Duck housing, coops, and runs often resemble chicken coops or rabbit hutches without the stilt style legs. While ducks can often live harmoniously with chickens in the same coop and run (in my personal experience) some keeps prefer to create a duck house – coop and run designed specifically to house only the water loving poultry birds.
A duck house can be a simple structure that resembles a dog house. In fact, it is not unusual for duck keepers to “upcycle” one or more dog houses into a duck house. A typical wood or metal storage shed can also easily and economically be turned into a duck coop with an attached run during a single weekend.
Whether you choose to design and build an elaborate duck house or duck coop to house a few to a big block of ducks or a simple structure to provide shelter for a little flock, the basic needs of these birds are all the same.
Duck House Basics
- The duck coop or house should be a minimum of three feet tall.
- Vent placement along the top of the walls near the roof are critical to creating proper ventilation. Ducks emit a large amount of moisture when they breathe. That coupled with water and mud on their feet will create mildew and mold growth inside the duck house if adequate air flow does not exist.
- Bedding that dries quickly like straw or sawdust shavings that is changed out regularly so it does not become soiled and breed both excess moisture and bacteria growth inside of the duck coop.
- A bottom, sides, and roof that will protect the ducks from burrowing predators.
- Secure 2-step locks on the duck house – coop or run that will prevent the entry door from being opened or loosened by inclement weather or predators. Racoons are crafty little critters. They have been known to open simple 1-step latch locks to get inside of chicken and duck coops to eat eggs and even young birds.
- Any wood used to build the duck house or run must be pressure treated. Wood that is not pressure treated or particle board will crumble away in just a year or two – leaving the ducks exposed to predators. Particle boards may get thin and acquire holes in mere months during a rainy season and should never be used for any part of a poultry house and run.
Unlike chickens, ducks rarely (never in my personal experience) lay eggs in nesting boxes. You are welcome to include nesting boxes in the duck house in hopes that the duck hens will actually lay there instead of wherever they may be standing when the need to lay an egg strikes, but do not expect much success.
Domesticated duck breeds do not really fly. Some breeds are capable of catching enough wind to get their feet a few inches off the ground and to move forward about one foot or so, but that is about it for their flying capabilities. Therefore, adding perches to the duck coop will also not be necessary.
The coop showcased in the video below is a shed type structure that was converted to living quarters. Although this shed style coop was created just for chickens, it could just as easily house ducks, as well.
Duck House Size
The dimensions of the duck coop will depend on how many ducks you are currently keeping and plan to house in the future. The duck house size should be factored with 4 square feet of floor space per bird.
Typically, ducks will make piles out of their bedding material to sleep on. Factor in a few extra inches on all sides to make space for the bunched up bedding the ducks will create when preparing a soft place to sleep.
As already noted above, straw and sawdust shavings make excellent bedding for duck houses. Pine shavings can make good bedding too, but do not tend to provide ample insulation during the cold winter months as much as the shavings and straw.
The primary advantage of using straw over pine shavings is its natural resistance to moisture. Straw will not retain moisture to the same degree of the shavings, keeping the ducks warmer, dryer, and more comfortable during chilly nights. Respiratory problems are not usually as common with ducks as they are chickens, but living in a damp environment can certainly prompt the growth of mold fungi and a potentially deadly respiratory tract infection in ducks.
Putting windows in a duck coop is not necessary. Some folks add the windows to provide extra light for the ducks and others just for aesthetics. Ducks prefer to be outdoors as much as possible, even when it is snowing … and especially when it is raining.
Because ducks will spend the bulk of their time in the run or free ranging if permitted, providing extra light during the winter months is not essential. While added light does help promote egg laying during the coldest months of the year, placing solar powered hanging coop lights inside the duck house would be far more economical and easier to install than windows.
If you choose to install windows, making sure they are properly sealed and can be covered completely by shutters in case of damage or inclimate weather, is strongly advised.
Ideally, adding a window opening covered by one or two layers of hardware cloth (rabbit hutch wire mesh) is both a better idea from a ventilation and security standpoint. Such openings will also allow extra light in and can be covered with shutters or a flip down flap, when necessary.
Trenching hardware cloth not only beneath the floor of the duck coop but also around the entire perimeter or the housing structure AND the run will help protect the flock from burrowing predators on all sides.
When constructing a run, it cannot be recommended more highly to use hardware cloth and not chicken wire to attach to metal or wood posts. Chicken wire is wonderful at keeping poultry birds in, but horrible at keeping predators out.
Chicken wire is too thin and pliable to prevent mink from widening the openings just enough for mink and other small rodent style predators, from getting inside.
The doors to a duck house, coop, or run should be made of metal or wood. Covering the wood with hardware cloth can offer extra protection from predators as the wood tends to give with age – especially when exposed to extensive rain. Rotting of wood is also commonplace, over time.
Duck House Run
The hardware cloth that attaches the run to the duck coop or house should be stapled directly to either the wood structure or onto a wood strip screwed into a metal duck house. To make the coop meets run area even more predator proof and sturdy, screw a wood strip (one to two inches thick) over top of the stapled hardware cloth to secure it in place.
The run will get wet and muddy more often with ducks than with chickens because they will frequently get into the water source you choose to provide. Adding straw to the ground in the run to help reduce the amount of mud the ducks will be living in, is highly recommended.
Also, duck droppings are far larger and more liquid than chicken droppings – adding to the mess inside a duck house run.
Even if you permit the duck flock to free range during the day, the run will still get muddy and messy. The droppings inside the run will breed bacteria that can become deadly when the ducks accidentally consume it while foraging in the loose soil for bugs.
A water source, be it a decorative garden pond or plastic (never inflatable) baby pool and at least one waterer for every six to eight ducks must be a part of the amenities in the duck house run.
Ducks should never go without access to water for longer than eight hours. The ducks will need to at least dip their bills and heads into water on a daily basis – and will have a desire to swim even during the winter months.
The duck house run should have a covered top. While mature ducks are almost always too large to worry about hawks as predators, ducklings and young ducks will be vulnerable when exposed to an area that is not covered on all sides.
Climbing predators like bobcats, mink, raccoons, and weasels will be able to climb up the walls of the run and garner access to the ducks inside and start attempting to work their way into the secured living quarters throughout the night.
Using hardware to cover the top of the duck coop run is the safest and most sturdy route to take when constructing the outdoor area for the flock. Using bird netting is an option when covering a duck run, but it is not nearly as sturdy as hardware cloth and will need replacing on a likely annual basis.
A shady area in the duck house run is also recommended. Giving the ducks a covered area where they can relax out of the sun is not as crucial as it would be with chickens since the ducks will go swimming to cool off, they will still appreciate the sun and weather covering on occasion.
Keeping the ducks warm, dry, and clean inside of a secure environment is the first and most important step when becoming a duck keeper. A healthy and happy flock will be far more likely to lay eggs for your breakfast plate than hens overly stressed about their living conditions and prowling predators.