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Ducks lay for a few days...then stop for months. WHY?!?!

 
Nicole Alderman
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I have 11 ducks: Two ancona drakes (almost 2 years old), six ancona females (one 1 year, five 2 years old), one 1 year old Golden 300, and two 1 year old blue runners. We have 6 nesting boxes. They don't get let out until 10:00am, to make sure they lay eggs in the duck house (our duck house is 8x8feet, with four attached nesting boxes)

All winter and spring the ducks would take turns laying. We'd get one or two eggs in certain nesting boxes, then those ducks would stop laying and others would start up in different nesting boxes. For a span of maybe two weeks, after I upped their food, we were getting 5-7 eggs a day (http://www.permies.com/t/54928/ducks/critters/Duck-broody-golf-balls-laying). I've maintained that amount of food, while increasing their free ranging time, but they were soon back to zero to two eggs a day. For example, one of our ducks lays pretty green eggs. I had three eggs from her, a day off, then four more eggs....and now it's been four days with no more green eggs, but another duck has laid for those days. We have another duck that lays light green eggs. I haven't seen an egg from her in over two months. I just don't understand!

They also seem to all have been molting off and on since winter began. I don't even know why! I understand that they stop laying when they're molting, but there's almost always a duck molting.

Could it be something they're eating? Half of their duck yard is situated over our septic tank sandfield, but they free range over two acres for at least 6 hours a day now. Could it be because my toddler chases them at least 2-3 times a day?

Any help or ideas would be much appreciated!

Thank you!

 
Nicole Alderman
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Could eating plastic/trash also mess with them like this? The previous owner of the property did a lot of trash burning, and we're still finding places that he dumped that trash. Perhaps the ducks have found them before we did?

Here's some pictures of our 11 ducks.

Any help would be much appreciated. I love my ducks and I want to keep them, but feeding 11 ducks when we only get 1-2 eggs a day just isn't that economically feasible. I just don't know what's wrong!
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Ducks and their chaser. He loves them so much, and I hate always telling him to leave the ducks alone :(.
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Ducks busy cleaning their feathers that always seem to be falling out...
 
Tyler Ludens
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I don't know ducks, but I know my hens' laying seems to directly have to do with how much nutrition they're getting. Full crops don't necessarily indicate they're getting enough nutrition, even though they may be stuffing themselves. Stress also affects laying, so the frequent chasing could be taking its toll. About the plastic - could it be possible the ducks have plastic jammed in their innards which is preventing proper digestion? This is a serious problem with baby seabirds, whose parents try to feed them plastic and then the babies starve to death because their innards are jammed up. Adult birds also eat plastic and starve.

Beware of horrible photo: http://ecowatch.com/2012/07/09/marine-litter-birds/

 
Nicole Alderman
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They don't seem to be starving. A few months back I pretty much doubled their food, which is when they all started laying at once. I never changed the amount of food but they all pretty much stopped laying. I even tried increasing their food more, but we're still getting 1-2 eggs a day.

I don't even know what to do if it's the plastic. The previous owner also coated our patio with latex exterior paint (he painted everything in exterior latex paint the outlets and bathtub in our house, the barn he built that we aptly call the "Fally-Downy-Building," the side walk, the "dog kennel," the bridge that's falling apart over our pond, and the cement hot tub). The paint on the patio is now chipping off. I don't even know how to clean it up and keep it from chipping further. The patio is made out of cement paves on top of cement, coated in latex paint. How in the world do I deal with all these toxins?!

But, still, if it were paint or plastic that was affecting them, wouldn't there be some other sign other than that they don't lay many eggs? And, why would three ducks added to our flock 2-3 months ago also not be laying? Those came and started laying within 2-3 days of us getting them, and laid straight for about a month. Then they also stopped. One of them is the green egg layer, and she obviously started up again and then stopped after seven eggs.

I'm almost wondering if I'm giving them the wrong feed, or something. We feed them the Grower feed from Scratch and Peck , which is organic, corn-free and soy-free. It has a crude protein of 17%, which is what is recommended in Storey's Book on Raising Ducks. They get crushed up egg shell and oyster shells for calcium. I'd feed them layer feed, but I have drakes in my flock.

For a while I though they were just stashing their eggs somewhere else (no hope of finding them if they were) and were planning on going broody later, but why would they do that and then lay in the house for a few days? It's all so very confusing, and I'm not really reading of anyone else having their ducks doing this to them. ACK!!!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I hope some duck people will chime in!
 
Eric Thompson
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Have you looked for any hidden nests? I've found surprise caches tucked under bushes or in the middle of tall grass clumps.
Remember the ducks have all day to find a spot you won't notice

As far as the latex, it shouldn't break down enough to have much effect even if they eat a lot of it. That's why it can clog up septic systems - even there it doesn't break down in years..
 
