When it comes to producing eggs at home, chickens are likely the first animals that come to mind, but ducks are also becoming common backyard layers. Ducks produce larger, richer, more flavorful eggs than chickens, and due to their thick shells, their eggs may have a longer shelf life too.
In general, ducks are similar to chickens in that they typically lay one egg per day. That said, this can vary widely depending on the breed of duck, their habitat (wild or captive), and their diet and management. Since there are several factors involved in the egg production of ducks, it’s vital to research duck breeds and proper care to get the most from your flock.
In this article, we look at these factors, what to expect from the most common duck breeds, and how to improve egg production. Let’s dive in!
How Often Do Ducks Lay Eggs?
The frequency at which ducks lay eggs varies from breed to breed and whether the ducks are in the wild or captivity. While some duck breeds have evolved to lay more eggs, others have been cross-bred by humans to cater toward a commercial market.
Typically, ducks begin laying eggs at around 4–7 months old, and in the wild, they begin laying eggs during spring, the start of the breeding season. Ducks lay eggs in clutches, and females will continue laying eggs until they have reached the desired number of eggs for their clutch. This can vary depending on the species, although it is usually anywhere between 8 and 18 for most species.
Ducks have evolved this way so that if one or more of the eggs in their clutch is eaten or destroyed, she can simply lay another until she achieves a full clutch. Humans can manipulate this process by taking the eggs away, resulting in the female laying a new egg every day or two. Sometimes, in rare cases, ducks can lay two eggs in one day. This is rare but perfectly normal, especially for young females whose hormones are still balancing out. These eggs are not typically fully formed, though, and usually have soft shells.
What Determines the Number of Eggs a Duck Lays?
Apart from the breed and artificial conditions that humans create, there are a few other factors that determine how many eggs a duck lays. Age is an important factor, as ducks have their most productive egg-laying period between the ages of 3–5 years. After that, their egg production begins to taper off somewhat.
A breed-specific, constant, and healthy food source plays a significant role in egg production. Naturally, ducks that are not fed on a healthy diet or do not have access to enough food will be malnourished and produce inferior or fewer eggs. Lastly, large numbers of ducks housed together or ducks housed in stressful, uncomfortable conditions will also lay fewer eggs overall. Ducks are known for easily developing nervousness in large groups, making commercial production of their eggs difficult, especially compared to chickens.
How Many Eggs Will a Duck Lay Before She Sits on Them?
Most domestic ducks lay anywhere from 8 to 15 eggs. After she completes the laying cycle, that’s when she’ll sit on them. She won’t go broody until she completes the laying cycle. Once she goes broody, she must sit on her clutch of eggs for 20 to 23 hours a day to achieve the best incubation.
Now this will mean you take good care of her as she sits on the clutch of eggs. Most ducks don’t get up often to eat, drink, or relieve themselves. You have to provide them with food and water near the nesting box for easy access.
Go a step further and separate a brooding duck from the rest of the flock to protect them and prevent the other ducks from eating all the food.
What Time of Day Do Ducks Lay Eggs?
Many ducks prefer to lay an egg during sunrise as opposed to later on in the day. Still, this isn’t a fixed routine, and it can vary from one duck to the other.
It’s not odd to come across some eggs that your ducks lay during the day. Some can lay at the break of dawn, others early morning, and even late in the afternoon. If you want to make sure the ducks lay in their coop, it’s better to keep them inside a little longer.
Otherwise, you might come across a clutch of eggs a duck hid somewhere in your compound or beyond. A duck can hold their egg in until they feel it’s time to lay it. They want a place that’s secluded and feels safe for them to lay the eggs.
How Many Duck Eggs Survive?
As mentioned above, ducks lay anywhere from 8 to 15 eggs depending on the breed. For example, a Muscovy duck can lay 15 eggs in one laying cycle. After laying, she goes broody and sits on the eggs.
Now, if there’s a male around, chances are that the eggs are fertilized. She will sit on them, and later they’ll hatch into little adorable ducklings. It takes 28 days for fertilized duck eggs to hatch. However, if these aren’t fertilized eggs, they won’t hatch.
