Is my duck abandoning her nest?


May 6, 2015
This is my first forum post, but I've consulted the information here often. Here is my current situation...

2 year old Welsh Harlequin female began sitting a nest of eggs a few weeks ago. The nest is in the duck house that she shares with another female (who is not broody) and a male. They are closed up at night. Up until today, she has faithfully stayed on the nest, only leaving for a short while in the evening to eat or drink. The male duck sometimes sits near her. They all get along. She has never been fond of people and she became quite crabby once she starting sitting. I had to remove a few eggs that had gone bad and she moved the nest a little after this.

Today, she was outside most of the day and the nest had been totally covered up. Is she abandoning them? I'm not sure how close some of the eggs are, but a few seem to be less than a week away and several others look very healthy. Is she giving up? Do they leave the nest more as some are about to hatch?

Any ideas or thoughts are greatly appreciated!

She might be giving up on incubating, yes. Is this her first time incubating? Perhaps she isn't experienced enough to know how long to sit and gave up. They should not spend much time off the nest during incubation, usually not more than an hour a day. Do you have an incubator? I would candle them and maybe pull the good ones into an incubator to be safe. You can maybe leave her any duds so she might go back to sitting, but it is concerning she's been off the nest so long. They can't survive very long without mom sitting on them to keep them warm.

Also, they do tend to cover up their eggs when they leave the nest to eat and drink, so that part is normal. But not going back all day is not normal.
Thanks for the response. Yes, this is her first time incubating, but up to yesterday, she has really been doing an excellent job for almost 4 weeks now. I neglected to mention in my initial post that the outside temperature here was hot yesterday - 81 degrees. Up to then it had been in the 50s and 60s. After checking the eggs yesterday (and uncovering the nest), I left it for her to do with as she would overnight. When I checked in this morning, she had rearranged the nest and covered it again with straw, but I could see the indentation in the top where she had sat on them. They were all warm. Before yesterday, the nest was open and she would seal it up all day with her body. But now she is covering it with straw, so I'm wondering if the warmer outside temps are allowing her more time away. Has anyone seen this happen before? Weather in this area can be strange with big daily swings in temps during the spring and fall. Maybe she is adjusted to that?

It's a tough call to take them from her when I'm not sure and I'm inclined to let her figure this out on her own. I'm going to monitor her more today and see if she's giving the nest any attention.
Ok, it's possible she just got hot and needed more time away to cool down and swim maybe? Next time she's off the nest I'd sneak in and candle them all real quick to make sure they are still alive and kicking in there. I'd hate for you to take them away as well if she is indeed going back to them. You just don't want her to leave them too long and have them chill, that could kill the little guys. Of course the warmer temps do help with that a bit at least.

Good luck and keep us updated on the situation, ok? :)
Latest update:

Watched the mother this morning and she is definitely done with the nest :( Not only has her "nest aggression" gone away, but she and her buddies are standing at the gate to be let out to free range. Normally they are free ranged during the day, but I penned them all up when the one started nesting. Also, I found that she'd laid an egg this morning, which she had stopped doing for a couple weeks now.

Of the 24 eggs I found in the nest (3 had already been pulled because they had begun to rot), I have 8 clearly viable eggs, 2 of which are quite far along. They may only have a week to go. The other 6 are probably half way through the incubation period.

I borrowed an incubator from my children's school and I'm going to try to hatch them out. I've done it before with moderate success - I had 2 survive out of 4.

Will keep you posted and thanks again so much for the advice!
No problem! Sorry she quit incubating for you, but happy you were able to get ahold of an incubator. Do come back to update when you can! :)

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