Building a duck house can be super exciting and doesn’t need to be a huge extravagant thing. Ducks sleep on the ground and don’t need perches or nest boxes. They only need four walls, a floor, a roof, a door, and good ventilation. I will walk you through and answer all the questions that came up while I was figuring out how to build a duck house.
What Kind of Enclosure do Ducks Need?
Ducks don’t need much and they definitely don’t need anything super fancy, unless that’s what you are wanting. Many people have used a dog house and turned that into a small coop for two ducks. We repurposed an old fence that we had taken down and turned it into a small shed type house as their duck house.
How Big Does a Duck Coop Need to be?
One of the most important parts of building a duck house is the size. Ducks need at least four square feet per duck inside the coop. I always recommend building it bigger than the amount of ducks you intend to have. Once you get ducks there is always a chance that you decide to get more. It is much easier to build a duck house bigger in the beginning than trying to make it bigger after ducks are already living in it.
How Tall Should a Duck House be?
The minimum a duck house should be built is three feet high. I designed our duck house to be tall enough for me to stand inside – highly recommend doing the same. There is nothing worse than trying to clean out the duck house and not being able to fit very well inside. Having the duck house built tall also allows for the vents to be higher up. This allows for the wind to blow through without making the ducks, who are at floor level, to feel the breeze.
What Kind of Ventilation does a Duck House Need?
The vents should be near the top of the coop for good air flow. Ducks emit a lot of humidity when they breathe. If you do not provide enough ventilation the inside of the duck house will end up with mold and mildew growing. Too much moisture inside the coop can also lead to frost bitten feet and legs in the winter. Not enough ventilation can also cause issues in the summer. If there is not enough air flow the coop will get too hot and can cause health problems for your ducks.
Duck poo gives off ammonia fumes and bedding can sometimes come with dust, both of these issues can cause respiratory problems with the ducks if there is not enough ventilation. If you can smell ammonia at floor level then either you need more ventilation or you need to rethink your bedding situation.
Every vent needs to be covered with ½ or ¼ inch hardware cloth to prevent any predators from getting in. It is best to make sure any vents or windows are placed at least 18 inches off the ground. This stops any predators from peeking in and looking at the sleeping ducks. When there are predators peeking through windows it can cause a lot of stress for the ducks. It can also cause the predators to work harder to get in as they can physically see the meal they want to eat.
What Kind of Floor Should the Duck House Have?
The floor of the duck house needs to be strong and secure. You want to make sure that nothing is able to dig up from underneath and get into the coop. We made a frame and put plywood on top. We made sure there were no gaps at the edges that little rodent hands could get through.
Because ducks are very messy and their poo is wet, if the bedding is sitting directly on the wood it can eventually start to rot.
What Can You Use to Protect the Wood Flooring?
I have heard of people using various things to protect the floor. Some have used peel and stick vinyl flooring. You want to put it along the floor as well as several inches up the sides. This will make cleaning out the coop very easy when you want to wipe everything down.
I use a tarp that is folded and the edges are folded up as well. This stops the bedding and their poo from sitting against the walls of the coop. When I clean it out I scoop most of it out into a wheel barrow. Then grab the whole tarp and take it to the compost bin to dump. The floor of the coop is left untouched.
I spoke to one person who reuses the feed bags and just lays them down under the bedding as a protective layer between bedding and floor. There are many different things you can do, you need to see what works best for you and your set up.
Entrance and Exit
It is best to try and keep the duck house as close to the ground as possible. Ducks do not like steep ramps. They are also quite clumsy and can end up hurting themselves when they all try to run in and out of the coop at the same time. When building a ramp you want to add in traction bars that go across to stop their feet from slipping.
Ducks do not like waiting for their turn so you want the doorway to be big enough that two ducks could fit side by side. The last thing you want is for ducks to get stuck as they all try to push their way out. And one of the most important parts is the lock.
The door needs to be fully locked up at night. We use two locking eye-hooks on our door – one at the top, one at the bottom. We use two because our door is very tall (so it’s easy for me to get in and out to collect eggs) and if I only put one in the middle a raccoon would be able to pull the bottom corner out and reach its hands in there.
Should Ducks be Locked up at Night?
Yes, ducks should be locked up at night. The only exception is if you have built a duck pen that is 100% predator proof. Remember, little predators like raccoons can fit their small hands through small holes and will grab the ducks and kill them. Some predators will also dig underneath the fencing and get to the ducks that way as well.
Even if I had a secure pen that was protected from all sides, top, and bottom, I would still lock them up at night just for peace of mind. I’ve heard too many sad stories of predators getting in when the owners thought everything was secure and protected.
Should You Keep Food and Water Inside the Duck House?
No, ducks do not need to eat and drink at night. As long as they have access to food before bed time and when they get let out in the morning then they are fine. If you put food and water into the coop you will attract rodents and the bedding will get so much messier in a very small amount of time.
The more ducks eat and drink, the more they poop. They are also very messy when it comes to eating and drinking, so you will end up with food and water being spilled all over the bedding.
What is the Best Bedding for Ducks?
The best bedding for ducks is large pine shavings or pelletized horse bedding. I have used both and I personally prefer the pelletize horse bedding (with hay added in winter).
You can use a kitty litter type scoop to remove the large poop patties that are left from the ducks sleep at night and then just mix the bedding up after. If you are looking for the least amount of work possible check out How to Use the Deep Litter Method for Ducks.
What Do You Do with Ducks in the Winter?
You don’t need to do anything extra for ducks in the winter. Ducks are very cold hardy and they do well in the winter. Ducks are covered in down, so they are well insulated. Think about the down coats we wear in the winter.
The only thing they need is a wind break and a shelter from the rain or snow. This comes back to making sure your vents are high enough that in a wind storm it is not going to be blowing through the vents onto the ducks.
You can also provide clean straw or hay into their coop for the cold months. If you use the deep litter method the bottom layers begin composting down and give off heat, which will provide your ducks with any additional heat they need.
Please DO NOT put any heat lamps into the coop. This is an extreme fire hazard. I know someone personally who lost all their chickens and ducks because of a heat lamp in their coop. Ducks do not need an additional heat source, even when your temperatures go well below zero.
What Else Needs to be Taken into Consideration?
Thankfully my husband works in construction and thought of this because I sure didn’t. Look at how your roof is going to drain off when it rains. If it is dripping down into the main part of the duck pen where there is dirt, the ducks will create mud. We purposely had our roof angled towards the back of the duck pen to drip right by the fence. Even when it pours with rain it doesn’t cause any puddles or pooling within the duck pen area.
The roof also has a large over hang to prevent the rain from getting into the front of the duck house. It also keeps the rain out of their food dish.
Think about how you will clean out the entire coop. You want easy access. Trying to clean out a duck house through the door the ducks use is going to be frustrating. We made the entire right wall open up to make cleaning easy.
Placement of the Duck House
When we had fenced in the area where the duck pen was going my husband and I spent some time considering all aspects of where the duck house should go. We have a large hedge that is on one corner of the pen. If we had placed the duck house there we would end up with predators using the hedge to easily climb over the fence. It would also provide them with a place to quickly hide.
We decided on the corner closest to our house. If anything goes wrong we will be able to see from our living room window and any predators that come from outside our yard would trigger the motion detected light at our front door.
If you already have your water source set up, place the coop as far away from it as possible. The less water going into the coop the better.
Now you know the basic requirements on how to build a duck house. It can look like whatever you want, the ducks won’t judge you. You just need to cover the basics – sturdy, predator proof, lots of ventilation, minimum 4 square feet per duck, minimum 3 feet high, and clean bedding.