DS's first ducks on the way, a pair of Calls - is my setup okay?


11 Years
Oct 15, 2008
Central Virginia
8 year-old DD has bantam chickens, and 6-year-old DS wanted to start 4-H this year with ducks. He's a little on the timid side, and since it worked well to start DD with bantams instead of standards to build her confidence, I thought I'd do the same for him. I located a 3-year-old white breeder pair of Calls from a very good breeder and am going to pick them up on Monday. I'm finishing up their pen/tractor this week, but am a little nervous about whether they'll be okay (these guys are kinda pricey compared to DD's bantams!). I've built a 3' x 7' pen with 1/2" hardware cloth sides and top. It sits on the ground with no floor, so they can eat grass and bugs and move to fresh ground each day. (I have 2" x 3" wire on the floor of the banty tractors, but I've heard duck legs are more fragile and I'd be worried they'd catch a leg in the wire.) Since there's no wire on the floor, I'm planning a 2' wide apron around the outside to deter digging predators. Bolted inside the pen is a sturdy plastic doghouse, to which I am adding ventilation holes (wire covered), extra spring catches to keep the top and bottom together, and a lockable door. My intention is to lock them into the house each night as additional predator protection. I bought an oil changing pan at Lowes for their pool. We'll use a crock-type bowl for feed, giving them fresh each day outside rather than having food and water in the house.

Does this sound like an okay setup? I confess I'm most worried about predators, and whether the ducks will be okay locked inside the dog house at night. I don't want to raise them in a raised, wire-floor pen though, I want DS to be able to watch them snorfling in the mud and looking for bugs and doing ducky things. I'm looking at them as his "starter ducks", so that one day he'll hopefully be comfortable enough with them to take over a little flock of bigger egg-laying ducks.

Here's a pic of the tractor, still in progress (still working on attaching the wire):


Each half of the top is hinged so we can access the dog house for cleaning and get to the ducks. The doors will be secured with raccoon-proof latches.

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I'm not sure if I would start with a duck that can fly and tends to be more on the wild side. I would get a calm domestic duck that is normal sized, because they are easier to handle. Don't underestimate a 6 year old. To them size is not an issue.
That will work just fine. I keep mine in a 6x10 dog kennel with a roof over it. They have a doghouse which they rarely use and a kid's turtle sandbox bottom for a pool. In the winter I put in a small stock tank deicer in to keep the water from freezing.

The only thing I would suggest you change is to give them a bigger pool. You are going to adore watching them bathe and swim! They are an absolute delight!
Katharinad, you're right, to a lot of 6-year-olds a big duck's no big deal, but I do know THIS 6-year-old and he'd be scared to death of a big duck!
His 4-year-old brother, however, would have no qualms about it, go figure. DD has had a much easier time competing in showmanship with her bantams because her small hands could actually handle them. I've seen a lot of other kids with perfectly calm birds that were way too big and heavy for them to easily handle and they've had a hard time competing because of it. Since we're keeping them in a pretty small enclosure I'm hoping flight won't be much of an issue, although if he takes one out and it gets away I guess that could be a problem. That was the great thing about DD's first showmanship bird, she was a Silkie and couldn't fly!

Everything I've read indicates that Calls are friendly, fairly docile, and pretty good with kids. I hope they're right.
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Im in 44-h and I have been showing ducks for 6 years now, 4 of which were with calls. They are a little tougher to get tame but with lots of hands on work they become great show aniamals
ALL my Calls fly and fly WELL!! They just don't go anywhere. They know where they're well fed and well taken care of. They take a flight around my property and right back down to us. Calls can be very skittish though.
The setup is good but if you are worried about predators, perhaps you should "bring them in" at night. My mallards are in every night with no exceptions.

The last thing your 6 yr old needs is to have his pets killed by some nocturnal predator.
Yes, I am worried about noctural predation, which is why I bolted the doghouse to the frame and am in the process of reinforcing it with spring catches and a locking door so they will be in at night. I couldn't pull it apart with my full strength, so I doubt a raccoon can -- at least I wouldn't want to meet the raccoon who could! I do always worry with the kids' birds, it would be awful to have them go out in the morning and find predator carnage.

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