Those who have a flock of backyard ducks come to expect at least an egg a day from each duck. But what happens when your females suddenly stop producing eggs? This can cause a lot of frustration and there can be more than one reason behind it.
Here is a list of 11 reasons why your duck may have stopped laying eggs and how to help:
- Your duck isn’t the right age.
- Your duck needs a different diet.
- Is she getting enough water?
- What is the breed of your duck?
- Is your duck molting?
- She may be sick or in pain.
- Your duck is hiding her eggs.
- Is your duck broody?
- Your duck is stressed.
- Your duck is lonely.
- There isn’t enough light.
Considering that your flock may look different from your neighbors, this is a list of the most common reasons that contribute to reduced, or altogether terminated, egg production. Based on your circumstances, use the list to help narrow down the reason.
1. Age of Your Duck
Depending on if you raised the ducks from hatchlings or bought them from someone else, it’s important to know how old your duck is. If your duck is actually a duckling, she will need more protein and time before she’s ready to produce eggs. Young ducklings require niacin in the diet, in addition to the protein.
With patience and time, once your duck reaches the age of approximately 6 months, she will start producing anywhere from 180-300 eggs per year, depending on the breed. Some breeds are seasonal, however, and will not produce eggs outside of the spring season. So despite your duckling growing into the laying stage, it might be many months until you see eggs from her!
On the other hand, egg production slows, and eventually stops, as ducks get older. This is all natural to the duck and nothing can be done to encourage more eggs, other than keeping her healthy.
2. Diet and Nutrition
The nutrition of your duck’s feed is one of the most common contributors to why your duck may have stopped laying eggs. First consider if you’ve recently changed to a new brand of feed or if their feeding routine is off. If that hasn’t changed, then look at the nutritional breakdown of it.
When ducks are in the egg laying stage, they require a certain percentage of protein in their diet, which helps create high-quality eggs and allows for them to produce energy to maintain the laying of eggs. If the feed you are giving your ducks doesn’t have at least 16% protein in it, and you aren’t feeding them 6 ounces a day, then your ducks are going to stop laying eggs.
Additionally, ducks need the feed supplemented with areas of grass and vegetation, as they are natural foragers. Check the environment in which your duck lives to make sure she has adequate access to grassy space and insects. If that is not available, backyard ducks will happily eat your kitchen scraps such as:
- Brown rice
3. Importance of Water
Under the same vein of thought as your duck’s diet, her access to and the availability of clean water is crucial to staying healthy and producing eggs. One duck drinks about 4 cups, or 1 liter, of water a day, which should be changed daily if you provide small pools.
Your ducks should be able to fully submerge her head in the water to clean her eyes and mucous membranes. If she is not able to do that, consider buying a larger tub or kiddie pool to allow for that and prevent illness.
4. Is Your Duck Broody?
Generally, when your females lay eggs, they will leave the nest without issue and spend much of their day off the nest. If you notice behavior changes in your duck, such as sitting on her nest more frequently and only leaving to eat, it could be a sign she is ready to brood her eggs and have them hatch. Other signs your duck is broody are:
- Hissing when you approach
- Pecking at your hand
The best way to stop a broody duck is to always remove the eggs from the nest as soon as they are laid. If you’ve missed that window of time and she is already showing signs of broodiness, removing and destroying the nest should discourage her.
If your duck isn’t broody, but has recently hatched eggs and is raising ducklings, she will not lay any until her ducklings are grown.
Read for tips on What to Do When Duck Eggs Don’t Hatch
5. Common Breeds that Lay Eggs
The breed of duck you have determines the amount of egg production you can expect.
Pekin ducks are white with orange feet, and originated from China for their hearty meat, although have gained popularity in egg production. They are friendly, intelligent and docile, which makes them great backyard companions.
You can expect to get between 150-200 eggs a year from a Pekin duck. Pekin ducks tend not to be broody, which allows them to produce a higher quantity of eggs.
Indian Runners get their name from their energetic and active personalities. They are common backyard ducks for their high egg production rate, laying as many as 300 eggs a year. They are excellent foragers, preferring to spend their time on land, but will appreciate a pond or pool for a bath.
Be sure to give your Runner a lot of space to move around!
The Khaki Campbell gets its name from its tan color and is known as one of the best duck breeds for eggs, laying as many as 340 eggs a year. Khaki Campbell ducks are active foragers of green space.
To get the most eggs, ensure that your Khaki Campbell has a calm environment and enough space to forage!
Cayugas are known for their charcoal colored eggs and are considered dual-purpose birds, good for both meat and eggs. You can expect them to produce around 100-150 eggs a year and are great with young children!
The Magpie duck is a lightweight, mainly egg-producing duck, with black and white colorations on its body, as well as eggs. Magpies produce around 300 eggs per year. They are active foragers, so be sure to have adequate green space for them, as they will seek most of their nutrients through grass, insects and aquatic life.
If you are looking for a quieter duck, this is the breed for you!
If you are looking for both an egg laying duck and a duck for meat, the Buff is a good dual-purpose breed to have. They produce up to 250 eggs a year and are fast growing, which is good for those that sell ducks in markets. If you have Buffs in your yard, they have a tendency to brood, so make sure to remove eggs consistently when laid.
