Considering raising ducks for eggs? You’ve made a great choice! Many people don’t realize that duck eggs are just as delicious (if not more so!) than chicken eggs and can also be equally healthy and easy to produce.
If you’re familiar with raising chickens for eggs, you probably already know that eggs laid by chickens who had access to plenty of natural sunlight and fresh pasture are not only more delicious, but also higher in nutrients. The same applies to ducks.
So why would you want to raise ducks for eggs instead of chickens? For starters, ducks can be raised just about anywhere – all you need is three or four to have a happy flock of ducks. As with chickens, you don’t have to have a male around in order to enjoy fresh eggs.
Not only that, but duck eggs can be eaten just as you would eat chicken eggs. They can be scrambled, fried, or used in baked goods (the latter is my favorite – duck eggs have more fat, so they’re perfect for baking).
But what if you’re raising ducks for eggs and aren’t getting as many eggs as you’d like? Don’t panic! There are a few easy ways you can encourage your ducks to produce more eggs.
1. Consider the Breed
Before you start to panic because your ducks aren’t producing enough eggs, consider the breed of duck that you have. Ducks are known for being better year-round layers than chickens, and will continue producing eggs through the winter in most cases (yes, even without supplemental light!).
That said, most ducks don’t lay eggs as often as chickens (you may only get a couple of eggs per week) and there are some breeds of ducks that are better than others when it comes to laying.
Some of the best egg-laying duck breeds include:
- Khaki Campbell
- Silver Appleyard
- Welsh Harlequin
As with chickens, there are also a few hybrid duck breeds that are known for their egg production. One of these, developed by Murray McMurray Hatchery, is known as the Gold Star Hybrid. This duck has been crossed with multiple breeds to create a lying breed that produces more and larger eggs than the Khaki Campbell, even.
One thing to keep in mind is that although you can encourage your ducks to lay more eggs, you aren’t necessarily going to be doing yourself any favors. Ducks that are bred to lay lots of eggs, like Khaki Campbells and Gold Star Hybrids, will often stop laying sooner than their “less productive” counterparts.
2. Feed High-Quality Feed
Ducks need to get the best quality feed in order to lay lots of eggs. Make sure your food is fresh and contains the proper amounts of all duck nutrients – use a feed that is formulated specifically for ducks in order to accomplish this.
Your duck should have limited feed until they are about three weeks of age until they reach laying age and are producing well. Ideally, you should provide no more than .35 lbs of food per duck per day for large duck breeds.
This might sound counterintuitive, but you don’t want it to be a duck feeding free-for-all, at least not at first. Ducks easily become overweight when they are first maturing. This can dramatically impact the laying ability and fertility of your ducks and their eggs.
You can gradually increase the amount of food your ducks receive. By the time you are getting about four eggs for every ten females each day, you can provide them with free-choice feed. If your ducks don’t clean up all of their food each day, you might be overfeeding.
That being said, make sure your duck feed is available most of the day so that more dominant flock members don’t bully and crowd out more submissive individuals.
3. Try Not To Encourage Egg Production Too Early
Ducks won’t start laying until they are about five or six months old. Lots of people expect them to mature earlier, but this simply isn’t practical.
Many duck owners advocate against getting ducks first thing in the spring as they might start laying their eggs too early. If they lay early, they won’t be as sexually mature, which means their eggs might be smaller or less frequent than you’d like.
At this point, really the only thing you can do is reduce the amount of feed you are providing them with. This won’t do anything for the ducks that are already laying, but can help prevent other ducks from beginning to lay before they are biologically really ready to do so.
4. Consider the Lighting
Ducks aren’t as seasonal in their egg-laying as chickens are. However, increasing day length between January and June will bring mature ducks into egg production. Decreasing day length can slow egg production, though again, not as noticeable as it does with chickens.
To prevent this, you may need to provide some supplemental artificial light during the morning and evening hours. Your laying ducks should have 16 to 18 hours of light per day.
Don’t try to artificially increase the day length until your ducks are older, at least 20 weeks of age (23 weeks for bigger breeds). Adjust the day length shortly, adding only about an hour per day to avoid a massive switch.
The easiest way to increase daylight is to have your light turn on half an hour before sunrise and stay for half an hour after sunset. You can add a little bit more in smaller increments later on.
5. Provide Lots of Good Water
Just as you need lots of high-quality feed for your ducks, you also need to give them access to good water. Ducks will make do with stinky, dirty water, but this is not ideal.
You don’t necessarily need to give them swimming water in order to encourage them to lay eggs, but you do need to make sure you are giving them fresh, clean water to drink. This will encourage good egg production, and also good overall health.
6. Limit Stress
Another way in which ducks are similar to chickens is that they can easily be impacted by stress, which can affect their laying. Ducks love routine! Try to let them out at the same time every morning, and feed them at roughly the same time, too.
Ducks will be the happiest – and produce the most eggs – when you can avoid massive fluctuations in their care. Don’t change up the type of bedding you use, and keep the duck house secure.
