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Mobile Duck Coop in an Orchard  RSS feed

 
Posts: 23
Location: Peacham, VT
3
duck forest garden trees
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Has anyone had any experience building a mobile duck coop? I want to try building an egg mobile style coop and move it through my integrated orchard this year. I've been trying to research the concept, but I haven't seen anyone putting this idea to use. My plan would be to house ~30 Khaki Cambell ducks in a modified Stress-Free chicken tractor (Suscovich) design. I would surround the house with some electric poultry netting. I would let the ducks out during the day and keep them in the tractor at night. I would move them through the orchard every few days. (It's a 6 1/2 acre area, so I have the space to support it.)

So does anyone have any experience with a concept like this? Are there any experienced duck folks out there who would be willing to offer some feedback on the idea?

Thanks!
 
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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I think this would work great! Our ducks range over 2 acres, most of that is yard and orchard. They're really beneficial to have in the orchard and they don't do any damage. Having portable electric fencing would be perfect, too, as it would protect them from predators and distribute their poop and bug/weed eating evenly. I lock mine up in an 8x8 duckhouse every night, but a mobile tractor would have the advantage of having the poop straight on the ground and so probably no need for bedding inside it, and thus less work on that front. Does the mobile tractor have a hardware cloth bottom? You might want one for protection against burrowing predators, and also have a nice bedded place for them to lay their eggs (ducks like ground-level nesting boxes). You could make 8 inch by 14inch boxes to go inside the tractor for them to lay their eggs in.

Another thing to consider about their tractor is how warm it will be in the winter. Looking at pictures of the Suscovich tractor, it doesn't seem to have solid walls, which might make it a bit too cold, especially in Vermont (I'm assuming Vermont gets pretty cold).

I would use large trays or kiddie pool (depending on how many ducks you have) for their bathing water (DON'T put it in the tractor. A pail will work for water in the tractor. If you don't feed them in the tractor, they won't need water). During the summer, I use trays full of water for the ducks to bath in, and I place them by different trees every few days. I dump the water by the tree every day, and refill it. By dumping it by the tree, I not only water the tree, I fertilize it, which works great!
 
pollinator
Posts: 513
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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I'm not a fan of the short (2' tall) Salatin-style tractors for chickens, because we raise heritage breeds and they like to roost.  But for ducks that height is perfect, and has the great benefit of being more wind-resistant.

The biggest design feature I'd suggest implementing is a wide door.  Because of their strong flocking behavior, ducks can get somewhat flustered when you try to usher them through a narrow (say, 3' wide) door because they all want to go through at once.  If you make one entire side the "door," you'll be glad you did.  It wouldn't be a bad idea at all to make a 3-sided shelter, with the fourth side attached and detached at will.  That way, you can prop the door/side along the opening in such a way to assist in ushering the birds in at night, then simply secure it in place once they're all in.
 
Posts: 59
Location: western slope of Oregon Cascades/Portland, OR
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Nicole, you're in my neck of the woods more or less. Starting to think about ducks today (had been planning almost exclusively on chickens but found out today that I'm highly sensitive/inflamed by chicken eggs, and duck eggs should work a little better for me. Besides... ducks.). You say you put their water near a different tree every few days in summer, but I'm wondering what your winter system is. Thanks!
 
Nicole Alderman
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I often "cheat" in the winter. They always have a pail to drink out of. But, we have a pond that is fed by a stream (stream only flows in rainy season). During the winter, I let the ducks bathe in there. It's never frozen solid, so there's always some water for them to bathe in. It's so very nice to just let them out and not have to worry about dumping and filling trays of water.

But, before I had that, I just had trays of water in my duck yard, and sometimes in the yard. I just tip the water/icey water out every night. I only have 8 to 15 ducks, so it's not too much water. And, it rarely freezes for so many days in a row, so I usually don't end up with sheets of ice everywhere. I make sure to keep their trays of water away from anywhere I walk, so I don't go slipping! In the morning, I would refill the trays with a 5 gallon water jug  as the hose would be frozen. I usually would have to make two trips with that heavy jug!

I do the deep litter method in my duck house, so when I gave them in their house, I'd make a hole in the deep litter and sink the pail into that hole, with the bedding touching the pail and helping insulate it. I found, though, that it was a whole lot easier to feed them a few hours before I put them away and then put them in their house without food and water. The water in their house often turned the bedding to ice, as they'd splash and drip when they drank. And, all that ice in there wasn't too good for their little webbed feet.  Of course, it took me 2 years to train them to go away without food as a lure, so feeding and watering in their house might be a necessity for a while...
 
Morgan Gold
Posts: 23
Location: Peacham, VT
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I think this would work great! Our ducks range over 2 acres, most of that is yard and orchard. They're really beneficial to have in the orchard and they don't do any damage. Having portable electric fencing would be perfect, too, as it would protect them from predators and distribute their poop and bug/weed eating evenly. I lock mine up in an 8x8 duckhouse every night, but a mobile tractor would have the advantage of having the poop straight on the ground and so probably no need for bedding inside it, and thus less work on that front. Does the mobile tractor have a hardware cloth bottom? You might want one for protection against burrowing predators, and also have a nice bedded place for them to lay their eggs (ducks like ground-level nesting boxes). You could make 8 inch by 14inch boxes to go inside the tractor for them to lay their eggs in.

Another thing to consider about their tractor is how warm it will be in the winter. Looking at pictures of the Suscovich tractor, it doesn't seem to have solid walls, which might make it a bit too cold, especially in Vermont (I'm assuming Vermont gets pretty cold).

I would use large trays or kiddie pool (depending on how many ducks you have) for their bathing water (DON'T put it in the tractor. A pail will work for water in the tractor. If you don't feed them in the tractor, they won't need water). During the summer, I use trays full of water for the ducks to bath in, and I place them by different trees every few days. I dump the water by the tree every day, and refill it. By dumping it by the tree, I not only water the tree, I fertilize it, which works great!



Thanks for the thoughts, Nicole. Those are some great ideas. (I love the idea of watering the trees.)

My plan was to keep the tractor open (with a tarp) during the summer and by later fall, I would cover it greenhouse plastic. Do you think that would be too cold? And yeah, I'm Vermont.
 
Anna Tennis
Posts: 59
Location: western slope of Oregon Cascades/Portland, OR
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Nicole, thanks for the in-depth reply!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Posts: 5218
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Anna Tennis wrote:Nicole, thanks for the in-depth reply!


You're welcome! I fumbled around so much when I was first learning about duck-keeping, and was always so grateful to those who gave me advice. I'm glad I can help others!

Morgan Gold wrote: My plan was to keep the tractor open (with a tarp) during the summer and by later fall, I would cover it greenhouse plastic. Do you think that would be too cold? And yeah, I'm Vermont.



My temps are much warmer than Vermont's and I've not attempted making a shelter from greenhouse plastic. BUT, I think that might work! Dan Ohmann has a lot of great pictures of a similar structure for his chickens. He, Todd Parr and Bill Erickson discuss their different coops, which looks a lot similar to yours. They're in Idaho, Montana, and Wisconsin--so all cold areas. There's discussion of it being 35 inside the coop, while it was 5 degrees outside. They've got chickens in theirs, but ducks are generally more cold-tolerant than chickens. If it works for chickens, it should definitely work for ducks! Here's the thread: https://permies.com/t/59799/Cattle-Panel-Greenhouse-Winter-Chicken
 
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