To best appreciate the animals who produce our food, we must be vigilant in attending to their needs. Egg-laying ducks are no different in that great care will yield a happy, healthy bird producing a higher quality egg. Whether you are starting your own backyard flock or run a full scale egg-production business, the same rules apply in caring for these ducks.
As what a human eats affects his health, the health of an egg-laying duck and the quality of her eggs are influenced greatly by what she is fed. It is important that she eats a balanced diet of vitamins and minerals, in feed with 16% to 18% protein. The amount will differ depending on the breed, though generally a duck should eat six to eight ounces of feed each day. She will supplement her diet by scavenging for bugs and you may give her small treats, such as mixed corn, greens, fruits or vegetables. Clean, fresh water should be placed directly next to the feeder and available at all times. Without water, the ducks could choke.
The second-most important component for the care of ducks is proper lighting, as the ability to produce eggs depends on how much light is present during the day. While the amount of natural sunlight increases from January through June, it decreases from July to December. As the days shorten, artificial light may be incorporated gradually in half hour increments at the beginning and end of each day, until the ducks are exposed to 14 hours of total light each day. Likewise, decrease the use of artificial light slowly as the sun comes back. This not only helps warm the duck in cold winter months, but allows her to produce more eggs than she normally would during the darker days.
Overcrowding can lead to peckish ducks, certainly not an ideal environment for laying eggs. While having proper ventilation, the coop also must allow for a minimum floor space of 3 square feet per duck, with a large nesting box for at least every three ducks. There is no such thing as too much outdoor space provided they are protected from natural predators, like coyotes or neighborhood cats.
The less stress an egg-laying duck feels, the more eggs she will produce. This means sticking to a routine. The same people should feed the ducks and collect the eggs at the same times each day. Bedding must be kept clean, so it is a good idea to check it daily. While you may need male ducks, or drakes, to fertilize eggs, keep no more than one drake for every five or six female ducks to prevent aggression and injury. Though it is not necessary to provide swimming water, many owners discover the drinking water being used for this purpose and add a small pool or pond for the ducks to enjoy swimming.
Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.