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Over the past 20 years, I have kept ducks in various setups. I started with a tiny piece of land, and over the years my homestead has grown to something that can essentially support myself and my family full time.
Whether you have a full-scale farm, or just the corner of your backyard, the considerations for keeping ducks happy, healthy, and safe are basically the same.
All ducks need a good quality diet, access to water (both for drinking and swimming), and a warm, dry place to call home.
In this article, I look at whether or not ducks need a house (which is often referred to as a coop), and what type of house works best for them.
All ducks need a coop to go into at night. A ducks coop should be dry, free from draughts, and a place that keeps the ducks safe from predators such as foxes, rats, and snakes. A ducks coop should also protect your ducks from the worst of the winter weather as well as the heat of the sun.
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Do Ducks Need a Coop To Live In?
In my experience, yes, ducks do need a coop to live in. Much like with chickens, a ducks coop is a place where the ducks can sleep easily knowing they are protected from the wind and rain and out of reach of predators.
Clearly, in the wild, ducks do not have coops that they go to at night. Wild ducks will spend the nights either on the water or sleeping on their nests.
However, the ducks we keep in our backyards are typically not wild birds. Many of us keep domesticated breeds of ducks that have never even come close to living in the wild.
With that said, there are countless accounts of wild ducks taking advantage of manmade structures to create themselves a warm, dry place to sleep.
Barns, hay stacks and even large, upturned flowerpots have been taken advantage of by ducks looking for a safe nesting place.
What does a Duck Coop Need?
First, let me say, a duck house does not have to be an expensive, purpose-built structure that sets you back many hundreds of dollars.
Whilst the ZHANGYN Large Coop Villa on Amazon.com is a truly stunning home for your ducks, I think it would certainly be outside of my budget!
Over the years I have made almost all of my own duck houses. The video below shows how simple it can be to build your own duck house.
Whether you are buying a duck coop or building your own, there are a few things you need to take into account.
It should be easy to clean
Whatever style of duck house you go for, there is one thing you will not be able to avoid, and that is it will need cleaning out on a regular basis.
Ducks are messy birds, and they will poop frequently in their coops. It is essential that you remove all the soiled bedding at least once a week and replace it with fresh, dry bedding.
It does not really matter what bedding you use, providing it is soft for the ducks to lay on (they don’t roost as chickens do), absorbs some of the duck’s waste, and is ideally compostable, because your vegetables will love well-composted duck bedding.
In the past, I have used chopped straw, aspen shavings, and pine shavings.
However, I currently use shredded paper, which ticks all of my boxes, and as a bonus, it is free from one of my local office buildings.
It should be free from draughts
Ducks are actually fairly hardy birds, and they can survive in surprisingly low temperatures. What they do hate however is being in a draught.
Ducks that live in a draughty coop typically do not sleep well, and the stress brought on by being in a constant draught can cause them to become susceptible to pests and diseases.
It is really important that you look all around your duck coop and find any sources of a draught. A draught is not the same as ventilation, however, which I discuss below. Ventilation is essential to prevent stale air and mold from developing within the coop.
A draught is often caused by a broken sideboard or where pieces of timber do not fit closely to one another.
These issues should be addressed quickly, over boarding the cracks or wide open joints.
It should have enough space
As mentioned above, when ducks go into their coop at night, they do not fly up onto roosting bars as chickens do, but rather they will lay directly on the floor of the coop.
As such, it is really important that each duck has enough space to call its own. Sleeping ducks do not want to be on top of one another.
In my experience, each duck should have between 3 and 5 square feet of floor space. This means a coop that measures 4′ x 5′ (1.2m x 1.5m) is suitable for between 4 and 6 ducks.
It goes without saying that larger breeds of duck require more space per bird than the smaller breeds do.
It should be predator proof
It turns out that just about every predator living in your neighborhood will happily eat one of your ducks if given the opportunity to.
It is therefore imperative that a duck coop is totally predator-proof.
Predators come in all shapes and sizes, and the predators you need to protect your ducks against will vary depending on where in the world you live.
For many of us, foxes, rats, snakes, raccoons, and bobcats can be an issue. Many of these predators can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps, with both rats and snakes seemingly being able to fit through holes far small than you would imagine they can.
Take the time to predator-proof your duck house. There is nothing worse than opening the coop door in the morning and discovering that one or more ducks have been taken in the night.
It should have good ventilation
It may seem counterintuitive that I say make sure you have no draughts, but then say good ventilation is important. However, draughts and ventilation are not the same things.
Having good ventilation in your duck coop will prevent a build-up of stale air in the coop at night, and also reduce the chances that mold will develop.
Typically, good ventilation is achieved by having two or more vents, usually fairly high up in the coop.
In my own duck coops, I have sloped roofs, which not only means the rain runs off quickly, but also gives me a high point on the roof, and a low point on the roof. Having one vent high in the roof and one low in the roof gives the best cross-ventilation without putting the ducks into a draught.
It should have easy access for the ducks
When it comes to moving around on land, ducks are not graceful birds. They were not gifted with long, strong legs like chickens. Ducks have short, fairly weak legs and their bodies only just clear the ground as they walk along.
In an ideal world, the entrance to a ducks house will be at ground level. If the coop is slightly elevated, the ramp should be long and shallow, raising up at a low gradient.
Again, ducks do not have claws or flexible feet that grip well like chicken feet do.
Adding some sort of grip to the ramp, or small bars running horizontally across the ramp will help the ducks get a grip as they waddle up the ramp.
It should be built to last
Whilst the long-term quality of your duck house will have little effect on your ducks day to day life, it may well have an impact on your pocketbook.
Whether you are buying your duck coop or building your own, it is going to cost you either money, time, or both. You do not want to have to replace your duck coop every 2 or 3 years.
Whatever material your coop is made from it should be built to last. Painting it with an exterior grade paint or a suitable wood preservative will help increase the life of your coop.
Ducks do need a coop. They need a place to go back to at night that is dry, free from draughts and keeps the ducks safe from predators.
It does not matter what your duck coop is made of, it does not matter how pretty it looks, and it does not matter how much it cost to buy.
Although ducks do not naturally take themselves off to bed at night, they will certainly appreciate you locking them up somewhere they can sleep soundly without fear of being attacked.
If you found this article helpful, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘Do Ducklings Need Food and Water at Night?’.
- 10 Considerations For Your Backyard Duck Coop insteading.com
- 10 Important Things to Consider When Building a Duck Coop morningchores.com