Between mid-March and the end of July (as the weather starts to warm), wild ducks conclude their elaborate courting rituals by looking for nesting spots to lay their eggs.
Often, these ducks choose the most inconvenient nesting locations, such as your yard, garden, mulch, driveway, or above-ground planter.
Should you move a duck nest with eggs?
Moving a duck egg or nest, even a short distance, can cause the mother duck undue stress and may even cause her to abandon her nest, eggs, or ducklings entirely. Moreover, it’s considered illegal according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other authorities in the U.K. and Canada.
There may be situations where it’s necessary to take preventive action to protect the duck nest, but in 99% of cases, the best and most helpful action is no action.
We’ll go over why it is harmful to the ducks themselves when moved and situations where helpful action may be taken.
What Moving A Duck Nest Does
Causes The Mother Duck Undue Stress
Mother ducks are at their most vulnerable when nesting.
Birds generally make a cost-risk analysis of whether to stay with their nest at any sign of disturbances.
Mother ducks often interpret any disturbance to their nest as a sign of nearby predators.
Seeing her nest or eggs tampered with, the mother duck will also become unduly stressed.
This stress causes them to activate their flight response and abandon the eggs or young.
Disturbing the nests also affects the mother’s ability to incubate her eggs.
Mother ducks will spend all day on their eggs, apart from foraging for food and water.
Disturbing the mother and causing her to move a lot may very well lower the incubation temperature of her eggs, preventing them from hatching.
As countless internet videos have shown, Broody ducks may attack you if they feel their ducklings or eggs are being threatened.
A happy duck is an undisturbed duck.
Again, what may seem counter-intuitive may very well be common sense for the mother ducks.
A bad spot away from water may be safe for the mother duck.
Ducks have been known to lay their eggs over a mile away from any water source, such as a pond or lake, to avoid disturbances or predators.
Mother ducks also bulk up before nesting, and it’s normal for her not to eat at all during the entire incubation period.
They can go for extended periods without feeding.
In some instances, moving a duckling’s nest may be tempting.
However, nature knows best.
Ducks will often lay eggs in areas with easy access to overhead vegetation or cover, so it’s unlikely they will lay eggs in the middle of a busy road.
However, if this does happen, put up a large sign asking drivers, hikers, or other people to make a little detour to avoid hurting the ducks.
Or, if you’re unsure about a precarious situation, contact your local animal control for more guidance.
How Long It Takes For Duck Eggs To Hatch
A mother duck typically lays 8-13 eggs, 1 egg every 1-2 days.
The momma duck will not begin incubating her eggs until after laying her last egg.
After she lays her last egg, she will incubate them for an average of 28 days.
However, the periods required for hatching may range from 21-39 days.
Further Reading: How does fertilizing duck eggs work?
Baby ducklings will generally hatch at the same time, and they can walk within just a few hours of hatching.
Baby ducklings can swim and feed themselves; however, the momma duck will defend her babies for the next couple of months.
The mother duck will naturally lead her babies to the nearest water source without assistance.
Further Reading: Why are ducklings yellow?
What Should You Do With Moved and Broken Eggs?
In tragic cases, predators may have gotten to the nest or stolen an egg.
In other rarer instances, the mother duck may move her eggs before they hatch if she senses imminent danger.
The mother duck may pick her eggs up in her beak or roll them to a safer location if predators are nearby.
Don’t panic if you see a single broken egg.
Mothers often push away broken or rotten eggs to prevent them from breaking inside the nest.
In extreme cases, she may also accidentally break one herself and eat her eggs.
How Can You Protect A Duck Nest?
If other wild animals or predatory pets are nearby, you may set up temporary fencing to keep pets and wild animals away.
Be sure to provide a shallow dish of water.
However, it’s better to place barriers such as potted shrubs or potted plants in strategic locations to prevent the nest from being easily seen.
Once the eggs hatch, keep an open path for the mothers to guide their ducklings to a water source.
This is for emergencies only.
It’s best not to interfere unless necessary to keep out predators.
Preventing Ducks from Nesting in Your Yard
If the mother duck hasn’t decided on a nesting site yet, scare her away by physically chasing and shouting at her to shoo her to a more favorable site.
Changing the landscape of your yard to make it less attractive is also an option.
One example is to add sprinklers to your outdoor spaces.
If you have a pool, turning on the pool filter or adding inflatables in the pool will also repel ducks. Barriers around ponds, pools, and gardens will also keep ducks away.
Removing food sources will also help.
Check to see if the mother is nearby.
Often, the mother may be gone to find water or feed, so it’s best to let the mother return.
If she doesn’t return to her nest, contact your wildlife rescue for additional details and advice.
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