Providing a Safe Haven for Your Ducks
There is a bit of a controversy on whether ducks get cold in the winter months or not. Some say the down ducks naturally produce under their feathers is enough to keep them warm. Others argue that it depends on if it is a wild or domesticated duck, saying that the natural instincts to stay warm is bred out of the domesticated ducks. All in all, it boils down to how you, as the owner, feel about your ducks. Usually you can tell if they are cold or not, just like when they were in the brooder. If you see them constantly huddling together, they may feel a chill. Some even say that they have seen their ducks chatter their 'teeth' or shiver.
With all of this in mind, a good way to go would be to at least provide a simple shelter with four walls and a roof to block cold winds or rain. You can also choose to cover the ground of their shelter in shavings or hay for extra insulation. If you really want to spoil you ducks, you can even insulate the walls or install a heating lamp. If you decide to go electrical, however, be sure that there is no risk of shock for the ducks and that your lamp and electrical cord are weather-proofed.
Providing enough space for a duck is ideal, especially if this pen is a permanent home for them. It is suggested that you provide at least 3 square feet per duck. If this is just a means of shelter from the elements or a pen you put them away in only at night, approximately one and a half to two feet squared will suffice. Also, the height for you ducks shelter should be a minimum of about three feet high.
When providing your ducks with a pen and/or shelter, you can choose to purchase a pre-built one at your local animal supply store. This option is, no doubt, the easiest way to go, but if you are looking to save some money, choosing to build your own is not a complicated as you might think. For a basic four wall shelter, essentially all you need is a few 2 x 4's for the frame, a few sheets of plywood for the walls and some tin for the roof. You can also choose to make the roof from plywood as well. A few other things you will need are screws and nails. The possibilites are endless depending on how basic or extravagant you want to go. You can find instructions on how to build a variety of shelters online, at some animal supply stores or even at most book stores. One thing to be sure of, however, is to use only treated or weather-proof lumber. Or you can choose to treat it yourself with a weather-proofing stain, available in a variety of colors, including clear.
Besides providing shelter from the weather, you will also want to make your ducks shelter predator resistant. One way to do this is to dig around the outside of the frame of the shelter, before you put the walls up, and place small fencing at least one foot into the ground and nail the top of the fence to the bottom of your frame. This will prevent those vermin that like to dig their way in from getting to your precious ducks. After this is done, you will simply nail or screw the walls right over it. Also, when constructing the walls, try not to leave any spaces where each wall meets, including the where the walls meet the roof. If after construction is done, you feel there are spaces left that are too big, you can cover them with fencing, from the inside, as well. When using fencing for this project, it is best to use only material that has holes the size of chicken wire or smaller.
Of course, something else to remember when constructing your ducks shelter, is to provide an opening that can be closed up tight at night for you ducks to get in and out of it(installing a closeable doggie door is one option) and also be sure you are able to access the inside as well, for cleaning and other purposes. One suggested way for you to access the shelter would be to make the roof a lid with hinges that can be opened and closed. If, however, you have built a shelter with a high roof you will need to buy or build a door of some sort and install it on one of the walls. If you are building a shelter that is attached to a pen, as long as the pen is completely closed in, the duck's access door can simply be an opening cut in the bottom of one wall, at least one to one and half feet tall.
If you plan on building a permanent pen for your ducks be sure to include a pool for them to swim in. Also, remember to provided a way for you to access it, so you can clean it regularly. Or, an easier way to provide a swimming area for your ducks would be to dig a hole in their pen and keep it full of water. Be sure, however, to not dig too close to the edges of the pen. When deciding on how big your ducks swimming area should be, at least two feet squared per duck will do. Unless you only have a couple of ducks or plan on building a really big pen, it is not recommended that you keep them in a pen, except to lock them up at night for safety. But if this is your only option, and cannot build a very large pen, allowing your ducks to play under a running water hose will do, as well.
These are the basic factors to remember when making your ducks' home safe and sound. It will be more than worth it keeping your ducks away from the elements and predators and allowing them to live a long and happy life.