HELP! It's getting cold in MASS and my ducks won't go in their house!


In the Brooder
9 Years
Jun 30, 2010
We had 8 free ranging muscovie ducks and a fox killed 2 on us in one weekend. The 6 remaining ducks we now keep in an old chain link dog kennel, at least for the winter while the fox and other predators' food is scares. We built a rough shelter with no closeable door, just an opening but it's plenty long enough for all of them to get inside and snuggle down for the cold, windy and sometimes rainy nights we get here on Cape Cod. I lined the inside with clean straw and even put a food bowl in there but they WILL NOT USE IT. They go in there during the day sometimes and they eat out of the bowl but they sleep on TOP of the house- all lined up with their backs to the wind and rain! I've gone out in the morning and they all have frost on their tail feathers!!
We put a kiddie pool out there for then to swim in but when it's cold out (like the next few months promise to be), the water freezes up quickly and I have to haul gallons and gallons of HOT water out 3 and 4 times a day to make sure they at least have something to drink. Our chickens have no problem sleeping in their house at night and neither do our goats but these ducks want NOTHING to do with the house at night!
What do I do? Short of buying or building a shed for them with doors that close (Which is what I'd LOVE to do) is it ok for them to sleep out in the elements like that? I know wild ducks do it but they also swim in the rivers and on the marsh where we live to warm up. I'm so afraid they will get frostbite or just freeze to death one night!
Anyone have any ideas!?
They have what they need and if they get cold they know it is there. Most ducks like a little bit of cold and if there is snow then just put some straw down for their feet and they will be fine. If they didnt want to be in the elements they could go inside their house. They should be fine
Mrpekinduck, their feet DO have nerves. If you have ever seen a duck with bumblefoot that is in pain, you will realize they have feeling in their feet. Trust me, it is upsetting.

Trevi70, personally, I'd be more worried about predators getting into the kennel than I would about them being in the elements. Can you put a top on it? And maybe line with hardware cloth? I learned from a nasty recent experience that mink and weasels can get thru pretty small holes. Anyway, a bit off the original topic, but, if there is one that is a bully, and he/she monopolizes the shelter, the others may be reluctant to go in. Maybe it is just too small for that many ducks.

These work great for keeping pools mostly ice free, unless it is incredibly cold (10+ below). Would save a lot of trips with hot water. We use one in the duck pool and in our bird bath for the wild birds. They are safe to touch, won't burn the birds.

Hope something here helped
No I actually saw it on tv googled it and read it in Dave holderreads book that there feet don't have nerves, that's why they can swim in near freezing water. Bumble foot produces pain in their thighs, surprisingly not in their feet.
Last winter we kept our young ducks in the coop with the chickens. As they matured and started laying, the ducks began to bully our hens. That along with the mess they made caused them to be evicted from the chicken house. Now they seem quite happy to be out all night. They have access to a large dog house but rarely use it. So far our dogs have done a good job keeping predators away. My guess is that they will use the shelter when they need it. Good luck!
I'm in MA too and know how cold it is
Trust your ducks! They're not afraid of the shelter if they're going in it during the day. They're VERY well equipped for the cold. In fact it's likely to be more healthy for them to be out in the fresh air and cold, than to be closed in, where it might be much warmer, and then to go outside and be exposed to a sudden change in temperature. It got to 20 below last February here, and everyone was just fine. Ice stays on the surface feathers - this is why waterproofing is so important to them. Remember too, they can sit on their feet if their feet get cold.
My muscovies sleep under our deck at night which I guess counts as shelter lol. But my other ducks will be outside even during the worst snow storms! They have plenty of shelter but choose to stay out. I know they go in the shelters when they want so I just let them do as they please. They are pretty smart when it comes to what they can handle as long as they aren't really young. I have chickens that roost outside in trees as well. Some have decided they have had enough and made their way to the coop, others still tough it out. But I did notice when we had a snow storm a while back at night they weren't in the trees when I was up around 4 am! So pretty much if your birds are always outside they know what they can handle!
Thanks everyone. I knew that ducks had down and the whole thing about air being trapped between the layers of feathers, blah blah blah but according to my husband I worry about everything until I learn things 1st hand so why should these guys be different?!

I was PETRIFIED because one of the drakes took a bath in the hot water I brought out the other day and EVERY feather was frozen from his head down. He tinkled when he shook because he froze almost instantly!

When he realized he couldn't air dry like normal he got back in the pool, he got out & froze, jumped back in,got out & froze, jumped back in, over and over till the water finally started to freeze. I thought for sure he'd freeze as the day went on since I could see his pink skin through the frozen feathers but when I went out to check on them a few hours later he was fine. I learned to just leave them- they know what they're doing.
I do worry about predators getting into the fence area. So far the only animal we've had an issue with is a fox and it just started last month. Not bad considering we have 3 dogs (one mastiff), they were free-range and we've been here for 2 years. I blame the woman across the street. We live in the middle of nowhere. Our house used to be a farm in the 17-1800's and her house was the bunk house. The farm was bought by the state and turned into a state park so there's a lot of nothing (except predators in abundance) all around us. She decided if I could "do chickens" so could she so she bought 10 from a yard sale! She kept them in a shed that didn't lock and within a few months attracted raccoons and fox. Once they had finished off her chickens they moved on to my ducks and then my chickens. I've lost 2 ducks (both my females!) and 2 chickens and I currently have one chicken in my basement because she's limping and the other chickens ganged up on her. As long as the birds stay in the kennels I haven't had any problems. YET! The 2 that got eaten were the 2 that I called Houdini- they escaped the pen every morning. I have 1 more that keeps skipping town and she's a tiny cochin- I call her chicken nuggets because that's all she'd be for the fox- a couple of chicken nuggets.

I still wish I had a 10X10 shed to house everyone. Or better yet- a BARN! someday.... Someday.

Thanks again everyone. At least I feel a lot better!!

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