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.


  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!

  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

  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.

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

  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!

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

  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...

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

  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.

  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.

    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.

  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.

    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.

    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.

    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.