I can’t speak for all poultry growers, but from my experience, free range poultry can offer some fun challenges in egg collection.
Poultry, like most living things, are creatures of habit. The chickens tend to lay in the nesting box, and go about their daily business or scratching and foraging for bugs and dusting themselves. The ducks, who sometimes lay anywhere the egg drops, for the most part find a corner of the duck house and lay before 8 am, then go about their day foraging in the ponds.
But with 6 fairly prolific ducks, I’m only finding 3 – 4 eggs a day which suggests either some flock stress, or someone has a secret egg stash.
When duck :30 came Thursday night, when one of the ducks failed to return to the pen, I guessed she has gone broody and is sitting on her secret nest.
So let me introduce the cast of characters so you can keep the layers straight:
There are 10 ducks and 2 geese in the lineup:
Two cayugas are part of my original four. Both are ducks (not drakes) and lay very well almost year around.
A brown runner (now with white spots) duck and the white crested drake with the biggest crest are gifts from my friends Lori and Ev, who needed to give them a new home. We did a meet-you-half-way drive to Missouri to exchange them in a ferocious rain storm.
Two cayugas, (one drake, one duck) arrived last summer, along with
Two black runners (one drake, one duck) who sometimes I call DIB or “Ducks in Black” because during the winter, they would run along side the goose and gander almost like secret service agents protecting POTUS and FLOTUS.
POTUS and FLOTUS are the goose and gander.
Finally, two new crested, one duck and one drake, round out the 10.
During winter, all 12 were fairly tight, moving as a flock together. With spring, they have divided into tribes. The brown runner and crested keep to themselves on the far end of the big pond and are often the last back at night.
The new cayuga drake, the crested duck, the two DIB runners and a cayuga duck from the original ducks now form the group I call “the gang of five”.
The other three tend to hang with POTUS and FLOTUS the geese.
During Friday’s photo for my 365 project, I noticed the gang of five was a gang of four… and it was the oldest cayuga who remained out over night.
Friday, after I finished my University work and some follow up to a day long meeting, I decided to go seek her nest. What I found, in the nook of a tree at the top of the little pond dam, was this secret stash of eggs. There are 7 eggs, but its impossible to guess their age. They may have all been laid this week or they could be daily eggs over the last few weeks.
She is no where to be found, and so I’m not certain this is her nest…it may belong to one of the others.
I suspect their is another nest in a wood pile where I see the gang of five hanging out during parts of the day. I’ve searched there, but cant find anything….yet.
But not to be outdone, is the young Amerucana hen who leaves the coop each day, sneaks out of the fence and into the barn to hang out with the two roosters. The roosters are in “detention” for being a little rough in their breeding habits. I have two roosters and 5 hens, that’s a bad ratio and it shows. 3 of the hens have have their back and neck feathers plucked by the roosters (named El Senor and Colonel Sanders).
So like an abused lover from COPS or the Jerry Springer show who can’t give up her man, she runs over to visit the boys in their detention. She’s made a cozy nest there, and each day, lays her egg there. So rather than fight nature, I just collect her egg there during chores as I water the turkeys and once or twice a day, pick her up and carry her back to the other hens.