The Trouble With Ducks

July 10, 2018

OK, I firmly learned my lesson here. Ducks are a pain. In many ways (I still love them though!).


Last year, we had a batch of ducks that were faithfully trying to sit on eggs. Often, our ducks and turkeys wander off the property to do this, and if we are unaware, some of them don't make it home. (Some of them hatch their babies successfully then wander home with their brood, much to our surprise, but I digress).




So last year, when a hen sat on some eggs in the barn, where we could keep her and her brood safe from predators, we decided to let her. Unfortunately, we were working outside one day, with all the dogs in tow, and didn't realize what they would do. We love our dogs and they are great guardians, but eggs are a tasty snack to them, and we forgot all about the hen and her clutch. Our pup got in and ate almost all of the eggs.


She was strident, and decided to try again and laid another large clutch. She was close to completion, we were so excited.  But alas, some not-so-clear instructions to a farm worker and he collected all of her eggs in a basket. He had to keep her at bay with a 2x4, as she was fervently protecting her nest. After that, she was done. Sigh.


I hatch plenty of eggs in my big incubator, but always thought mother nature would do it better than me. So when a hen started sitting again this year, I decided to protect her and let her.


Soon there were 2 sitting in the barn.

Then 3.

Then 4.

Next thing you know, there are 7.


We successfully kept the dogs out this year, but those 7 hens were sabotaging each other. They sat for well over 4 weeks, and we rarely saw a pipped egg. What we did find were eggs kicked out of nests left and right, plus chicken eggs mixed in with the duck eggs, and occasionally a chicken hen sitting, too.


And when the egg supply from the rest of my hens dried up completely, I really wanted to get my ladies back into production mode. Their 28 days were up, and 2 little ducklings hatched. Mama did not care for them properly and both were lost.



I told the ladies their little experiment was over - all ducklings will be hatched in the incubator in the future. Too much competition for nest space, and nastiness from potential moms, they would need individual runs and nests to be successful in the future. So I cleaned out all the nests and removed their eggs.




The tiny bonus of taking over for mother nature and incubating in the house means we get to raise them in the house for their first few days and give them tub time!

 I was hoping they would start to lay again, with their nests cleaned out, but alas, not yet.  I do recall that last year around this time, they all quit laying as well. Could it be the heat? Could it be a biological trigger that this is not the right time to lay? I am not sure, but I do know my ducks are finicky layers.


So until they decide to start laying again, we are sold out of duck eggs. We do, however, have a large gaggle of ducklings of various ages that are figuring out their life on the farm. Add on top of that, a few Pekins that Shannon will show at the fair this year - we should have a decent crop of duck that we will process likely in August or September. I may cull some of my hens as well, as I am trying to cultivate more Silver Phase Harlequins over the Gold Phase Harlequins. And fingers are crossed that they will start to lay again. Last year, they did as fall started to approach. So hold fast, duck egg customers, they will start to lay again... someday.




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