Are your duck eggs disappearing without a trace? You think your duck is sitting on eggs, but when you look, they are gone. Sometimes they all disappear at once; other times, they disappear one by one. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. And it’s a frustrating experience.
There are multiple reasons why duck eggs would disappear. It is possible that the mother duck removed them from her nest, or other ducks stole them. Another possible explanation is that they were stolen by predators such as snakes, mustelids, racons, or humans.
In this article, I will go through the most likely explanations and what you can do to keep the eggs from disappearing in the future.
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The Ducks Moved Their Own Eggs
It’s not unlikely that the explanation can be found amongst your own ducks.
Ducks will often roll rotten eggs out of their nest to keep them from bursting inside the nest. But then you should be able to see them laying close by unless she is laying close to a lake, stream, or other body of water, in which case the eggs may have sunk or floated off.
Another possibility is that another duck stole the eggs for her own nest. However weird that that may sound, this does happen. In which case, you may be able to find the eggs in another nest, or possibly a hidden nest that you don’t yet know about.
Do Ducks Eat Their Own Eggs?
An obvious question is whether the ducks would eat their own eggs. After all, some chickens get this bad habit, so perhaps ducks would, too.
It does happen that ducks eat their own eggs, although it seems to be a more rare occurrence than amongst chickens. Occasionally they might crush an egg by mistake and then eat it, after which they can get a taste for it. They might also eat the shell for calcium, explaining why no broken shells are lying around.
So, could the ducks have eaten their own eggs? It’s possible, but unlikely if a lot of eggs are entirely missing. If in doubt, check whether one or more of them have yolk on their bills.
Did They Hatch?
If you find broken shells, maybe the ducklings hatched and left the nest with or without their mother. Or they could have hatched and then taken by predators.
It’s usually not difficult to distinguish between a broken egg and a hatched egg. If the duckling has hatched and left the nest, there will be no yolk or egg-white inside or outside the shell. The shell will also dry out very soon after the duckling has hatched, and the inside of the shell will be lined with the dry and somewhat bloody membrane.
Another likely explanation is that a predator found the eggs and stole them for later consumption. Depending on where you live, several species will either eat duck eggs on the spot or carry them off.
Many snakes can swallow an entire egg and run off without a trace, and some can eat several eggs in one sitting. If you suspect that a snake might be stealing the eggs, get a minnow trap, and use eggs as bait.
Rats will, to the best of my knowledge, not steal eggs. Instead, they will bite a hole in the shell and eat the insides. If the eggs are missing entirely, rats are probably not the culprits.
Foxes are known to steal eggs whole and bring them back home for their cubs or later consumption. If the fox has eaten the egg soon after stealing it, you should be able to find eggshells in the vicinity of the duck nest.
Foxes are less likely to sneak in and run off with a few eggs, though, They will usually attack the ducks as well, and you should see obvious signs of fighting. Except if the ducks have been out and away from the nest when the fox came by.
Mustelids, such as weasels, ferrets, martens, and minks, will eat eggs if they get the chance. They generally do not run off with the eggs, though, and you should see broken shells in or around the nest.
Many birds will eat eggs if they get the chance. But most birds are unlikely to steal them whole. Instead, they will break the eggs and eat them on the spot.
However, larger corvids, such as crows, rooks, and magpies, have been known to steal eggs and carry them away in their beaks. Corvids are highly intelligent birds that are able to coordinate a robbery and take off with a lot of eggs in a very short time.
If you continue to loose eggs on a daily basis and without a trace, corvids may be to blame.
A raccoon can eat an entire nest of eggs with shells and all. They are likely to be the only predator that will single handily clear out a large nest with many eggs in a very short timeframe.
Of course, we can’t rule out humans. Sadly, some people find it difficult to differentiate between what belongs to them and what doesn’t. If the ducks are wild ducks living in nature, it’s possible that someone took the eggs, although I would assume it doesn’t happen very often compared to the four-legged predators.
If they are your ducks, only you can judge how likely it is that someone stole from you. It could also be a mistake, such as the time when our neighbors took our hatching eggs because we failed to tell them which eggs they could take.
Check The Area Throughout
Often there will be signs in or around the nest that would indicate why the eggs are gone.
If there are feathers all over, a fox or other larger predator may have come by and tried to get your ducks. The ducks were either able to get away, or the predator decided for the easier meal available in the nests.
Are there any intact or broken eggs in the vicinity of the nest? Many ducks lay their eggs all over the place, so if you find a few on the ground, this does not necessarily mean that they were lost during an egg heist but instead laid there by one of your ducks. But if you find a broken egg or an egg in an unexpected location (such as outside the run), that could indicate that a predator has been stealing eggs and lost one in the process.
Some ducks hide their eggs well in the nest exactly to keep them from being stolen. Look thoroughly in the nest’s bedding for eggs or eggshells. Of course, if they are wild ducks, you should leave them alone.
What to Do about It
Lost eggs are a writeoff. If they were stolen, perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing that a wild aminal or its offspring got to eat that day. But surely you would want to stop it from happening again, or perhaps you just want an answer to satisfy your curiosity.
Collect the Eggs Before the Thief Does It
If you collect your eggs earlier in the morning and several times a day for a while, you may be able to remove them before a predator gets to them. If so, the predator will eventually stop looking for food in your duck run, and you can get back to your usual routine.
Lock the Nesting Duck Up
If the eggs are stolen from a brooding duck, you can instead build a cage of wire mesh for her. Just make sure she has access to food and water.
Note that snakes, rats, and other small and flexible predators can get through very narrow holes. You may have to use sturdy 1/4-inch mesh if you suspect that the culprit is a snake, rodent, or a small mustelid. This will also ensure that no whole eggs can leave the cage.
If the ducks are eating their own eggs, remove all new eggs as quickly as possible and replace them with fake ones. They will try to eat the fake eggs and soon give up.
Set Up a Game Cam
A game cam will soon tell you why eggs go missing. Of course, this only makes sense if you are losing eggs continuously.
If you have a pretty good idea what time the theft will occur, you might want a WiFi game cam or surveillance cam so you can keep an eye on it live and perhaps catch the thief in the act.