a couple of questions on coops and free range

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by jebber, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. jebber

    jebber Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 7, 2012
    Central Texas
    Our 5 khaki campbells are only 4 weeks old but thinking of the next step(s) - we have a fenced 1/2 acre yard, I'm going to make an ark for nites.

    The ark will be approx 4'x6' & 3' tall, all wire covered with total roof cover & sides approx. halfway down each side (with 'window' ventilation).
    The ark floor will be wire panel (probably 2" square). door on one end & roof that opens in two sections.

    Questions:

    Is pressure treated lumber ok to use?
    Do you have access to water at night?
    Do you have access to feed at night?
    anybody use an automatic coop door?
    any fatal flaws?

    Thanks for any advice, opinions, information.

    j
     
  2. ocap

    ocap Overrun With Chickens

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    Smithville, Missouri
    any lumber that touches the ground needs to be pressure treated. I am careful not to let the birds get any saw dust, they will not eat the wood like a horse or rabbit unless it is dust on the ground.

    I am slow to get up in the morning so I prefer to have water and food available. The food I have out has attracted opossums, raccoons and rodents, so your choice.
     
  3. wafflechicken

    wafflechicken Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 25, 2012
    I used pressure treated lumber for my coop. There's plenty of ventilation and it's not like ducks chew like rabbits and everyone's been doing fine (if they go into the dang thing). I use a hoop house covered with a tarp and insulated with straw bales (which are eventually broken up and used for bedding).

    When they're young and when it's warm I provide water at night. When it's very, very cold I do not since the coop floor and any snuggly bedding just becomes a useless ice slick. Others may have other ideas but when ducks are in the coop I remove the water at night in the winter (this is when they're 5+ months old. mind you)

    I do provide feed but that's mostly for the chickens. The ducks largely ignore it until they have water access to wash it down when I let then free in the mornings. (I make sure they eat and drink right before "bed" though I realize ducks can be nocturnal or at least partially so)

    My only question in terms of flaws would be - when you say "wire floor" do you mean wire directly on top of dirt to keep things out or do you mean suspended wire where all their weight is on the wire flooring? If the latter there may be foot and leg problems. Personally I have bare dirt - I use deep litter in the winter and rake out frequently (and lay straw) during the summer BUT I do have massive aprons and cinderblocks to deter digging predators. I learned the hard way that you need either a wire floor protection or aprons/dug wire. But, again me personally, I wouldn't have my birds on just wire footings.

    Also, when you say wire you mentioned something like 2" square for the floor. That might be ok for the floor but you're going to want something more like 1/2" to 1/4" hardware cloth for anything else. Coons and other predators do hunt in multiples and often one will scare the birds to one side of the coop and 2" is more than enough for those waiting on the opposite side to rip the heads of those trying to get away from the "beater". Predators are SMART. Anything they can get a tooth or hand into (and let's face it, the worst ones are the ones with the hands - weasels, mink, coons) is a death sentence for birds.

    Again, I speak from experience - you do not want to walk out to your coop and realize that you provided access to predators but no egress for your terrified birds. It's an awful feeling and something you'll beat yourself up over for a long time.
     
  4. wafflechicken

    wafflechicken Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 25, 2012
    I was going to edit but - yeah.

    This is a really good point. I wake up early and let them out not long after it's more than "dawn". And YES - if you're going to leave food in teh coop you need to be extra certain that it's secure and be diligent about checking for animals "testing" their way in. I check the perimeter of my coop every day or two for signs of something trying to scratch their way in. Especially in winter, having food in the coop is a balance between what your birds need and what your defences and support.
     
  5. jebber

    jebber Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 7, 2012
    Central Texas
    good stuff, thanx all.

    Sorry, I should have said - I plan on 1/2" harware cloth for top, sides & ends. Probably corrugated plastic panels for roof & sides (over the HC) The 2" panel will sit on the ground, attached and under the ark. It'll have wheels and get moved on a regular basis, fertilizing the yard.

    I'm figuring out 'dedicated' water & feed stations & trying to decide if I want them inside/outside or combo.

    We've planned on late morning release 'cause the wife will be letting them out & hopefully help with egg gathering. I'm at work before early so I'm out of that loop.

    Thanx again!
     
  6. wafflechicken

    wafflechicken Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 25, 2012
    Ah ok good clarification.

    I would still caution about the 2" base on the ground. I lost 14 birds from a dig-under. Yeah I had no wire but I was amazed that 2-3 coons (based on later trapping) could get into that little tunnel and kill everypne. Seems safe flat on the ground but an easy tunnel makes for a nice foot grab. Maybe I'm overly cautious but I would do 1/2" HC all around including the ground as long as it was flat on the ground. The birds can still grab grass and while they can drill for grubs/worms quite as well, better to limit that than have someone lose a foot for worse.

    You may just want to try out your in/out run water and feed and see what works for you and your flock. I'm sure I'm not alone in making my choices based on my specific situation. Just be vigilant while you work out what works for you.

    That's the thing about here - there's an amazing amount of information and cautionary tales but each situation is different. As the saying goes:

    All happy families are happy in the same way, all unhappy families are unhappy uniquely.
     
  7. jebber

    jebber Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 7, 2012
    Central Texas
    just a follow-up.

    I used chicken wire for the floor & roof. 1/2" hardware cloth for the sides.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Done
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    yeah, the side is that crooked. I blame my helpers....
    I'll redo tomorrow.
     

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