Friday, March 11, 2011

How Do I Know Which of My Ducks Are Laying Eggs?

Originally posted by John Metzer on Thu, Aug 05, 2010 @ 12:16 PM
 

There are several ways to determine which of your ducks are laying eggs.  No one indication is proof positive but collectively they can give you a good indication of which birds are laying eggs.  During the middle of every summer, we use these criteria in our duck breeder flocks to remove nonlaying birds.  If, for example, we can go through a breeder flock of 500 Rouen ducks, remove half the birds but only drop the egg production a little bit (due to the inadvertent culling of laying birds), we are much better off.  We have just cut our feed, water and bedding bill in half with barely any loss in egg production!

If you have Pekins, look at their bill.  If it is bright orange, they are probably not laying.  Those birds that have been laying for quite awhile have a washed out, pale bill.  Prior to production most Pekin ducks will accumulate xanthophylls in their bill and feet.  Xanthophylls are a pigment in corn, alfalfa, and some other feed ingredients.  But as the ducks start to lay, those xanthophylls are deposited in the yolk of the egg.  With high egg production, more xanthophylls are deposited in the eggs than absorbed in the feed, causing their bills and feet to become lighter and lighter in color.


In this group of Pekins, the female on the right is probably not laying.  Notice her bill and feet are darker orange and her feathers are bright and clean which means she has recently molted.  The female in the front left is probably laying well.  She has all her feathers but they are dirty, original feathers meaning she has not molted.  The female in the left back is missing her flight feathers which means she is now going through a molt and probably not laying.

The best way to know if your birds are laying is to catch them and measure the distance between their pelvic bones.  If the birds are laying, their pelvic bones are flexible and wide apart to allow passage of the egg.  If they are not laying, they are close together and rather stiff and nonpliable.  You do not have to turn the duck over to do this.  Just pick them up and slide your hand under their abdomen down to their pelvis.  Is the distance between the bones two fingers or three fingers or four fingers?   The more fingers you can get between their pelvic bones, the better chance they are laying eggs now.  Of course the larger breeds will naturally have more space between their pelvic bones so you need to compare among birds of the same breed or size.
The pelvic bones are only two fingers apart in this female Rouen - she is not laying.

The pelvic bones are four fingers apart in this female.  She is definitely laying!

On our next blog we will give you the results of our first cull.  How efficient were they in removing  the nonlayers?  What was our egg production before and after the cull?

29 comments:

  1. Can you determine if a molting bird WAS laying? Or do the ligaments tighten up as soon as they stop laying? Talking about chickens here...was wondering if the color takes a while to return. I think I'm going to go 'bother' some hens tonight on their perch lol

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  2. No, I don't think you can look at a bird that is not currently laying and determine how good of a layer she was previously. I would guess the color should start returning within a couple weeks after the stop of lay - assuming the feed has corn or alfalfa meal in it to restore the color in the beak/combs.

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  3. I was give a group of 7 pekin ducks and told they were all males....have recently discovered i have at least 3 females in that group ( flock) i need to know if i should remove the males or will they be ok I know with chickens to many roosters are bad biz for hens but not sure with ducks also once a drake joins with the hen about how long till she lays an egg? Or does that have nothing to do with the egg laying process?

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  4. Unless you have a large pen with plenty of "escape" areas, the excess males will probably be a problem for the females. I would reduce to one or two males. Females lay when they are sexually mature and have adequate nutrition - whether there males around or not. The males are only needed for fertile eggs - not eggs themselves.

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  5. i have 2 pet Indian runner ducks, over the last 7 days i have had 5 eggs, i assume only one of the two have started laying, as i guess there would be more eggs if they were both laying. they are about 7 months old. they were from the same brood. is there a way to tell which is laying, (im just curious) and is it likely that the other will start laying soon as they are the same age...

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  6. I would use the same method as shown in this blog. If only one is laying, it will be easy to differentiate. And yes, I am sure the other one will start laying soon.

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  7. I'm not sure if this helps, but we had 6 young female Khaki Campbells with two drakes (not Campbells). Almost as soon as we put girls in (not mature), the boys started bullying them, and trying to push them down under the water. With a handy homemade catcher (included two rakes, strawberry netting and intelligent thinking!), we caught them. They were then sent to the local RSPCA, and have been rehomed somewhere lovely!

    Our females are now laying well, apart from the fact that we have a local population of rats, but we are dealing with them - apart from the fact that they seem too clever! Even with the traps fully open so they won't close on them, they are not going in! But, our girls all have plenty of character and can make plenty of noise to tell you they need more food!

    Any advice on incubating eggs on a towel on an AGA cooker (on top)? Thank you. The egg is almost certainly infertile, but I have seen a lone mallard with them (nicknamed Henry!) recently. Can ducks ever self-fertalize?
    Thank you!

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  8. I don't think they were trying to bully the females, I am guessing they were trying to mate. No, I am not familiar with an AGA incubator. No, ducks cannot self fertilize. Enjoy your ducks!