Look at your ducks’ bedding, housing, and protection before you consider changing anything else as you attempt to increase egg production.
When it comes to poor laying, one of the most common culprits is predator stress. Ducks are easily stressed by predators, so it’s important that you keep them safe and secure in a covered run and house.
Make sure any gaps or cracks are sealed up so nothing can get inside and harass them. Even snakes, who usually won’t target the adult ducks themselves, may go after their eggs. This can be quite stressful to a duck trying to lay.
7. Avoid Having Too Many Males
Your ratio of male to female ducks should be one male to every six females. If you have too many males, it’s going to stress your females. They will easily become injured and will likely not lay as well. If you notice females that have heads that are bloody or scabby, you probably have too many males.
Males can be overly aggressive, and will stress your females to the point where they stop laying entirely. Remember, you don’t have to have males for your females to produce eggs!
8. Is Your Duck Too Old?
While it’s more likely that your duck isn’t laying eggs because it’s too young, it could also be too old. If you’ve noticed that your duck egg production has suddenly dropped off, it could be because your duck is simply aging.
By the time a female duck is four or five years old, she simply won’t be as productive.
9. Consider and Adjust for the Weather Conditions
Unfortunately, serious fluctuations in temperature can stop your ducks from laying, too. If you live in an extremely warm climate, or if your ducks don’t have good shade or water, they might not lay as much. Cold can have the same effect.
Some duck breeds, like Muscovies, are particularly sensitive to the cold.
While you can’t control the weather, you can take certain steps to make sure these effects are minimized. For example, try to plan ahead for fluctuations in temperature by securing your coop against drafts and cold spots. Fill it with lots of warm bedding and up your ducks’ food allotment ever so slightly. In the summer, provide plenty of shade and lots of fresh, cool water at all times.
10. Make Sure Egg Theft (or Hiding!) Isn’t Happening
If you’ve tried all the tips mentioned above and still can’t get your ducks to increase their production, you may want to consider whether they might be laying at their maximum capabilities – but you just aren’t finding the eggs.
If your ducks free-range, this is very likely. Your ducks might be having their eggs stolen by predators like foxes or rats.
Your ducks also might be laying their eggs in nesting areas that you are not aware of – go on an egg hunt to make sure they aren’t weaseling away their eggs on you!
You’d be surprised at all of the places where ducks hide their eggs. They might be in clumps of grass, in a bush, or under a random tarp or porch. Be thorough in your inspection!
11. Your Duck is Eating Her Eggs
Ducks don’t often eat their eggs – fortunately, not nearly as often as chickens do. However, it does occasionally happen that a duck breaks her egg by mistake and then tastes it out of curiosity.
This might encourage her to break the rest of her eggs and eat them – and to do the same to your other ducks’ eggs, too.
You can easily prevent this by providing clean, clear nesting areas, and collecting eggs every single day. Make sure your ducks have access to plenty of calcium, too, to prevent any nutritional deficiencies.
12. Help Her Through the Molt
Ducks molt just like chickens do. This natural process involves shedding all old feathers and replacing them with new ones once a year. When this happens, they can’t lay at the same time.
Both eggs and feathers require lots of protein, after all. The molt usually happens during the winter and there’s nothing you can do to stop the molt (nor should you try).
If your duck seems to be taking a long time to molt, however (six months or so), you may want to supplement her diet with additional protein. This can help her get through the molt, as can limiting stressful factors in her life.
13. Break Broodiness
Some ducks won’t lay because they have become broody. If your duck hatched ducklings of her own, she won’t lay eggs for another two months at least.
She also won’t lay while she is actively raising ducklings. You will need to break your duck’s broodiness by kicking her out of the nesting box and taking measures to keep her out while the broody tendencies continue.
14. Try Deworming
Internal parasites can also wreak havoc with a duck’s laying schedule. Make sure your duck is healthy and not showing any signs of disease. Try a natural dewormer, like garlic or apple cider vinegar, to get rid of the parasites, prevent new ones, and reignite her laying capabilities.
15. Give Your Ducks More Exercise
A healthy duck is an active duck! Furthermore, obese ducks don’t lay. If you find that your ducks are eating more than they need to, and are not getting any exercise, you will want to switch them to a new diet (eliminate unnecessary treats like bread, scratch, and lettuce) and get them out for some exercise.
You can give your ducks access to a free-ranging area or put some fun duck toys in the pen. Whatever you choose, just make sure you get them moving!
Can I Really Make My Ducks Lay More Eggs?
While you might not be able to get your ducks to lay more eggs, following these tips should help you get your ducks on a more reliable laying schedule, at the very least.
Another important thing to remember is that your duck will hatch with all of her egg-laying capabilities already contained inside her. Technically, you can’t make your ducks lay more – you can only encourage them to empty their supply faster.
Therefore, if you’ve always pushed your girls for maximum production, there’s a good chance that your duck will stop laying sooner in her life.
Make sure your ducks are healthy, and the laying should follow naturally as a result. Good luck, and happy nesting!
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor.