FIRST EGGS OF THE SEASON
Our newest ducks have begun to lay! We received our first oval gift, 1/21/20, and the second came 4 days later. The ducks are now about 23-24 weeks old. These ducks are a week apart in age, and we have no way of knowing which ducks have layed the eggs, but we’re delighted that our lighting program has worked, and we are now getting those delicious eggs.
LIGHTS FOR EGGS
As Tim says, we’re running a duck sweat shop here by using artificial lighting to increase egg production. Lighting is added to the ducks’ paddock and inside their house on timers to increase the number of hours of light the ducks will see each day. Using the lighting guidelines found on the Metzer Farms Blog, we began gradually adding lights on 12/15, when the ducks were 18-19 weeks old. Our goal was to reach 16 hours per day by the time they would be 23-24 weeks old.
Civil Twilight here on June 21 (Summer Solstice) is just about 16 hours per day, from 5:02am to 9:00pm. This is easily found at timeanddate.com. So, our goal here is to reach that amount of light per day and keep it there throughout the laying season, until we want to give them a break from laying to molt. That’ll be in August or September. After the molt, we’ll rev up the lights again for a new season of eggs, prior to spring and earlier than they would naturally lay.
On December 15th, when the lighting program began, our Civil Twilight was about 10 1/2 hours per day, from 6:40am to 5:08pm. So on that day, the lights were set to come on at 6:30am and off at 5:30pm. Every 4 days after, I’d increase by 15 minutes each morning and 15 minutes each evening. As of 1/24, they’re getting the full 16 hours of light per day.
As you can see, this lighting program has worked, and ducks are now laying. With our “Duckagon” I am able to open up the top each morning to reach in and grab eggs. If the eggs are on the far side, I have my nifty claw to shove them over.
In past years we have added light as well, but previously we only added it in the morning. It got to the point that the lights were coming on around 2:30 or 3 am. That just seemed too early! Most of the experts recommend adding light for both morning and evening–we’ve just never done it. This seems much better. We just make sure they are locked in their paddock in the evening, to take advantage of the additional light there. And, as always, they are locked in their house at night, and receive the full benefit of the light bulb inside.
Now we look forward to getting 5 eggs in a day, to know that all the girls are in full swing! The ducks are now kept in their paddock until 9-10 am just to be sure we’ve gotten all the eggs. Normally eggs are laid before I get out to feed them, but occasionally there’s a late layer. Sometimes, after they’ve been let out to roam (they are free-range, after all) we find eggs in strange places: under trees or bushes, usually. This year, Tim tried crafting a next box for them to see if they’d like to put their eggs there. No eggs in that box yet (they’ve always been in the house early) but we have seen ducks take turns sitting in that box for a bit!
No, we don’t eat 5 eggs each day! We had only intended to have 4 ducks, but ended up with 5. Four would have given us 3-4 eggs per day, which would have been plenty for the two of us. With extra eggs, we give Goldie, our dog, an egg for breakfast, so she eats less dog food. We also occasionally give them away or freeze them for future use.