Egg Eater!!!!

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by poultrypalooza, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. poultrypalooza

    poultrypalooza Out Of The Brooder

    22
    0
    34
    Jul 7, 2014
    I have 7 hens and 2 drakes in a rather large fenced in area with a very nice, comfortable nest box/coop. I have 2 problems that I would like information/opinions/advice about.

    1. Not all my hens will lay their eggs in the nest box! Every day I will find at least 1 egg laying on the ground, usually in the muddiest, dirtiest spot possible. This wouldn't be that big of an issue except that I know when winter gets here the eggs that are laying on the ground will be frozen before I get out to gather them. On only 1 occasion did all the hens lay their eggs in the nest box, that was a very happy morning! :) So, I know they all KNOW what the nest box is for. Why do some of them insist on laying their egg on the ground!?!? Four of the hens are very young, and they have only started laying eggs within the last month. Maybe they just don't understand when their body is telling them it's time to lay an egg so they don't know to go into the nest box? Is that possible?

    2. The second problem is the REAL aggravation and the main motivation behind writing this thread. EVERY day when I go to gather eggs there is evidence that an egg has been eaten!!! This is VERY frustrating to me! My ducks are fed VERY well. They have free access to layer pellets with oatmeal and brewers yeast mixed in. They have free access to oyster shell. And, every afternoon I bring them all kinds of scraps of vegetables from the garden. They get a varied diet of greens and vegetables, especially during the summer, but I even buy tomatoes and kale and spinach, and other greens for them throughout the months when the garden isn't producing. So, I am pretty confident that the egg eating isn't a matter of a lack in their diets. I have no idea who the guilty party is. It may be a "gang" crime. I do, however, want to put a stop to it! How do I discourage egg eating? Most of the time the egg that is eaten was laid outside of the coop, BUT this morning I found half an egg shell and a mess of whites and yolk on the ramp leading up into the coop/nest box. So, what I THINK happened is that the egg was laid in the nest box but then rolled out onto the ramp and either broken by mistake or partially eaten.

    I am trying to build up a business of selling duck eggs. It is a very slow process because I've been raising my ducks from ducklings and then having to wait until they mature and start laying eggs. I do, however, have 3 dedicated customers who want duck eggs every week (not to mention my family loves to eat duck eggs as well). So, when I have losses from eggs being eaten in the coop/yard...It gets pretty discouraging. Any advice would be very helpful. I'm willing to try just about anything to make the egg eating stop!
     
  2. JadeComputerGal

    JadeComputerGal Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,063
    244
    198
    Apr 19, 2014
    West Chester, PA, USA
    For number 1, what you're seeing isn't unusual, especially for new layers. Ducks lay eggs because that's how nature designed them, not because they're wanting to start a family and protect their progeny in the safety of a nest box. One of my new layers occasionally lays an egg on the ground, but usually in the house. We've also occasionally found eggs in their pond, but that's not unheard of, either.

    You also mention a ramp. Is that easy for the ducks to go up and down? We had to redesign our ramp twice to get the ducks to use it consistently. Also, is there any chance their access to their coop might be blocked at times? I know some people who have had success with locking their hens in the coop overnight for a few days, but I haven't had a reason to try that myself. (Hens only if you do that. Please don't lock the drakes in with them.)

    The second might be more difficult to overcome based on what I've heard from people who belong to our regional co-ops. Chances are that one of your Pekins trampled and broke an egg somewhere along the way, then at least one of the ducks got a taste for eggs. There are really only a couple of ways to find out who the offender is. You can check them first thing in the morning to see if any have telltale signs of "egg on their face," which they might not by then, or you can install a coop cam and set it to record overnight. Staying up and watching overnight, even if you're able to do it, might not tell you anything since they might not do it if a human were around at the time.

