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Disappearing eggs. Need some help!

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by acipolone, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. acipolone

    acipolone Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 5, 2010
    Hammond, LA
    We have a bit of a mystery on our hands. We have a flock of about 30 ducks, about 7 are drakes. For awhile we were getting a lot of eggs, around 8-9/day then as the summer went on we went down to to 3 eggs a day, then 2, then 1 ... now nothing.

    At night they are enclosed in a large square pen that is at least 20' x 15.' One corner of the pen is enclosed. We have 3 large dog crates with lots of hay and a fake egg in each. We also have a row of nest boxes along one wall that is also under cover.


    We let them out every morning around 5:30am or so into a 2 acre pasture they share with some other poultry (about a dozen chickens, 4 geese, 3 guineas and 6 turkeys). They're pretty good foragers. For awhile we were only giving them a night time ration of food (about 5lb scoop of Layena with some cracked corn), but we've started feeding them twice a day. They have 3 large kiddy pools in the pasture and large tubs of water in their pen at night. They get penned up at dark. At least one day a week they are penned all day, as we don't get home until very late (8pm) and don't want to risk predators. There is a small light in the enclosed area of their pen that comes on at dark and stays on all night. (We have also tried keeping the light off at night.)

    We did have a rat problem, but we've since taken care of that (we think). We do have some cottonmouth and rat snakes on the property, but I think we'd have more signs that it was snakes (pooped out crushed shells or something).


    What we've tried:

    1) Keeping them penned for a few days. Not a single egg.
    2) Increasing their feed ration (been doing that for a month). No change.
    3) Putting fake eggs in the nest boxes. No luck.
    4) Palpating the hens. Pretty sure we feel eggs in there.

    5) The laying did seem to drop off when we had geese housed with with the ducks, so for the last week the geese have their own pen at night.


    Possibilities we've considered:

    1) It's getting late in the season. However, the temperature hasn't dropped too much (south Louisiana) and our ducks for the past few years always layed well into the winter. In fact, we've been careful about our breeding because we usually get about 300+ eggs from our girls.
    2) They might be laying somewhere else. After penning them up for 3 days we thought that might show us at least one egg, but nothing. Can they "hold it" for that long?
    3) We may have parasites. However, the ducks all seem healthy. We've been raising them for years, just never a flock this size,


    Questions:

    1) Could we have an egg eater? We don't know too much about that. Would there be any tell-tale signs? Any way to figure out which one it is? Would they eat through almost a dozen eggs a day?
    2) Could it be that they can hold the eggs for a few days? Would keeping them penned for a longer period of time like a week be better?
    3) Are we not giving them enough space? 8 sq ft per bird seems like plenty to me.
    4) Are we not feeding enough? Is two big scoops (about 8 lbs average) of Layena/corn enough?


    We were hoping by increasing our number of hens we'd be able to start producing more duck eggs for sale. I suppose we should be getting about a dozen a day from this many females, but the complete lack of eggs is disappointing. I feel like I'm just throwing away feed at this point. Our chickens and quail are laying okay (dropping off a bit for cooler weather, I think), so I figure if it was rats/snakes or something affecting birds (parasite/disease) we'd see it in all the birds.


    Any help? Suggestions?
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2012
  2. SJUDD

    SJUDD Chillin' With My Peeps

    My Ducks are only 4 months old so I do not have a lot of experience with this, nor have I dealt with duck eggs yet. However, my chickens laying has dropped off considerably this year, over the last couple of weeks. I had 7 hens and went from getting 8-10 eggs a day to getting 3. I am not sure if duck behaviour is the same though. I wish you the best!
     
  3. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Running over with Blessings Premium Member

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    What breed are you talking about?
     
  4. acipolone

    acipolone Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 5, 2010
    Hammond, LA
    The bulk of our flock are Indian Runner/Buff Orpington hybrids, some with Welsh Harlequin in them. They've always been great layers. There's some purebred Welsh Harlequin (2 drakes, 3 hens, also been exceptional layers) and Cayugas (not sure of the number, maybe 3, new to the flock this year). Also a lone Blue Swede drake out there (also new this year).
     
  5. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Running over with Blessings Premium Member

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    If there's alot of breeding going on that can cause a drop in egg laying, and also time of year. shorter days rather than cooler days make a difference. They also have to take time off to let their bodies rest, molting at this time of year can cause a drop in egg laying too. Sounds like feeding and room size is good. Since I only have Muscovies I know once Oct gets here I won't see another egg till spring so hopefully someone with these breeds can help you out. You might want to set up a game camera and see if you have a snitch. [pred]. I haven't ever seen one of my ducks eat an egg before thats not saying they haven't I just don't know how much it goes on. Ducks do require some protein so maybe start feeding them some extra, Salmon in water drained, Mackrel in water drained, Meal worms, which my ducks love. Just to name a few. If you do have rats or snakes that doesn't mean you'll see a discarded egg shell, we have big blk snakes here and they have gotten eggs before but because they usually slither off to someplace out of the way to digest I hardly ever see a shell.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2012
  6. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    Hi!

    I also have runners and buffs, but only 9 and 4.

    Eight pounds of feed for thirty ducks is about a quarter pound per duck and that may not be quite enough for laying as the weather cools.

    Your assessment of the situation shows you are paying attention. Good for you! Could be parasites, I suppose a snake could be getting in and nabbing eggs. I know my ducks sometimes slow down during stressful times, like now, introducing the three new buffs. But that's another story.

    Do they have free choice oyster shell? Would you consider giving them some extra dandelion greens for a while? That has calcium in it, and I find the ducks seem to lay just a little more with daily greens (easier in the spring and summer than now, up here in New England).

    Those are my initial thoughts. Welcome!
     
  7. acipolone

    acipolone Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 5, 2010
    Hammond, LA
    Quote: Even though they are free-ranging during most of the day, would they need more than this, or is that an amount that a non-ranging bird would need? None of them seem underweight, but obviously if more food would lead to (more) eggs we'd be happy to go for it. I've had a real difficult time finding recommended feed amounts for birds that free-range. Most folks say they leave it out free choice, but since we have a mixed flock I can't do that. The goats and sheep get into the pens and end up eating everything left in the feeders ... and we're trying not to encourage any rats to stick around.
     
  8. acipolone

    acipolone Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 5, 2010
    Hammond, LA
    Just to follow up, we're getting eggs again!

    We increased their feed ration (doubled it, really) and it seems to be doing the trick. I think it was a combination of a couple of things: 1) low feed, 2) molting, 3) no new pasture. For the past 8 months they probably did okay with just an evening ration, but my guess is that with their constant foraging and the colder weather the ability to find new protein sources on the pasture probably declined.

    So, lesson learned. Gotta feed the pigducks. :)
     
  9. CelticOaksFarm

    CelticOaksFarm Family owned, family run

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    If you live where the weather changes, expect to increase as the leaves change and increase again with first frost and then finally more with frozen ground and or snow. You can sprout wheat for them also and raise meal worms as winter food sources.
     
  10. acipolone

    acipolone Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 5, 2010
    Hammond, LA
    We've never had problems with them laying the past couple of years, but the farm we bought is a bit further north than where they were originally raised, so I think the temp is having a bit more of an effect on them. I think the increased food ration is helping most, though.

    Do you raise meal worms? What sort of size colony (?) do you have to support your flock? Any tips on using them as a winter food source?
     

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