Our duck enclosure is attached to the south side of a storage shed that sits just to the southwest of the main entry to our house. The placement allows the ducks to act as an additional early alert system should our Australian Cattle Dog be dozing in the back bedroom. Typically though, both alarms go off simultaneously. They quack; he barks; we always know when we have visitors.
The duck enclosure, built to fit the name Duck SuperMax Prison and Spa, has a metal roof and hardware cloth sides, doubled and dug in on the bottom. I also laid sandstone patio slabs around the edges of the enclosure since we have many predators, including coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks, eagles, owls, and the usual dogs and cats.
Right now, the duck yard is temporarily fenced with portable, electric poultry fence. Within the next month or so, I hope to put up the permanent fencing. Right now, I plan on regular field fence, wire left over from fencing the horse pastures. The lower couple feet will be hardware cloth to prevent duck heads from temptingly poking through the field fence. We’ll top out this fence with wooden rails so that it matches the horse fencing. I am however thinking of swagging the top rail with a few strings of little white Christmas/party lights in keeping with my theme of Prison and Spa.
The two pools, one a sheep water tank and the other a preformed decorative pond, are the main features of the Spa right now. I’m planning on building some other features for duck sunning and shading later on. I have quite a supply of old wooden posts since this summer we’ve replaced dozens of pasture posts that were broken at ground level but still five feet high. I’m sure I can design a duck cabana or two using them.
Inside the enclosure sits the duck house itself. It’s visible, but not prominent. I wanted it to be unobtrusive and plain in keeping with the prison aspect of my top security duck enclosure. Maybe stark and grim are a better descriptors. The design is based on the lovely Winston duck house found here. I wouldn’t call our version lovely. It’s built from rough exterior particle board smoothed only by many coats of paint.
The house is three feet wide, eight feet long, and not quite four feet high. With the two doors, cleaning is relatively easy. Right now, I have a large hay tarp folded and squished into the bottom. I had hoped for a better fit. It’s OK, but less than ideal since the edges of the tarp flop over, covering up part of the softwood shavings that serve as bedding. If I get a bit of free time (ha!) I hope to tailor and stitch up the ends to form something like a tray. Then, by adding a couple of handles, I could drag out the tray containing soiled shavings fairly easily. At least that’s the plan at present. Right now, the shavings are holding up well with a stir each morning.
Upon first seeing these duck facilities, our neighbor, long a major breeder of gamebirds, mostly mallards, walked into the duck enclosure and blinked. He pointed to the duck house and said, “What’s that?” I said, “The duck house.” He pointed to the roof and sides of the enclosure and said, “So what’s this?” I said, “The duck enclosure.” He waved a hand toward the roof and sides of the enclosure, then pointed back to the house and said, “That’s overkill!”
He’s a like that–a nice guy who stresses the practical. His ducks are safe indeed, but I hear them quacking frantically as coyotes drool and prowl around his pens. Our ducks huddle quietly inside their house when they feel threatened. Plus, they can not only avoid the high winds so common on the Colorado Plains, but the east and west ends of the house provide exterior shade or concentrated sun, whichever they want or need.
Before he left, our neighbor turned to my husband and said, “When’s she putting in the air conditioning?” I actually quite like this neighbor. He’s gruff, but when he first heard we had received the shipment of ducklings, he was over in an instant, bearing a large container of his specially mixed duck feed. He definitely feared we wouldn’t do well by our ducklings. Now retired, he hatched only a thousand ducklings this spring. When he was “active,” he hatched out something like twenty thousand.
I gather he’s still telling people about our ducks’ need for air conditioning.