Out of the 15 eggs that a duck lays, 12 survive and hatch into ducklings. But, this depends on the duck’s ability to sit and incubate the eggs. If she does a good job, she can get even 14 ducklings. But, if the incubation process isn’t successful, she can wind up with only a few babies.
How Long Do Ducks Lay Eggs For?
Ducks are generally productive for much longer than chickens and other poultry and can produce eggs for up to 9 years in some cases. While their egg production will begin to taper off after 5 years on average, your duck can still produce an egg every few days for years after this “peak” period.
Interestingly, ducks that produce prolifically during their first few years will produce fewer eggs on average as they age, while more average layers will have a more consistent laying rate as they age. Ducks are born with a specific number of eggs that they’ll lay throughout their life.
Why Aren’t My Ducks Laying Eggs?
Ducks lay eggs from the age of 6 to 7 months. However, if they stop laying eggs, it might be the end of their laying cycle. But, what if it isn’t? What are some of the reasons ducks stop laying eggs?
1. Duck Age
How old is your duck? Is she beyond 8 to 10 years old? Well, she’s probably too old to give you any more eggs. All she wants now is to live out the rest of her life with lots of love and affection.
If your duck isn’t too old, perhaps she’s too young. Any duck that’s younger than 6 months can’t lay eggs. So, you might need to wait just a little longer before you see an egg in their coop.
2. Short Days
Ducks need daylight to make an egg; they need about 14 to 16 hours of daylight to lay an egg. But, this isn’t possible when the days are shorter. As winter approaches, you tend to see a drop in egg count as your ducks lay fewer and fewer eggs.
At some point, they stop laying completely, not because they get broody, but the days are too short. This is why ducks don’t lay eggs for the whole year in some seasons. They can only lay eggs when spring comes and longer days resume.
It’s also worth noting that some duck breeds are seasonal layers. They will lay only at a certain time of the year and won’t be affected by the length of the day.
3. It’s Too Hot or Cold
Ducks won’t lay eggs when they experience extreme weather. For instance, if a duck feels too hot and lacks ample shade, it won’t lay eggs. With high temperatures and lack of proper shade, they can’t relax enough to make an egg.
The same happens when it gets too cold. That’s why you notice the egg count dropping when fall comes.
4. Poor Diet
An egg-laying duck requires a proper diet to keep laying eggs. If she isn’t getting enough nutritious food, she won’t lay any eggs.
Therefore, ensure your duck gets the best food which should contain about 17% of protein. Apart from protein, duck food must also contain a good portion of calcium as lack of it can cause the duck to stop laying eggs.
Have you come across so many feathers left everywhere by your duck? If the duck seems to be losing lots of feathers, well, she’s molting. This is a process where your duck loses all their old feathers and grows new ones once a year.
While molting, a duck can’t lay eggs. So, it’s best to give her some time to replace her feathers before she starts leaving you some eggs.
Duck Eggs versus Chicken Eggs
Like ducks, chickens usually lay an egg every day or so, but they will lay far fewer eggs over their lifetime. Hens usually take around 24 hours to prepare an egg for laying, one at a time, whereas duck hens typically have five or six eggs in their bodies at different stages getting ready to be laid — this is why it’s possible for a duck to lay more than one egg a day in some cases.
Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs — by about 50%. Also, the yolk of a duck egg is disproportionately larger than a chicken’s, almost twice as big. The yolk is where most of the fat and cholesterol is inside an egg, so you get more of both with a duck egg. This makes them creamy and rich and ideal for baking. Duck eggs are also high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and due to their thick shells, they will stay fresh for a long time.
In general, ducks have the same laying rate as chickens of about one egg per 24 hours. This can vary depending on breed, age, and environment, though, and choosing the right breed and giving them a nutritious diet and calm, spacious living conditions are also vital to egg production.
While ducks are slightly more challenging to look after than chickens, they produce larger, healthier eggs for far longer than chickens, so they are a great choice for a small homestead.
Featured Image Credit: Dalibor Sevaljevic, shutterstock