Keeping your Ducks|
As a rule domestic ducks should always be locked away in a secure duck house every night without exception in order to protect them from predators. During the day the ducks should be allowed out of the duck house, or Coop, into a run, or fenced off area of your garden. The ducks should still have access to the Coop during the day, so that they have somewhere to escape to if they feel threatened. In the evening whole wheat grain can be used as a treat to tempt the ducks back into the Coop, the door should be locked/secured behind them. Ducks are intelligent creatures and will soon learn to go into the Coop in the evening.
Small birds like Bantam Ducks and Call Ducks require at least a square foot of floor space each in the Duck Coop, heavy ducks should be given four square feet each, two feet is a good internal height for the Coop. The Duck Coop should be strong and stable, and as well built as possible, it should have vent holes in the roof (with strong mesh/grating fixed over them to prevent predators getting in. The ducks will need a ramp to get up into the coop, and the door (referred to as the pop hole), should be big enough to allow the larger ducks in freely. The preferred bedding system consists of a layer of sand with a layer of soft hay over the top. Wood shavings and sawdust should not generally be used as ducks can occasionally try to eat it, causing illness and death. Oat straw is recommended by some breeders.
Whilst smaller ducks may need to have their wings clipped, most domestic ducks are flightless (consult your breeder for advice), many owners simply use picket fencing to create the walls of the Duck run. The more space the birds have to peck around in and explore during the day, the better. Duck owners often move the boundaries of their duck runs periodically, to allow the grass to recover, this is good practice, especially if the duck run is quite small. The best soil for a duck run is gravelly or sandy soil, that drains well. Heavy clay soils tend to get waterlogged, and ducks can quickly turn them into a mud bath with their bills, this in turn can lead to infections and disease as well as being an eyesore. Some breeders with clay soils recommend making a special section of run that is completely covered with gravel, and keeping the ducks there during the winter months. The grass in a ducks run should ideally be kept fairly short, this will reduce the chance of disease in the birds.
I have already mentioned that ducks should have a plentiful supply of fresh clean drinking water, but ducks also need to have a separate area to bathe in. A lake or pond is not essential, a paddling pool, bath tub, or small plastic pond can be dug into the ground, so the water is level with the ground. You must always ensure that whatever arrangements you make, the ducks will have a route to get out of the water, this can be in the form of a sturdy wide duck board fixed to the edge of the pool at a shallow angle, or if you have a lake or pond then there should be a nice shallow bank for the ducks to get in and out. Some duck owners prefer to have the ducks bathing area in a shaded part of the run/garden, this allows the ducks to cool down quickly in hot weather. Ducks can be susceptible to heat exhaustion.
If you are planning a lake or pond, specifically for the keeping of ducks, then there are several features that will make your pond duck friendly.
Use a solid heavy duty liner. Use an extra layer of underlay over the liner, at least around the edges, then cover the liner/underlay with plenty of sand, gravel or earth. Ducks will happily dig away with their bills and an exposed pond liner, or even one that is buried to shallow, can easily be damaged.
As already mentioned, the liner should have shallow gradual edges, to allow the ducks to get out of the water (as well as other wildlife). Some owners deliberately put gravel, pebbles, or even flagstones over a small section of the bank, and refrain from putting any plants there, to create a dedicated duck thoroughfare in and out of the water. Parrots feather should be avoided in ponds, as it has been known to entangle ducks. Young ducks should not be allowed on the water with adult drakes, the Drakes may attack or drown them whilst on the water. Be aware that ducks will eat almost anything they can find in your pond, so you make see a decline in invertebrates, fish, and frogs as a result of keeping ducks on your pond.