Everything you ever wanted to know about duck eggs
It was an afternoon in early November. Things were business as usual around the homestead. Around noon, I made my typical lunch time rounds- checking on all the animals, making sure everyone still had plenty of food and water and that there weren’t any mischievous animals up to no good. Everyone was doing the great, the goats were having a lay down and chewing their cud, and the ducks and chickens were out free ranging in the yard. I went into their shared run to freshen their water and as I bent down to pick up the waterer, I glanced to my left inside the duck house and noticed something new. I went over and had a closer look and there, right before my very eyes, were 2 perfect eggs.
I was so excited that I exclaimed out loud and quickly pulled out my phone to document the moment.
Our very first duck eggs!
I took them inside and rinsed them off, fried them up and gave them a try. I was extra excited when I found that one was a double-yolker. They were delicious! But after the initial excitement of seeing our first eggs, I found myself looking up several questions. Was I washing them correctly? How should I be storing them once I get more? Was I cooking them the best way? Was it normal to get a double yolk?
After a few months of deep diving all things duck eggs, I thought it would be useful to put all of this information in one post. So here it is.
How old are ducks when they start laying eggs?
This will range from breed to breed so I can only speak from experience when it comes to our ladies, Indian Runners. Our girls were just about 6 months old to the day when they started laying which is pretty typical for most duck breeds.
How many eggs will ducks lay in a year?
Runners are considered to be great layers and will average about 150-200 eggs per year. Typically, they are most productive for ~3-4 years and as they age, they will eventually lay less and then stop laying completely, just a like a chicken.
What do duck eggs look like?
The appearance of the eggs will also differ depending on the breed. Our runners’ eggs have a white or light blue tint. They are fairly large as well, ~2.5oz each. Compare this to a standard chicken egg at ~1.7oz and that’s quite a difference.
Duck eggs also have a thicker shell and inner membrane. This makes them a little more difficult to crack but it also extends their shelf life.
Their whites are more clear than that of a chicken egg, and they have a larger yolk to white ratio.
When your ducks first start laying, it’s common to get some pretty funky eggs. Eggs that are crazy large or really tiny. Eggs with soft shells and multiple yolks too. You tend to see less of this after your ducks have been laying for a little while.
Do ducks lay eggs in a nest?
Some breeds of ducks do, runners do not. We have seen them lay where ever they are at, on the go and leave the egg behind, usually to then be picked up by one of our dogs much to our dismay (though the omega-3s are doing wonders for their coats). So my advice is to look everywhere and look often, leaving less time for the eggs to get damaged or swiped up by another animal.
Do I need to change my duck’s diet now that she’s laying?
Once your ducks start laying, you’ll want to change them to a layer feed to help them meet their higher requirements for calcium and protein. It’s best if you can find a layer feed that is specific to waterfowl (like this one) but I do know many people raise their ducks on non-medicated chicken or multi-species layer feed and they do just fine. However, because ducks require higher levels of niacin than chickens, it’s recommended to supplement their feed with brewer’s yeast.
In addition to a good layer feed, you may also want to offer your laying ducks an additional source of calcium free choice. This is particularly important if you notice them laying a lot of soft shelled eggs. Provide calcium in the form of oyster shells, or you can even crush up their own egg shells and offer these as a great source of calcium.
Do you need to wash duck eggs? How do you wash duck eggs?
Those of you with backyard ducks know that they are not a cleanly as chickens. They do love to make a mess of their habitat and because of this, their eggs tend to be really dirty.
Going back to those first eggs, I knew I didn’t want to use eggs that were covered in mud, dirt and duck poop, but I also wasn't sure how to clean them. In typical newbie fashion, I washed those first 2 eggs under cool water and vigorously scrubbed the surface with a brush. However, I have since learned that this is a not a great way to clean eggs.
Farm fresh duck eggs have a natural coating called a “bloom” or "cuticle" that acts as protective barrier. Washing the egg removes this coating and leaves the egg more susceptible to bacteria entering through its countless tiny pores.
So really the best thing to do is not wash your eggs at all to keep the bloom intact. If you get an egg with a lot of dirt or debris, you can usually take a dry rag or paper towel and remove it.
However, if your egg is really soiled and you’re grossed out at the thought of not washing it, there are best practices for egg washing.
- Use warm water. If you wash your egg with cool water, it actually causes the egg to pull bacteria inside.
- Don’t soak your eggs. They will just absorb the contaminants in the water that they are soaking in.
- Don’t use bleach or other chemical detergents. Once the bloom is removed these substances can pass through to the inside of the egg.
- Do be sure to completely dry the egg before storing.
How do you store farm fresh duck eggs?
Thanks to the egg's bloom, it’s not necessary to refrigerate farm fresh duck eggs. However, refrigerating does drastically extend their shelf life. An egg will typically last about 3 weeks when stored at room temperature versus about 4 months when kept in the refrigerator.
Eggs should be stored pointy end down, blunt end up. This keeps the air pocket inside of the egg away from yolk, protecting it from bacteria and prolonging the shelf life.
What is the nutrition profile of a duck egg?
In case you didn’t know, in addition to being mom to all the farm animals, I’m a registered dietitian. So naturally, the nutritional aspect of duck eggs was something I was dying to learn about.
In a nutshell, a duck egg is everything a chicken egg is, but more.
More calories, more fat (including those important omega-3s), more protein, more vitamin D, B12, calcium iron, and the list goes on. This is mostly because they are so much larger than chicken eggs but even when compared gram to gram, the duck egg is still more nutrient dense.
(Left: Large Chicken egg, Right: Duck egg)
What do duck eggs taste like?
In my experience, duck eggs taste almost exactly like chicken eggs, but a little "eggier". I’ve eaten them in almost every form and it’s hard for me to tell the difference. I have heard them described as tasting like chicken eggs, but richer and more intense. The flavor of the egg will also depend on the duck’s diet and whether or not they are able to free range.
How do you cook a duck egg?
The short answer is, any way that you would use a chicken egg, you can use a duck egg when it comes to cooking and baking.
Since duck eggs have more albumin than chicken eggs, it gives baked good more structure, lift, and rise. Think extra fluffy pastry goodness! And their higher fat content makes for richer, creamier fillings and custards.
Due to the size difference, it’s recommended to substitute 2 duck eggs for every 3 chicken eggs.
I used this substitution method for a brioche I recently made based on this recipe. I used 4 duck eggs in place of the 6 chicken eggs and it came out fluffy and flavorful!