Here on the hobby farm homestead, I was tired of everything looking... well... utilitarian. The coop is inside a dog run, and it's big as a shed. Some of my rabbit cages (for birthing and growing out kits) occupy part of the same 20'x25' dog run, which is enclosed by 7' tall chain link fencing. So, when I decided to add ducks to the menagerie this year, I looked at my biggest resource-management issue: hay/straw storage. I needed space to store enough bales of straw to take care of the farmstead, and also to hold the hay I feed to my rabbits. At any given time, I have a dozen or so straw bales to store. I needed room to keep another half dozen hay bales at the same time. Until I had proper storage space, I was having to go once a week to purchase 4-5 straw bales. It wasn't overly cumbersome, but it was definitely inefficient. The solution: a multi-purpose structure to house my ducks and to also store my hay/straw.
1. Cost was also a factor, so I used shipping pallets I got for free at my feed store.
Typically, they charge $3/ea., but when you buy so much food, straw, and hay, it was no issue for them just to throw them in for no cost. I used 4 pallets, each 4(ish) feet long, and 5'ish feet deep. I used metal connector plates to keep them together, then framed them along the outside by 2x4 lumber.
2. Shown above, I then used a simple 2x4 construction held together with corner braces to frame out 1/2 the duck house. Since I wanted a house/manger that was also aesthetically pleasing, I decided to go with a high end and a low end.
3. Pictured above, I then duplicated the same structure on the other half, this time 2' lower. When I stack standard large straw bales on top, they're even with the "roof" of the higher end of the house. Once I had the frame complete, I put in trusses across the top to hold the straw bales and to provide some lateral stability to the house. I spaced them much closer together than the standard, commercial 18", to make sure hay/straw bales wouldn't fall through.
4. I put in a "floor" of hardware cloth on top of the pallets. And I then went ahead and stacked some straw on top to act as the roof of the duck house, and also to help the frame settle before adding the doors and hinges.
5. On the far end, and under the higher frame, I put in a hardware cloth wall to enclose that end of the duck house. That also left me a full pallet where I put my cans of feed and additional supplies.
6. In the tallest section of the duck house, I also framed out a small space where I have a 10-gallon tote filled with water. They have a larger 100-gallon "pond" in my orchard for swimming. So feed/water is easy to change when the time comes. The lower part of the house is 4' high, the taller end is just under 6'.
7. All other doors are attached with simple commercial-grade hinges and latches. I built the doors out of 1x4 frames, with gopher wire sandwiched in between.
8. Again, because I was going for super cute, I painted it barn red. It started raining before I could get the doors painted white, but you get the idea. I now have a duck house that has plenty of ventilation and protection from predators, though I've never had an issue. I also have a straw/hay manger that acts as the roof of the duck house. The chickens love it. The ducks love it. And I now have something to add to the look and feel of my little farm.
Here's a pic of the inside, with the ducks settled in and enjoying the new digs.
One quick comment: I'm in Northern California, so I only have to deal with rainy season for 3-4 months out of the year at winter. I'll have 8 months of sunshine, so I use large water-proof tarps to cover the entire structure (straw/hay included) when there's wet weather in the offing.
Note: When you do get pallets, be sure to check for mites. I did have to spray them before adding the bedding. I used an organic spray, followed by Food Grade DE before putting down a thick layer of pine chips and almost a full bale of straw on top of all that.
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