What do you do when a friend offers you free fowl?
What if it’s November in Wisconsin?
And what if you’ve only been living on your homestead for a week and a half?
Aaaand, what if you don’t have suitable living quarters for said fowl?
You gleefully accept anyways! Only a crazy person would pass up free ducks…
So, needless to say, our new life on the homestead got off to a running start! We had several days to get the new duck house ready before our five Peking-Mallard cross, 8-week old teenage ducks were scheduled to arrive.
I scoured the internet looking for any information on how to raise adolescent ducks in harsh winter conditions. We were desperate for any guidelines on how hardy to build their house and what exactly they would need. I think part of the problem in finding information was that at 8-weeks old, they were not ducklings but also not fully mature ducks. Everything I read said ducklings needed to be kept warm until they had their full adult feathers, and adults do just fine in cold winter areas with moderate shelter. I guess teenagers really are hard work!
**Update: I now know just exactly what temperature a duck can survive! Read about it —> HERE!
We decided we had three options for winter duck housing on short notice.
1. There is an old milk house attached to the barn that we were considering converting into a chicken coop this coming spring. If we cleaned it up a little now and patched the roof it could pass as a duck house for the winter. But would it be too cold out there for our teenage ducks?
2. We have lots of old doors, windows, blocks and barn wood around the property and we could throw an impromptu duck house together pretty easily. But the same question- would they be warm enough? We also hate to put time and energy into something shoddy. In fact, it almost makes Karl sick to think about not taking the time to make something of the best quality if you are going to take the time to make it at all. Oh, the disgust!
3. We have a cellar under the house. It is only accessible from outside and it houses the electric panels, water stuff, and the heater. In the coldest of winter is stays a balmy 50-60 degrees because of the duct work that runs through it. That would certainly keep a bunch of ducks comfortable! It is a decent sized space and the ventilation is fine. We would have to have a good system for covering the floor and keeping it clean, hauling their old bedding and droppings out and up the stairs. There is only one tiny window, and access to outdoors would be little to none. Can ducks climb stairs?
4. The final option we discussed was the garage. Attached to our two-car garage is an insulated shop that we currently just use for storage. There is plenty of room. In fact, we would have to make some sort of confinement system within the space so there wouldn’t be duck-doo all over the place. It does not have a heat source, but could certainly take one. We’d have to cover the floor well. The garage door can be opened to let them out into the snow if they wanted.
So many options, so little time!
So what did we decide? To build a coop from scratch, using materials we found around the homestead! We were able to push the duck homecoming date back by a week, which gave us a little extra time to construct a nicer space for them, and somewhat diminish the sense of stress and urgency we were feeling.
We were elated when we picked them up, to find that they were quite large and looked like they had great feathers. Plus, the place they were living was only a three-sided shack, which made our duck house look like a duck palace. Turns out that I think we made it waaaay sturdier, wind-proof, water-proof, predator-proof and comfortable than it needed to be. We built a Duck Resort!
Better safe than sorry. I hope they thank us by providing lots of omelets and quiches.
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