Most ducks breed just once per year, with the egg laying starting from April to as late as July, depending upon the species. Incubation takes about 25-30 days, again depending upon the species. Duckling and gosling will take about 7-9 weeks to mature and develop their first full plumage.
Nest boxes of various sizes, shapes and designs are provided to encourage the waterfowl to breed, with different species preferring different types of nest box. At the appropriate time, these are filled with sawdust or straw to entice the birds into considering making their own nest within. However, some species insists upon nesting ‘in the open’ and their eggs are often lost to predation (see below).
Alas, due to the coastal location of the Conservation Duck Pond it would be cruel to allow the waterfowl to hatch their own eggs. The problem being the presence of a large population of voraciously predatory gulls (herring gull and lesser black-backed gull). These gulls have and will take chicks at every opportunity. The enclosure has no roof (impractical) so gulls come and go as they please. They are well aware of this food source and would simply lie in wait for a chance of an easy meal. Legislation has changed recently and the numbers of these gulls can no longer controlled. It is quite likely that the gulls would take each and every chick within just a day or two of hatching! The following other predators also pose a real threat.
- Crows and Jackdaws
- Marsh harriers
- Rats, stoats, weasels and mink (these mammals can be and are controlled)
With this predation in mind, the eggs are taken from the nest once the female has started ‘sitting’ (clutch complete) and taken (in insulated boxes) to the normal duck supplier who incubates, hatches and rears them to maturity. An agreed percentage of the resulting birds are credited to the ‘account’ which can then be used for future waterfowl acquisitions. Where clutches of eggs are taken in this way, the pair simply seem to accept it and get on with another mating and laying cycle. In this way, a useful supply of replacement and/or additional waterfowl can be had at little or no cost. When more birds are needed (as now), there is often a wait until about September time, when this year’s young have reached maturity and can be safely moved to a new home.