    It sounds like your ducks are extremely well-fed and aren't trying to replace something missing in their diet. Broken or cracked eggs should be removed immediately when you find them, and some people have success with putting fake eggs in the nest, but you might not be able to stop this behavior unless you identify the offender(s).
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. KARy408

    KARy408 Chillin' With My Peeps

    122
    4
    61
    Aug 18, 2014
    Livermore, CA
    Hi there Poultrypalooza! Isn't this egg laying process a crazy ride!?! I don't have a TON of experience but am in a somewhat similar boat, so I'll share what I can from what I've read in books and on this blog, and my own situation.

    First I wanted to ask what kind of ducks you have? Some are broodier and therefor more likely to nest than others, some are better egg layers etc. Knowing specifically what kind of bird you have my encourage others to write about their experiences as well.

    Also, how long have your girls been laying for? If they're just getting going, then they're just starting to get it figured out.

    I have 4 Pekin hens we raised from ducklings as well, for the purpose of our family's egg supply. We got them in March and they've been laying for a solid 3 weeks now, starting 1 week before they're 6 month birthday. Every morning is like Christmas now! We're getting 2-3 eggs a day pretty regularly, with 5 being our record breaker. I have a feeling two of my girls started out early and with a bang, but have now tapered off a bit while at least 1 of my other girls is starting to catch up and become the most consistent.

    I've found eggs on the ground, in their pool, under ramps and in their nesting box. I've had jumbo double yoked eggs, tiny round no-yoke eggs, soft shelled, chipped, smashed, obliterated, dirty AND perfect eggs. Most are laid before 8:30 am. When we have gotten soft shelled they seem to come in the late afternoon/early evening.

    From everything I've encountered thus far, I've learned that Ducks seem to be quite a bit more finicky and less reliable nester's than Chickens. Their eggs therefor tend to be dirtier. The best way to ensure they're laying in their nest is to keep your hens locked up in the coop/nesting box overnight and not let them out until they've laid in the morning. For me, I'm okay with a few dirty eggs as they're figuring things out, so I still let them loose in the run at night. One of my girls is laying pretty consistently in the coop now, but I've discovered that others seem to like laying on the ramp; I think the angle actually helps them squat and get it out-- this could be what's going on with your hens too? If so, try keeping a bit of fluffy bedding material at the base, to pad it up so the egg isn't hitting hard packed ground when it rolls down the ramp.

    On the other hand, since you do have Drakes, do you know if they've begun to mate yet? Once that starts to happen and your hens have been laying consistently, again depending on the breed, that should start to go broody. At that point, they should either start to use your nesting boxes more consistently or will build a nest somewhere in their yard that should stay clean and warm enough.

    Observe and get to know your birds as best you can. It may help to keep a diary. Find out who's mating, whose laying and when and where they prefer to do so. As your laying season progresses, your birds should get things figured out and stop the bad behavior. And once you start to figure out their routine, you'll know when you need to get to the eggs and who may need to be separated or kept inside overnight.

    Hope that helps!
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. poultrypalooza

    poultrypalooza Out Of The Brooder

    22
    0
    34
    Jul 7, 2014
     
  5. poultrypalooza

    poultrypalooza Out Of The Brooder

    22
    0
    34
    Jul 7, 2014
    JadeComputerGal,

    Thank you for your reply! I have watched all the ducks go up and down the ramp with ease, so I don't think that is an issue. I do think that it is highly likely that the opening of the coop is blocked at times and then they give up and end up laying eggs on the ground.

    The coop is raised (thus the need for a ramp), I've considered installing nest boxes underneath the coop. I'm afraid that would just encourage all the ducks to start laying their eggs outside the coop. But, if they are going to lay eggs outside anyway, if they laid them in a nest box with nesting material then maybe the eggs would be cleaner. So, I'm torn with that idea. What's your thoughts?
     
