Egg Laying Issues -- Stress or Lack of Daylight?


Jan 14, 2021
This is my first year with ducks and so far it's been *pretty* smooth sailing, knock on wood!

My girls just turned 7 months old and have been laying since they were about 5-6 months. At first a few of them had some kinks to work out with their egg laying systems, and switching them over from Purina Duck Feed to Purina Layena Feed helped with a lot of their laying issues. A few had been struggling to lay eggs with no shells, but once I switched their feed I haven't had a shell-less egg since (up until a few days ago). I still offer crushed up eggshells and oyster shell free choice, and I see many of them going over to eat that throughout the day.

A few days ago I noticed my Buff Orpington, Cammie, acting a bit unusual. She was really pumping her tail and got withdrawn from the flock, she didn't eat or drink much, and she spent a good amount of the afternoon laying down. She had been acting fine all morning and she had laid a normal egg (I'm assuming, because I have six ducks and collected six eggs that morning). But by afternoon she was clearly not herself and pumping her tail constantly like she had to get an egg out. I separated her from the flock, brought her in to the coop, gave her a bit of peas with a crushed up calcium citrate pill, and let her be. Within an hour she had laid TWO shell-less eggs and about a half hour after that she was acting like her normal self again. I let her back out with her friends and she seemed totally fine. I checked on her throughout the night and she was fine. I thought it was just a fluke thing.

But then yesterday she was fine in the morning until about noon, and then she started exhibiting the same symptoms -- withdrawn, laying down a lot, tail pumping, and walking slowly and almost with a limp when she did walk. I only collected five eggs that morning and assumed she hadn't laid because of the two shell-less eggs the afternoon before. Again I brought her inside, gave her peas and a calcium citrate pill and let her rest in the coop. After a few hours she hadn't laid an egg and seemed to have peeked up a bit so I let her back out and she was her normal self the rest of the day.

And now this morning... She was acting totally fine for about an hour. Eating, drinking, rooting around in the grass in the pen when I first put them all out at 7... But then I noticed that while the other girls continued to socialize and forage, Cammie had gone to a quiet corner of the pen and was sleeping. She slept for almost an hour while the other girls were waddling all around her, doing normal ducky things. The day is still young and I haven't seen her exhibiting any of the other troubling symptoms she's had in the past few days, but usually that doesn't start until around noon so I know there's still time for her to go downhill.

My question is, could this be due to stress? Or to the lack of enough daylight to properly produce eggs? Or something else entirely?

I live up in northern Connecticut, and my girls are out from 6:30-7am until 4:30-5pm nowadays... which gives them only about ten hours of daylight. None of the other girls seen to be affected by this, and are all producing and acting normally, but I know that everyone is different so maybe she just needs more daylight than the others to function properly?

Also, my dad and I JUST finished building the girls a new winter pen the day that Cammie first started having egg issues -- all the girls have been a bit freaked out by the new environment, and it's taken some serious coaxing to get them in their new pen each morning, but again none of the others seem to be having any issues because of this. I had read that stress can cause shell-less eggs though, so I'm wondering if maybe that could be contributing to her problem.

I've never going through a Fall or Winter with my girls yet so I don't know what to expect with egg production dropping off or molting or anything like that. So far none of them have molted (aside from when they were losing their juvenile feathers to get their adult feathers months ago) but I know that there can be a drop in egg production when they're molting as well. But so far none of my girls have dropped any feathers so I don't think molting is our issue.

I'd really appreciate any advice or insight you could give on this situation.... I'm worried sick over my sweet Chamomile and hate seeing her not feeling her best. I don't know if this is somewhat normal during this time of year or because of the stress of a new environment, or if it's something more serious. It's just so strange to me that she goes from seeming totally fine to completely withdrawn and then back to fine again within the same day... I just don't understand what's going on with her and obviously want the best for her.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read about my little Cammie 🖤
Poor Cammie! It doesn't sound quite right to me, but I'm also a relatively new duckie mama. Is a vet possible?
Thank you 🖤 No, unfortunately I had contacted several vets that care for ducks BEFORE I got the ducklings and they all said that they would see my girls as patients but then once I got them and started having medical issues they all said that they actually weren't taking new patients at this time due to Covid... So I'm pretty much on my own for now.

Luckily though her issue seemed to have cleared up on its own. She went through a few weird days but has been laying normally and acting normally ever since. I'm still keeping a close eye on her but so far so good!
I would recommend giving her calcium every day until she starts laying normal eggs. Usually when a duck is egg bound, I give calcium gluconate (found at TSC) and soak them in like warm water for a 30 minutes to over an hour. But you want to continue to treat with calcium gluconate even after they pass the egg. Calcium is not only important in creating the shell, but proper muscle contractions in their vent.

So even if your duck is getting a layer feed, some may need more calcium. For instance, I have a Pekin who has not stopped laying for over a year now. Without a proper break, she needs extra calcium in her diet to keep her healthy.

I have read some ducks do have issues with laying eggs as they start to shut down for the season.
When chickens or ducks lay shelless eggs, it really zaps their energy. So, her behavior seems normal.
@Quatie offered excellent advice above regarding treating her for the egg laying issue.

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