Home Sweet Home Our pet duck Maggie stacking her claim in the chicken and duck run at PumpjackPiddlewick

When I moved to my new home, the first thing I built was a duck enclosure. Forget hot water, heating or anything else in my restoration home and garden, this was much more important. I did the same in my previous homes.

Before I moved the ducks, I planned, reviewed and planned some more around the space I had decided upon. This can sometimes be a bit tricky, or rely on a good level of imagination with a garden so overgrown I can’t actually get into it. This time around, I threw all the ideas away and went for simple, inexpensive and quick.

Creatures of Habit

Chickens, and particularly ducks, don’t like change. They are creatures of routine.

When I had chickens, they stuck to a daily schedule. It rarely if ever varied. From the time they wanted out, to the foraging circuit they made of the garden. You could set your watch by them. The time they put themselves to bed was always 30 minutes before true dusk. Have you ever tried to put a chicken to bed before time?!? It’s feather raising.

My ducks are a bit less orientated to time but are incredibly routine orientated. They like that what they know stays where it is. They were not fans of the move. They adapt well enough, and quite quickly, but life is so much simpler if we don’t move things around. Thank you very much.

Priorities

I always have multiple priorities to fulfil with my duck enclosures. The first priority is to make an enclosure that would keep the flock safe from attack. Attack from the 4 legged kind, but also from predators that fly in from above. The trickiest part about a new home is not knowing what the base line of predators are. Domestic, feral, or wildlife, eg dogs, cats or foxes.

I also want my enclosures to be a safe haven for ducklings to grow up in until they are a size that some predators would be less interested in them. If you have a mix of male and female ducks it is possible to not have ducklings, but it takes a lot of false eggs and staying on top of removing eggs. Ducks are really quite devious when it comes to nesting, and thus far they have won over me each year. So I prepare.

Roaming Free

My ducks (and chickens when I have them) are normally allowed to roam freely around my garden. I have been lucky, or actually through choice, and always looked for enclosed gardens. This makes life much easier with flock animals.

However… they also are very curious and sociable animals. If there are guests visiting me, they do have a habit of coming up to say ‘hi’ and then hanging out with this new (weird) flock. This sometimes means my aperitif on the patio centres around, well, ducks. (Yup, I picture ducks sipping a glass of wine and joining in the conversation, too.)

Second and Third

But not all our guests are keen to step in duck merde. Rather understandable, really. So second, my enclosure is a way to keep my flock from flocking with humans, and thus keep socialising areas clean. This means the enclosure area needs to be large enough that they wouldn’t feel too confined when, well, confined.

And third, with the potential for bird flu always on the horizon, I also want a way to keep possible carrier birds away from my flocks’ food and living area. Bird flu is transmitted primarily through wild birds eating and drinking your flocks’ food and water and leaving behind their droppings. By enclosing the living area, sides and top, it would deter larger birds in particular from coming in, even if the door was open.

Learning from the Past

I’ve learned a lot from my previous duck and chicken enclosures. In my first one, there were two houses sat side by side. One for ducks, one for chickens. Each had a small waist hight fenced area in front for daytime use. These fenced in areas were the same size as their houses, so not very big space to roam around for a growing flock.

With time and study I realised it was a combination of size and safety that needed addressing. I decided to simply enclose, literally like a mesh box, the duck and chicken area, including their houses within.

I used the natural boundaries of a fence and hedge on either side that made a triangular shape with the little houses at the base. It seemed natural to put up a door in the pointed end of the triangle. Wire fencing went up around all three sides. Building this really set us up for an even better version to come.

The KISS principle

With particular thought to needs and requirements my next place, I cast my view on what I could do. Or rather, what the garden space could assist with.

Again there were natural boundaries. A stone wall that ran along one side of the property and a retaining wall across 2/3rds of it. Perfect. Half of the enclosures foundations were already in place. I only had to build the other half.

I had been given some chicken wire (hardware cloth) in exchange for a couple of my ducks the previous year, so that also made the project very cheap. (Chicken wire in France is fanatically expensive, for some reason, hence I jumped at the chance to exchange some ducks for it.)

All I had to purchase were some 1 x 2 pieces of wood (cheaper than 2 x 4s but good enough for the project), as well as a few screws and u bend nails. The duck enclosure would be slightly unconventional, but imminently practical and would have the bonus of being able to take apart should I ever wish to move or change it.

How to… at least my way

How to build a simple large and inexpensive chicken and duck enclosure around your existing houses at PumpjackPiddlewick
Our previous chicken and duck enclosure

Using a meter (yard) long metal rod and a sledgehammer, I ‘dug’ holes by wacking the rod into the ground and wiggling about. Once deep enough I replaced the rod with an upright 1 x 2 piece of wood. (They stood about 2 meters / yards tall.)

