Sunday, March 13, 2011

Time to Prepare Those Duck and Goose Nests!

Originally posted by John Metzer on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 @ 01:30 PM

Now that spring is approaching, it is time to prepare your nests! Whether you have 2 ducks or 1000, you want to make a nest that meets the needs of the female duck or goose. If your nests don't, they will make their own nest somewhere else – and they may choose a spot inconvenient for you or unsafe for them.

The nest should only be large enough for one bird to get in, turn around and sit comfortably on their eggs. You don't want it so large that two birds can sit on one nest. It rarely works for two to share a nest as more eggs will get broken and if you want them to hatch the eggs, eggs may get cold between them, all eggs will probably not hatch at one time and there may be confusion between the two females on which babies are which. A duck nest should be about 12”x14” and a goose nest about 18”x18”.

Our duck nest boxes. A 1"x4" along the top and both fronts.  Use screws, not nails to hold together.
 The next box rolled to show the bottom.
Notice how we have cut slots in the plywood so the nest walls slide into the nest back.  No nails or screws are used to hold these parts together.  It is just the 1x4s along the top and fronts that are screwed.  Use at least 1/2" plywood.

Your birds may be very protected from predators but their instinct still tells them to hide their nest. For this reason you will want sides and a back on the nest. Back it against a wall or fence or put it in a corner. If it is outside, it will definitely need a top for protection from the weather.
To keep the eggs cleaner, we have put burlap and plastic feed bags on the bottom of the nest. This is fine with ducks but geese tend to shred it. If you have concrete or wood floors, make sure you have plenty of bedding in the nest. There is no need for a wooden bottom.

An unbedded goose nest.  It just needs a coat of paint. 
We use a layer of straw followed with shavings.  Notice it is built for two geese, entering from either end.
The parts of our goose nests. The nest is 48" long. Plywood pieces are 36"x48". "Threshhold" is 31" long. To save weight, all is 1x4 lumber except the ridge (2x4) and support lumber (2x2) on center divide.

Kathy Hopkins, who commented below, sent us pictures of some of her goose nests.

Tractor Supply Tuff Tub, 28"x22" x 8" deep.  About $20.  Perfect size for geese.
Kathy's A Frame goose nests.  Notice the tub for the goose.
Here she has nests set up between bales of alfalfa hay.

If you have a sizable flock, you want one nest for every four females. If you want every bird to set, then you need a nest for every female.
Anything soft can be used for the bedding: straw, hay, shavings, sawdust, peat moss, etc. It needs to be clean and dry. Depending on your weather and density of ducks, you will need to add bedding every one to three days if you collect the eggs daily. Start with at least 2” for ducks and 4” for geese. If they make their own nests, make sure they don't have any large sticks in there!
Have the nests built and bedded at least two weeks before you expect the first egg. If you wait for the first egg, it may be too late to convince them to use a new nest when they have already chosen a spot for that first egg.
What can be used for nests? For small quantities, use wooden boxes, tires (not the best as eggs may end up inside the tire), or basins. For larger flocks, you can build nests. The locking design of our duck nests works very well. The handles at the end enable you to periodically pull the nests up and out of the bedding.

When a flock starts laying, leave the initial eggs in the nests for a week so the birds are drawn to those nests and continue laying in the nests. Pick up any eggs not in nests and put them in the nests. Spread out the eggs. The natural tendency is for birds to lay an egg in a nest already with an egg. Inevitably half the nests don't have eggs and the remaining nests have one to five eggs each! Destroy any nests that are made in a high traffic or dirty area (near the water). We have our nests on one side of the building and the waterers on the opposite side so the nests stay as dry as possible.
Do you have any nest suggestions or ideas for easy to make nests?
For more information on incubation (in incubators and with birds) go to the incubation section of our website.

42 comments:

  1. I've used plastic Cat litter containers turned on their sides for my Australian Spotted Ducks' nests. The big tall square ones or the shorter slightly rectangular ones work equally well. I've had mama ducks hatch their babies in them, so I know they like these nests. I fill them with hay and pine shavings. They do the rest!

