Duck housing/ammenities?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by CT, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. CT

    CT In the Brooder

    Feb 19, 2010
    Great Lakes
    I'm a newbie to backyard poultry; my 4 chickens are approaching 3 months old. But of course I'm already thinking ahead to spring, and my daughter wants ducks! (And I think the entire family is more or less behind her on that.) I'm thinking Welsh Harlequins, but I've already changed my mind on breeds several times, and may again before spring.

    So, having built a chicken coop, and being in the middle of completing an enclosed run, I'm wondering what I need for ducks. I know they don't need roosts, etc. and I've heard that it's best to just give them a secure house for sleep and keep food and water access for daytimes. But what are their needs in terms of ventilation, square footage, ceiling clearance, insulation, and other niceties? We have a natural body of water (we live on a creek, but it's way in the back of the yard, swampy bank) and a semi-artificial one we are working on (we've dug a large hole that fills with water most of the year, but still dries up in late summer, so we might line it). I was thinking I'd make the duck house on wheels so I could located it further back in the yard during the good weather, and keep it closer to the house when the weather is cold, so I don't have to trek through the snow to feed them. How far will they go to reach a swimming hole? And if they go all the way to the creek, will they ever come back? Will they destroy the pond my husband worked so hard to dig or become part of the ecosystem setting up camp there (how the frogs and waterbugs got the memo on the new pond within hours is a mystery to me)?

    I really, really do not want to build another enclosed run. I'd rather not have ducks if there is no way to fencelessly live in balance with the predators I know we have (foxes, racoons, hawks). If you have any thoughts on the right size of a flock to deter invasion and be self-sustaining, I'd appreciate that, as well as any ways I can build or locate their house to give them protection during the day (I think I have all the info I need to make it night secure, as it would be the same as for the chickens).


  2. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Crowing

    Apr 14, 2011
    Central Oregon
    I don't think there is anyway to fencelessly keep poultry in harmony with foxes and raccoons. Depending upon what variety and size of hawk you have, they might or might not be a problem. Most aren't a problem, but a few types can be.

    If you want poultry of any type and you have predators, you won't have poultry for long if you don't provide adequate safe housing.
  3. mandelyn

    mandelyn Crowing 8 Years

    Aug 30, 2009
    Mt Repose, OH
    My Coop
    Ducks have a bonus of being able to escape to water for safety, if the pond is large enough. But off the pond, easy as taking a chicken, easier depending on the predator since they can't fly far (if they're a large duck) or run fast. It takes some savvy ducks to last during free ranging, or a very light predator load, if you leave them out during the day but lock them up at night. If you want to let them free during the day, you need to accept the risk of it.

    Some ducks are notoriously bad about going to bed. If you don't have a run, you may find it a pain the rear to get them put up every night. Treats help a lot, and a routine, they thrive on things being a certain way. If they get a treat or feed when they go to bed every night, it will be easier to put them up. They can be nocturnal, not like chickens at all. Specially if the moon is out, or if there is a light on a building that stays on. My neighbors have a bright green light on their garage, and it makes my ducks stay up till 1am or later. They're in a fully enclosed run with welded wire all around, and I don't chase them in until I go to bed and the dogs are done going out for the night. The coons don't come around until the dogs are put up.

    For a house, you want better ventilation than chickens get, because they add a lot more moisture to their environment. 3-4 ft high is good enough for head clearance. You want 4 sq ft per bird indoors. You'll need to clean it often, so design something easy to clean. Putting linoleum on the floors and walls makes that easier. You'll want either the water outside only, or a wire bottomed drinking station inside. They throw water 360 degrees, it can soak through the bedding and puddle up, or it can fall harmlessly through a hardware cloth bottom onto the ground below. I have an elevated drinking area where the waste water falls into a tote I can empty, since there wasn't a way to incorporate it into the build, since we used a pre-existing shed. Take the size of the water container, and add another 12 inches around it for the wire bottom. Babies will need full time access to water, but the adults will be fine over night without food/water. If there is food, there must also be water because they can choke on too much dry stuff without anything to wash it down.

    If you free range them, predators may get them but they also can't destroy the area as much as they would if they're cooped. If they're cooped, you need to figure out a water management system or they'll turn it into a stinky swamp pretty fast. I went with 6 inches of gravel in their coop, easy to care for and keeps them clean. They get about 2 hours a day out in the yard... not enough for them to destroy anything. We don't have a pond, they get a 4 ft baby pool in their run.

    They'll make a mess of the chicken area and make the water too dirty for the chickens than what's ideal. So we split our coop in half and put the ducks on one side and built a new run for them. Chickens stay dry and have their sand floor and clean water, ducks can be as wet as they want on their gravel.

    I did give up on an area in the yard and I flood it sometimes so they can play in a mud pit. They LOVE it! They've filled it with holes and destroyed the grass. But... they run there first when I let them out! I don't want to deprive them of too much. [​IMG]
  4. BarefootMom

    BarefootMom Songster

    Jul 20, 2010
    Half Way, Missouri
    I don't have enclosures for my ducks and have successfully kept them for over a year now. They do have areas they can hide in - like in barns and such. For water I just have kiddie pools around the yard.

    The only times I have lost them is when they nest without my knowing. When they start nesting I enclose their area, but keep their nest in the same spot. I have igloo dog houses in random areas of the yard for them to nest in.

    We live on a 300 acre farm complete with coyotes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, hawks, eagles, bobcats, etc.

  5. yoyosma

    yoyosma In the Brooder

    Oct 13, 2011
    Whidbey Island
    I'm a complete beginner with poultry, but started with ducks - Welsh Harlequins- last August (five female day-olds from Metzer) and I plan on getting some chickens in the Spring (sort of the opposite of you, CT, I think!).
    Just wanted to chime in that I love, love, love my Welsh Harlequins! They are beautiful, friendly, fun (hilarious to watch!) birds. Each one has a different personality.
    I'm sort of questioning why I even want to try having chickens when I love the ducks so much! (Plus it's such good duck weather here in the Pacific Northwest!)
    I would recommend the WHs to anyone.
    Also, my girls do pen up very cooperatively- I can herd them into their night-time coop easily. They have the run of my veg. garden during the day; I keep them out of some areas with little 3' high fences of plastic poultry netting, and they slug slay to their hearts content.
    They also have a little fenced muddy area where their pool is, between their coop and the veg. garden. I did put bird netting over all these, to keep hawks and eagles (we have lots of both) from nabbing them.
    We call their night-time coop "Fort Quax"- hopefully, we predator-proofed it as well as we think we did.... I'll try to put some pics up on my page.

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