This spring we built a chicken duck enclosure. After much planning, reviewing and more planning, we finally threw all the ideas away and went for simple and inexpensive and the least amount of disruption to our feathered flock as possible.
Creatures of Habit
Chickens, and particularly ducks, well at least our mallards, don’t like change. Our chickens stick to a daily routine from the time they want out, to the foraging circuit they make of the garden, to the time they put themselves to bed. Have you ever tried to put a chicken to bed before time?!? It’s feather raising.
Our ducks are less orientated to time, but like that what they know stays where it is. They adapt well enough, but life is so much simpler if we don’t move things around. Thank you very much.
We had multiple priorities to fulfill with our chicken duck enclosure. Our first priority was to make an enclosure that would keep our flocks safe from attack, both of the 4 legged kind, but also from predators that fly in from above. As we are in the countryside, each year we have lost ducks and ducklings to either foxes or birds of prey. We also wanted the enclosure to be a safe haven for ducklings to grow up in until they were a size that some predators would be less interested in them (this included our cats as ducklings look very tasty to them but they are not so keen on duck).
Our ducks and chickens are normally allowed to roam freely around the large fenced grounds. However… they also are very sociable animals. If there are guests here, they do have a habit of wanting to ‘flock’. This sometimes means hanging out at the pool. (Yup, I picture sun lounging ducks, too.) But not all our guests are keen to step in duck merde. Rather understandable, really. So second, our enclosure is a way to keep our flock from flocking with humans, and thus keep the pool area clean. This meant the enclosure area needed to be large enough that they wouldn’t feel too confined when, well, confined.
And third, with the potential for bird flu on the horizon, we also wanted a way to keep possible carrier birds away from our flocks feed and living area. Bird flu is transmitted primarily through wild birds eating and drinking your flocks food and water and leaving behind their droppings. By enclosing the living area, sides and top, we would deter larger birds in particular from coming in, even if the door was open.
Chicken Duck Enclosure
So with a thought to our needs and requirements we cast our view to what we could do. The existing duck and chicken houses sit side by side and had a small area fenced in front, about a meter high, with a gate closure. Not very safety orientated. Also, the fenced area was rather small to confine 4 chickens and 4 ducks (plus potential ducklings each spring) when wanted.
The original idea was to build a brand new chicken and duck house we could walk into without bending our heads, all under one roof, with straw bale storage above and a water filter system for the ducks ponds. Ambitious? Yup. And then we go hit with a frost and my husband had to make haste to our vineyard. The project was turned over to me.
The KISS principle
Lacking the building skills of my fellow, I reviewed the possibilities and determined to go with as little change as possible. Best for everyones sanity but also the pocketbook. I decided to simply enclose, literally, the duck and chicken area. This would mean not moving or building a new chicken or duck house, but simply building around the existing ones. A fence that run along one side would be added into the mix, as well as a hedge on the other side. They formed a large sort of triangular area in front of the houses, and so could be used as natural boundaries.
We had been given some chicken wire (hardware cloth) in exchange for a couple of our ducks the previous year, so that also made the project very cheap. (Chicken wire in France is fanatically expensive, for some reason, hence I jumped at the chance to exchange some ducks for it.) All I had to purchase were some 1 x 2 pieces of wood (cheaper than 2 x 4s but good enough for the project), as well as a few screws and u bend nails. The chicken duck enclosure would be slightly unconventional, but imminently practical and would have the bonus of being able to take apart should we ever wish to move it.
How to… at least my way
Using a meter (yard) long metal rod and a sledge hammer, I ‘dug’ holes by wacking the rod into the ground and wiggling about. Once deep enough I replaced the rod with an upright 1 x 2 piece of wood. (They stood about 2 meters tall.) Then, climbing a ladder, with my trusty sledge hammer, I hammered the wood in until it was fairly solid, e.g. about 1/3 a meter was in the ground. I added a support by putting in another metal rod (we had lots left over from an old garden), next to the wood and keeping together with wire. Each post went along the perimeter hedge, a little over a meter apart. Additional posts went in to the front of the triangle and to the back of the chicken and duck houses.
The chicken wire was then attached along the posts using the u bend nails. Two lengths were used, one above the other so chicken wire ran around the whole enclosure and up almost 2 meters. Also, a trench was dug between the posts and a goodly amount of the chicken wire was put into the ground, then rocks and dirt piled over it. An additional post was attached to the front of the chicken house to act as a central beam. Plastic laundry line was run across and from corners to the central post. Over the top and attached to these lines I put bird netting, thus enclosing the entire area from prey from above.
Getting in and out was a matter of recycling. We had an old mesh panel, that was almost door height. Using left over 1 x 2s, I attached them as supports between 2 posts and fitted the mesh panel in between, adding hinges (and lock) to make it a door. We also had 2 smaller panels I recycled from the previous rabbit run. Using the same principal, I made French doors at the opposite side of the enclosure. The advantage of this is that it would allow me to back up our ‘voiturette’ (like a golf cart, but for gardening) and deliver clean straw or take away dirty straw.
The two final steps were to clear away and trim the underside of the hedge that ran along the fence side. This would give shade and a place to forage and sleep. And underneath the nesting box that juts out from the side of the chicken house became the dirt bath area, with some lovely mole dirt mixed with ash. (Mole dirt is the best, pre-sifted dirt one can find in the garden ~ should you have moles.)
et Fini? Mais non…
Now it truly is spring (summer) and our ducks are having ducklings. My days are now spent working logistics as I divide and conquer. This is a true test of the enclosure, not only in keeping the ducks and ducklings safe from predators, but each other as well. Our Sir Studly is very keen on his girls, but not see keen on his offspring. And who knew how territorial mama ducks were?!? So the enclosure has been divided into sections, so I am very thankful that I thought big.
The key to any good enclosure, I think, is simplicity and versatility. You never know what mischief these feathered friends are going to get up to, but at least I feel confident that with my enclosure I can hopefully meet all the demands.
* From our Blog post on PumpjackPiddlewick.com
Building a multi-use and simple Chicken Duck Enclosure
How to build a chicken (duck) enclosure. After much planning, reviewing and more planning, we finally threw all the ideas away and went for simple...