Duck Housing Basics

Happy-go-lucky ducks love playing in puddles while it’s raining. Nevertheless, it’s usually a good idea to have shed or house for your ducks to sleep in. On this page, I list five common ways to house your ducks, four reasons to have a house, and seven characteristics of a good house.

Five Ways to House Ducks

1. Confined Pens/Cages

Confined pens and cages, while possible, are not preferable. Imagine if you were a duck, stuck in a tiny pen, with no fresh air and no grass to walk on. All you get to eat is boring pellets or grain. You would be quite unhappy! Ducks are much healthier and happier when they have a large yard to forage and play in. No matter how limited your space, it’s always possible to let them have some outside access. People who show their birds do train them to stay in a kennel and keep them in one so they will stay in good condition for the show, but I still believe show ducks should have some opportunity to experience a natural life.

2.  Large Single Pen

A coop might not be necessary at all. When we had our first flock, the area had virtually no predators and no snow. It was very hot, so we had to offer lots of shade. We only had five ducks, and they had a large yard. We didn’t mind hunting for nests hidden in the grass, and they were happy. This set-up would only be feasible if predators are not a hazard.

3. Free-Ranging

Free-ranging is letting the ducks go completely free with no pen during the day. At night, they usually return to a pen. However, free-ranging often isn’t feasible, because ducks might eat your garden, make messes on your porch, cross the road, or invade your neighbor’s property. Predators can also attack them easily. If you live on a large, secluded farm, free-ranging might work. Alternatively, you could let them free-range for short periods of the day while you watch them. I free-range my ducks for the day, and they are trained to stay in a specific area.

4. Mobile Pens

In small areas, there might not be space for a large yard. A tiny yard would soon get muddy, messy, barren, and unhealthful. Instead, you can use a mobile pen that can be moved to fresh grass every day or two. They must be light and fairly small. This is a common option for people with little space who only want a few ducks.

5. Yard and Coop

Generally, people have a yard and coop. The yard is either big enough that it doesn’t accumulate poop, or there are several pens that the ducks rotate through. This is called rotational grazing: the ducks are kept in one pen for some time (perhaps a month) and then moved to the next pen, while the first recuperates. Every night, the ducks go to a small shed or house.

Four Reasons to Have a Coop

  1. Ducks are usually easy prey for many animals, such as dogs, foxes, hawks, and weasels. If your ducks are secure in a shed during the night, it’s hard for predators to get in.
  2. Unless you like tromping through the grass, rain or shine, to find the eggs your ducks have hidden, it’s good to have a coop. Ducks lay during early morning, after dawn. If you let them out after they lay, your eggs will probably be easy to find: in a nest box.
  3. It’s true that ducks are hardy. They don’t mind rain and can stand wind and snow. However, even if they like playing in the rain, who likes to sleep in it?
  4. Ducks don’t lay well in the winter without extra artificial light. Without a coop, it’s hard to install a light.

If you don’t mind hunting everywhere for eggs, there are no predators where you live, and artificial light is not necessary, your ducks can get by with only a yard, with no coop. They will need shade and a dry area, however. This is what I did for my first flock, and they were happy as could be.

Seven Characteristics of a Good Coop

  1. It protects the flock from predators.
  2. It keeps wind, rain, and snow out.
  3. It has good ventilation but no drafts.
  4. It provides a good place to lay.
  5. It has a place for water and feed.
  6. It is easy to clean.
  7. Lastly, it is comfortable and healthful for the ducks.

Move to the next page, Planning a Coop, to learn more.