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.
Many ducks, particularly those who are often inclined to go broody, are notorious nest hiders. They think hiding their nest is their life’s duty.
Owners of ducks who like to play egg hide-and-seek frequently run 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Why aren’t my ducks laying eggs?
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.
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! 🙂
I have 10 runner ducks and I sell duck eggs at our little store. I find the ducks quit lay eggs for few weeks but since I emptied their nest they quit. Is there a way to remove a few eggs to avoid this? They haven’t laid for two weeks. I have had them in an enclosed horse stall. I understand now they don’t have enough privacy to nest since I removed eggs from two nests. They are just so tricky to find in a barn yard.
I also can’t tell the females from the males because they are chocolate colored. Any suggestions?
I’m not quite sure what you mean. You took all the eggs out of their nest, and then they quit laying. Is that it? It’s true that sometimes ducks will give up laying somewhere if they think all their eggs have been stolen. To counteract that, you can always leave one or two eggs in the nest. Or you could buy fake eggs and leave them in the nest to encourage them to lay. I bought fake eggs recently for this purpose. The only problem was that they looked so much like real eggs that I accidentally picked one and sold it. LOL. The customer later told me that she had an egg she couldn’t break. We both had a good laugh once I figured out what happened.
Did you just move them to the horse stall or have they always been there? If they were just moved, the stress from the moving could have also caused them to stop laying. If the stall is dark, that can also hamper laying. Ducks need many hours of light in order to lay well. This article might also help you: https://www.raising-ducks.com/ducks-not-laying/
As far as telling the males and females apart, they should have different voices, and the males should have a curly “sex feather” on their tail.
Hope that helps!
Thank you for the information. One of my females is sitting on a nest of undetermined size ontop of our tack room in my horse barn. She’s well protected from weather and predators (yay!) but the nest is about 14 feet up and I have concerns over her and any possible ducklings’ future. I think she’s been sitting for about 2 days. Should I attempt to move her super snug and safe nest? This is bother her first time and mine.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to move a broody duck’s nest. They “lock on” to the location, and won’t leave it. Even if you move their eggs and bedding and bring them to their new nest, they’ll leave it and go back to where they were before. I have successfully moved a broody duck’s nest once, though, by locking her into the new nest for a full day, if I remember right. However, I can’t promise it will always work. She may go into a panic and break her eggs, or she may refuse to sit on them after she has been moved. I wouldn’t suggest moving a nest unless it’s absolutely necessary.
If she’s safe where she is, I think you may be able to leave her where she is, as long as you can make sure she has access to food and water. Once the ducklings hatch and are ready to leave the nest, you can finally help them move.
Hope that helps!
We found a nest inside a grass bush ….Momma duck and about a doz eggs …. we were having some landscaping done near her nest and we noticed the next morning all the eggs were gone but 2 were cracked and left on the driveway!!
Momma is back in the bush but no eggs!!
Do you think she moved them?
We are located near water (canals) in SW Florida
Please advise if you would!
I don’t think she moved them. I have seen my goose abandon a nest and start a new one, but I’ve never seen a duck or goose actually try to move their eggs. I don’t really know what happened, but it’s possible a predator found them. Maybe your landscaping efforts exposed her nest and made it more visible? I’m sorry…beyond the predator possibility, I really don’t know what happened. I do know Muscovies are considered a nuisance in some areas of Florida because they are an invasive species, so some people try to kill and exterminate them, but I can’t imagine a human taking eggs but leaving two in your driveway.
I am new to having ducks so my ducks have been laying and this morning one of my ducks became broody and she has 2 eggs I just dont want babies right now will she stop wanting to lay if I pull the 2 eggs she has now?
Will I ruin her from wanting to ever lay on eggs again.
You can take her eggs. It won’t be a problem. I take all of my ducks’ eggs except for a couple times a year when I do want to hatch babies. To be honest, she might not even notice the eggs are gone. Ducks often stay broody even when their eggs are gone. Some ducks are so determined that the only way to make them stop being broody so they can return to normal life is to lock them out of the nest. Once she gets over her broodiness, it will probably be a little while before she lays again, since ducks usually don’t lay again immediately after being broody. My ducks, which are Muscovies, will usually lay a clutch of 6-12 eggs, after which they may or may not go broody. Then they’ll take a break for a few weeks before laying again. Other duck breeds will be a little different. But once she does lay again, you don’t have to worry about her not wanting to sit and go broody again. Ducks don’t go broody on every clutch they lay, but taking her eggs isn’t going to make her any less likely to go broody next time.
Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.
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