Winter Duck House Humidity Question

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by canyoncaver, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. canyoncaver

    canyoncaver New Egg

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    I have a winter duck question. Our two 9 month old drakes live in a predator-safe pen in our yard. We live at 7,300 feet elevation in Utah and it gets rather cold here. While we have heard that ducks are fine down to -20 degrees, we notice that our boys are a bit subdued at temperatures below 15 or so. Inside their pen is a modified chicken coop that is filled with pine shavings. They sleep in there a lot (not all) of the time, and generally hang out in there when the weather is cold and windy.

    We made a somewhat arbitrary decision to shut the boys in the coop on nights where the low is forecast to be +10 or below. By using a remote thermometer in the coop we know that doing this adds about 10 degrees to the inside of the coop. Example; I get up in the morning and it is 6 degrees outside and about 15 or so in the coop.

    However, the sensor also records humidity and it can be 70-85% in the mornings after they have been shut in there for 8 hours. When I open the roof of the coop, vapor rolls out, and there is a thin coating of ice on the inside of the coop roof and walls.

    Is this humidity dangerous or unhealthy for the boys? Dave Holderread says "Good ventilation is essential, however, even in cold climates because ducks will fare poorly if forced to stay in stuffy, damp quarters." I have heard others say that drafty is better than damp. The coop has small vent holes in the sides and I am thinking about adding more.

    So the question: Is the ten degree temperature rise gained by shutting the coop door at night worth the extra humidity?

    It routinely gets down to zero here and occasionally dips down to -10 or even -20 on rare occasions. We could continue as usual, drill more vent holes, or just stop shutting the coop door. Thanks for any help.

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  2. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Running over with Blessings Premium Member

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    Too much humidity in the coop isn't good, can cause frost bite too. If ducks can get out of the wind and snow rain they can pretty much take the frigid temps. make sure the house door is facing south so it isn't getting the howling winds blowing through it. here is a link to some of the best info I have read on BYC. even in bitter frigid temps I keep the windows in my houses open at the top and south facing windows stay open . We don't get temps as cold as yours that stay any length of time but wind chills below 0 can happen. only problem leaving that door open I see is predators [small ones] mink, weasel can get right through your fencing even raccoon can reach through and grab or climb over if top isn't secured some how. I'd cut windows up top put hardware cloth 1/2 inch cover over of windows to keep out preds https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/...-go-out-there-and-cut-more-holes-in-your-coop this says chicken coop but it's for all poultry

    and Welcome to BYC
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  3. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    Please be careful about setting up an either-or, warm enough versus ventilated enough. If your drakes are showing cold stress at a given temperature, then lowering it to improve the humidity is still lowering the temperature and they could die of hypothermia.

    I would set up some kind of wall between them and where the ventilation is, so that they are protected from the draft and can hold some heat in there, while the warmer, moist air from their breathing and feces rises and exits the hut.

    If you have nice deep bedding and use that somewhat like the deep litter method, leaving some manure in the bedding (make sure to fluff and aerate it so it does not go anaerobic and cause problems - mix some dry peat moss into it, too), that may make some heat for them. I put a drop-ceiling-like set of clear plastic panels in the top of the outdoor duck house, so that I could open and close them to adjust ventilation.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  4. canyoncaver

    canyoncaver New Egg

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    Apr 2, 2014
    Hey thanks for the information and the welcome.

    Rest assured the duck pen/shed is as predator-proof as I know how to make it. The coop inside was never intended to be part of the defenses, just as a cold shelter. Instead for security it is inside a two part perimeter consisting of 1/2-inch opening hardware cloth surrounded by three strands of electric fence. Maybe the photo perspective fooled you, but the shot is taken looking through 1/2-inch squares of hardware cloth on the outside of the pen. The top is completely enclosed with plastic roofing and hardware cloth. So far, the boys have lived out there for about 8 months with no problems and we have at least 12 duck-eating predators up here that I can think of. Probably many dogs and raccoons get a taste of the electric fence on their first visit and never come back. At least that's what I think is going on because I have never found evidence of digging or chewing into the structure, even with so many hungry predators about.

    Our ducks are out of the wind and on dry bedding. The duck coop door faces SE and sits in a plywood-walled corner of the pen that deflects the prevailing wind. The coop itself gets very little direct wind. It's just that the temperature goes below 20F for days at a time with lows in the upper negatives.

    Amiga, what would you say constitutes "cold-stress" in a duck? Also you mention ducks dying of hypothermia. At what temperatures have you known that to have happened? We plan to set up a nighttime cage for them in the house if temps get below -10.

    The "either-or" dilemma that you mention is exactly my problem and is what prompted me to pose my question to BYC.

    I can leave the coop door open or drill vents in it to reduce the humidity, but if doing that lowers the temp by 10 degrees inside, then should I even do it? I'm thinking I will start by drilling some small vents near the top of the coop, since everyone seems to agree the high humidity is bad.
     
  5. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    This is one of those challenges that is tricky because ducks are unique - my Runners failed to thrive below 35F. So, I made them a pen in the walkout basement. It stays above 40F there in winter, and I can keep tabs on them even when there are three feet of snow on the ground - I don't need to shovel to get to them, yay!

    Symptoms of the cold getting to my Runners were - reduced egg laying (I mistakenly thought it was due to shorter day length), lethargy, walking stiff-legged, necks scrunched in, feathers constantly fluffed out, shivering.
     

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