Runner Ducks
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Indian Runners are considered one of the top egg-laying breeds of ducks.  For their relative body size, they can lay an impressively large egg.  Since they are so active at foraging for their own food, a runner with free access to plenty of good pasture and other sources of free food may just be the most cost effective way of producing eggs.  But a runner hen is only as good a layer as her parents.  Breeding for consistantly good producers means only using your best laying hens for reproduction.  It also means using the sons of good producers.  The drake is often overlooked for his contribution to the egg laying abilities of his daughters.  But he actually can have a significant impact.  Dave Holderread describes an experiment in the 1970's where they found that crossing a Khaki Campbell drake from a high yield strain to any other breed created amazing egg machines.  But doing the reverse by using a Khaki Campbell hen from a high yield strain to any other breed only produced mild improvement in the egg laying abilities of the off spring. 

In case you're wondering, you DO NOT need to keep any male ducks to get your females to lay.  They will be quite happy to produce eggs for you to eat all by themselves.  But if you want fertile eggs to hatch, you will need a drake. 
 
Lightweight breeds like runners are quite amorous and should have plenty of females for every male - 3 to 5 is recommended.

Runners can lay eggs in a variety of colors.  I seem to have gotten mostly green layers.  I only have one who lays a creamy white egg.  The rest lay a pale green.  Well, those that lay.  My white hen from Holderreads' seems to have a problem despite her excellant quality heritage as you will see in the picture below.  She lays tiny eggs.  Or she lays regular eggs with a tiny one inside.  Millie Holderread says it may well be a nutritional deficiency since I have always used Purina Duck Grower as my main feed.  I provide crushed oyster shell free choice.  She told me (unlike many local feed stores) that all laying birds should be eating a laying feed so I am switching over slowly to prevent any other problems.  Only time will tell if Oksana can be helped by better nutrition.  I did some on-line research on the subject of egg-bound birds (mostly cage birds) and found that calcium isn't just for egg shells.  It is also important to the muscle contactions that push the egg along and ultimately out of the bird.  Even if layer feed solves her problem, I am unsure of the wisdom of ever using her for breeding.  Currently, I seem to have switched too much too soon on the feed (I tried to proceed in baby steps).  She has begun to molt, so it could be 6 to 8 weeks or more before I might see an egg of any kind.  Will post the developments as they occur. 
 
I am redoing this entire site and just realized I never got back to post the status of Oksana's laying.  By the time she finished molting, it was late in the year and she never did lay again before winter.  I sold her and several other hens to some folks who needed more hens for the number of drakes they had.  She now lives on a pond, so no one knows for sure what, if anything, she is laying.  I have not had this problem with another duck since.  And I have bought plenty more show quality hens from Holderreads and raised and fed them exactly the same as I did Oksana.  It does come to mind that one of her contemporaries, Chrystal, only laid her first year.  I hatched several of her babies who now lay well themselves.  But Chrystal has not laid more than a handful of eggs since that first year.  The only other show quality hen I have from that year lays very well and always has.   Go figure.

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Clockwise beginning with the egg marked by the arrow:
creamy white - actually a bantam chicken egg 
pale green normal duck egg 
pale green normal duck egg 
creamy white normal duck egg 
pale green normal duck egg 
pale green normal duck egg 
pale green normal duck egg 
Oksana's egg - pale green - tiny - poor quality shell
 

The next two pictures are of the eggs I got from either Stormy or Bandit beginning in the middle of October 2003.  They were just 5 months old at the time.  The smallest one is one of the very first.  Not a surprise, most of my new layers have started out small on the first couple.  The middle one is the size of the regular ones in the picture above.  The very large one contains a double yolk.  She was laying a double-yolked egg every 12 to 14 days.  They both layed very well until early February until I ruined things by putting lights out in their night pen in hopes of providing them with a little heat.  BIG MISTAKE!!
Do not make any sudden or drastic changes in light with laying ducks!!!  In 3 days, neither one was laying and they were dropping feathers like mad!  After only about 4 weeks they both began laying again, but what a strain that must have been on their bodies.
 
The fact that these two birds started laying in October and would have continued until who knows when had it not been for stupid human intervention, makes me wonder just how bad an idea feeding the Duck Grower really was.  They were doing very well as far as I could tell.  We shall see.
 
Note: one important reason that using Duck Grower with free choice crushed oyster shell appealed to me is that it meant that the drakes were NOT eating too much calcium.  That is one drawback to using a layer feed.  The drakes have no choice but to eat calcium that can harm them.  Also, I have not yet found a feed dealer who can get layer for formulated for ducks.  Their needs ARE different than chickens.  I know for a fact that Purina makes layer for ducks, but  I haven't found a way to get it here yet.

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This page last updated April 18, 2004.

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