Then, climbing a ladder, with my trusty sledgehammer, I hammered the wood in until it was fairly solid, e.g. about 1/3 of a meter/yard was in the ground. I added a support by putting in another metal rod (I had lots leftover from an old garden project), next to the wood.

Each post went along the perimeter, a little over a meter/yard apart. Additional posts went in in front or behind the waist-high stone walls.

The chicken wire was then attached along the posts using the u bend nails. Also, a trench was dug between the posts and a goodly amount of the chicken wire was put into the ground, then rocks and dirt were piled over it.

Entrée

Getting in and out was a matter of recycling. I had an old screen door. Using leftover 1 x 2s, I attached them as supports between 2 posts and fitted the door in between, adding hinges (and lock). 

The final step was to put up bird netting across the top. Stringing wires across the enclosure, or attaching to a convenient tree within the enclosure, it was simple enough to stretch the mesh over top.

Ready Made

The key to any good enclosure, I think, is simplicity and versatility. If making it yourself is not your thing, you can also purchase ready-made chicken coops and runs, including very large ones.

Whether you purchase or make, please pay attention to the size of the holes in the chicken wire. Too large and the likes of stoats and weasels can squeeze through. You may need to add finer mesh at base level, especially if you have chicks or ducklings.

And finally!

Whatever type your enclosure, don’t forget to include areas of shade. All my enclosures have been built around trees. Perfect natural shade and the leaves in autumn create a wonderful place for ducks to forage in during winter. If you don’t or can’t include trees, make sure there is some structure they can go under for protection.

And last but not least – water. Ducks don’t have to have a pond, though of course would love one. I have used a series of kiddie pools over the years. Easy to fill, easy to clean. And large enough to have a good bath. Any container will do, as long as it is of a height they can get in and out of. I have even used the base of a guinea pig cage.

My ducks favourite day is bath day, when we change the water (usually on a sunny day). It’s pure joy to watch.

SaveMore Enclosure Works

Every year I review my duck enclosure for improvements, in safety and in ulterior uses. I use this knowledge to update, or in the case of a new move, assist me in planning the next enclosure.

I chose my new home on the fact that the garden is completely enclosed. Of course the first thing I did, was build the duck enclosure. And now the ducks and I are assessing the dangers.

The hope is to actually turn my entire garden into a duck enclosure. This will have to involve wires across the top to keep flying predators out. As well as more secure fencing around one side to keep foxes out. But if all looks positive, they ducks will have full run of the garden, with no limitations. That’s the lovely thing about duck enclosures, they can be adapted relatively easy to your own needs.

PS: Love Ducks?

I have a selection of duck gifts available for you from My Shop, or those you know, who love ducks.

Simply click on the image to see more.

If you find my Duck 101 insights useful, or simply enjoy their stories, please consider nourishing my writings by joining me on Patreon.

Save

2022-04-11

5 Comments

  1. I like what you have presented here and have tried to do similar. The problem I run into is the overhead netting becomes heavy with snow in the winter and drags to the ground. I would rather not have a solid roof but that seems to be the only answer. Do you have suggestions. Yes I have predator’s that I have to prepare for from overhead.

    1. Hi Sharon
      What sort of bird netting have you tried? I use a very light weight fine mesh. It withstands snow reasonably well, though often by spring I have to replace it. But we don’t get much snow where we live. There is also a much wider weave – it’s stronger and would let more snow through.
      Another option, if you don’t wish a roof, but can put up a good solid frame like a patio might have, you could use a stiffer hardware cloth. Again larger holes would allow snow to go through but not large birds.
      Another thing you could try is a wire system. There is a company I have seen that strings wires across the area. I can try to find the name of the company if you like. They are based in the USA.
      In the meantime hang CDs on a string to twirl and catch the light. This deters them.
      And if you don’t already have one, roosters are excellent at protecting both chickens and ducks from birds of prey if they are able to flock together.

      Many of the above also depend on types of birds of prey. We have hawks, buzzards, owls and crows. The crows are actually are most difficult when we have ducklings. So that is why we use the fine light weight mesh on top. If it is just the larger birds you can go to a gap of about 2 feet (wing span) that they won’t fly through. So you could criss cross wires across the top at 1 to 2 foot intervals.

      And finally – you could use wire stretched across the top of the enclosure at 1 foot intervals with no mesh in winter, and then add the light weight mesh bird netting over in spring, when snows melt and before ducklings if you need this additional protection then.

      Hope this helps a little.

  2. Thank you for all the advise. I had forgotten about stringing wire across the top and feel that may work. I can use finer mesh during the rest of the year. You have given me a lot to work with, thank you.

  3. You can also use the clear plastic roofing panels to let in the light, which lasts longer than the netting, but make sure its on an angle so the snow will run off.

    1. That is a really good idea. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.