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:

img_4656

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.

img_4657

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:

img_4658

img_4811

img_4659

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.

img_4660

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:

img_4810

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

img_4804

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.:

img_4806

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:

img_4805

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.

img_4809

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.

img_4808

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.

img_4803

img_4815

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

 

img_4812

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.

img_4807

Open rafters provide good ventilation

img_4813

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.

img_4820img_4818img_4819

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!

Gamera’s downfall. Plus a Tomahawk trap review

image

Gamera’s love of fresh fish has led to his downfall.

We bought a made-in-the-USA Tomahawk turtle trap which can be used for trapping turtles up to 100 pounds.

image

We ordered online directly from the company and the cost was around $150 including shipping. It arrived within a few days and included a booklet that was part catalogue and part how-to manual explaining what kinds of bait to use, trap placement and so on.

Phil baited the trap with fish, secured it to the trunk of a river willow on the bank, and submerged the trap leaving one edge above water so the captured turtle wouldn’t drown if he was trapped in the middle of the night.

image

He then set out in the boat looking for the snapper to see if he could shepherd him toward the trap.

The turkeys, who delight in harassing Uncle Waldo, the duck-n-geese flock alpha, through the duck yard fence…

image

“Hey, are you talkin’ to me?”

…took a break from the thug life to survey Phil’s activities from the shade of a bench near the pond bank.

image

“It’s not a gang, it’s a club!”

Lo and behold, fifteen minutes later, look who dropped by with a hankering for fish!

image

Look at that sharp beak:

image

And claws:

image

Since no one here expressed an interest in eating him (thank goodness, since the task of figuring out how to cook him would’ve fallen to me), he was released into the swampy lake near Phil’s aunt’s house just down the road.

Sayonara, snapper!

Which meant it was finally Duck Liberation Day!

image

The flock was duly released onto the pond. They were very hesitant but eventually made it in, though they stayed very close to shore.

image

Our review of the Tomahawk trap is a positive one. The company delivered the item ordered quickly and it worked well. Our only complaint is that there is not a separate compartment to put the bait in, but we put it in a mesh bag in the back of the trap, and that worked ok.

Social Justice Warriors, small towns, and Trump rallies…let’s talk about my poultry instead.

Chelsea is a small town with a bit of a multiple personality disorder due to its rural location not far from the Evil Empire of Social Justice Warriors, also known as Ann Arbor.   Continue reading

Preparing for Spring: sowing seeds, planning for poultry, and dissuading the dogs.

We’ve had some strange weather here the last few days – it warmed up from below-zero temperatures midweek to the 50s on Friday and Saturday, resulting in a fierce wind that sent dried leaves swirling and dancing through the forest, driving our Shiba Inu Ruby mad with delight as she chased them hither and yon.  Earlier in the week it had snowed and even the snowflakes were worth chasing and snapping out of midair:

image

Spring is coming, and we’ll make a second attempt at raising poultry; we shall not be deterred by last year’s failure!   Continue reading