In nature, ducks like to hide their eggs. This is especially true if the duck notices that the eggs they had hidden in a “nest” over the last few days or weeks have gone missing. The hiding is instinctual, this is how the duck will keep its eggs safe from predators of all kinds- from snakes to owls and even other ducks. However, a strong maternal instinct might not be the only reason your duck is hiding her eggs. Either way, there are solutions available to solve these egg-hiding problems.
Why Are My Ducks Laying Eggs in Random Places? (The Short Answer)
Why are your ducks laying eggs in random places? Your ducks are likely hiding their eggs because the ducks feel insecure, they’re bored, or they have very poor instincts related to eggs. All of these causes have solutions and there is no single reason why a duck needs to lay their eggs in a random place.
8 Possible Reasons for Ducks Laying Eggs in Random Places
Just because something is instinctual doesn’t mean it has to happen. As mentioned above, the act of hiding eggs in random spots is often triggered by the frequent collection of those eggs. In addition to collecting the eggs, there are a handful of triggers that can cause a duck to start hiding eggs seemingly out of the blue.
Competition and Crowding
Ducks like having space. While they are also social creatures, laying ducks can easily feel crowded, especially in seasons when they might not get as much outside time. Ducks recently introduced to a flock may also disrupt the social order or things and can even engage in egg-stealing behavior or break up nests that have worked well for your ducks until now.
Going a step beyond general bullying or pushing for more space, some ducks will begin to eat eggs when they are stressed. Once this starts, egg-eating is a difficult behavior to stop. If there is an egg-eater in the flock, other ducks may begin to lay their eggs further away or may resist laying eggs indoors at all.
“Broody” is a word used to describe a duck that wants to hatch a clutch of eggs. Broody ducks will build a nest, collect eggs, and then sit on that nest. Shortly after, they may stop laying eggs.
While this may not sound too problematic, it can result in the broody duck taking the eggs of other ducks to her nest. It can also mean the creation of nests in new places, especially if the eggs are regularly collected. Or the duck may begin hiding their eggs outdoors all of a sudden, even if they laid an egg each morning in the nesting box every day until then.
Lack of Broody Behavior
On the other end of the spectrum, you have ducks with absolutely no instinct to keep their eggs safe. Ducks collect their eggs into clean, dry nests because this keeps them viable. If a duck has no such instinct or is not socially encouraged to do this, they are likely to be the ducks that lay their eggs in the water or around the food dish.
No “Good” Spots to Keep the Eggs
If you have ducks laying eggs in random places, it may be because they don’t like the nesting options they have. This can mean a lack of good nesting materials, nesting boxes that are too high, or that your ducks feel too exposed when laying eggs. The stress of not having a good nesting spot can also decrease overall egg production.
Bored ducks may begin playing with or eating their eggs. While uncommon, some ducks seem to like rolling their eggs around or covering them in mud when they get exceptionally bored.
Ducks can be remarkably sharp in certain situations. If a duck senses that something is wrong with an egg, they will roll it out of and away from the nest. They may even try to bury it. However, this doesn’t always mean there is something wrong with the egg for the purpose you intend for it. Perfectly edible eggs, though with thin shells or double yolks, may be some of those discarded by a laying duck.
If a duck has gone to the trouble of making a nest and laying an egg, they will be dismayed when that egg goes missing. This may mean that, especially if they have broody tendencies, they will build a new nest or refuse to lay eggs where their others have gone missing.
How to Encourage Ducks to Lay Eggs in Safe Spaces
Now that you know the why of “why are my ducks laying eggs in random places?” it’s time to learn what you can do about it. Below are 6 strategies that I have found effective when it comes to getting ducks to lay eggs in a specific area.
Use the Buddy System
If you have ducks that seem to have very poor instincts when it comes to eggs, the best advice I can give is to find an older duck with very broody instincts to wrangle the eggs and “teach” these other ducks. If you have an egg-laying or duck-raising operation, a duck like this is well-worth keeping around, even if they are not productive themselves.
Keep a Nest of Artificial Eggs
Artificial eggs added to each ideal nest and nesting area are the next best thing. Seeing eggs consistently in an area, whether they are made of wood or ceramic, can help ducks know where the eggs “should” go and may help calm any ducks that have become anxious about egg-collecting.
Have a Contained “Morning Area”
Most laying ducks will lay their eggs before 9 am or in the hour after sunrise each day. While giving ducks as much forage time is ideal, it shouldn’t hurt to keep them in the coop or a smaller pen until after this time every day.
Provide Nesting Materials
Ducks need the right materials to build a good nest and they can be picky about what the “right” materials are. Hay, for example, is the material I have found to be the ideal choice. Adding a flake of hay to the room each time you clean it, if you’re using straw or kiln-dried wood chip bedding, can help encourage nest-building inside of the coop or barn.
Use Low Nesting Boxes or Nesting Tubes
Ducks and chickens are different. Chickens like to use nesting boxes with high sides or that are elevated from the floor. Ducks do not like these. Nesting tubes, like the mallard nesting tubes installed in wildlife areas, are ideal. Alternatively, a low corner in the coop or barn may be ideal. If you have a lean-to with a dirt floor, digging out a low depression and filling it with hay may make it a very appealing nesting location.
Control the Climate
If your problem is more with getting muddy eggs than eggs left in completely random places, your ducks may be too hot. In hot weather, ducks will use mud to keep their eggs cool and more viable for hatching. A fan or other cooling solution installed inside of their shelter can help your ducks feel more at ease and encourage them to lay their eggs indoors.
Dangers When Ducks Lay Their Eggs in Random Spots
Ducks laying their eggs wherever and whenever can lead to eggs that are lost or abandoned. This can have the following consequences.
- Old Eggs – Old eggs can crack, leak, and even explode if they are left alone long enough. An egg that was hidden that is left outdoors in the elements for weeks or even months will eventually become filled with bacteria that can cause a build-up of gas. Over time, this gas will build up until the egg explodes. Duck eggs, with their thicker shells, take much more force to open than chicken eggs. The remaining liquid within the egg, now a soup of bacteria, can be sprayed several feet all around the egg. If any ducks come in contact with this substance, they can become severely ill.
- Crushed Eggs – If the eggs are fresh but hidden in tall grass or weeds, they may be accidentally stepped on or driven over. The resulting crushed egg can attract predators and insects.
- Dirty Eggs – When a duck has no “good” options for where to lay their eggs, they may attempt to bury them in the mud around their water areas or even lose them in their swimming pool. Eggs left in mud for too long should be considered contaminated and properly disposed of.
- Attracts Predators – Loose eggs left in or around the coop overnight can attract predators that like to eat eggs.