Originating from Scandinavia, Swedish females produce 120-180 eggs a year. They are calm and good foragers. Due to their blue, black and silver coloring, predators have a difficult time finding them, which keeps their eggs alive longer.
If your female Swedish ducks do have a tendency to become broody and will sit on their nests in order to hatch their eggs. Make sure to remove them if you aren’t ready for ducklings!
6. Molting Has Started
Whether you have male and female, or just female ducks, molting season can cause a drop in egg production. You know molting season has arrived when you notice more feathers laying on the ground, and less on your ducks!
In the summer months, ducks molt, or shed, their insulating undercoat in preparation for fresh feathers. A molt can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
As this is a natural process, there is nothing to be done to mitigate this. Your ducks are transferring their energy stores to the molting process, instead of egg laying process, and will continue to do so until their feathers have regrown. To assist with this extra energy expenditure, you can provide protein-rich feed and allow for extra foraging.
7. Health of Your Duck
Ducks are generally hardy, and rarely suffer from worms or mites. However, they are not impenetrable and if you notice your chicken’s egg production is down, look for the following:
When ducks are unable to pass eggs, egg production will cease and your support may be needed. To encourage the muscles to release the egg, apply vegetable oil around the duck’s egg opening and give your duck a warm bath.
Colibacillosis, caused by E. coli, is a common infection in domestic ducks which affects the eggs. This infection shows up in reduced hatchability and yolk sac deterioration. To mitigate and prevent, it is important to keep your duck’s pen, water, feed and surrounding areas clean.
This condition is caused by fungal spores that grow on wet straw, which results in difficult and labored breathing. You can prevent this by always keeping bedding and feed dry.
Botulism is a bacteria that grows in warm water, such as in your duck’s pool or water container. It can cause paralysis, diarrhea and death. To prevent the growth of botulism, keep all water sources clean and fresh.
Bumblefoot is the more common duck afflictions, which is an infection, generally from a cut, on the underside of the foot. It causes a black scab and swelling. It is important to treat any duck with symptoms of Bumblefoot and to keep your duck’s housing free of all sharp objects, stones and branches.
You do not need male ducks in your yard in order for your females to produce eggs. However, if you have males around, rough mating by the males grabbing too close to sinuses can cause eye infections. Clean water can help clear up eye infections naturally.
Overall, being preventative and keeping your duck’s yard clean will keep your ducks healthy and eggs coming. If you notice your duck has any serious illness, please consult an avian vet or, someone familiar with farm animals, in the event medication or additional supports are needed. If your females require medication, be cautious of their next few batches of eggs, as the medication may be present in them.
8. Location of Nest
If you allow your ducks to free range, your duck’s nest could be well hidden despite having built a nice pen, expecting her to nest inside.. Your duck is hiding her nest and eggs to prevent predators from taking them, so look for hiding spots, such as tall grasses, under objects, or in outdoor equipment such as a wheelbarrow.
To prevent her from creating hidden nests in your yard, build a private nest box for her that is close to the ground. Additionally, remove the allure of private nesting spots in your yard by cutting tall grasses and removing unnecessary objects.
9. Too Much Stress
Just like humans, ducks like routine and are the happiest when every part of their day is predictable. If you have made changes to their routine, and stress levels have increased, that could disrupt their egg production. Consider the following:
- Who feeds the ducks?
- What time do they get fed in the morning? In the evening?
- Who collects eggs and at what time?
- Was there any unusual weather?
- Did you change feed? New bedding?
- Is she in a new pen? Is it the right size?
If all of those have remained the same, consider your duck’s temperament. While some ducks are agreeable to touch, others do not prefer it. If yours does not, limit the amount of people who have access to her.
If none of this applies, there may be predators lurking, such as mice, fox, and snake. If your ducks are free range, provide natural places for them to hide from predators, such as big bushes and tall grasses. At night, it is advised to secure them in a coop to ensure protection.
10. Combating Loneliness
Ducks are very social creatures amongst themselves. It is a good idea to have more than 1 duck in your yard, not only for egg production, but for the well-being of your flock. Ducks that don’t have enough companions experience more stress and anxiety, which results in less eggs.
It’s recommended that you should have at least 3 females together. Don’t worry about egg production, as a male presence is not required for females to produce eggs. If do choose to introduce a male duck, you may need to add another female or two to prevent excessive mating with one female or over aggressive males.
11. Your Duck’s Environment
Where you and your ducks live, and your current season, greatly contribute to the amount of eggs your duck will lay. Ducks require at least 13-14 hours of daylight in order to produce eggs. If you live in a place that does not get that much sunlight, or their pen does not have enough openings for sun, you may need to supplement with artificial lighting if you want to increase egg production.
The most effective method to using artificial light is using an automatic timer with a low, usually 25-watt light, that can expose the birds to the light. To prevent broodiness, do not keep the light on for more than 17 hours.
At the end of the day, your duck’s egg production should work its way out naturally or with minor changes to how you care for it. If you are concerned, there is no harm in reaching out to a local vet or farmer.