Our daffy ducks, a.k.a. the chucklings, have grown so fast. At three months, they look full grown! We were not quite prepared for such an expedient growth rate and have been scrambling to upgrade their housing once again. They have been rooming in a large outdoor dog pen with the chickens, but obviously have needed more space to stretch their wings. We toyed with the idea of having them share the chicken run we are constructing, but realized that is never going to work on a permanent basis. They are way too messy! Chickens aren’t supposed to be in a moist environment and Ping and Jemima are constantly splashing around and getting the front part of the pen drenched. And, from the research I’ve done, domestic ducks fare best when allowed to roam. The great thing is that they are not as destructive as free ranging backyard chickens since they have curved bills and don’t scratch the ground to pieces. In addition, they are great for bug and weed control (mostly targeting those pesky dandelions) and fruit tree fertilization (the poopy pond water will be super nutritious for our trees!). We figured that since we have a small pond that we have the perfect habitat for our pair of quackers and have decided to give supervised free ranging a try.
We found a cedar dog house kit at Home Depot and turned the project into a family affair with my wonderful visiting father-in-law supervising the boys in assembling the kit (ahem, he actually had to take it apart the night after they made it and reconstructed it, though). He also made a door framed with new wood but covered in reclaimed fencing wood from a 40 year old fence we are replacing. The door has two locks on it to deter our suburban predators like racoons, skunks, and even coyotes (we live near the river and can hear them in the distance sometimes). When opened, the door serves as a small ramp. We decided the cedar was too pretty to paint over and just covered it with a clear stain to protect the wood from the elements. Also, since we only have a pair of ducks, we decided that creating a nesting box was much too fussy. With enough straw or hay in the house, they should make their own nests and lay the eggs there with some gentle encouragement. We’ll have to find fake eggs to put in the house for a while to point them in the right direction!
You’d think that after being cooped up with the chickens in a dog pen with only a Rubbermaid “pool” that the ducks would be beyond thrilled to have a real pond in which to swim. We took them down to the pond, showed them their house and where to enter the pond. With a bit of trepidation, however, they just stood there and discussed the matter! We eventually had to give them a little push into the water. They were in for a few minutes and then grazed the hillside until they spied the dog pen. Guess where they spent the rest of the day practically? Yep. Hovering outside the pen next to the chickens. Go figure.