On March 2 I became the proud owner of 5 baby duckies. When I got them from Tractor Supply, they were already 10 days old, absolutely adorable, and way too cool. From the research I had done, everyone said ducks are easier to care of then chickens. Even though I love my ducks, I do not fully agree with this statement. I realize ducks are less prone to sickness then chickens, but as far as the day to day care, chickens are easier. I’m almost afraid to put this in writing, lest I jinx myself, but I’ve had chickens for a year now with no sickness or injuries. But to be fair, I inherited my chickens in a trade, and they came with coop, run, and instructions. The previous owners had already worked out all the kinks, which in hindsight has been priceless. The ducks on the other hand have been a learning experience from day one. Here is the account of my journey of how to care and provided shelter for ducks.
I had been told that they were messy. I figured no biggie, I can handle a little mess. I was unprepared for how messy they are. That is by no means the fault of the ducks, but rather, my lack of knowledge. If I were to have baby duckies again, I would set up an outside brooder for them, or if they had to be inside I would keep them in the bath tub for easy clean up. I was also unprepared for how fast they grow. When I got them their coop was not yet built, but I thought I had plenty of time. Let’s just say if I had a do over, I would have their coop built before bringing them home.
I searched for websites with information on how to build a duck coop and run. From what I gathered, ducks don’t require much in regards to shelter. For me, it was more about insuring they would be safe from predators. This means safe from black bears. I lost 2 hens to the bears, so I knew they had to have a sturdy shelter. Bottom line, they needed 4 – 6 sq ft each in their coop and 10 – 25 sq ft each in their run. I’m on the low side for both the coop and run, but since they are allowed out to roam when I am home, this was okay with me.
Initially, the ducks were to have an inground pond. This idea got nixed when I realized it would need to be drained almost daily and this was just too much work. Instead, they got a $10 kiddie pool, which can easily be cleaned each evening. I had seen pictures of how others used hay in the run and coop and this seemed like a good idea. For the first few days or maybe even a week this worked well. But then the hay around to pool and waterer got water logged and started to smell. My original idea was to put the spent hay in my compost pile, but I soon realized this was too much hay to compost. So, now I have a smelly coop and a question as to what to do with all the hay. Back to the drawing board. What was I going to use to cover the floor of the run so I didn’t have one big mud hole or smelly hay? In my research I found a picture of what someone else had done, (click here), and went from there.
The end of the run, with the kiddie pool and waterer, has been filled in with egg rocks approximately 3 to 4 inches deep. Around the outside of the pool there is a single layer of bricks to give them a platform to enter and exit the pool. The rock allows for drainage and also allows me to hose off any nastiness. There is a landscape timber dividing the rock end from the rest of the run. I decided to put leaves in the other end of the run. I use leaves in my chicken run and it works great. Once a week I take a pitchfork and flip the leaves and that is about all I have to do. My only concern is the leaves will end up on top of the rocks, but this is a minor issue I am sure I can deal with. At least the smell is gone. I am hoping that my daily duck chores will be cut down to about 15 minutes each evening. This will entail, baling the pool and refilling, cleaning and topping off the waterer, and throwing a light layer of fresh hay in the coop. On the week ends, I will remove hay from the coop, and flip the leaves in the run, which shouldn’t take more then about 1/2 hour to complete. All in all, I am very pleased with the run and coop. I think I have the problem of the messy ducks under control. Now I can just enjoy their antics.
Below are more pictures of the modified run.