In the Brooder
Sep 25, 2021
Early this may I had 5 tiny muscovies ducklings. After I lost two, I put a large dog crate in my room that I keep the ducks in from 8:30pm-10:00am. During the day the ducklings are released into the duck run to frolic until the sun starts setting, rinse and repeat. I've kept this up for a couple of weeks with no further deaths... but the issue is I've got pretty bad allergy induced asthma, and I've started having terrible attacks nightly that are getting worse as the ducklings get bigger.

Our current duck pen is rather small. It's perfect for the two fully grown scovies we've had for the last year or so, but with the flock expanding I'm refitting part of the chicken barn into new duck habitat. Half of the barn has been used for storage up until this point, and I'm moving all the junk to the workshop tomorrow morning.

HOWEVER, the chicken barn has a bad rat snake problem. The grown chickens are fine, but every time I've tried to keep younger ducklings and pullets in there I get one or two dead by morning. We've tried building an elevated "snake proof" cage that looks like it'll work on the surface, but somehow or another a snake finds a way.

So, my question(s) boil down to this:
  • Is 2 months old enough for Muscovies to be safe from rat snakes?
  • What's are some steps I can take to better snake-proof the barn?
  • What should I do to make the duck setup comfortable for about 7 muscovy ducks? (I'm getting two more grown ones to replace the ducklings I've lost.)

Some notes about the barn:

  • The barn was originally designed for horses, so it's not nearly as tightly-sealed as a traditional chicken coop.
  • The soon to be duck-zone is separated from the chickens with see-through fence, so I should be able to get the ducks and chickens accustomed to one another before the flocks mingle in the run.

  • Both the chicken half and the duck half have doors that lead to a large fenced-in grassy area. I will be putting a stock tank in the run to make sure the ducks have the usual water access.

  • If all goes according to plan I should end up with two males and five female ducks. The eight chickens have a very protective rooster who I hope will keep the male ducks in line concerning who they are allowed get frisky with.
Snakes can squeeze through surprising small spaces, so I recommended sealing up all openings. A snake large enough to harm them won't be able to fit through hardware cloth, so I would use that to thoroughly predator proof the area.

Removing excess clutter will prevent the snake from hiding in there. They feel less comfortable in open spaces, and so do rats and mice.

Would you please share a photo of the elevated cage?
Keep the crate in the barn. Put (zip tie and bend the wire so it's solid pieces you've got when done) 1/4" guage hardware cloth around the dog crate (if it's an all sides open type crate, black wire) make sure to do all the sides, top and bottom, and door. When you shut them up at night (or mostly before so you can seal if needed) just check and make sure every nook and cranny of the dog crate can't be accessed by a snake. If you can get your index finger through a hole then chances are a snake can get in there too. And what's bad is they can't judge size, we've (in the past) found numerous chicks (older and younger) strangled and wet up to their hackles, only the realize that the snake was smaller so it was able to constrict and kill, but then couldn't swallow the bird so it regurgitated it. Evil things. If the just stuck to rats and rodents it would be fine.
Same happened here evidently the rat snake was sleeping over winter in the storage loft in the coop. It tried to eat a 6 week old bantam pullet only to get the head an neck down but couldn’t finish. We finally got him out but was so sad to find that little pullet. A Muscovy at 2 months old is pretty good size I wouldn’t think a snake would even try one but after seeing one try to eat a bantam pullet I wouldn’t be surprised at anything. Hardware cloth is your best deterrent.
Can you keep other in that area? Something the snakes are afraid of, or will kill the snakes ? I had a Tom turkey for a few years who just by his call kept away predatory birds. I wish I could help, in my area there are no snakes. All the best to you, cuddles to your ducks, I have had the privilege of being mom to two little Muscovy ducks and they were my loves. Such smart little bundles of joy, always full of life and mischief.

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