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  2. I have made nest boxes from plastic drums and also metal ones and burried them with vegitation cover on our dam. You will find a picture of the idea I received on http://thegreenhuon.blogspot.com/

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  3. I use all old truck tires cut in half, like a donut, and fill them with straw, hay or shavings. The high sides tend to keep the chicks in place longer as well.

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  4. We used a old Tyre filled with hay, she loved it and all goslings hatched :)

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  5. Are there actual plans on how to build the A-frame nest? My sweet husband is going to make me some for Easter but wanted to know if I had the plans for the one pictured here...I don't see what the 2X4 is for and how it was actually put together...Can you show the steps to help us out please? I'd so appreciate it!
    Lisa

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  6. We have no actual plans but I will have him take a series of pictures as he makes the next one.

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  7. Thanks! My husband said he'll wing it and if he runs into trouble, he'll have me look back here then...the only question now is where the 2X4 goes and what purpose it serves, if it's at the inside of the peak (ridge).Thank you, and I'll post a pic of it when we finish up...

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  8. Yes, the 2x4 is the ridge. It is heavy enough for both pieces of plywood to be screwed into it along the top.

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  9. in reference to the next boxes, how tall are the sides. not the good a frame but the series of nests in one frame.

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  10. the size of the cross pieces are 2' long i guess and the board they go on is as long as the number of nests that we want?

    and the width of the 2' board is what 14" high or is 1' enough.

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    1. We just make the walls 12" high but 14" is fine, too. Yes, you can make the nests as long as you want. As most plywood is 8' long, that is normally the length we make the nest boxes. It also makes them more manageable for two people to lift.

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  11. I raise ducks and a couple years ago when I only had a couple Pekin hens, I made a 4'w x 8'l x 4'h coop, that contained 4 - 2' x 4' nest boxes for them. Since then I have sold the Pekins and have 40 Muscovy Duck hens now and want to re-purpose the coop to better fit their needs, even though they have had several successful hatches in there. If I use your measurements above, I should be able to get 16 ground level nest boxes, with 8 on one side and 8 on the other, but I was wondering if I could add a "Second" floor of nest boxes above the "First" floor, and if I do, what should my Height be for the first floor nest boxes? The Center of the coop is 4' tall that tapers to 3't at each end.

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    1. With 40 hens, you don't need more than 16 nests. And as they nest on the ground, they will probably prefer 1st floor nests over 2nd floor nests - and may not even use the 2nd floor nests. But if you do add a second floor of nests, I would make the 1st floor nests about 15" high - not knowing how much bedding will be in the nest.

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    2. Muscovy's like to climb. My girl uses her little webbed ducky feet to climb the 4 foot divider fence into the chicken pen, then fly hops up into their wall mount plastic hen nest box to lay her eggs. Its about 18 inches off the floor with no ramp. I think she likes penthouses.

      I watched her climb the fence, when i do chores i tell get back in your pen! She climbs the fence back into her pen.

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    3. My Muscovy ducks nest anywhere they can find a little privacy. I had one that nested on the planting bench in the greenhouse. I just left her there. She always had a good hatch and never bothered the seedlings.

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    4. I have 15 female Muscovy ducks and 1 male. Of the females, 3 are 1.5 yrs old and the rest of hatched from them this past Spring. I don't know how to prepare for the hatching season...I am thinking that most of the females will be laying eggs. My hope is to have eggs to eat, and allow some ducklings to hatch as well as switch a nest of duck eggs with chicken eggs in hopes that they will hatch me a group of chicks since my chicken hens don't go broody. Question: do I just take a few eggs from multiple nests each day to eat because if I do that then I am thinking the females won't start setting because their nest is not full.

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    5. You can collect from each nest and I am sure that once they start laying, they will lay more eggs than you need and will quickly fill a nest. But if you are going to do this, every day I would draw a circle around those eggs laid that day. In this way you will know which eggs are the freshest (unmarked) and only use those for your cooking needs.

