Help Solve the Mystery of the Missing Eggs!

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by iamcuriositycat, Jan 21, 2012.

  1. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    I need help. Neither my ducks nor my quail have laid eggs, except every once in a great while, since last May (that's eight months). Now, it may be tempting to make all the standard suggestions (feed them better, clean their pens, wait till Spring, get a new breed, maybe they're hiding them, etc.), but to solve this mystery you're going to need some background information. Because this is no ordinary beginner's mystery.

    The Duck Stats:

    * Ducks are Indian Runners
    * All are under three years of age, but well past a year
    * There are five females and a male
    * Breeding stock was from McMurray Hatchery, all were hatched on my property
    * They free range during the day and are locked in a deep litter bedded pen at night
    * They are fed Purina Layena twice a day, as much as they can clean up in twenty minutes
    * They have two kiddie wading pools, one in their nighttime pen and one in the yard
    * They also have access to a large lake at the bottom of the property
    * Water is changed every two to three days

    That's the basics. Now, before we jump in, a few pertinent details:

    * They are from the same exact stock as ducks that I gave to my friend, who lives in the same town I do, and whose ducks produce several eggs a day every single day all year long. She feeds hers the same things mine eat.
    * I had some magpies this past summer that also were not laying for months and months. I sold them and within a couple months of moving to their new home, they began laying reliably.
    * The children and I have searched for hidden troves of eggs and found nothing. It seems unlikely that all five ducks would hide ALL their eggs, every day, outside of their pen, for eight months straight, but I have also tried locking them up for several days in a row inside their pen, to see if I could catch them... nope. Still no eggs.

    From the evidence, I am leaning toward believing there is something location-specific going on. However, it must have arisen within the past twelve months, because prior to this, all ducks and quail were laying prolifically for several years in a row (not all the SAME ducks and quail--however these particular ducks HAVE been heavy layers in the past).

    Some Quail Stats:

    * The quail are coturnix, five females, one male
    * Two females of indeterminate age
    * Three females who were a few weeks old when I purchased them, one of whom began laying around six weeks before I moved them into their current pen, now several months old and no eggs
    * The quail live on the ground in a 10 x 10 aviary
    * They eat Purina gamebird breeder or flight conditioner, whichever is available when it's time to buy feed
    * Birdseed is thrown in as a regular treat, with millet, sunflower seeds, etc. in it
    * None have laid an egg since mid-summer, and none ever laid heavily for me
    * I'm sure they're not hiding the eggs--I periodically do a thorough search of the pen, and have never uncovered a trove

    I also have five silkie chickens who have only just come of age, so it remains to be seen whether they will lay, but I feel the odds are low unless I can figure out what's going on.

    Some possibilities:

    * Something in the water (we're on city water) that is entering from our pipes or the hose. Would it be worth changing out the old hose for something new? What are the odds this is it?
    * Something falling from the trees. We have standard wooded cover here--sweetgum trees, a sycamore, some maples... other things I don't know the names of. Same basic cover that my friend with the productive ducks has. But ... could there be something up there I'm missing?
    * Something in the soil... perhaps a disease or illness that has become endemic in the soil of their enclosures. It's interesting to me that one young quail began to lay in her wire pen on the other side of the yard, but then stopped when moved to their aviary.
    * Something else..???????

    Ideas? Thoughts? Anyone ever seen or heard of something like this? Thoughts on what specifically could cause two different species of bird to stop laying but not harm them in any other way, nor permanently damage their laying ability (witness the ducks who left my property and began laying a few months later)?

    Let the sleuthing begin!
  2. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    Sounds like you have egg eaters.
  3. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Okay, what then? Nothing larger than a wren can get into the quail pens. Mice? Rats (definitely bigger than a wren, but I've heard they can squeeze through tiny spaces)?

    What about the duck eggs? Can the same thing be eating the duck eggs as are eating the quail eggs?

    And what could eat that MANY eggs--it/they would have to eat five ducks eggs and five quail eggs every day during the productive season. A family of egg-eating rats? And then leave absolutely no evidence--no broken shells, no half-eaten whites, NOTHING.

    There are rodent trails into the quail pens, that have been there since before I moved the quail in, and there are mouse droppings in their food most of the time. But the rodent trails are sized for a vole or a mouse, not a rat. And would something that only eats an unnoticeable amount of quail food also be able to eat all of their eggs every single night... and leave not so much as a shell behind?

    I'm definitely open to the possibility, but it doesn't quite add up for me. Am I missing something?
  4. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Also, it's interesting to me that the magpies I sold did not begin to lay immediately, as though they had been laying all along and just had their eggs eaten. They waited a couple months and then began laying... as though there were something in their system preventing it before. It could have been coincidence, though...
  5. Tahai

    Tahai Chillin' With My Peeps

    have your water tested via your local extension office, to rule out any contaminants. I'd do your tap water and the pond.

    As for predators...maybe a snake or two.
  6. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Good idea--I hadn't thought to have it tested. It's probably free too, or very cheap. Thanks! And yeah--can you imagine if it's something in the tap water and WE'VE been drinking it too?? Yikes.

    Maybe a few snakes but again... I'd think there'd be evidence, like empty shells once in a while. But no, nothing!

    Definitely going to look into the water. Thanks!
  7. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Okay, so. I've ordered a water test kit and will do that next week. I also ordered some DE in case it's worms or parasites in the soil. My research indicates that the mucky conditions in the backyard (this weather!!) may be contributing, so I'm going to spend some time this weekend and next cleaning out their pens really thoroughly and really laying down some dry bedding and DE... hard to keep it dry, though, with this wet dreary weather like we've had. The quail do have access to plenty of dry under-cover areas.

    If it's egg eaters, what do I do about that? How do I figure out what kind of egg eaters, and how do I get rid of them or prevent the damage?

    Any other possibilities? Suggestions for tracking it down?

  8. Tivona

    Tivona Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2011
    Have you contacted your local Cooperative Extension Agency? Perhaps they could give you things to check for. I Googled your state and came up with the NC State Poultry Science Extension . Not sure if they could help but it can't hurt to ask them.

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