Ducks do not need expensive poultry housing with nesting boxes and
perches. A cheaper shed designed, for example, as dog house, is
adequate. The shed door should be fairly wide so that the ducks
do not run over each other (pop holes are not as suitable for ducks as
chickens, especially if you want to drive them in), and the door way
should have a ramp if it is not nearly level with the ground. For
ventilation use a weldmesh panel high up on the sheltered side of the
house. The sliding ventilation panel in the Gardencraft houses is
ideal. This is better than at ground level where the ducks can be
bothered by vermin. Make sure that the mesh will not admit polecat and
ferrets. The ducks must be shut up each night before dark other wise
they will almost certainly fall prey to foxes.
Although white wood shavings can be lethal for rearing young
ducklings (because they eat them in the first week or two) shavings or
coarse saw mill sawdust are ideal bedding for adults. If the bedding stays
relatively dry, the shavings/sawdust can just be topped up with new
material, making a thick bed over the winter to keep the Calls warm in
frosty weather. Make sure that any waste wood material is free from
pesticide and preservatives. It must not be toxic.
Many people opt for straw bedding because it is available, but it is
more difficult to handle (unless chopped, when it is more absorbent). It
also causes a more rapid build up of ammonia than shavings. Avoid a high
ammonia level; this will damage the eyes and lungs of the ducks. If
the ducks are not fed and watered in the shed, the bedding will stay
drier and, in the winter in particular, you can let the bedding build up
as it is topped up to make a thick, warm layer. Do not use hay or dried
grass clippings as this will encourage the growth of fungal spores and
If you let your birds out either into an
enclosure or garden it is essential, especially if they are young, for
them to be able to find cover from the sun, heavy rain and hailstones.
Youngsters are very susceptible to weather extremes, and sudden changes
can lead to fatalities. Of course it is better to bring your young birds
in if weather conditions are harsh .
For adult Calls which always live
outside in a fox-proof pen, also think about providing shelter from
winter wind and driving rain. This is especially important if the area
has been newly landscaped, and there is little cover. Wild ducks use
natural cover of long grass, bushes and river banks for shelter, and the
Calls like this too. Some of the best plants are Junipers and Box.
Junipers take a long time to grow but you can put them in large pots and
grow them on until they are big enough to be planted out. Box grows
quite rapidly and within 18 months you can start to see quite a bit of
growth. These plants can be cut or encouraged to grow into whatever
shape you need. You can plant arbours which will act as good wind
breaks. If you have your birds on a hard standing area you can still put
evergreen plants in, for all-year cover, but in pots. If there is no
natural cover, provide an open-fronted shed, back to the prevailing
wind. Make sure the shed cannot blow over.
Look in your local area first at garden centres, and farm and pet suppliers.
Also use the local Yellow pages or search for Sheds in your county
Pages on line.
The magazines Smallholder and Country Smallholding, available from newsagents,
display adverts for several manufacturers. Also, Fancy Fowl magazine http://www.fancyfowl.net