The Coop: When I began raising ducks, in no way did I think I would have more than five or six and the most. I bought five ducks and built a little four by six coop with an attached run that was eight by twelve. It has been a wonderful coop and the five ducks were just happy with it too. After the first year, I decided to add to the flock and ordered twenty two more. I obviously needed to have a much larger coop. I began doing research on someone to build some sort of coop for me. A wonderful company here in South Dakota, Quality Storage Buildings, design very nice sheds and buildings, I contacted them and told them what I had in mind, mind you all I was looking for really was a shed with windows, a door and duck doors. I chose a ten by twelve shed (120 sq ft = about 5.5 sq ft per duck) that was on skids, with a walk in door, three windows (that slide up and down) and two doors on the bottom for duck doors. I had the exterior walls and roof (metal) match the house. The inside was just a rough construction with exposed lumber.
*DISCLAIMER * I will warn you…I went all out on this coop and by no means does anyone have to go to the length that I did.
I added shiplap to the walls to make it look finished and framed out the windows to create a farmhouse feel. I even hung some shelving over the windows for all my egg baskets. Installed vinyl flooring considering it will make the sub flooring last longer but also is so easy to muck out. I needed a space to keep feed, supplies, first aid kit and what not, so a little pantry of sorts was constructed. That was finished off with a work bench to do things on along with some shelving to display some decor. Although ducks don’t really need nesting boxes, I found that wood crates work just fine. I placed some inside to give them the option to lay in. I do find the majority of the eggs in them though so they obviously like to use them. I usually lock the ducks up every night inside the coop and I will let them out every morning into the run. Its easier on my to gather eggs, as they are laid on straw and they won’t freeze in the winter if laid in the run.
The Run: Most of the time the ducks have a lot of supervised free range time around the property but having to run to town and having bad weather, there needs to an enclosed, or run that I can lock the ducks in and have them be protected from weather and predators. I have a 12ft x 32ft run that was constructed of two by fours and four by four square posts. I fenced in and lined the bottom perimeter of the run with 1/2 inch hardware cloth making the enclosed secure from predators( this is a very important factor in designing a coop or run). When designing, I knew I wanted to be able to get my Gorilla Cart inside to muck any straw, so I added a gate for that along with a walk in gate for everyday use. On the roof, I used the same 1/2inch hardware cloth to make it predator proof from aerial and ground predators. I wanted the ducks to have a covered section of the run that snow and rain wouldn’t muddy up but I didn’t want to make any shade spots, I found a product Pro Sky Panel, which is basically clear sheets of paneling that are used for roofs of metal barns or garages to create natural light. This will help create warmth in the winter and provide a dry area. I also added the sky paneling along the east side of the run to act as a wind break and prevent so much snow from blowing in on the sides. I painted the whole run with exterior paint from Sherwin Williams to ensure a long life of the run.
Around the run I have nesting boxes, little A-frame shelters and hay bales. This helps by adding shelter with bad weather and for fun for the ducks. I placed some pallets to put their waters on making it hard for the ducks to make the area muddy. For their water tubs, I use black all purpose mixing tubs and galvanized feed pans for food. I usually put the straw from the inside of the coop out in the run to soak up any mud spots and to give the ducks some comfortable lounge spots to get them out of the dirt.
Bedding: Straw is the best choice in my opinion to use as bedding. It’s great for insulation, for the ducks and for the eggs. Being already dried, there is less chance of moisture, which can cause mold in the coop.
Predator Proofing: With living on the prairie comes wildlife. There are skunks, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, weasels, feral cats/dogs, hawks, eagles, owls and snakes, I will even say mice, but they are just a nuisance but can be a major issue. I made sure to build the run and coop as secure as I could. Using at least one inch by one inch hardware cloth as fencing and burying it around the perimeter of the coop and run will keep your flock safe. Using half inch by half inch hardware cloth on the top and sides of the run and laying it around the bottom perimeter of the run and coop. This will keep predators from digging, climbing in or flying in on all sides. I even added some hardware cloth to the windows of the coop just for added measure. Every gate, ducks door and door to the coop/run has gate latches that “latch” and I then lock them with carabiners. I thought it was a good idea to add some paracord to the carabiner and then attached it to the gate latch so I wouldn’t loose it. I am very adamant about always locking up, even if I’m home. It just take one time and only a second to loose your flock.
***CHICKEN WIRE IS NOT PREDATOR PROOF***
Location: Having the coop in the right spot is important. I wanted it to be close where I can look out my kitchen door and see the ducks and not have to go on a journey to get eggs in the morning. That being said, living on the prairie brings cold weather…like -20 degrees for days if not weeks. The coop and run needed to be situated in a location where the ducks can get all the sunlight as they can during the frigid months and not be so far from the back door. It’s exactly fifty steps from the door and it faces south. The ducks get the morning sun through the afternoon and till it goes down in the evening. I made sure that there was a water hydrant near by so I could either hook up a hose and fill waters in the summer or fill buckets in the winter.