One of the most confusing parts about raising backyard ducks is providing them with a coop. Wild ducks live outside so most people think that domesticated ducks can live outside as well.
This is wrong.
Domesticated ducks need a duck house.
But, what kind of coop is best for ducks? How big should it be? Should it have nesting boxes?
If you have ever asked yourself any of these questions, then this article is written specifically for you. In this article we explain everything you need to know about duck houses…
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Do Ducks Need A Coop?
Put simply, yes, ducks need a coop.
During the hot summer months the coop gives ducks a cool place to relax in the shade. It also gives them warmth during the freezing winter. This is important because wild ducks can fly away to warmer parts of the world when it gets cold, but your ducks are kept in your backyard so they will need a warm duck house so that they can survive the winter.
It also provides nighttime shelter from predators. If your ducks sleep outside during the night then it is likely that local predators will start hunting your ducks. Keeping your ducks locked up in a coop every night will stop any wild nocturnal predators in their tracks.
What to Consider With Duck Houses
Now that we know why ducks need housing, let’s look at some of the specific things ducks need from a house.
Your duck house must have 6 square feet of floor space per duck.
Although some smaller duck breeds can get by with less space, 6 square feet will make sure your duck house is big enough regardless of the breed.
Within the coop they will spend most of their time on the floor. The inside of a duck coop needs to be at least three feet tall for the ducks. However, you may want your duck house to be even taller so that it does not feel like a crawl space whenever you climb in there to clean it out.
If you plan on keeping your ducks inside for long periods of time such as during the coldest weeks of winter, you will want to add a couple of square feet per duck. This will make enough space so you can add a water source inside the house.
Easy to Clean
If your flock is small enough then you can have a small coop where you can reach every corner from the outside. Otherwise, you will want to think about how easy it will be to move around inside the house while cleaning.
A lockable access door in the side or roof is the best option.
Because ducks spend most of their time on the floor, it will be up to you to keep the floor of the coop comfortable as well as clean. Ducks need a house with a bedded floor and they will need you to keep it clean.
The best type of bedding for ducks is either large wood flake shavings or straw/hay.
Hay is the more insulating of the two choices, but it decays faster which can increase the risk of harmful mold within the duck house. Although wood shavings are not quite as warm, they are more resistant to decay. Just make sure to avoid any type of cedar shaving because it is toxic to ducks.
Ducks do not need a roost.
They would much rather sleep in a pile on the floor, so they do not use roosting bars even when they are provided with them. Instead of roosts you should make sure they have plenty of bedding to make the ground more comfortable for them.
Ducks do not need nesting boxes. In fact, they are well known for not using nesting boxes even when they are provided.
They will lay their eggs anywhere and everywhere without a second thought. You can try providing them with a nesting box, but it is very likely that they will not use it. New duck keepers may think that there is a problem with their coop if their ducks lay eggs outside of the nesting boxes. However, this is not a problem with the house, but a natural duck behavior. They much prefer to lay eggs outside rather than in nesting boxes.
Your ducks do not need windows, but they are useful to have.
Windows are useful to help increase the ventilation of the coop. Just make sure they have a wire mesh covering to stop predators from using them as an entrance to your duck house.
The duck house door should fit snugly to the frame to prevent predators from getting in, and also to prevent cold drafts during the winter.
Wood and metal are both good options.
Just remember that if you use wood it can shrink or expand slightly depending on the weather, and it will need replacing over time.
Automatic coop doors are not as popular for duck coops as they are with chicken coops. This is because ducks do not always go to the house to roost at night. They have no urge to return to the same spot night after night to sleep, so sometimes they will need you to put them back in the coop.
You may also want to consider putting an access door in the roof to make cleaning the house easier.
You can either let your ducks free range or you can keep them in a run.
Ducks require quite a bit of outside space so your run should provide each duck with 15 square feet. They also need a constant water source. This could be a natural or decorative pond, or a plastic kiddie pool filled with water. Do not forget about it when planning out your run.
