A Guide to Duck Houses
Duck housing can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. Whether you convert a small doghouse or build a custom shed, the one thing a duck house must be is predator-proof. Domestic ducks move very slowly on the ground and can’t fly, so they are extremely vulnerable to predators—especially at night—and need a safe place to sleep, lay their eggs and maybe even raise ducklings.
Ducks, unlike chickens, don’t need roosting bars and will rarely use nesting boxes, instead preferring to make a nest in one corner of the house on the floor. An old playhouse or a gardening or potting shed works quite well for duck housing. As long as it's fitted with a door and has hardware cloth over any openings, any of these structures will get your ducks' approval.
Some other things to consider:
- Size. Before you decide how fancy your duck house will be, figure out how large it needs to be. You should allow for 4 square feet of floorspace per duck. Since ducks typically sleep on piles of bedding on the floor, they need enough room to be able to get comfortable.
- Flooring. Duck houses can sit directly on the ground but should have a wooden or cement floor so predators can’t dig underneath to gain access. A piece of inexpensive vinyl flooring over the floor makes for easy clean-up, and also prevents the floor from getting wet if you leave water in the house overnight for your ducks.
- Bedding. Pine shavings work fine for bedding, but our ducks prefer straw. Straw has wonderful insulating properties during colder months, keeping ducks warm; it also holds its shape better, so they don’t end up sleeping on the cold wood or cement floor. Straw also doesn’t tend to become sodden like shavings do when wet, and doesn’t harbor mold like hay can. Regardless, wet or soiled bedding should never be allowed to stay in the duck house because mold fungi can lead to aspergillosis, a potentially fatal infection of the duck’s respiratory tract.
- Nesting Boxes. As mentioned above, ducks rarely use nesting boxes. If you do decide to include some boxes, they should be at floor level. The boxes should be at least 14 square inches and filled with clean straw. Alternatively, you can put a wooden box on its side in one corner of the duck house and see if your ducks will use it.
- Ventilation. The house should be at least 3 feet tall, with vents along the top near the roof to allow for good air flow. Ducks emit lots of moisture when they breathe, and if that moisture can’t escape, it can lead to moldy and mildewed bedding or even frostbitten legs and feet in winter.
The house should also include additional windows with hinged shutters that can be opened or closed as needed, depending on the weather. All vents and windows need to be covered with 1/2-inch hardware cloth to prevent predators from gaining access. It’s best to position windows at least a foot off the ground (or install "shutters") to prevent predators from peeking in and seeing your sleeping ducks. That can unduly stress the ducks and lead to predators working overtime to get in.
- Entrance/Exit. The pop door to your duck house should be sufficient for two ducks to enter and exit at once. Ducks often like to push and shove, and can get stuck if the door is too small. The door needs a predator-proof latch on it (remember that raccoons can slide deadbolts and lift latches). A locking eye hook is a good choice for the house door. If the duck house isn’t ground level, a ramp is necessary for the ducks to use to get in and out—and if the ramp is narrow, adding some railings will help the ducks keep their balance and not fall off the sides.
Keeping these various points in mind, you should easily be able to build a simple house or convert an existing structure into a safe, secure house for your ducks.