If you’ve never had a duck go broody, you might wonder what to expect. Here are the top signs of a broody duck, and how to spot them.
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1. She’ll suddenly seem a bit obsessed with eggs.
The first clue I always have, that one of my ducks is going broody, is that she’ll suddenly start spending more time in the barn, and she’ll be on the hunt for eggs she can steal. One of the three nests will suddenly have ALL the eggs, and I’ll often even find a random chicken egg or two in there.
2. She’ll “fuss” with her nest, or even build a new one.
One of the nests will become the clear favorite. She’ll build up the sides, dig down deep in the center, even sometimes pull out some of her own feathers to line it, and just generally fuss over it, until it’s just so. Only she knows when it’s finally perfect.
3. She’ll stop laying eggs
If you have many ducks, you might not notice your morning egg collection being a little on the light side. We have 15 girls, and while they lay almost every day, most girls do occasionally take a day off – so a missing egg is not necessarily my first clue that I have a broody duck. But if you only have 3 females, and suddenly you start seeing just two eggs for several mornings in a row, that’s a pretty good clue that someone might be thinking about nesting!
4. She’ll rebuff any romantic attention from the fellas
Spring is quite the amorous time in the duck yard, and usually the girls are mostly amenable to the drakes’ advances. But if you notice that one of your girls is suddenly very determined to have nothing to do with the usual courtship rituals…you might have a broody girl on your hands.
5. She won’t leave her nest
This is the real tell-tale sign. Those first four clues will probably let you know that she’s thinking about going broody, but suddenly one day, she just won’t leave her nest. She’s decided it’s time. And she’s settling in to stay.
Sometimes, she’ll work her way into this. You may see her leaving the duck house later and later each morning, until one morning, she won’t come out at all. And there she’ll be. Happy, quiet, and determined, all settled into her finally-perfect nest.
6. She’ll have big, STINKY poops!
You guys. If you’ve never stepped in a big old nasty broody duck poop, consider yourself blessed. I can only think this has something to do with a broody duck’s whole system slowing down, so that she can eat and drink less frequently, but broody poop is NOT like normal duck poop. It’s big. It’s messy. And it’s a very special kind of stinky.
Thankfully, she usually reserves pooping for her one or two bathroom breaks during the day, and generally does these well away from the nest.
7. She’ll gently tuck any eggs laid next to her, right under her body
By now, you probably know if you have a broody duck, but these are a few additional signs! If you set an egg in the nest anywhere near her, your duck will reach out and gently tuck in under her body. Unlike my broody chickens, who all “talk” to their eggs, I’ve never heard my broody ducks make those sweet little clucking sounds when turning their eggs. I find this is usually a pretty quiet affair. Gentle and sweet, just not chatty.
8. She’ll flatten her back if anyone gets close
You’ll see that a broody duck really just wants everyone to stay well clear of her nest. Her body language will be very clear. If anyone approaches the nest, she’ll flatten her back, and make it very clear that she has no intention of leaving that nest.
9. If you get TOO close, she’ll actually hiss
If you get too close (even if this is your favorite girl who usually loves spending time with you!) – she will probably actually hiss. It can range from a loud, frustrated hiss, to a quiet “why oh why are you bothering me?” hiss. Here’s a little video of my best girl, Laila, sitting on some eggs. She’s usually sweet and happy to be with me, but you can hear her quiet hiss on the video.
If you’re wondering if you might have a broody duck on your hands, I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you’re wanting to let your broody duck sit on her nest and hatch ducklings, but wonder how to care for her, Janet over at Timber Creek Farm has some tips that can help.
Want to help your broody duck adopt some ducklings instead? I think Crystal and Karl from the Whole Fed Homestead have really great first-hand advice for how to make broody duck adoption a success – check out their experience and tips here.
Don’t want ducklings, and need to “break” a broody duck? The same tips apply as when you’re breaking a broody hen – and Garden Betty has some great advice about that.
If your duck starts out faithfully sitting on her nest, but then abandons it for some reason, you may find yourself trying to save the eggs to hatch in an incubator. If you end up in this situation, here is my post that shares the method I use for hatching duck eggs in an incubator with excellent results.