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  9. This was very helpful! Thanks for posting...You guys always have the info I need! ~Alex Devoy

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  10. I have a male and a female pet pekins....love them! They are 3 months old now, but what do I do with the eggs when she starts laying? I want to know if and when to remove them. and I really don't want 200 babies.lol Do I need to remove my male at any point? thanks

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  11. If you don't want her to hatch them, then remove the egg after it is laid each day. You can eat them, boil and feed them to pets, etc. Not all Pekins have the instinct to sit on and hatch a nest full of eggs. Pekins need to be at least five months old before they start laying.

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    1. When you check the spread and flexibility of a ducks pubic bones are you supposed to physically spread the bones apart to see how many fingers fit in between them or just lay your hand on top to see how far apart the bones naturally lay? We got our four girl runners from you last May and have fallen in love with them! They have been a real joy for us. We do worry about our upcoming Iowa winter though.

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    2. You just lay your hand over the bones to measure. As long as they have protection during the severe storms, they should be fine.

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  12. Pekings are not accustom to hatching their own eggs due to their extensive domestication. You need to collect eggs and use them. Perfect in baking or mix with feed for your dogs. Or boil them and feed them back to ducks.

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  13. Thank you for this information. Although I know which duck was laying, as she's now on a clutch, I have found another egg in their night time run since she began sitting. I now feel a bit more comfortable trying to figure out which duck is laying the new eggs. Thank you again.
    On a side note, both my son and I are super excited that one of our little ladies is trying to hatch a clutch and I'm crossing my fingers at least one hatches. This would be our first time having any eggs hatched here (chicken or duck).
    I was honestly very surprised considering the time of year and her being a mallard. (From what her prior owner said she did have a clutch this spring, but they were infertile as she had no contact with mature drakes.)I'm also surprised by the size of it, 15 eggs.

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  14. Just a question on breeding muscovies. I have a pen of about 100 breeders which are not laying any eggs at the moment , but I also have a pen with about 12 breeders that are laying .Both are fed the same ,the only difference is that the pen of 12 is a lot more enclosed than the larger pen. What is going on?

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  15. By being enclosed your smaller pen may be less influenced by the environment. The larger flock may be more influenced by the shorter days and colder temperatures. As Muscovy are more tropical birds, they are more affected by these environmental changes than Mallard type ducks. It might also be the small pen is being influenced by a light or something else to influence continued production. The difference in production could also be due to a difference in age or genetics.

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  16. I have 3 male ducks & 3 female ducks. The males are very aggressive and ive decided to take two of the male ducks out of the pen. If i turn them out in my yard do you think they would be safe or should i just give them away.

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    1. They will not be safe if there is the potential of predators or dogs finding them. In addition, you would still need to feed them. I would recommend adopting them to someone else.

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  17. We have 3 female ducks and 1 male 3 weeks ago 2 females were laying eggs and did this for 5 days they have stopped laying and haven't laid in 2 weeks is there a reason for this we are in spring season.

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  18. I HAVE A LOT OF MUSCOVY DUCKLINGS AT THE MOMENT , I HAVE THEM IN HEATED CRATES. I AM HAVING TROUBLE WITH SOME DUCKS DYING, THEY ARE FOUND SQUASHED IN THE CORNERS OF THE CRATES WITH THE OTHERS HUDDLED ON TOP OF THEM .WHAT CAN I DO TO STOP THIS? MOST DUCKLINGS ARE ABOUT 2 WEEKS OLD. HOW DO I STOP THEM GROUPING TOGETHER?

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    1. What you are describing typically means they are too cold and pile on top of each other to try and get warm.

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  19. I HAVE A SUPPLY OF COW PELLETS AND I WAS WONDERING IF THEY WOULD BE O.K. TO FEED TO MUSCOVY DUCKS OF ALL AGES.
    Ingredients Selected from: Wheat, Barley, Pea Pollard, Lime, Acid Buf™, Salt, Bentonite, Vitamin & Mineral Premix & Mill Mix.

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  20. I would suggest you have someone knowledgeable about both cattle and poultry nutrition look at it. I would guess you could use it as a supplement but I doubt if it would work as the sole ration. I just don't know the nutritional breakdown and digestibility of your cow pellet.

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  21. Hi,
    I need to worm my Muscovy ducks and I have seen that you can use ivermectin pour on cattle drench. Can you please advise the dosage rate used and any comments of using this product, .thanks

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    1. We do not do any worming so I do not have dosage recommendations. I do not know if there are different types of Ivermectin. Just make sure you don't use one designed for an external use and your are supposed to use one designed for an oral drench.

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  22. One of my white chinese geese has started laying again and its september. Is this common?

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    1. That is not unusual. We always have a few geese that lay in the fall - usually White Chinese and African but occasionally another breed, too. Do not worry, that just means she is a very productive female.

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