Duck pens play a major role when it comes to raising ducks. They can be simple structures that can be easy to make. However, if you do not have the right parameters in place it can be very tricky and even difficult especially if you are a beginner.
What I like about these amazing creatures is their resistance to diseases. These birds are very hardy and can adapt in almost every climate with ease.
Ducks hardly get sick. But for the baby ducks, they are very sensitive and require maximum care and attention as this will lower their mortality rate.
The type of food ducklings eat, housing and the kind of environment around will determine their rate of survival.
What is a duck pen?
It is a common question that many ask themselves but i am here to answer it for you. A duck pen is a house or an enclosure where you keep your ducks to restrain their movement, provide security and easily monitor your flock of ducks.
From the brooder, that is after 8 weeks, your ducklings are big enough to be taken to the pen or coop. In the pen, this is where they will be raised either as layers or for meat depending on the farmer’s preference.
What is the importance of a duck pen?
As I have defined a duck pen for you, it is a duck house. So let’s see the importance of providing our ducks with shelter.
- They shelter the ducks against harsh elements like rain, strong winds and hot sun.
- Duck coops provide security to the ducks from predators like mongooses and hawks.
- Makes it easier to monitor and feed ducks from the pen.
- They provide a safe nesting place for the ducks.
- Pens help prevent the spread of diseases and pest infestation as they are restrained from movement.
- A duck pen can help prevent in breeding as you can easily separate closely related ducks.
- Perhaps there are some other advantages. You can explore for more the sky is the limit.
Types of duck houses
The kinds of duck house you choose will be determined by if the birds are to be reared on total confinement or semi confinement.
Total confinement is where the birds live inside housing structures permanently and they are not allowed outside. Here, the birds are provided with all the basic requirements until they are harvested.
For the semi confinement, the ducks live indoors but are sometimes allowed out either to sun bask, swim in the ponds or to forage. According to Merriam Webster, confinement system is where poultry and or any other animals are kept from contact with the ground primarily as a sanitary measure.
I will try and explain further giving relevant examples where appropriate to help you get a better understand.
These are small enclosures made of either wood, metal plates or invented models that act like houses. They are common with those people who keep just a few birds or those who live in rented premises where you are not allowed to build any structure of your own.
The major focus when it comes to these simple pens is that they require being set up on areas that are well drained to avoid flooding. Make sure if you use such houses for your ducks they are secure so as not to expose your flock to harsh elements and predators.
Outdoor pond method
To me this can be the easiest but the most insecure way to keep ducks. Here, ducks are allowed out during the day to forage and bath in ponds but sheltering structures are provided for during the night.
Ducks reared in this way can feed themselves but supplementary feed is recommended as they may never get enough for themselves. In the ponds, they may get small fish and water plants and in return fertilize the ponds with their nitrogen rich poop.
However, your birds are at a higher risk of being attacked by predators like hawks and wild dogs. Due to eating anything that comes along their way, they are likely to eat poison or eat plants contaminated with herbicides from nearby farms.
If not controlled, ducks may get in farms and do great damage to crops especially when plants are flowering as they require minimal disturbance.
In addition, ducks roaming freely may became agents of pollination and help control pests like grass hopers and crickets. Insects are a healthy food for ducks.
This is where ducks are reared in temporary structures that are set up each time the birds are moved. According to Cornell University, some Indonesian farmers move a flock of 90 to 100 ducks out in the rice fields where they are allowed to forage and collect grains.
The birds are in the evening put in bamboo structures where they lay their eggs. Here there is some sort of interdependence as the herder takes care of the ducks and in return gets eggs. Have you ever heard of the Maasai of Kenya?
They are a perfect example to relate to as they move with their cattle from one area to another in search of water and pasture. At night they set up temporary structures that mimic sheds to keep away hyenas and lions.
In my own words, allow me to call this modern poultry housing. I have used the term poultry here because all kinds of poultry can be reared here. These kinds of structures are built with modern technology features like automatic air conditioning, robot feeding among others.
Rearing ducks in these facilities is very easy as conditions like temperature are set ideal for them. Here almost everything is mechanized and large number of birds are kept grouped in age and sex.
Much of this information is derived from Cornel University Web page on Animal Health Diagnostic Centre.
Duck pen ideas
Before venturing into duck keeping, it is vital you have the idea of the kind of housing meant for your ducks. Just like any other animals, ducks require adequate housing that is warm and has ample space to avoid congestion.
Here are some of the important factors you should put into consideration before setting up a pen for you ducks.
