I have a few questions regarding the Wood Ducks I have in my backyard pond.
I built a couple nest boxes (and plan on adding a couple more) that had hens nest in them this year. I noticed that one hen hatched out her clutch and I saw 8-10 ducklings swimming with her one day, but after a week, I have not seen any ducklings at all, what happened? Will that hen lay again in the same box? Do I need to clean the box out before another will use it?
My other box has 7-8 eggs still in it, but they don't seem to be arranged in a way that looks like a hen is sitting on them!
Also, I stuck my hand in the box and the eggs felt cold, is there any chance that these will hatch? What is the best way to insure that the young will survive? I have a 6 foot fence around my land, and try to keep a close eye on things. Should I collect the eggs after the hen if finished laying and put them in an incubator?
Thank you for sending in your great questions.
The fact that you haven’t seen the original 8-10 ducklings after a period of one week doesn’t necessarily mean they perished...although that indeed is a possibility. Equally as likely, is the possibility that the hen Wood Duck relocated her brood to another wetland. She may have nested over your backyard pond simply because your nest box offered a great place to nest; however, your backyard pond may not represent a preferred wetland for brood rearing. Wood Ducks, like other duck species, usually, only attempt to raise one brood per year. A hen Wood Duck will commonly use the same nest box year after year.
In regard to your other nest box, the answer to your question may be quite simple. The average clutch size (number of eggs in a complete nest) for a Wood Duck ranges from 10 to 14 eggs. Until a full clutch is nearly complete, the hen will not remain in the nest box; rather, she will visit the nest and remain for a period sufficient to lay one egg per day until a full clutch is reached. With only 7-8 eggs in the nest, you would expect these eggs to be cold, as full incubation and prolonged nest attendance likely has not begun. I would strongly discourage you or anyone from collecting duck eggs (even for incubation purposes), as it is unlawful for private citizens (without a Federal permit) to collect wild duck eggs.
While it is not necessary to clean out your nest boxes before they will be re-used, it is a great practice to do so. Removing old eggs shells or unhatched eggs and making sure adequate nesting material is available can only facilitate uptake by nesting hens. Checking each nest box to determine if they were successful or not is one of the great rewards of taking on such an endeavor.
Keep up the good work! I hope this answered your questions.