Nicole Alderman
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I tried a few times to hunt for eggs, as we would sometimes find one just randomly laid right outside their yard, in the grass. But, they range over probably 2 acres, and there's a LOT of dense stands of salmonberries around, as well as other forested and brambly areas. It took me probably two weeks last year when my duck went broody on a nest to locate exactly where that nest was, and I knew it was in the salmonberry patch in their duck yard. I couldn't find it even with the duck sitting on it!

So, they may very well be stashing their eggs somewhere, but if they are, there's not much I can do about it. Once, due to a doctor appointment, I didn't get to letting them out until almost 1:00pm...and there was still only two eggs in there. Can they really hold their eggs that long?
 
Eric Thompson
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The typical habit I have seen is that several will share a hidden nest - even if none are broody. They will lay in over a dozen as a team.. but they don't really like their secret disturbed and will find a new place as needed. You might try keeping them in a smaller pen for more of the day and let them forage in the evening before putting them in (evening slug time!)
It's hard to convince a mama duck that your nest is better...
 
Marissa Creston
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Perhaps a small predator is getting into the coop and eating the eggs? A rat (or rats) could eat quite a few. And they would have no trouble fitting through the gaps in your coop.
 
Nicole Alderman
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There actually aren't any gaps bigger than 1/8 inch in our coop. We used hardware cloth on the bottom, stapling it down and folding it under and weighing the parts touching the cement foundation with cinder blocks. Also, there's no evidence of egg consumption happening. Wouldn't there be some yoke or egg white or eggshells remnants if the ducks or predators were eating the eggs? Also, we have eggs stored in our garage, which is very NOT predator proof, and none of those eggs have ever been eaten.

Duck Egg-Update:
We had three eggs today, which is better than the one or two we'd been having. I gave them some extra food yesterday and today, as well as some dried kelp. Here's hoping the eggs continue increasing again, though I don't have much hope...
 
Marissa Creston
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Rats are intelligent and persistent. It only takes one gap. And they rarely leave a trace. It may or may not be your problem, but it is a very common problem, so it might be worth setting out a live catch trap.

Rats in my coop stealing my eggs
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0ahUKEwji-JOJtPnMAhUL82MKHf_ZDEIQFggsMAU&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.backyardchickens.com%2Ft%2F733321%2Frats-in-my-coop-and-stealing-my-eggs&usg=AFQjCNGXpKFNUn80jb0coozp0rGdzBF1LQ&sig2=HbwYuiBI9ymv3GAD8TYekg&cad=rja

 
Burra Maluca
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If we suspect ducks of laying their eggs in a hidden nest, we sometimes leave them shut in for a couple of extra hours in the morning then watch them like a hawk when we let them out. Sometimes they're clever and wait until you're not looking, but often they are so desperate to lay that they'll lead you to the nest. Albeit often by a rather roundabout route, and not if you are too obviously watching them.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I think we might just try that tomorrow, and leave them in their house until we get back from church, and then follow them around like hawks. Yesterday there was only 2 eggs, and today there was only one.

I'm almost wondering if maybe it's their feed. I was reading in Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks that raw legumes are poisonous to ducks. Not only do they love eating the pea and bean seeds that I planted (I've taken to fencing off wherever I plant legumes), but I just realized that their feed has peas in it. I emailed Scratch and Peck to see if perhaps the legumes are leading to the ducks lack of production, or if they heat treat them or something to render them safe for ducks. I'll update as I find out more.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I tried the locking them up longer experiment today. We usually let them out at 10:00am, and today didn't let them out until 1:00pm (when we got back from church). I had my husband watch them, as I was putting our toddler to bed for nap and the ducks equate me too much with food (i.e. if they see me, they just follow me around hoping for food). My husband watched them for about half an hour--during which they just ate and didn't seem to lay any eggs.

On the plus side, we did get three eggs again today. I haven't gotten a response back about the peas in our duck feed--probably won't until Monday...
 
Nicole Alderman
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Another Duck-Update:

The ducks are still not laying. For a while I was getting 4 eggs/day, and then we added a pullet to our flock and two of the ducks instantly molted and stopped laying. We've also had predator pressure from a bobcat (ate one of our males), and so they stopped freeranging as they hid on my patio all day. I've continued to up their food, to no avail.

I started another thread: https://permies.com/t/58004/ducks/critters/Ducks-molting#491030, because the ducks are STILL molting and have been molting now for four months. The light green egg layer stared laying about a month and a half ago and hasn't stopped since. I'm pretty sure she's one of my two runner ducks as those are the only ones that aren't molting right now.

Oh, and I did try penning them up all day to see if they were hiding their eggs. They were in their duck house for two days while we went on vacation at the end of June. They continued to lay the exact same number of eggs (4/day) and so I don't think they are hiding their eggs anywhere.

I'm still at a loss for why they just don't lay, or why they are CONSTANTLY molting.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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