  6. JadeComputerGal

    JadeComputerGal Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,063
    244
    198
    Apr 19, 2014
    West Chester, PA, USA
    If the opening of the coop is blocked at times, that could be your answer. That could be something as simple as one of your drakes or even another hen impeding their progress. Even hens can start getting into the "this is my house" mood. I have a broody hen that is very suspicious of any duck that enters the house when she's sitting. It's a large house, so she just carefully watches them unless they get to 6-8 inches of the nest, then she starts running them off. She doesn't know or care that some of the eggs are actually theirs, only that she's the one sitting on them. That, in her mind, makes them hers.

    If your hens are consistently using the ramp unless their access is blocked, I don't see an advantage to putting a nest box on the ground. There are many people who frequent this board who are far more knowledgeable about this than I am, so they may have other answers. I can't see that putting a nest box at a lower level would encourage them to lay eggs on the ground outside it. As far as the eggs being "dirty," I really wouldn't worry about that. Just give them a quick rinse. If you take one of the "clean" ones and stick it in a mud puddle for a minute, it will be the same kind of dirty. Look at it this way...They all come out of the hen in the same condition, so it doesn't mean one egg is better than another just because it was on the ground. Ducks LOVE mud. It softens the ground and helps them pluck our what they want, kind of like how many humans only like pasta when we cook it to soften it.

    I looked at your prior posts to to see what ducks you have, which is how I knew about the Pekins. They're wonderful ducks, but also a bit heavy and clumsy. That's why I proposed that one of them stepped on an egg and either broke or cracked it, which led at least one other one to develop a taste for their own eggs.

    I really still have to suggest you get a cam so you can find out who the offender is. If you don't, I'm not sure how you'll know unless they have egg on their face :)
     
  7. Amykins

    Amykins Overrun With Chickens

    4,771
    433
    276
    May 11, 2013
    I doubt it's related o the egg-eating, but on the off chance it might be, I wanted to tell you that spinach usually isn't a good thing to feed birds duing laying season. Spinach has an enzyme called oxalate, which prevents calcium absorption. If they eat too much of it they may have a craving for eggshell to try and recoup some of that good ol' tasty calcium! ...But like I said, I don't think that's necessarily a factor here or you'd probably see more cannibaleggsm in the flock.

    I hope you're able to nip this in the bud!
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. JadeComputerGal

    JadeComputerGal Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,063
    244
    198
    Apr 19, 2014
    West Chester, PA, USA
    PoultryPalooza,

    That was a great catch by Amykins about the spinach. I wasn't so much focused on what treats they're getting as the fact that they're well-fed. There's a good deal of disagreement about whether any ducks, male or female, should ever have spinach. My stance on it is, "When in doubt, leave it out." There are so many good, healthy treats you can give ducks, there's just no point giving them anything questionable. I've never seen a duck that doesn't love peas, so those are on my weekly grocery list along with the normal stuff like eggs, milk, bread, etc. Both of the supermarkets where we shop have a rack in the produce department of items reduced for quick sale, so I always check that for duck treats. There are almost always bell peppers and bananas, and often other items safe for ducks like squash and zucchini.

    After reading the diet part more closely, I'm a little concerned about the oyster shell as well. Drakes shouldn't be fed oyster shell, which is a challenge if you don't segregate your males and females. We keep a small dish in the house since only one of our drakes goes in the house, and that's very rare. Even when he does go in, I've never seen him on our coop cam getting in that dish. I think he's just being nosy about what's going on in there, then quickly loses interest :)
     
  9. poultrypalooza

    poultrypalooza Out Of The Brooder

    22
    0
    34
    Jul 7, 2014
    They don't get spinach often, usually when I buy some for the family and it starts to get a little "limp" then I give it to my ducks and chickens. It amounts to about a mouthful per duck once a month, if that much. They get kale, collards, mustard greens.....things like that almost every day.

    I've never seen my drakes eat the oyster shell either. Maybe they realize their bodies don't need it.
     
  10. ducksinarow

    ducksinarow Chillin' With My Peeps

    458
    17
    124
    Mar 12, 2011
    I feed the eggshells back to the ducks. They love them. You could be seeing the remains of a soft shell egg. My birds usually eat these up, but they do leave a mess.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by