Do your ducks prefer to sleep anywhere but in the house that you have built for them? If so, you are not alone. Ducks have their own preferences regarding what constitutes a safe environment, and it may not be their house. Instead, they find other places that better suit their preferences.
Ducks do not naturally sleep indoors, and they will only go into their house if you have taught them to do so. And then only if that house is more comfortable and feels safer than alternative shelters in the surrounding area. Besides, ducks don’t need a house but will do just as well in a lean-to or similar cover.
In this guide, I will go through what ducks prefer in terms of cover and why they choose one type of shelter over another.
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Teach Your Ducks Where Home Is
Young ducklings will follow their mothers, and individual ducks will follow the flock. But a new flock will not naturally choose the house you have made for them. They will look for a place that suits their needs, which could be something as simple as a bush.
If you want your ducks to sleep in their house, this is what you do:
Herd them into the house until they form a habit of going there every night at dusk. You may have to do that every evening for a few weeks, depending on how quickly they learn.
Get them in before it’s dark. This is partly because it’s easier for you to find them while it’s still somewhat light, but it’s also much easier to herd a flock of ducks that are still awake. If they are half-asleep, they will be confused and possibly a little scared, making it harder for you to lead them in the right direction. Besides, a half-asleep duck will probably not be aware of what’s happening and thus not learn as quickly.
Another reason why you should herd them in before dark is that a lot of predators hunt at twilight, so the ducks need to be in safety before then. Regardless of whether they go by themselves or you need to herd them, remember to close the house or run to keep predators out.
Ducks Don’t Need a House
Ducks don’t need four walls to stay warm or safe. In fact, they will do perfectly well without a house as long as their essential shelter needs are met.
Ducks need two things to sleep well:
- shelter – I.e., protection from strong winds and harsh weather conditions
- protection against predators
A house can provide both of those things, but it can be overkill, and it may cause other issues that will make your ducks look for other alternatives, which we will touch on below.
Ducks are very cold hardy. They can swim in ice-cold water, and their feathers protect their bodies from cold air. They also like water and will not mind some rain, although you will want to protect their nests from getting wet.
You ducks don’t need four walls, and a door and a lean-to shelter will be more than sufficient. A roof will provide the primary protection against the elements, and two or three walls will offer a feeling of cover and safety.
Of course, a lean-to doesn’t protect against predators and will have to be placed within a predator-proof run.
Make Sure if Feels safe
It’s essential that the shelter or house feels like a safe place against predators. Open spaces do not feel safe, even if it’s in a predator-proof run. Ducks need to feel well-hidden from any outside threats while they sleep.
Ensure their shelter feels safer than any nearby alternatives, or they will go for the other option every time. An open shelter will provide that feeling if shrubs or small trees surround it.
A house with four walls may look safe, but a large door pointing towards a field or other open landscape neither feels nor is a safe hiding place. Consider putting something in front of the door that makes it more sheltered.
See it From The Ducks’ Point of View
Many backyard farmers buy a chicken coop for their ducks to sleep in, which is a perfectly reasonable option, as it protects both predators and bad weather.
The issue with the enclosed space of a chicken coop is that they can be harder to make duck-friendly than a simple lean-to.
If you have done what you could to teach your ducks to sleep in the house or shelter, but you still have to herd them in every evening, try evaluating it from the duck’s perspective and consider if the house seems comfortable?
Does it have Clean bedding? Chicken keepers may think their birds are messy, but chickens are nothing compared to ducks. Ducks are messy animals, and their bedding gets very dirty very quickly. They drag water with them into the shelter, making everything muddy and humid. Their poop is also wetter, bigger, and smellier than chicken poop.
Make sure to change their bedding or provide a bedding type that doesn’t get disgusting as quickly. You also want to use a material that doesn’t support mold and fungi growth, such as sand. Fungi is less of a problem in an open shelter, where you can use straw and woodshavings as long as you remember to top it off. But even well-ventilated houses or coops will usually not provide sufficient ventilation to avoid mold growths.
Is the duck house Too hot? Ducks don’t enjoy a very hot environment, and they prefer to sleep outside when the indoor temperature is too high. During the summer, you may want to let them sleep outside. Just make sure to keep them in a predator-proof enclosure or run.
Is it too humid? Although ducks love water, they will not enjoy high humidity. Besides, high humidity is caused by too little ventilation, which will lead to mold growth. If the humidity level is higher inside the house than outside, you should consider adding ventilation.
Draft: On the other hand, too much or the wrong kind of ventilation would be called a draft. While ducks are cold-hardy, drafts are not only uncomfortable, but it can make them sick as well.
The difference between draft and ventilation is how high up the air is circulating. Air circulation near the floor or at body-height would be considered a draft, while ventilation should be placed as high as possible, keeping the outside air from hitting the ducks.
Too little space? Ducks like to sit close when they sleep, but they don’t want to be squeezed and unable to move around. Perhaps it was the perfect size when they were ducklings, and now they have grown too large for the house. Consider if you would feel comfortable in the house if you were a duck.
Also, take a look at your ducks during the day when they are relaxing in the sun. How much space do they take up, and does the house accommodate that? They will usually sit closer than that in the night, but you will get a pretty good estimate.
Is something scaring your ducks? Does something in or near the house make your ducks nervous? Such as noises, other animals, people, etc.? Anything unusual or weird (from a duck’s perspective) can make them look for other sleeping arrangements.