Thinking about raising ducks? Get your duck house right on the first try with these 10 tips for the most perfect duck coop.
Ducks are a really great option for a backyard flock, but duck house musts are a little different than chickens or other poultry.
Here are 10 tips for the most perfect duck coop so you can get ready to raise ducks or improve your current duck living quarters.
Remember: the better the duck coop, the healthier and happier the ducks!
1. Straw Bedding
Straw bedding is best for your duck coop. It insulates well; it composts easily; it produces little dust; and it makes a great duck nest. Large flake wood shavings or pine needles also make good duck coop bedding.
2. Tarp or Floor Tiles
For easy cleaning and to preserve your coop floor, put a tarp down before any bedding or some peel and stick floor tiles on the floor and walls. Also, be sure to paint or stain the outside of the coop to help protect the coop and extend its service life.
3. Low Down Duck Nests
Nest boxes in your duck coop should be about 14 square inches, on the floor level, and give you easy access to collect eggs from the coop door or from an external nesting box access door. Ducks do not need or use hanging nesting boxes like chickens.
4. Ground Level Coop
Your duck coop should be pretty much ground level. Not comfortable with having it directly on the ground? At most, you can raise it on cement blocks and have a gently sloping ramp into the coop.
5. Wide Coop Door
Ducks like to do things in groups, including going through duck doors. To prevent a stuck duck, make the duck coop door two or more ducks wide. They're not fans of single-file, and they really might get stuck or at the very least jostled. A wider coop door makes for calmer entrances and exits as well as calmer birds.
Ducks don't need actual duck ponds or swimming pools, but they do need (at a minimum) to be able to dip their entire head into the water. Ducks dunk their heads into water in order to clean their eyes and groom themselves.
Provide water with a couple of large buckets, a kiddie pool, or better yet, a wading pool or stock tank (each of which needs a duck ramp). Since ducks like to splash, keep water some distance from their food and away from coop bedding to prevent water spillage.
Many ducks eat chicken layer feed and forage for insects and plants. Keep in mind that duckbills are quite different from chicken beaks and make sure feeder openings are large enough. Keep food and water some distance from each other to reduce the mess ducks can make mixing water and food.
If you can't store feed inside your coop, you can use galvanized metal trash cans to store food outside or in your garage to keep it safe from vermin and weather.
Like chickens, ducks need good coop ventilation and protection from prevailing wind.
Ducks produce a lot of moisture through breathing and through their manure. Unless this moisture is carried out of the coop with good overhead ventilation, it can cause bedding to mold, respiratory issues, and frostbite in cold climates.
Your ducks need a dry coop, not a damp coop. Provide a dry duck coop by having plenty of ventilation overhead, but be sure to shelter your ducks from wind and drafts. In New England, we site our coop facing south with ventilation overhead and to the south side of the coop. You may want to consider locating the duck coop near a compost pile so it's easier to clean out the coop and compost bedding.
9. Predator Protection
The duck coop should be a safe place for your ducks and secure from predators, particularly at night.
A duck's main predator is likely raccoons, but they can also fall prey to weasels, foxes, and other animals. Raccoons are smart and can open latches. Ask at the hardware store about a secure raccoon-proof latch.
Predator-proof your duck house with secure window openings covered with hardware cloth wire mesh (not chicken wire - never use chicken wire as a protection against raccoons) and either shut them in at night with a coop door or a securely fenced duck pen that can keep out predators. A secure fence is dug well below ground and provides overhead protection from climbing predators.
10. Space Requirements
How big does your duck coop need to be and how many ducks can it hold? How much floor space does each bird need in the coop? Plan for four to six square feet per adult bird (two feet by two or three feet). The minimum space necessary is three square feet per mature laying duck in your duck coop (about 18 inches by 18 inches per bird).
Buy or build as big a coop as you can. If your coop is too small, you'll likely have to expand at some point. While we are on the topic of space, it's best to let your ducks free-range when possible instead of keeping them in a yard all the time.
There you have it: 10 tips for the most perfect duck coop. If you are thinking about raising ducks, there are many good reasons to choose ducks instead of chickens.
We wish you all the best on your future duck adventures!
What's your favorite breed of duck? Let us know in the comments below!
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