Duck Egg Binding – soft shell

So I have been in the duck world for eight months now. And like a new duck owner should be, I have been on a giant learning curve, and pretty much everything new throws me back to the drawing board so to speak.

I have been reading every article that has ‘duck’ in it, buying books, reading blogs of seasoned duck raisers, and watching and observing my Ladies.

My friend who gifted me the Ladies as a house warming has been invaluable with information, as have my friends and clients who raise chickens, water fowl, quail, and everything in between.

And as a first time duck raiser, I have lots of questions, lots and lots of questions almost on a daily basis.

FIRST SOFT SHELL EGG – About six months ago, when my ducks could still walk around our pasture I saw a few of them fighting over an object, I went over to them, and surprisingly they let my hand enter their ‘duck scrum’. It looked like a piece of white rubber, soft and flexible, and it was apparently super valuable and something they wanted to consume.

A few feet away I saw a ‘yellow paint splash’ in the snow. What is going on? So I did what I normally do when something is new, I touched everything, examined everything, smelled everything, and whatayaknow, it was a soft shell egg that one of the girls had just eliminated.

I researched all night. What is this, how is it caused, what to do about it, common or not, what, why, how, and when.

Since then I have seen about three or four soft shell eggs being passed. I think there might be more that I don’t see because they seem to like to eat them right up. Some are just yoke and shell and some have a bloody albumin, yoke, and a soft shell


HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN – Soft Shelled Eggs or Egg Binding is a common egg-laying associated problem which occurs in female ducks. It is more common in chickens but it also happens to ducks.

There are a lot of reasons for this happening, but commonly –

over weight
too much light
not enough calcium
too many treats
not enough exercise
a young duck that is new to egg laying
obstruction of oviposition or cloacal function, due to the presence of the egg in the distal oviduct for longer than it should be.

SYMPTOMS – These are the symptoms to look for, which is another good reason to keep a watchful eye. I have been asked why I spend so much time with my ducks, and I guess mainly it’s because I really enjoy hanging out with them, they are cheeky, funny, and full of pizzaz, and I just find it time well spent, BUT I am also learning about them, and what is normal, and what needs more attention.

swollen abdomen
constipation (your duck trying to defecate but cannot)
fluffed feathers
wide stance and walking like a penguin
tail bobbing
decreased appetite
lack of egg production (ducks produce even in low winter light)

REMEDIES – So everything I have been reading says that you have 48 hours to get your duck to lay the egg that is bound. Mine, so far have been able to pass the soft shell egg, but I also offer a warm kiddy pool bath almost every day. And truth be told, this might be just a ‘me problem’ but my ducks were never handled by their original owner and stress heavily when handled now, and I don’t think that level of stress would help anything, and catching one would not be ‘gentle’, so I error on the side of stacking the health-cards in my favor.

warm water soaks
quiet time in a warm dark space (dog crate works)
vegetable oil or KY jelly gently applied to to cloacal
gently removing a visible egg that is caught (GENTLY)
a syringe you can remove the contents of the egg, then gently remove the egg (you do not want it to break inside, so GENTLY)
give her time to lay the egg
if this does not work, contact your local veterinarian that works with ducks

REMINDERS – There are always reminders for pretty much everything we do in life, and it is good to keep them on paper, in plain sight, for everyone involved.

feed a good-quality layer feed
crushed eggshell or oyster shell free-choice
warm oats and leafy greens need to be kept to 10% of the over-all diet
provide plenty of room to move (challenging in the winter but possible)
avoid supplemental lighting in your coop

ME – Taking care of another species is a natural nurturing thing for me, but it is also educational, and sometimes super stressful. I am a believer in letting nature do what it is intended to do, but for me to do my best as the human in charge of a quality life. So a balance between me and Mother Nature I guess.

I hope this helps, Nancy

4 Comments Add yours

  1. tippysmom2 says:

    Hope you get it figured out and the ducks start laying hard shelled eggs that survive.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Oh it just happens from time to time, not a daily thing at all. We have 11-13 eggs each morning, for which I am grateful ❤ Nancy

  2. Jessica says:

    I am so relieved to come across your article! Our 4 month old duck is doing through this. We’re hoping to get her feeling better soon. Your article has been so helpful! Thank you!

  3. Angie Adamo says:

    This is wonderful thx 🙏🏻❤️

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