You should also cover the top of your ducks’ run to help keep out predators.
Ventilation for Duck Houses Explained
To keep your ducks healthy you need to make sure that their duck house has a lot of ventilation.
The main reason for this is ammonia.
Duck droppings are rich in nitrogen. Naturally occurring bacteria will find their way into these droppings in order to feast on the nitrogen – this produces harmful ammonia gas. Without a way for ammonia to escape the house, it will build up to toxic levels that can be dangerous to your ducks.
Next, there is moldy bedding.
When ducks exhale they breathe out a lot of moisture. If there is no way for this moisture to escape, then it builds up and creates a very moist environment. This encourages mold to grow in the bedding which is dangerous for you and your ducks.
How do you keep a coop adequately ventilated?
The easiest way is to use window openings or ridge ventilation to provide airflow to the duck house.
Most of the time, this will provide enough air flow.
A simple check is to put your head at about duck level and sniff for ammonia. If you can smell ammonia then your duck house needs better ventilation.
How to Predator Proof a Duck Coop
There are lots of nocturnal predators, so predator-proofing your duck house is crucial. Some of the most important things to do are:
- Any large openings (e.g. windows) will need to be covered using galvanized wire mesh. Make sure to use ½ inch or smaller wire mesh.
- You will also need to use a complex latch (e.g. safety hook and eye latch) on your door to prevent raccoons from opening it.
- Next, you will want to make sure that burrowing predators cannot dig up through the floor. You have two options. You can either make a cement floor, or you can dig up the area adjacent to your coop and bury a 2 foot deep strip of ½inch wire mesh.
- If you live in an area where bears can be a problem then you will want to anchor your coop to the ground. A good way to do this is to set the framing posts into the cement floor.
Can Ducks Live in a Chicken Coop?
Most people prefer to keep their ducks separately as they can be messier than chickens.
However, you can successfully keep ducks and chickens in the same coop providing that it meets all of the needs of every bird inside.
Ducks do not need a roosting area, but chickens do and some chickens will especially enjoy having more vertical space inside, while ducks will not particularly care. Another big difference between chickens and ducks is that chickens need nesting boxes while ducks do not.
You will also need to provide a good layer of bedding on the floor of the duck house. Make sure that this bedding is away from the roosts.
Finally, you will need to make sure that the ducks can access the chicken coop, as many chicken coops have an entrance that chickens need to jump into with the help of some flapping. Ducks cannot do this so you will need to provide them with a ramp.
Common Problems with Duck Coops
One of the biggest problems with duck houses is space.
Because ducklings are so small, lots of people underestimate how much space their adult ducks will need. Your duck coop should have at least 6 square feet of floor space per duck. This size is ideal for most pet duck breeds; however, the largest of breeds (e.g. Muscovies) will need another couple of square feet each.
Another problem with duck houses is them getting dirty.
Ducks love to splash around in water and track mud everywhere. This means their coops get very messy, very quickly. You can use bedding to help absorb the mud and moisture. If the floor is still messy then you need to add more bedding.
A final problem to know about is your ducks not using their coop! Ducks will not automatically put themselves into the duck coop at night like chickens do – this is natural duck behavior. Herding them in at night might be challenging at first, but it will become easier with practice.
There are some features that all duck houses should have. These include proper ventilation, adequate bedding, and predator-proofing.
However, that is where the similarities end.
There are many different types of duck houses out there and no two will be the same.
A duck coop in a warmer environment should be built to maximize ventilation by using more windows to help keep it cooler and drier. Duck houses kept in freezing environments will have to balance having enough airflow with not allowing the coop to get too cold.
Some people want a simple, practical coop that is budget-friendly and gets the job done. Other people would rather invest in a beautiful one that contributes to the charm of their yard. Regardless of what your duck house looks like, providing it has the key features discussed within this article, it will keep your ducks safe and happy.
Did you build your own coop?
Let us know in the comments section below…