Around August 1st, I noticed that this Black Cayuga duck was not joining the other ducks in the duck house at night. This means that she is getting “broody” and hiding a nest of eggs somewhere. The fact that I have her was an accident- an order filling mistake by the mail-order poultry company. But, she lays eggs as well as the other breeds, so I’ve kept her. She is different from the other breeds I have (Magpie, Runner and Swedish)- she is more “wiley” I think. She can fly about six feet high for several yards, which none of the other ducks can do- they are all too heavy-bodied or oddly shaped to fly. She is also noisy, which I don’t prefer.
I see her once or twice a day as she comes out to eat, drink and bathe. I’ve been trying to spot where she returns to her nest, but she is sneaky, and evades me whenever I’m outside. Nests can be hard to find, and I had no idea where she’d hidden it in about a two-acre area. But I finally discovered her secret, when the other ducks were near her nest, I heard her quacking to them from inside the blackberry bushes. Only then did I see this subtle but telltale tunnel in the grass:
By laying down on my stomach and looking through the tunnel, I could see the shape of her back and tail feathers, as she sat on her eggs. Can you make it out?
Later when she was out for her twice daily constitutional, I snapped a picture of the pile of eggs. I can’t reach in there- too many blackberry thorns. So, I don’t know how many eggs she has, but it looks like a good-sized pile.
When she takes her breaks, she seems to dally for an hour or more, often idly splashing and bathing in the creek, then taking her time eating and drinking. I’ve always heard and read that once hens start brooding, they lock down tight on the nest and only leave it for a few minutes for very basic sustenance. So, I’m curious to see what her hatch rate will be, the way she lets these eggs cool twice a day! But who am I to question, maybe she knows what she’s doing? Maybe her system is better than my so-called perfectly controlled incubator that has a terrible hatch rate!
I’m not necessarily pleased that she has done this, but since she’s already started, I’ll let her finish. The economics of letting ducks hatch their own eggs isn’t that good. She probably laid this pile of eggs over a week or so. She’ll sit on them for 28 days until hatching. Then she’ll lead around and mother the ducklings for a month or more. So, it’s probably about three months of eggs she’ll skip laying- about 100 eggs! At $4/dozen, that’s $33 of egg lost, all the while I’m still paying for her food. The electricity for an incubator and heat lamp to hatch and raise eggs is much cheaper.
Hopefully I’ll get a half dozen or more new ducks out of the deal, at least. I wasn’t wanting to keep Cayugas in my flock, so I will probably sell these cross-breds. Maybe if I sell them as cute babies for $5 each, and she has a dozen, the economics will work out, and she’ll start laying again sooner.
Before I found her nest, I was concerned that a predator would happen upon her during the night and eat her and all the eggs. But, it turns out, she nested right outside our bedroom window. This is the least likely place for predators to go in our yard, and if there was a scuffle out there, I’d hear it and could probably intervene in time. I’m not sure what thought went into her nest site selection, if any, but perhaps this speaks to her natural skills.