We've been raising ducks for a few years now, but it's taken us a while to get into a rhythm with them. I believe I started out with Khaki Campbell's, a hybrid that was supposed to lay a lot of eggs. We let them live on our pond, and had the daily chore of walking around the pond and looking for eggs. Sometimes, all we found were shells, sometimes we found a pile of feathers. Most of the time, I almost fell in every time.
I always wanted to bring the ducks in from the big pond and provide them a different swimming source. In the winter, we always brought them off the pond before it froze. But trying to convince ducks to sleep in a coop is not as easy as it is for chickens.
We went through some periods where we brought in stray ducks from neighbors and friends, who realized it was hard to raise them in the winter. So I had a mismatched flock of all sorts of breeds. I couldn't hatch, as I had no idea what I'd get.
Move forward a few years and somewhere along the line I settled in on Welsh Harlequins as my breed. I've had runners, Pekins, Anconas and lots of different breeds. I liked how calm the Harlequins were, and how pretty their coloring is.
It took some convincing (and a back hoe...) and we were able to dig some smaller ponds inside the property, and we've blocked access to the big pond. One year, I started with 22 ducks, and by the end of winter, I only had 4 left. Being on the big pond, they were sitting ducks for predators (see what I did there?).
Now that they have been kept inside the fenceline, on their new smaller ponds - we've convinced them that sleeping in the barn is a great idea, and they bring themselves in. We've also discovered that, unlike chickens, they lay at NIGHT! We must have lost so many eggs to predators - like snakes, coyotes and foxes, as they left their nests long before we could get there to collect them. Now they lay happily in the barn. I don't worry about predators getting those eggs before I do.
What I have not yet figured out is do they lay in summer? Honestly, years of raising ducks, I've found that keeping them off the big pond has made it such that I can actually find their eggs in the morning. Sometimes it takes some poking around, as they do like to bury them. But this year, we had a really great spring (I hatched a TON of duck eggs!) but somewhere in summer, they really stopped laying.
Now, the chickens lay the most in spring, and during summer, their laying slows due to the heat, then in fall, we hit molting and it slows more, and then we get to short daylight length in winter where they almost always quit.
But my ducks started laying last winter in December. They pretty much quit in the summer time. I don't know if they truly quit, or started laying someplace else, like their pond. But I would have found floating eggs by now if they were. Now, when my chickens are really slowing down for the winter - my ducks have doubled their production overnight. I don't get it! but if they keep this up all winter, I will love it!
Basically, this is a lot of words to say I don't yet have my ducks figured out. But I love them, and love that they have decided to be safe, and sleep in the barn at night. Good job, ducks!