duck egg farming
The egg production of ducks varies tremendously due to genetics and management. The genetics depends on the breed chosen and the hatchery. We recommend our Golden 300 Hybrid and White Layer for egg production. We have bred them exclusively for maximum egg production. If you are not sure if you want ducks or chickens, read Raising Ducks, an excellent article comparing them. It also recommends how to manage ducks for easy care and optimal egg production.
The management factors that most affect egg production are:
1) Good quality of feed. Fresh, proper nutrient levels, no molds, no insect damage.
2) Proper quantity of feed. For maximum production a duck must have limited feed from 3 weeks of age until they are laying well - no more than .35 pounds of feed/duck/day for the larger strains. Otherwise they become overweight with egg production, fertility and hatchability suffering. When you start increasing their day length (see below) you can begin to increase their feed. Increase a little every week and by the time they are laying at 40% production (4 eggs for every 10 females every day) you can start to give them as much as they want to eat. Ideally they should clean up their feed every day but it should be available most of the day.
Note: If you are raising your ducks in the spring, they may start laying eggs sooner than what is best. The problem with early lay is that they may not be as mature as they should be and their eggs will be smaller. All you can do at this point is to reduce their feed level in the hopes of preventing more ducks from starting egg production. Early lay will not affect their health or longevity.
3) Good water. Ducks can tolerate stinky water but making them tolerate it does not promote excellent egg production. Contrary to popular belief, they do not have to have swimming water to prosper. If you can handle the dirty water they will produce by swimming in it, then provide it. But it is not necessary.
4) Proper lighting. An increasing day length (January - June) brings sexually mature ducks into egg production and a decreasing day length (July-December) slows or stops their egg production. To prevent this from happening, natural light needs to be supplemented with artificial light in the morning and evening so the laying duck has 17 total hours of light a day. Once the birds are 20-23 weeks of age (smaller breeds at 20 weeks, larger breeds at 23 weeks) you can gradually increase the length of day using artificial light. The easiest way to do this is to have a light on a time clock. Initially add about one hour to the natural day length. Using the time clock, have the lights come on when the sun is setting and turn off in ½ hour. Then have the lights come on ½ hour before sunrise and have it shut off at sunrise. With these two ½ hour periods, you have increased the day one hour and this will stimulate egg production. Then every week you can add another 45 minutes (a little in the morning and a little in the evening) until you have a total of 17 hours of light. For us this means the lights are off at 9:30pm and come back on at 4:30am. This gives them seven hours of darkness which means they will have 17 hours of light.
5) Lack of stress. Ducks love a routine. Same time out in the morning, same person feeding them at the same time, same person following the same route to collect their eggs, same person wears the same clothes every day, same feed all the time, same weather every day, same time put in at night, same bedding used every day, etc. You get the point. They will be happiest under the same routine. And they can get used to almost anything if it happens regularly. I remember visiting a large duck farm in Indiana many years ago and the owner made this point by saying "If a train goes by the barn 50' away every night at midnight, it won't bother them. But they can hear their first dog barking a mile away and it will panic them." You can often diagnose a production problem by first looking for a change in their diet, bedding or routine.
6) Do not have too many males. The ratio of males to females should be 1 to 5-6. Too many males promotes overly aggressive, competitive males which results in injured, nonlaying females. If you see females with the back of their head scabby or bloody, you have too many males. Remember, you do not need males for the females to produce eggs, you only need males for the females to produce fertile eggs.