Building a duck house for a Michigan winter

We hadn’t planned to build a duck house this year since we had a serviceable shed that they were doing OK in. However, later in the fall a freak wind storm blew in and demolished the shed. Miraculously, the ducks and geese had come out into their yard in the storm and so were not killed when the shed collapsed.

Not everyone was so lucky; while waiting in line at Lowe’s to purchase the lumber to build the new duck house, the person in line behind my husband asked him, “What are you building?”

“A duck house,” he said.

“Me too!” the person said. Sadly, some of their ducks had been killed when their house had collapsed in the storm.

I thought I would share a bit about how Phil built this house for those folks who google “how to build a duck house” and end up here.

First, he cemented in 6 fence posts to make the support structure. The house is 10 feet long and 4 feet wide:

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The front of the house is about a foot taller than the back of the house so that the roof slopes back, allowing snow to slide off.

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While their new house was being built, the weather turned rather cold and windy, so I built a temporary rough shelter out of straw bales so at least they had a place to get out of the wind and lay their eggs:

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For a while it was still warm enough to fill up their little pools in the duck yard but it has since turned too cold for that. We still have the bubblers on in the pond which keeps a small hole about 10 feet across open in the ice so they can come out and get a daily bath if they want to.

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The house is about 18 to 20 inches off the ground, so they like to go underneath it and even sleep under there. I put some straw bales around it to provide some windbreak for them:

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A long ramp with a gentle incline was built up to the house, and the pop door opens down onto it.

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In order to give them some traction on the wood, my husband laid some of the leftover roofing shingles on it, and then he had the brilliant idea of gluing down wooden paint stirrers to provide even better footing for them.:

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As you can see, their wet, messy droppings freeze on it and make it slippery, so we keep a paint scraper wedged into a bit of trim that we can use to scrape the frozen droppings off when they build up too thickly:

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In order to give it a truly redneck flavor, Phil hung some colored Christmas lights on it.

He built access doors on both sides for cleaning out  soiled straw bedding and for gathering eggs.

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The top of the door fits into a little groove and on each side there is a slide bolt to hold it in place. Two metal handles make it easy to lift it out and in.

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Inside one of the access doors, we put a heated water bucket inside a low plastic bin in order to contain any water the ducks splash out of the bucket; this keeps their bedding relatively dry. Ducks are notoriously messy with their water!  The floor and about 6 inches up the wall are covered in cheap vinyl flooring to keep the wood from getting too wet inside and to make clean out easier.

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The view from the duck house, looking toward the red rabbit hutch and our house.

 

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A second heated water bucket out in the duck yard in front of the rabbit hutch.

 One of the most important things for a duck house is adequate ventilation. Ducks are very messy creatures who like to play in their drinking water and make lots of wet poo.  To provide the most ventilation, we left the rafters open so that fresh dry air would flow in and wet humid air would flow out, all up above where the ducks are nesting so they are out of the draft. Because their house is enclosed in a fenced run, we didn’t have to put anything over the opening to the rafters, but if your duck house is not fenced in, you will want to affix some hardware cloth to keep predators out.

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Open rafters provide good ventilation

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The finished duck house, just in time for winter!

The objective is to build a house that keeps wind, rain,  and snow off the ducks and geese.  It’s not important for the house to be “warm” and I strongly advise against using supplemental heat. Ducks and geese are VERY cold-hardy birds – they’re wearing down jackets, after all! My ducks are out and swimming in the coldest weather; the pictures below were taken on a day when the high temperature wasn’t even 20°F.

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If anyone reading has any specific questions about how the house was constructed, feel free to ask in the comments and we will do our best to answer.  I hope this was helpful!