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  12. Does anyone have any experience with placing a goose nest on top of a raft? My idea is to attach a nice dog house on to a 4' x 8' raft that's low enough to allow goslings to come and go on the water, plus something that large will allow all of them to stand outside of their home without going into the water. Anchor the "nesting raft" far enough from shore so predators won't get any ideas to pay them a visit with a short swim. We have lots of predators so I'm wanting to build something that's low-maintance for us plus provides good safety for Momma and young.
    Does anyone have any experience with floating goose nests such as I've described and if so, can you provide any advice for me to make sure I'm doing the best job possible? Thanks in advance for your guidance,

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    1. My first suggestion would be to make it a bit larger so it does not rock in the wind (8x8?). If your pond is small enough you may want to anchor it with a rope tied to the near shore and far shore. Then if you don't have a boat and have to pull it in, you can. Pull it to the shore with one rope and back out with the other. Make sure the ramps for your babies are plenty wide. Until they learn, they won't know to find a ramp to walk up. If you make one, please send pictures.

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  13. The following link was supplied by a reader about providing nests in and around ponds. It was written with wild ducks and geese in mind but will work equally well for domesticated ducks and geese that have access to a pond and are not locked in a building or pen at night.
    http://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/references/public/WY/PondImprovement.pdf

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  14. We are first timers with ducks and have 5 pekings. We have a small coop that only has enough space for 2 or 3 nesting boxes on one side of the coop floor. The other side of the floor has food, water and is a walkway between doors. Will the dominate ducks stay in the nest all night or do they drop eggs and move out of the nest like chickens? I’m trying to get them all to lay in the next boxes. Tnx much,

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    1. Normally they move out of the nests and there is not a problem. We only have one nest to every 4-5 females. You have one nest for every 2 ducks.

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    2. i have a dog house with straw in it and i have about 6-8 eggs when i collect from the same spot in the dog house. so there are 6-8 ducks using the same area in my case. they seem to choose to congregate in a few choice spots.
      I tried to get them to lay in other spots by using the fake eggs and trying to get them to use that nest. I could feel their disgust when i found the fake egg thrown out of the area only replaced by a normal laid egg. Too funny. They CAN tell the difference. i have stock tanks turned on their side and i put straw in them for nests. They don't like that either, Over night they take all the straw out and lay the egg on the bare metal. Think they are messing with me. As they say in the south, "Hey yall watch this!"

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  15. Tnx much John. Very helpful info on this site. Do you think 12x14 is big enough for Peking ducks? Seems a little tight. Mark

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    1. 12"x14" works for our Pekin ducks. I am sure you can make it larger. Don't make it too large, however, or a second duck may decide to crawl in with her. Then there is more chance of breakage.

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    2. My ducks are my pets there are two males and two females I noticed them mating just yesterday they used to stay in the fenced in area with a pool until they were old enough to follow me to the water and back up for sleeping time then they stopped coming up and stay down in the lake right by the dock where should I build their nest do they need to be enclosed in the fence area or can I build it more towards the water

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    3. I would make the nests wherever it is safest for the sitting duck. The duck is vulnerable to predators when it is sitting on eggs.

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  16. what size would be recommended for white Chinese geese nest?

    -Max

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  17. I have call ducks and every day is an Easter egg hunt. I have 5 layer boxes and they rarely lay in them. I find them in the dirt, out in the open pen, or in the corner of the building where I have some hay stacked for boxes. I also have a few chicken hens in the same pen/building combo. Are my chickens a part of the problem?

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    1. The chickens might be preventing the ducks from entering the nest boxes. Or you need more nest boxes or have the nest boxes spread out more so they cannot all be "protected" by one chicken.

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  18. I was hoping to see some ideas of a roll away nest to help keep the eggs clean so that I could sell them at the market. Our MN department of ag has brutal regulations when it comes to washing eggs.

