 2 drakes, one being a Crested Pekin, the others possibly a cross of Swedish/Cayuga, other male crested as well.
    They arrived to our home April ’20 with 3 chickens and were all raised together. They get along splendidly. The chickens have already started laying about 2 weeks ago, yet the ducks have not started just yet. The only thing I can think of that might be causing a hold on the duck laying is that every night we have to herd/carry the ducks into the bird house, 5x4x5 with the upper levels for the chickens with nesting box offset. Some nights one will make her way into the house, but the others will come to the door and let us know when its time to get to bed. Usually around 8:30pm after the sun has set. Release time for foraging is about 9am, and they get the morning daylight under the eves of the roof.

    As for food they have all been on commercial layer formula with a mix of seed scratch, oyster shells, oil seed, and a treat of tomatoes or fruit on occasion. Usually when the treats are getting past their human’s standards of fresh, i.e. wrinkles. They have their own pool that has a enough water to immerse themselves and dunk, which is changed out twice a day. Once our pond is complete with filtration they will not be upset we dumped the water in our garden where they can’t go dig in the ponds. In their pool they also maybe once a month get a treat of live fish.

    Would there be anything you might be able to suggest that might help improve our routine, or possibly help get them off to a great start?

    Andrew
    1. Hi Andrew,

      How old are they? If the chickens only started two weeks ago, there’s a chance the ducks will still start soon. I hatched ten chickens earlier this year, and the gap between the first ones starting to lay and the last ones was three or four weeks, despite all the pullets being the exact same age. Some variation is normal.

      I’m not sure about Crested Pekins, but Swedishes and Cayugas are both seasonal layers. They both lay about 100-150 eggs a year and they usually stop laying somewhere between June and November, and only start again in spring. Many ducks are seasonal layers.

      If they were adults when you got them, then they probably would have started laying after they got over the stress of moving. Normally that would take 1-4 weeks, but sometimes stress can trigger a molt, which would prevent them from laying for longer. It could have been a “soft” molt that you didn’t notice. Whatever the cause, it apparently took until this month for them to get settled in enough for the chickens to start laying, but now it might be too late in the year for the ducks to lay. Besides, this is the normal time of year for a full hard molt, and even after molting, ducks often take quite a long time, sometimes a month or more, to start laying again, even when it isn’t winter. So it’s likely you won’t see any eggs until next year, unfortunately.

      Oh, and the older they are, the more they will affected by stress and molting.

      A few other suggestions:

      1. Their coops sounds a little bit small. Is it 20 square feet? Chickens need at least 2-3 square feet and ducks need at least 4-5. So if you have four ducks and three chickens, you need a minimum of 22 square feet. While a cramped night enclosure might not be enough to prevent the ducks from laying, it can certainly cause stress, especially if it’s smelly as well. If the ammonia in the air is strong enough to be detected by a human nose, it’s strong enough to be harming their health.

      2. Two drakes and two ducks isn’t ideal. It’s best to have at least four females per drake, or you run the risk of the females being overmated or even killed. Or the drakes not being satisfied with only two females and going for the hens instead, which could kill them. I’m sure everything has been going well so far or you would have mentioned it, but you definitely want to keep an eye out for missing feathers on the back of the ducks’ necks and things like that.

      3. Seed scratch is fine as a treat, but it’s essentially junk food, empty calories, so be sure it doesn’t comprise a large percentage of their diet.

      I’m not sure if having to herd/carry the ducks in would have an effect. If they freak out at being held or herded, it could be stressful. If they’re relatively tame, it’s probably not an issue.

      I hope that helps! I hope the ducks will start laying soon, although I think it’s more likely they’ll wait until spring. Good luck with your new ducks (and chickens)!

      Hannah

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