The three biggest learnt factors
High walls of chicken wire give a sense of openness, since they appear almost invisible. Yet, of course, also keeping the ducks enclosed and safe from predators. (Chicken wire should be small gauge to keep out unwanted predators like stoats and weasels.)
Lots of trees and/or bushes for shade in the summer are needed. These are also good places to hide and nest when the mood strikes.
And lastly, but not leastly, a pond or three, that are easily (re)movable and therefore cleanable. A very definite must as ducks love water, but are also incredibly messy creatures.
New and Improved
Our new duck home is large. Really large. This is their home for much of the day, if not all of the day. We want it to be as much like living outdoors as possible, but yet still protect them. Also, the idea is that if we wished to go away for a weekend, we can close them in there and go. It hasn’t happened yet, but it is possible. And one day we might do it.
For its location, we chose a corner of the garden that has two stone walls, at right angles, and lots of trees. The walls gave added benefit of wind protection, as well as an additional hangout place for the ducks. Chicken wire made up the other two walls, as well as a top the stone walls.
Actually it wasn’t so much continuing from the top of the stone walls, as the chicken wire mesh coming up the outside and continuing upward. We put it on the outside as this created a shelf on top of the waist high walls that the ducks love to hangout on and watch over their domain. Ducks are curious and like to see what is going on around their world, so offering them a rampart to walk along makes them very happy.
And so to work
As our restoration garden hadn’t been touched in over 30 years, maybe longer, when we moved in it was seriously overgrown. Most of the trees were entangled with ivy, some had died or were dying. It took weeks just to cut back the undergrowth and months to cut away the creepers. And now each winter we are pruning the trees to create shapes and spaces that suit the enclosure, as well as making the trees happy and healthy. Sort of a bonsai on a large scale thing.
Over the top of the open spaces in the enclosure is bird netting. It keeps the larger, predator birds out. Whilst the little wee birds can get through the branches of the trees. It took only a couple weeks for the local big birds to understand they were excluded, and the smaller birds to realise there was lots of free food. Smart creatures.
Multi-functional Duck Home
It has always been the intent to have the duck enclosure be a multi-functional space. Yes, a space for ducks (and eventually chickens), but also a sort of hidden garden. A place to sit, relax, read or enjoy a glass of wine.
With this in mind, zones were planned. Fruit trees were planted around the outside, and are being espaliered along and through the chicken wire. This will strengthen the wire walls. It will also give additional shade to the interior of the enclosure. And best of all give us bounty. Win, win.
A herb and lavender garden was added for lower level coverage, in between the fruit trees, on both sides of the fence. The space is now awash in scent, as well as providing culinary flavourings.
So let us move into the interior. Start by imagining a large rectangle, with you at a narrower end. To the left, we have two rows of trees, creating a corridor along the side stone wall. These trees keep the worst of the weather away with their canopy, from the freezing cold to the high heat of summer. It’s a favourite area for duck napping.
The centre section is platform like, with curved branches over head. This acts as a corridor down the centre of the enclosure. Cafe du Canard has been set up at the top end by the wall. My favourite spot for reading, writing or simply duck watching.
And then there is the section between the centre and the chicken wire wall. It took a lot of sitting and staring at this area to determine what to do with it. And finally, Eureka! I finally came up with a solution for this very sunny section. A trellised bean tunnel.
The Perfect Solution
Building a walk through trellis was the perfect solution. This area is a sun trap in the cooler months, A perfect time to have plants slowly growing or whithering away. When the plants are at full throttle, they create shade in a too sunny spot come the height of summer.
My favourite plants to grow are climbing beans. Its pure joy to walk through the tunnel in summer and pick to my hearts delight. I alternate their growing with different varieties of tomatoes one year. Then various squashes, courgettes (zucchinis), melons, and pickles another year.
And the pièce de résistance! I have a useful, not wasteful, place to get rid of the ‘dirty’ (read highly fertilised) duck pond water. And won’t even have to carry it that far. Ta Da!
And this is what sitting, musing, in my ducks home netted me. Multi faceted, solution driven ideas. Of course, like all gardens, no matter their size, it takes some planning. And then the work. But it is truly a wondrous thing to see your planned space come to fruition.
Here’s a glimpse over time of the development of this duck enclosure (before the tunnel trellis). The photographs are in order as they happened… (Hint: click on the first square, below the pictures, to begin at the beginning. Click on the photo to stop it in place for reading.)
If you are a duck, or animal, lover like me, you will find some truly unique items for your home or as gifts in our Shop. Here’s a taste…
(Simply click on the image to see more.)