The tale begins in a farmyard which is home to a duck called Jemima Puddle-duck. She wants to hatch her own eggs, but the farmer's wife believes ducks make poor sitters and routinely confiscates their eggs to allow the hens to incubate them. Jemima tries to hide her eggs, but they are always found and carried away. She sets off along the road in poke bonnet and shawl to find a safe place away from the farm to lay her eggs.
At the top of a hill, she spies a distant wood, flies to it, and waddles about until she discovers an appropriate nesting place among the foxgloves. However, a charming gentleman with "black prick ears and sandy-coloured whiskers" persuades her to nest in a shed at his home. Jemima is led to his "tumble-down shed" (which is curiously filled with feathers), and makes herself a nest with little ado.
Jemima lays her eggs, and the fox suggests a dinner party to mark the event. He asks her to collect the traditional herbs used in stuffing a duck, telling her the seasonings will be used for an omelette. Jemima sets about her errand, but the farm collie, Kep, meets her as she carries onions from the farm kitchen and asks her what she is doing and where she keeps going. She reveals her errand, Kep sees through the fox's plan at once, and find out from Jemima where the fox lives.
With the help of two fox hound puppies, Kep rescues Jemima and the "foxy-whiskered gentleman" is chased away and never seen again. However, the hungry fox-hounds eat Jemima's eggs. Jemima is escorted back to the farm in tears over her lost eggs, but, in time, lays more eggs and successfully hatches four ducklings.