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Large duck coop design help  RSS feed

 
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We are planning to get into the duck egg business and are designing the coop. We have ducks in a coop by the house right now, but need to build a bigger coop farther back near the marshy area of our property. It needs to hold 25 ducks overnight, be deep litter method, have space for a small tractor to drive through to clean out the deep litter, and be easily expandable to hold up to 200 ducks. We are building it next to an established fenceline. We are in Houston, so it does not need to be weather-proof. This is just a nighttime holding facility.

Anything we do will be made predator-proof, we are just wondering about structural design.

We are wondering about doing pallets for the walls as that would be cheap. Maybe chicken wire across the top, but then how to make that removable to walk in there or drive through with a tractor.

Thanks for any ideas!
 
pollinator
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Wow, I have always thought that raising ducks had a lot of potential, and yet it seemed so few people mentioned it on here; so first of all I applaud your idea to get into ducks, and second I wish you the best in this endeavor.

That being said, I looked into this myself a bit and HATED the designs the commercial duck farms use. Concrete slabs just do not seem ethical to me. I will admit I am having trouble figuring out exactly what you are envisioning, but I think pallets might be difficult to work with. One thing I found that worked on my farm REALLY well for sides, is steel roofing. It is cheap, yet the steel roofing makes a wall 3 feet high 20 feet long or so. Run horizontally, when the tractor is pushing out manure, it slides along the steel roofing easily. It also adds great strength to the wall because though thin, steel is incredibly strong. Steel roofing secured to cheap pipe gates also makes escape proof gates for ducks as well, and again is cheap.

I admit readily that my barn was built for sheep alone and it is not very often that I see it working well for other livestock. In the case of ducks however I think it would work incredibly well. It is a pass-through barn making it very easy to clean out with a tractor because you can start at one end, and push straight out the other side to the other end. That would work well for a solid floor, but a slatted floor would also work since duck manure is 90% water.


One suggestion I would make for the tractor itself maybe to use a modified bucket. We used a tractor tire that was cut away bolted to the bucket to act as a huge squeege on the dairy farm. This allowed us to push the runny cow manure into the manure pit. This will be much easier then using your steel tractor bucket alone which will miss a lot of the manure since it is 90% water.
 
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I have a small duck house--8x8 feet. So, I can't speak to large-scale animal keeping. What is your predation level like? If you've got predators, you'll probably want a secure house. A concrete floor has the advantage of being predator proof (we built our duck house on top of an existing concrete slab, and do deep litter on top of that, which works well for us). Some people wrap the wall of their coop/house with hardware cloth and have a foot of it extending under the house all around the edge, to prevent burrowing animals.

I like Travis's idea of using metal for the siding--since it's a night enclosure, you won't have to worry about them overheating in it during the day, and it's predator proof. Pallets usually have lots of gaps, which predators can squeeze through--or just reach their hands in and rip your ducks apart piece by piece. If I were to do a pallet wall, I would wrap the whole thing with hardware cloth, but that might get expensive...
 
Travis Johnson
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I did some calculations, so you would need a building about 24 feet by 48 feet to properly house ducks without overcrowding. They say allow 4-6 square feet per bird, and I figured that at 5 square feet. This is about the size of my barn incidentally. I do have a concrete floor.

Here is a photo of my barn, and while it is designed for sheep, I hope you can see that it could contain ducks easily.


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Katie Jarvis
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Thanks for the input! Steel walls is a great idea. That would be plenty tall enough and we'd just have to figure out closing off the top so hawks can't get in.

We are basically thinking to run a wall parallel to our fence, and then put ends and a top on it. Then we can cut a little door in the fence so the ducks can go back and forth as they please when it's open and be locked securely at night. That way, we can also just extend it lengthwise whenever we want to make it bigger.

I'm also hoping we can keep a few chickens in there full time to keep the deep litter turned for us so it breaks down properly...
 
Nicole Alderman
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I kept a chicken in with my ducks for that very reason, and it worked fine. The only problem I encountered was when I had a duck go broody and the chicken would go in there, move all the duck eggs, and lay her eggs for the duck to sit on. Not very useful, and only one duckling hatched out because of it.

But, since you probably won't be having ducks go broody in your duck house, having some chickens should work fine!
 
Katie Jarvis
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Yes we keep ducks, geese, and chickens together now, so I don't anticipate any issues.

Mostly just trying to figure out how to deal with ducks and deep bedding in an efficient way
 
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My ducks never went into the coop anyway. Sometimes they'd wander into the barn but for the most part there they were, right next to the pond. Herding them in with a pond available is darn well impossible.

On the pond note, don't do it. I was doing egg laying ducks for ages. Khaki Campbell, Welsh Harlequin and Golden-300. People love the eggs. People allergic to chicken eggs love them even more. Worked well for awhile. Then they stopped laying anywhere on land and were exclusively laying in the water. I don't have ducks anymore. I don't feed that which does not benefit me. I'm mean like that!

My design is a duck hut. It's a lean-to structure.  It's attached to our barn. The whole entire thing is fenced. The only predator problems we've had are when the ducks do not stay in the fence. I don't have a ton of climbing predator problems though.

Oh we used our old roof. Yup, when our roof was replaced we told them to leave the old one. Made a ton of stuff out of that thing!
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If you can, I'd set up their bath to passively empty/overflow into a garden area. I have a post "hugel-chinampas...now with duckoponic swales" with a video of my setup, which has my birds completely free to fly away but could give you some ideas for utilizing the liquid gold they turn their water into. Basically, i used a french drain pipe overflow for my pond that runs into flat basins filled with woody debris and woods chips to form a passively fertigating path in between hugel beds that wicks up all that goodness. Just remember the first harvest off any animal is the manure, and that's especially true with ducks who have the highest phosphorus content of any common barnyard manure and conveniently make their own tea.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I have a pond, and it's not been much of a problem. For the first year, I kept the ducks fenced out of it untill they were trained to go home. By only feeding them at night, they have insentive to go home. They won't leave the pond if they're not hungry, so I make sure to only feed them when luring them away from their foraging.

I've also noticed that they train each other. The new ducks and ducklings learned from the old flock, and now I really don't have problems with them. I put them in their fenced yard and feed them at around 3:00-5:00pm, and they've been trained for so long to go home at night, that I don't have to feed them to lure them in--they know it's time to go to bed, and they go. It helps to have a kind of "funnel" to the door: fencing on both sides, fanning out, so you can easily herd them in.
 
elle sagenev
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I have a pond, and it's not been much of a problem. For the first year, I kept the ducks fenced out of it untill they were trained to go home. By only feeding them at night, they have insentive to go home. They won't leave the pond if they're not hungry, so I make sure to only feed them when luring them away from their foraging.

I've also noticed that they train each other. The new ducks and ducklings learned from the old flock, and now I really don't have problems with them. I put them in their fenced yard and feed them at around 3:00-5:00pm, and they've been trained for so long to go home at night, that I don't have to feed them to lure them in--they know it's time to go to bed, and they go. It helps to have a kind of "funnel" to the door: fencing on both sides, fanning out, so you can easily herd them in.



Sorry, I should have been more clear. I dug my pond. It's gleyed by the pigs. It's inside the fence to the barn area. So they can be out on the pond and perfectly safe behind the fence. I killed the ducks because they were laying their eggs in it. Drove my nuts.
 
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