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    1. There is only one company that makes roll away nests for ducks. I have not tried them as we have many flocks of varying sizes and we must keep the eggs separate. For more information, go to http://www.vencomatic.ca/products/nests-slat-systems/duck-nest.aspx

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  19. Hello John- you are a wealth of knowledge, as well as your following here! Does a nest box need a top on it for more seclusion or no? If I am hoping to get an egg each from 4 hens daily (2 choc runners,2-welsh harlequins), should they each have a nest box, or will they share the two I have already? Today I found 3 eggs in one nest (first time!) a fourth was a ceramic egg. 2 green, 1 white. Who lays green and who lays white of the four I listed? THANK YOU!

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    1. i have a variety of things i have put in the duck pen for them to lay eggs in. i have large ducks, rouen, swedish, buff etc. so they are larger than the mallard to give you a size reference.

      i have a top of a covered kitty litter box, a couple of animal carriers that are slightly larger than the top of the litter box, a large 2pc dog house (2'x4') a tote that is turned on its side, (18"deep x 30"long) and 2- 100 gallon stock tanks turned on their side creating a 3 sided cover. i get around 24 eggs a day and the breakdown of what is in where is: 2- 4 eggs on the ground scattered, 10-12 eggs in the carriers 3-6 eggs in the cat litter top, 1 in the tote on its side, dog houses i get about 3-5. They really seem to like the carriers (i have a piece of metal that covers them since there are holes in the sides and water can get in) and the top of the litter box alot. they don't like the stock tanks. i did put a 16x16" plastic tub in the stock tank one year and they were tolerant of that for a while and laid some eggs there. straw is what i put in there. the dog houses did well for a while and this year the carriers are new and they like them better.

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    2. if you look under his section on duck breeds he lists the traits of the ducks. It is great information and i reference it alot. Thanks John!

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  20. Hello John- thank you for all your information! Your site is truly a wonderful resource!
    I have 2 welsh harlequin and 2 choc runner hens. The night coop they are in is approx 24 x 24 with two attached 12 x 12 nest boxes on one end. I have added ceramic eggs from Farm and Fleet to help encourage laying (they are 5.5 months old). We started getting eggs , appropriately, on "labor" day. One here, two there... green. Today I got two green and one white! Can you tell me who lays green and who lays the white? Does a nest box need a top to make it more secluded? Yours shown in this thread do not and the space the nest frame is in is quite open and exposed. Thank you!

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    1. I would not worry about a top on the nest box. If they are using them, then they are secluded enough. And two nests are enough for four ducks. You might want to make their night pen a bit larger. That is only one square foot per bird (excluding the nests) and the recommended is at least 3.5 sq. ft. per bird. Chocolate Runners lay more green eggs (75%) than Welsh Harlequin (2%). To compare them in other ways, you can go to our duck breed comparison table http://www.metzerfarms.com/DuckBreedComparison.cfm

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  21. Hi, I realize this page is about nest boxes & I have learned alot. My Q is; do you have suggestions on how I can separate my breeds in the same duck house for breeding & laying? My duck house is 12'x12' for 16 ducks (5 drakes & 11 hens). They free range all day, but I will need to separate if I only want like breeds to mate. I got 14 of my ducks from your farm, they are all thriving & beautiful. I have Grimauld Pekin, Buff O. & Blue & Chocolate Runners. I don't think they should crossbreed, do you think they should? Thanks for any suggestions!

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    1. You will need to make four pens if you have four different breeds. They need to be kept separate 24/7 during the period you want purebred ducklings. Otherwise it is very likely you will hatch crossbred ducklings.

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  22. I have 3 pekins and 1 runner, they each have a nest but every morning there are all 4 eggs in one nest. Now for the last 2 weeks one of them or more has been setting on the eggs as they are warm and toasty when I gather them. My question is should I leave them all in one nest or put one in each nest when the time comes. Each duck's egg is a little different so it would be easy to put like eggs in each nest but should I? Will they share the setting time it takes to hatch them or will there be issues??

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    1. Do you want them to hatch their eggs? If not, just collect the eggs every day and you should be fine. If you want them to hatch, I don't know how much good it will be to spread the eggs. They won't know which egg is theirs and it may not be enough for them to break their habit of laying in the one nest.

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