Number of ducks
How many ducks do you intend to keep? The bigger the number the bigger the space required for them. Adequate space will avoid congestion, bullying, disease infestation and stampede incase the birds are frightened.
Location of your pen
Consider setting up your duck pen in a flat area as the ducks will be comfortable inside. Choose an area where the ducks are easy to reach in case of an emergency. Put the pen in an area that cannot flood as water may kill your ducks in case they drown.
You may be surprised bearing in mind ducks are water loving but ducklings are very sensitive to cold and easily chill.
Ventilation and lighting
Ensure your pen is well ventilated to facilitate air movement. The best area to locate you ventilators is near the roof to allow the rising hot air get out. For the lighting, ensure your pen has several windows or one that is big enough to allow plenty of light inside.
Type of bedding
There are a variety of beddings that can be used in your duck pen but not all have the same qualities. Some are very fine like saw dust and can kill your ducklings when swallowed because they will cause crop impaction.
As for me, I use of straw and it works best. (You can check the advantages of using straw in my article Straw vs. Hay beddings on this web).
Check the beddings often and add a thin layer on top once you notice they are moist as ducks make them messy with their watery poop. Note that moist beddings became a safe ground for infections especially respiratory issues that can be a threat to your flock.
Compost beddings can be a good fertilizer on your farm. Add a new layer of fresh dry beddings on top of the wet soiled layer to give your ducks maximum comfort or get rid of the old litter and replace it with new one.
I prefer a pen sitting on concrete floor as it becomes harder for predators to dig and steal your ducks. Although concrete has the disadvantage of getting very cold especially during winter, it is firm and easy to clean. When using concrete floor it is important that you put a thick layer of beddings to avoid cold,
Apart from concrete, you can use wood as duck pen flooring. However, make sure the kind of timber you use on the floor is strong and firm enough to support weight of the ducks. This will also make it hard for predators to break into especially if the pen is raised several inches from the ground.
For the wooden floor, I advice you put a wire mesh on top as an additional security feature. Some types of wood easily get damaged by termites and some kinds of wood borers that make the floor collapse if damaged.
On the mesh floor, provide a thick layer of bedding to prevent ducks from getting their feet stuck on the wire and injure the skin on the feet and their hock joints.
Consider where your ducks will lay their eggs on. Provide several nesting boxes that will serve your flock better. Am sure you don’t want eggs littered all over the floor as they will get dirt and poop.
You can put straw beddings in your nesting boxes as this will make sure they are comfortable while laying. There are also some nesting pads designed well as nesting box liners. Ducks rarely use nesting boxes so do not be amazed if you find eggs on the beddings.
Entrance and Exit
Build a pen with large entrances and exits. Preferably, your entrance should be large enough to allow two ducks get in or out at the same time. Put entrances that can allow your ducks get in without congestion as they can easily injure themselves while struggling to get inside in case they are frightened.
Quench their thirst
Ducks are water loving birds. Yes, there is no doubt about that. It is hard to say whether you will provide them with waterers or a kiddie pool to bath. Even if you place watering points to the ducks they will soil it as they will dip their feet.
However, there are duck waterers that will allow your birds drink with ease without soiling or contaminating the water. (Check my review article The 5 best duck waterers).
If you have to construct a pool for the ducklings, I would advise it to be very shallow so that they cannot drown. Otherwise, a pool for the baby ducks is a no for me.
Put water sources away from the feeding troughs as they will easily turn it messy. Provide your ducks with a bathing pool as they like to keep their feathers soaked.
Construct a bathing pool in such a way that it will be easier to empty while cleaning. Consider the topography of the area where your pen is located as gravity will help you a lot.
Have multiple feeding troughs in your duck pen. The advantage of having several of them is that this will ensure all ducks get equal feeding opportunities. Consider a case where there are bullying incidences.
The weak will probably get a chance to eat after the strong have their stomachs full. Maybe, the strong will get full when the food is over.
Don’t forget to place the feed troughs away from the water source as ducks will turn everything watery and messy. Am sure you don’t want this.
Unlike chicken, ducks do not require perches as they prefer sleeping on the beddings. Ducks are not fun of climbing hence, don’t worry about the perches and roost bars.
Rearing of ducks is easy and fun. These birds provide a cheap source of eggs and meat. Modern technology has made keeping these feathered friends easy as mechanization has reduced labor and saved time.
Ducks eat a variety of foods and are omnivorous like pigs and humans are. They are very hardy and not affected by common poultry diseases like chickens.